Tour Aotearoa 2018, actual ride.

This iconic ride started for me on the 26/02/2018 from Tapotapota camp near Cape Reinga. I was dropped off at Tapotapota camp ground about 2 pm, the day before my start, by friends, Steve and Rachel. It was time to set up camp and wander around this beautiful area. The tide was coming in, as I watched the small sprats dart in over the shallows of the estuary, the soft sand bubbled and consumed my feet as I walked out towards the coastal breakers. The cool waters soothed my soul, as I pondered what I had got myself into. Riders were setting up camp as they filed in, one, two, three at a time, the afternoon was slowly turning to night as the mosquito’s mauled my exposed flesh, they were relentless, so into my hammock for an early night. It will be an early start for me tomorrow, as I have a 6km ride up hill to the start.

Day 1 Cape Reinga- Ahipara

The carpark filled as riders arrived, some rode from Tapotapota, some got dropped off by friends or spouses and the majority arrived by bus. Spot tracker mounted to the bike and I was ready to go, standing there watching, as riders scurried about, doing last minute repairs and packing everything into their bags.

The obliquity instructions and a karakia, we headed down the hill and the masses were off. For me, it was as many free km’s as possible, so a tactic of tuck and don’t pedal became a feature of my trip. It was going to be an extremely hot day and there was no wind or cloud as we hit the gravel road which lead to Te Paki stream and the entrance to the beach, it had changed since I was there last, the sand is ever moving. The stream was mostly ride-able with deep holes, don’t ever trust a puddle, they are deceitful, as I entered, a sinking feeling came over me, I dropped further and further and the water came up over my hubs. I pedaled hard as my feet hit the water,  salt water is no good for the bikes bearings.

The beach came into view, and what a sight,  white rolling waves crashed in the distance and the flat sand was just beautiful. That was my last positive thought until I got off at Ahipara. During the first couple of hours, of travel down the beach, the riders came in and out of view, as the heat waves and flat expanse failed to change. Different pace, meant riders were coming and going at differing stages. The sun burned me, even with multiple layers of sun lotion, it was relentless. I don’t handle the heat well (34 degrees) and this was at it’s extreme for me, sun, exercise and no shade. I struggled and at the 50km mark I didn’t think I was going to make it, not on the first day, was I going to give up?

My drinking water was gone, 3.5 litres, I had been by myself for hours now, I had covered my computer as it was demoralizing and just plodded along, cramp came in waves, as I struggled to stop it from taking hold. Waipapakauri exit and I new there was a campground, maybe a shop, at least a tap to fill my bottles, I hoped.” Yes a shop” as my brain considered all the things I could buy, “Closed, WHAT!” From a huge up, to a demoralizing low, I pondered my next step. A car pulled into the driveway and we looked at each other,  as they opened the shop,a cool air conditioned breeze hit my body, “ahhh” and cold drinks, I was even offered a beer, as the guy said “you look like you drink beer”, well, I have been known to like a beer, I had thought I was quite slim at 105kg.

Watered and rested, I pedaled on, still cramping, but cooler. Ahipara, I had made it, priorities; dairy, food and coconut water. At the campground, David was walking down the driveway of the camp, “would ya like to stay in our spare room” I was set, food, beer and bed, Oh and the magnesium pills, that become a staple of my trip. 110kms was the most I had ever ridden and with the heat, fitness level and relentless pedaling, it had been my biggest challenge on a bike to date.

Dist 110.60kms  Avg 15.97km TM 6.32.52 Max Temp 34.5c

Day 2 Ahipara- Opononi

Previous TA riders tyres etched in the road, must have been wet.

 David and I rode out of camp just on day break, a cool misty morning that had us on seal and into the hills, what a great contrast to yesterdays beach, so enjoyable. Flowing through the waking area between Ahipara and Broadwood. Stopping for some food and to boil up some eggs, boiled eggs seem to last a little longer on a bike, they weren’t going to last though, as I asked if anyone would like some, I managed to save 4 from the dozen.

Paponga Road, gravel and what a blast, one of my favorite parts of the tour, as we climbed and descended through to Kohukohu. The tracks of riders that came before us, etched into the road for ever. A nice ferry ride from Kohukohu and then onto Opononi pub, beer, burger and off to camp to set up my hammock. It was a short day, as I needed to pace myself for the next days hills. Early night with plenty of fluids and magnesium pills to stave off cramping.

Dist 95kms Avg 14.20 TM 6.00 Max temp 38.5c

Day 3 Opononi- Dargaville

 An early start, I was on the road before light, to beat the heat of the previous days. Love the Hokianga and the little communities, the road was quiet and mist sat in the valleys as I  stopped at the  Waimamaku  shop, school kids waiting for the bus, with questions and ore at my Surlys fat tyres. The next hill I new well, from previous biking tours, a long grind into the majestic bush that houses some of New Zealands most iconic trees, the mighty Kauri. It had been a few years since my last visit and I was taken back by the amount of dead and dying trees.

Jono from Christchurch, on his Surly Troll, came into the carpark at Tane Mahuta as I was leaving, we rode on together, stopping at Trounson Park for lunch and then the hot gravel riding through to Dargaville. The trail ferries were out and we stopped and chatted while they offered us fresh fruit and ice water.

Onto ‘Time To’ bike shop and straight into the workshop, to help Sadie with other riders problems. We were staying with Sadie and Des that night and they put on a great feast of steak, tuatua and vegies, oh and beer, got to carbo load.

Dist 84.75 kms Avg 13.88 TM 6.06.16 Max temp 35.4

Day 4 Dargaville- Pouto- Parakai

After Des cooked us poached eggs this morning,we hit the road at 7.30 am, a rider passed us as we left the house, who had ridden through the night and was looking for food. We found out that he was from the final group, we were on our 4th day, he was on his second day. It was a cooler morning , overcast and gloomy as we road south along the flat straight roads to Te Kopuru. The roads turned undulating as we cycled towards the forest and the logging trucks were being spat out like water melon seeds, they were fantastic with us cyclists, gave us plenty of room and we played our part,  getting over so they could carry speed, on the short sharp hills. I felt flat today and we were overtaken by Sam and Paul as we traveled to Pouto Point. The gravel was rough, but the roads were wide and Pouto camp came into view. Riders came in, one after the other, eating, sleeping and chatting.

Looking out over the largest harbour in NZ, I had 2.5 hours till the boat was supposed to arrive. As I ate food and watched the chop form on the water, the wind had got up and white caps were streaming out as far as you could see. The dot of the boat slowly got bigger and bigger, we would soon be  scrambling up the plank and good team work had us loaded and off, just a little late at 5.30pm.

What a magnificent cruise across to Parakai, arriving just as darkness fell and onto the camp, for an excellent nights sleep. No rush the next morning, as we had to let the Auckland traffic subside.

69.18kms Avg 14.62 TM 4.35.35 Max Temp 28.4

Day 5 Parakai- Hunua

Mt Eden Auckland

 This morning, I lay around after an awesome sleep and felt really fresh. Breakfast at a Helensville Cafe and into the rolling hills of the surrounding area with a few other riders, safety in numbers. The roads were narrow and wet, as one car found out, spinning into the ditch just a few kms after overtaking us. The first rain hit me as I came into Massey and the outskirts of Auckland. Ash, Sofi and I stopped at a cafe and ate Sushi.

I decided to move on, as my destination was further than their plans. Getting lost, no misplaced for a few kms, I finally hit the cycle paths along side the north western motorway, I had stopped to oil a noisy chain and was caught by Fiona, my guide through the maze of turns in Auckland, without her, it would have been a very time consuming ride as I only used the books and a Sigma computer. Mount Edan and the first part of my days journey was complete.

Parakai- Mt Eden Dist 53.59 kms TM 3.47.52 Avg 14.79 Temp Max 27.7c

We picked up Peter along the way and the three of us rode through the southwest side of Auckland roads on a Friday night at 5pm, man it was busy, but we were going faster than any cars. As we crossed to the southeastern suburbs around the back side of Totara Park, Peter left us for a B’n’B, and Fiona was catching the train home. I carried on towards Ardmore and out into the unknown of south Auckland ranges. Because I didn’t know of any camping around the coast, I decided to head into the Hunua ranges and try my luck at the Bike Bunk Lodge, (as I never booked anything except my plane ticket home), unable to contact them. I plodded on in the fading light, with no references to guide me, as the TA official guide doesn’t have left, right directions.

Finally I was able to speak to the owner, I was informed that they were full, but I could camp, as I was in a hammock, all I needed was a couple of trees to pitch up. I had been looking at the roadsides for suitable areas to sleep, but pushed on with the helpful directions from a couple of TA riders, that were at Bike Bunk Lodge. It was 9.30pm by the time I got there and I was toast, the boys met me half way up the drive and pushed my bike to the top for me, offered me their shower and food, “legends”.

Mt Eden- Hunua Dist 60.71 kms Tm 4.06.12 Avg 14.79

Total 114.3 Tm 7.54.04

Day 6 Hunua- Te Aroha

Leaving at dawn I traveled through the quite misty roads of the Hunuas, the undulating roads were a nice change to the previous days busyness. As the day warmed, the mist cleared and the heat started to build, heading towards the coast and the Firth Of Thames, the wind turned on my face to slow my progress. Having never been in this area, I had stopped at a roadside cafe and asked “how far to Miranda”, I was informed that I was here.

Hunua- Miranda Dist 41.38 Tm 2.27.26 Avg 17.19 Temp 28.8

Dropping down a small hill and out onto the flats of this area, I picked up the gravel path beside the road and made my way towards the new section that would take me to the hills of Thames, Paeroa and my destination of Te Aroha. I new Shane was coming out to meet me, but didn’t know how long I would be riding by myself. The wind was now solidly in my face and my speed slowed dramatically, from 15-16 down to 8kmh, it was hot, windy and boring, did I say boring, man was it boring. That’s enough about how boring and tedious the trail is, as it’s getting boring.

Shane came into view and we greeted each other and rode chatting about what we had been up to in the couple of years since we had last met. Johno and Sam caught us up and we rode chatting about the previous days riding. Just before Paeroa, Shane informed me that there was fluid spraying out of my tyre and I should stop, “Ha, that’s what tubeless systems are for, no stopping and they seal themselves” I informed him. And sure enough the Stans system did it’s job, brilliant.

Te Aroha mountain got larger and larger as we neared our destination, Shanes place, to see his family, jump in the pool and have a cold beer. Met up with Jonathan and Miro on their tandem, who were also staying with Shane. A big day, but tomorrow was a rest day for me.

Miranda- Te Aroha Dist 80.92 Tm 5.24.32 Avg 14.96

Total 122.30 Tm 7.51.56

Day 7 Te Aroha rest day

Rest day, Just lay in the pool, did some maintenance on my bike and went to a local market/ Fair day. It was nice to be off my bike and let my body recover from the shock of 6 days riding.

As my fitness was on the poor side, I needed to start slow and have a rest day to give my body and soul time to reflect on what had just happened and how far I would have to push myself to complete this mammoth task in the 30 days. I was also torn with this decision to have a rest day for a number of reasons, the biggest was that, I would have to do more than 100kms a day now, because of my day off. I had read some blogs which helped my psychological reasoning, simple math really, 1 day off and all I have to do is divide the 100kms into 23 days = just over 4kms per day, half way to work, “easy”.

Day 8 Te Aroha- Mangakino

This was the biggest distance I have ever ridden, from Shanes at Te Aroha-Mangakino water front. The day started early at 7:15, just on light and it was crisp. I traveled the flat roads to Matamata through the farmland of the Waikato region. Mostly dairy herds and horse studs. At breakfast, I noticed another rider traveling the opposite direction and wondered if it was another TA rider. This was my first encounter with, Toshi, although we never spoke until Waikato river trail.

I then traveled through the back roads to highway 29, very busy but had heaps of shoulder to ride on. Then down to the Waikato river trail and following the single track through to Arapuni dam. We had a detour around some logging which had closed the trail. This detour was on a very busy road, with a lot of cars and trucks traveling very fast, very scary! We got lost and had to wave down a ute, he told us which way to go, the roads then changed to just a few trucks and cars which was much nicer.

The road was hot as we climbed and climbed in the 33+ degree heat, but was finally followed by an awesome, tree covered down hill to Waipapa dam and into the single track again. It was an awesome track, but I was so tired that I couldn’t enjoy the mountain bike trails as much as if I was fresh. Into Mangakino for a hamburger and then down to the lake front, to camp for the night with the other cyclists. Lots of wave 6 riders and Paul who I rode with to Potou Point was there. I waded out into the lake to wash, was too blooming cold for me!

Te Aroha- Matamata Dist 38.59 Tm 2.01.49 Avg 19.01 Temp 21.6c

Matamata- Arapuni Dist 39.15  Tm 2.19.22 Avg 16.85 Temp 30.3c

Arapuni- Mangakino Dist 62.58 Tm 4.34.58 Avg 13.65 Temp 33.6c

Total 141km Tm 8.56.09

Day 9 Mangakino- Piopio Camp

Started the ride at about 7:15, light enough to see my instructions. Straight into single track around the lake edge, fog enveloped everything before the morning started to warm up. I met up with Toshi and we traveled through the surrounding farm land, you couldn’t see far, but I saw 3 little pigs in a field with the sheep, they scuttled away as they heard me, “I wondered if the wolf was about”. Today was going to be a climbing day as we had to get up over a saddle at 800+ meters.

The tar seal ended as gravel took over, then a rutted track lead to a river, steep sides didn’t allow us to cross, but a rickety wire bridge did. We then followed a rough single track through native bush, the trail was over grown, the black berry reached out to grab my clothes. The trail slowly got better as we climbed and then we popped out on a gravel road. We rode along for 7km to the next photo point, at the centre of the North Island and lunch.

We had the rest of the climbing to go after lunch. Simon and Miro Kennett met us, as did 3 other riders. Simon and Miro, who is 10, are doing it on a tandem bike. They had stayed with Shane and Danielle while I was there.

As the day was heating up and the mist had burned off Toshi and myself set off. We reached the top amongst the huge trees and a smooth blast down a gravel  hill to the Timber Trail entrance and 36km of single track began. Heaven, It was rougher than I had remembered and the up hill was longer. But once we crested the top I found my rhythm on the downhill, I was hooting and hollering. Luckily for me, Toshi was behind me and found my phone that had flown off my bike on one of the downs. We finished at PiroPiro camp for dinner, sleep and rest, it was a hard day.

Dist 86.34 Tm 7.42.06 Avg 11.21 Temp 28.6c

Day 10 Piopio- Owhango

Well today we started at the PiroPiro camp, I found that my crackers had been stolen, they were on my bike handle bars. Toshi said it wasn’t him, so it must have been a rat or a possum. It was just light when we started the climb into the forest, up and over the timber trail. The forest is beautiful and vast. Over the huge swing bridges 141 metres long.

The rain started up near the top and it was relentless, no wind but thunder and rain. Lots of pig rooting as we stopped to eat black berries at the area where the old mill used to be. We bombed down towards the spiral through the mud and rain and dropped out onto the road at the bottom. the detour took us to Epic Cycles to clean our bikes, he is a hire place out of a container, in the middle of nowhere.

That was 45km done,only a gravel and tar seal ride along beside the train tracks and river into Taumarunui, before a rest and feed. I was filthy from all the mud and rain, the Thai shop didn’t mind as we sat outside eating and watching the town people go about their business.

I have been riding with Toshi , who is from Christchurch and Japanese decent. We chatted and decided to carry on to Owhango which was only another 26km he said, but 19 of that was hard, wet uphill, we climbed from 150 mtrs to 500 mtrs, as we climbed the clouds and misty rain swirled around the hills and enveloped me in this cloak of rain. We eventually got to the top and bombed down the other side through farm land and away from the clouds.

Onto the final road to Owhango, to arrive just before 6pm. It was pouring with rain, we were cold and hungry, so Beer, dinner and a pack explosion to help dry our gear. We were left to our own devices in the pub with two rules, leave your money on the bar for the beer that you drink and DON’T let any locals in.

Dist 96.2 Tm 7.49.32 Avg 13.16 Temp 20.2c Rain

Day 11 Owhango- DOC camp site 39km past Pipiriki

Today we started at Owhango in the rain. It had rained all night, so hard that it woke me up a few times and I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about todays’ ride. I was worried about the area we were going into, as it would be very muddy and remote. When we got up, I discussed my concerns with Toshi and Kevin, I decided to ring the jet boat people, Whanganui River Adventures for an update. They said for us to ride down HW 4 to Raetihi and then turn towards Pikiriki. They were right, the riders that were in at Whakahoro and beyond were trapped, the jet boat that was supposed to pick them up, couldn’t get up the river and they were helicoptering in supplies.

We started in the rain and had it all the way for about 4.5 hours. We made it through the valley to Pikiriki, and it was awesome riding down, the Whanganui River Rd. I saw wild goats, pigs and deer today+ tame pigs with piglets. The ride was all tar seal, and some rough stuff because of the weather, the river is 10mtrs above normal, it  sounded like a massive angry beast crashing through the bush as trees broke with the massive force of the river, all you could smell was dirt in the air. We went as far as we could along the road, as we new we were trapped from going any further by the rising water and camped on the side of the road at a small camp. I’m glad we took the alternative route today.

Dist 120.35 Tm 7.13.58 Avg 17.92 Temp 19.6c

Day 12 Pipiriki ( DOC campsite)- Hunterville

The wild camp had animals around me all night, the possums fighting and running around above me, climbing down past my hammock screeching and barking, trying to get into my food. I yelled and clapped my hands to scare them off. The goats bleated and moved between me and the river. I could hear the swollen river as it tumbled by, rolling logs and trees before it. The massive crashing sound, make me fear its rising waters.

We had ridden on at first light, to see what the river had strewn on the banks and the road. The road had been covered with water just last night, what a sight as the water reseeded. The digger had been at work and cleared most of the sediment from the road, but the sticky aftermath still clung to our tyres and made its way over us and gear. We cleared the road works and made our way up an incline that took us far above the river below. The river was a brown snake cutting its way through the green sheer mountains and cliff faces.

Down to HW 4 and on into Whangnui and something to eat. I had left my contacts in last night and couldn’t remove the right one, my eye was red and sore, with blurred vision. I took my bike in to get new gear cables and to top up with Stans fluid, “The Bikeshed” worked their magic while I made my way to Spec Savers, and try to get the lenses remove from my eye. After putting me on a machine to look into my eye, I was informed it was under my eye lid and I have scratched my eye ball.

From Whanganui I have pushed into a headwind for 60km. It has been hard work and draining, my legs and hands hurt. I still had 6km to go until  I got to my camp, but I found a nice diner to sit out of the wind and eat an Omelette, then onto camp at Vinegar hill. Toshi was already there and set up. It was really nice, beside the river, edged with high cliff faces on the other side and bush behind us.

Wild camp on Whanganui River Rd- Whanganui Dist 37.92 Tm 2.23.46 Avg 15.78 Temp 12.6c

Whanganui- Hunterville Dist 60.19 Tm 3.49.37 Avg 15.73 Temp 19.6c

Total 98.12km Tm 6.13.00

Day 13 Hunterville- Palmerston North

We broke camp early today at Vinegar Hill. The nights and mornings are definitely getting cooler as I woke a couple of times cold, with a barmy 9 degrees to start our day.

We were heading for Rangiwahia and the profile said it was all uphill, I was feeling good  and strong and with a climb to 600 metres, I needed to be. I was feeling the hunger, as I don’t do breakfast very well and as Rangiwahia came into view I thought of a nice cafe, wrong, this is a very small place but with a lot of buses parked up, it seemed very popular. My Primus came out as I sat on the hall steps in the morning sun, a rice dish and tuna on crackers had me fueled and under way toward Apiti. These back roads were awesome as we climbed and descended through the farms, deer were prevalent, such graceful animals as they dropped over sheer edges and off into the distance.

This area is big country, with big hills and big valleys as we climbed and descended. These massive valleys carved by the rivers and the views of the mountain ranges to the east were epic.

As we headed towards Ashurst my hands become unbearable, they have been sore with the big days in the saddle, at least by bum pain was gone.  I had to stop and tweak my positioning. I moved my seat 10mm forward and decided to ride without my gloves.

I cycled into Ashurst looking forward to a good feed and hot shower after three days of camping. I found the lack of options for accommodation a inconvenience, so pushed onto Palmerston north. What great cycle/ other trails through this area, skaters, riders, runners and groups, and all so courteous. The nearest motel was what I was heading for, 9 hours in the saddle was enough. I ordered two meals, delivered of course, and a Coke, had a pack explosion, washed all my clothes and showered, luxurious!

It had been a big day.

Vinegar Hill to Rangiwahia Dist 42.11 Tm 3.06.45 Avg 13.52 Temp 25.8c

Rangiwahia to Apiti Dist 23.03 Tm 1.23.10 Avg 16.61

Apiti to Palmerston North Dist 76.35 Tm 4.32.20 Avg 16.82

Total Dist 142km Tm 9.02.30

Day 14 Palmerston North- Martinborough

Cold, 6c and that massive climb out of Palmerston North, the traffic in patches was terrible, the ironic thing was they were mostly cyclists heading for the Sunday morning event. I felt surprisingly good this morning after the big day before, I left my gloves off this morning to rest my sore hands, it was cold as we wound into the hills. I had come across Toshi again, but he climbs better than me, so we only met on the turns, and at hill tops. The seal soon turned to gravel, and I love gravel on my Karate Monkey, it just eats the gravel roads.

My hands were feeling better, I think with moving my seat forward and taking the pressure of the material from the glove away, it has worked. I was feeling good and pushed through Pahiatua after some food, watching the cycle event starting as they rolled through town.

Moving south east, the mixed road surfaces was a nice change, with a lot of farm activity and beautiful country, but I missed the bush of the north. Eeketahuna and another lunch stop, but I was dreading the post lunch slump. It never came and I pushed into the valleys and hills towards Masterton.

I was caught by a lady called Catherine on a Surly Krampus and we chatted and then swapped bikes for a while as our setups were similar. I headed for Subway and Catherine carried on towards Martinborough. After a rest and much needed food I followed the river path out of town and into the farm land/ wine region of this area. As we hit Martinborough, I stocked up with food for dinner and the next few days. Today was a hard day, the last few Kms were a real struggle, very sore legs.

Palmerston North to Pahiatua Dist 29.89 Tm 2.05.16 Avg 14.32 Temp 6c

Pahiatua to Eketahuna Dist 35.28 Tm 1.58.28 Avg 17.87

Eketahuna to Masterton Dist 44.45 Tm 2.20.48 Avg 18.51

Masterton to Martin Borough Dist 50.91 Tm 2.32.19 Avg 20.06

Total Dist 161km Tm 8.57

Day 15 Martinborough- Picton

Today was a day to get to the boat and a psychological boost to be over half way. It would be a 90+ km day, so up early and onto the busy road out of Martinborough. I missed a few turns along the roads before the Remutaka track, but met Toshi at the base of the track, it was warming up and the single track started.

We climbed on the old railway base that served the people who lived in this area. The tunnels and mountains were picturesque as we climbed, no wind and the sun was out. As we popped out of the last tunnel we stopped to eat and read up on the history of the area. Siberia of the southern hemisphere, they say, I don’t believe it, hot, little wind and just beautiful scenery.

As we dropped down towards Te Marua, I was relishing the 16km of double track. Onto the Upper Hut river trail and a blast to the Upper Wellington harbour, Toshi was staying in Wellington and I was hoping to get the 5pm boat. I was feeling good and strong to blast along the harbour trails, stopping only to get some food. I reached the terminal with 20 mins to spare, grabbed my ticket and talked with a fellow rider.

I don’t do boats very well, but the harbour was flat, I hoped for the same out side on the Cook Strait. What an awesome days riding and the boat trip was smooth, we docked at about 9.30pm, and I rode to the local campground. I want to sleep in tomorrow and do some shopping before the start of my South Island leg.

Martinborough to Te Marua Dist 58.09 Tm 3.49.54 Avg 15.16km Tm 9c

Te Marua to Wellington  Dist 42.79 km Tm 2.18.07 Avg 18.57

Total Dist 101 km Tm 6.08 Temp 24.6c

Day 16 Picton- Maitai Camp

A late start of 10am and into town for breakfast and to get supplies at the supermarket. The traffic was light, the boat had just left the dock as I climbed up through Queen Charlotte Sounds. The views were as I remembered them and I decided to take the single track option for 6km, yes, there was a push to the top, but that flowing single track put a smile on my face. The gained elevation made for better views and a break from any traffic. At Havelock I took a break for more food and wondered how the next stretch of road was going to be, as I had cycle toured this area with a BOB trailer nearly twenty years before.

What a shit ride, the drivers are absolute arseholes in this area, no shoulder, trucks beeping me to get off the road, and way to close.

I had to get off this road, so I dived into the Canvastown pub for what I thought might be my last beer. I relaxed for a while and got told that there were road works up the way. I could see the line of traffic, which was a blessing as the traffic was going slow, I raced to get onto the back of the last car through, before they closed the road to traffic from the other direction, awesome as I had no following traffic all the way to Pelorus Bridge.

I had seen Scottie and Rachelle earlier on the side of the road, which was nice to see a familiar face from up north.

It was 3pm and I had another feed and decided to try to make Nelson. Maungatapu Track is a challenge, it didn’t disappoint this time either, I had dragged a trailer over here nearly 18 years before, and had forgotten what a mission it had been. The trail had deteriorated in the last 120 years, massive ruts and baby head rocks, a bad line to walk and a worse line to push your bike. I reached Murders rock and was blown, and the next section was worse, I now see why the “No 4wd” sign was up. The top arrived and a photo was taken, you can see the absolute pain and disgust, it had taken me 2 hours to do 7km.

As I dropped into the steep west side, I was hooting at such a rough, techy single trail, big rocks and rutted loose surfaces and there was only one line to ride, my brakes squealed in protest, trying to slow my combined bike and body weight. It was important for me to control my speed and use all my MTB skills, so as not to end up on the ground, a mistake now would be serious. An absolutely awesome down.

Towards the bottom I lost a plastic bag of food strapped to my bars, spreading crackers and food down the track, I was gutted and it was lucky no one could hear my cursing, I walked back up the track to collect the plastic rubbish. The next few kms were uneventful, as I followed the undulating trail beside the river to Maitai Camp, arriving just before dark. I set up camp, cleaned clothes and body as the dust had stuck to everything, my hardest day yet, everything is sore.

What a great camp and only 10$.

Picton  to Pelorus Bridge Dist 54km Tm 3.31.13 Avg 15.26 Temp 27.2c

Pelorus Bridge to Maitai Camp Dist 35km Tm 3.44.29 Avg 9.35

Total Dist 89km Tm 7.5

Day 17 Maitai Camp- Tapawera Camp

Today was a mixed day, firstly an awesome breakfast at a cafe right beside the trail, just as I hit Nelson and some pretty frustrating hold ups, but that is what you get with so many variables on the tour.

I had to get my phone sim card upgraded as it was full and then I rode onto an organic store to get some more sun protection. As I followed  the cycle trails around Nelson/ Richmond, I was having problems with my eyes. The day before’s dust had made it impossible to remove my contacts and I was searching for a Spec Savers in Richmond, I was directed to the local Mall and was stopped by a security guard, she abruptly told me to get out with my bike, I was pushing it, not riding, and informed her that there was nowhere to lock it outside, she didn’t care and was one of the rudest persons I have met.

After having my contacts removed ( for the second time) by the optometrist, I moved onto the outskirts of Wakefield and the little towns of the area. Two punnets of local, roadside blue berries was a treat, as I sat in the shade and watched the goat/sheep. 

I hit Pigeon Valley and the choice gravel of the area, down through the valley on the other side and then a sign to say “Road Closed”, I stopped at a house to chat with an old guy regarding the traffic in the area, he suggested I don’t risk the logging trucks on that road and to take the detour. People who drive, don’t realise the time it takes to get somewhere by bike, 15 minutes to the junction and another 25 to Tapawera. Well, back on the main highways of the area and the shocking close misses of the drivers in the top of the South Island.

You could smell the hops as I came across the wagons on the roads, stacked high. I was close now and  found the local Tapawera Pub, they cooked me a plain meal as requested, of Scotch Steak, Mash potatoes and beans followed by a couple of beers, excellent and well needed after a hard day on the bike.

The camp was just down the road and there were a few riders in and others flowed in later that night .

Maitai to Richmond Dist 22.75 Tm 1.29.29 Avg 15.25

Richmond To Wakefield Dist 17.43 Tm 1.11.55 Avg 14.55 temp 25.8c

Wakefield to Tapawera Dist 48.32 Tm 2.45.05 Avg 17.56 Temp 33.4c

Total Dist 88km Tm 5.30

Day 18 Tapawera Camp- Murchison

I was up and away as usual, Toshi had caught up, as had many riders who had come in during the night. The first gravel of the day was brilliant, as we climbed and descended through Tadmor Valley for 30km. Then a short stretch of HW 6 and the mad drivers of the top of the south, there are truly some absolute wan…..s in this area. The road to Rotoroa lake was quiet with spectacular stoney bottomed rivers, bush and mountains, magnificent, the sandflys were also magnificent and standing around was a mistake. Keep moving and they can’t catch you.

Up the gravel over Breaburn saddle and through the beautiful valleys in this area, the smell of honey as we passed the local apiary and onto Murchison. I stopped at the local pub for food and beer, waiting for Toshi to find his way into town. We sat and sipped our cold beer, watching every one go about there days business. We moved onto the local Kiwi camp to set up with the animals in among the trees.  What a great day of differences with beautiful valleys and lakes.

Tapwera- Lake Rotoroa Dist 62.59 TM 3.52.25 Avg 16.15 Mx 41.49 Temp 26.8c

Lake Rotoroa- Murchison Dist 33.00 TM 1.55.04 Avg 16.69 MX 53.12 Temp 28.6c

Total Dist 95.59 Tm 5.48

Day 19 Murchison- Reefton

Fantastic gravel roads and truck drivers that suck!

Today I started just on light, there was a hint of rain in the air as we climbed deeper into the valley. Bush clad mountains and low cloud, cooled the air, there had been rain the previous night and the roads were wet. The seal soon turned to gravel as we climbed higher, farmland turned to bush and we crossed narrow bridges over fast flowing rivers, the road narrowed further and the bridges became fords to cross, what an awesome area, large beach forest, gravel roads, heaven.

Maruia Saddle at 580mtrs was our high point and photos were taken, then the sharp descent to the sealed roads that spat us out towards Springs Junction. The next 8kms was climbing into the majestic forest covered mountains that separated us from the west coast and the magic flowing down that would take us to Reefton and our nights destination. It was a magic ride, with little traffic, through the valleys and vistas of this area.

I had met Gerard on the way and we had a blast riding from Springs Junction through to Reefton, we separated at the pub, as I was heading to the campground and a traditional Indian meal cooked by Catherine’s husband awaited. There is something special about hot Indian food and a Lager after a great days riding.

Murchison- Springs Junction Dist 77.94 Tm 5.06.12 Avg 15.27 Mx 51.31 Temp 17.4c

Springs Junction- Reefton Dist 44.05 Tm 2.13.47 Avg 19.76 Mx 51.51 Temp 21.2c

Total Dist 121.99 Tm 7.19.59

Day 20 Reefton- Greymouth

Tough muddy trail with a nice road bash into Greymouth.

We left Reefton at 7.30am, it is definitely getting cold in the mornings, and I felt the cold last night, waking a few times. Toshi and myself climbed up the gravel road, it was going to be a long ride today. Climbing to 750mtrs was going to be a big day. The road gave way to a gravel 4wd track with large rocks and wooden slats over boggy areas for traction. The riding was slow over the rough trail, as we picked our way forwards. Other riders had caught us and we were spread out along the track. I had to walk at times as it was easier than riding. This track lead to an old coal and gold mining area and we were warned not to take water or touch anything because of the contamination.

We climbed through the undulating terrain, getting closer to Big River mines, and the end of the 4wd track.

The single track that followed was muddy, narrow and mostly unrideable, with fragmented riding as we climbed higher. We hit the creek bed that was to take us to the top and what I thought would be the last walking of the day. We arrived at the head of a wider trail, my tired body was looking forward to the descent. I was going to bomb this down, was I wrong, it was a very frustrating ride with constant crashes, slipping and fragmented riding. The trail had only two riders over it before me and I felt guilty at the damage to the trail that I was doing, those behind me were going to have a tough time. As we got lower the trail widened and got firmer with more riding, more speed and more buzz. We popped out onto the gravel road and the old ghost town, which turned into an excellent gravel down, smooth and fast.

At Ikamahuta we stopped and had a feed, drink and chat to the other riders who had come before me. I met Gerard and Colin who were going to go for Greymouth today. I asked if I could tack onto them for the ride, my plan was to get to Blackball. We set off and soon had a turn system going, 4mins at the front and sitting on 22kmh, downs and ups were as fast as you wanted to go, and we would regroup and carry on, it was a real blast and we had lots of laughs. Blackball arrived and I decided to carry on with these two, the snakes were bought out for some sugar and we were off.

It was a great ride and we hit Greymouth in just over 2.5 hours, we stopped at the large hotel and had a beer, then onto a pizza place that Colin new well. Watered and feed we booked a room at the iconic backpackers on the hill, washed our bikes, clothes and bed.

Reefton- Ikamahuta Dist 56.39km Tm 5.27.54 Avg 10.31 Max 48.71 Temp 27.6

Ikamahuta- Greymouth Dist 51.42km Tm 2.41.00 Avg 19.10 Max 61.33 Temp 24.6

Total Km 107.81 Tm 8.08.54

Day 21 Greymouth- Ross

Awesome West coast wilderness trail with a great stay at the Empire Hotel in Ross

Gerard and Colin left an hour before me this morning, as they were planning to do a few more Kms than me. I was up and gone at 7.30am towards the Greymouth bar for a photo. A cold NE wind was blowing so the bar was flat, this bar is notorious for wrecking boats.

I was on the cycle tracks following the beach south and the low scrub kept the wind off me mostly. This trail was really good, following the main highway all the way to Kumara and then the trails flowed around the reservoirs, I enjoyed the riding by myself, my own pace and solitude of the area, occasionally coming across the fluros (older guided tours were prevalent). The trail started to climb slightly into the Kawhaka pass as the beautiful bush and narrowing trails made for some amazing riding. Looking ahead, the mountains seemed to envelop the whole area and I wondered where I was going to pass over them. Descending into Cowboy Paradise, I stopped to have lunch and take in the majestic views of the valley before me.

Dropping into the switch backs below the restaurant was great, flowing from one corner to the next, the sun was hot and the aqua blue, stony bottomed  rivers  looked inviting, I’m not into the cold water though. Onto the gravel road that led to Lake Kaniere and the man made canals that fed the gold mining pumps, what a blast, I was feeling good and fast, throwing my laden bike into the corners with a grin as wide as my bars.

I had seen many riders today, singles, small groups and the large fluros, all having a blast and so courteous. Now the ride into Hokitika and my destination for today, I stopped at the Pounamu shop and made some purchases for my family, the shop assistant offered to ship the gifts home for me, so I decided to carry on, I was feeling good and the day was hot, with little wind now.

The trails of the Mahinapua tram lines pushed me further south, as I closed on to my destination of Ross, the last kms of the day got harder as I struggled with the distances traveled during the last few days. I decided to head for the recommended Empire Hotel, and came around the corner to be greeted with motorbikes everywhere, well, I was committed as I pulled up among the bikes and riders, dogs came out to meet me and all were friendly, with questions, comments and cold wet noses.

Indoors to have the publican, in shorts, bare feet and a  rugby jersey pour my beer, tell me it was Sunday roast night, all you can eat $20 and accommodation was 20$. What a perfect end to my days riding, roast, pavlova and ice cream(twice), what an awesome atmosphere.

Greymouth- Kumara Dist 29.02km Tm 1.39.26 Avg 17.35 Max 25.65 Temp 15.2c

Kumara- Cowboy Paradise Dist 34.28km Tm 2.23.56 Avg 14.29 Temp 24.6c

Cowboy Paradise- Hokitika Dist 36.35 Tm 1.56.34 Avg 18.71 Temp 25.7c

Hokitika- Ross Dist 34.62km Tm 1.49.14 Avg 18.47

Total Dist 134.27km Tm 7.49.27

Day 22 Ross- Fox Glacia

Wet and hilly

A cool morning, riding through the valleys as cloud draped over the mountains. Today was all on sealed roads and we went from one valley to the next as we worked our way south down the West coast. The hills were sharp and I am struggling with knee pain. The day progressively got wetter and colder. As I hit Fox, I decided to get a cabin at the Top Ten to dry out my gear and then walked into town, where I met up with Colin and Gerard at a local restaurant, for tails of our adventures.

Ross- Harihari Dist 44.01km Tm 2.16.16 Avg 19.38 Mx 55.32

Harihari- Fox Dist 86.28km Tm 4.56.55 Avg 17.43 Mx 57.33

Total Dist 130.29 Tm 7.13.11

Day 23 Fox Glacia- Haast

Wet misty mountain ranges.

I started in the dark this morning with cold drizzling rain. Down the road and into the gravel track that lead towards Fox Glacia, As I got to the road the signs said, that we were going no further as the road and tracks had been washed out.

Back onto the seal and the quite roads of the wakening country side. On this stretch of road to Lake Paringa, I watched a NZ falcon flush a small bird from high grass, it swooped up and away as the little bird tried in vain to gain height and speed, but that Falcon was so fast with a sweeping arc, it came back down and took that bird not a metre from the ground, what an awe inspiring sight.

My knees have been sore again, I have riden by myself for most of the day today, seeing other riders on brief occasions. Colin, Gerard and a young lady passed me just north of Haast, there pace was to hot for me, so I let them go and dropped back to a comfortable 20-22 kmh. As I came into camp, they were coming out of the office and offered me the last bed in their bunk room, it was going to rain hard tonight, so I took their gracious offer.

Fox- Lake Paringa Dist 70.29 Km Tm 3.18.45 Avg 21.22km Temp 20.1c

Lake Paringa- Haast Dist 51.37 Tm 2.45.28 Avg 18.62 Temp 22.5c

Total Dist 122.06 Tm 6.04.13

Day 24 Haast- Hawea

Wet and dry with massive temperature change when we hit Hawea

Left Haast in torrential rain today, the roads were quite, dark and wet as we plodded towards the pass. Massive rivers and mountains were all around us, magnificent views came from every bend in the road. Because of the rain, there were water falls coming from every crack on the sheer rocky road sides, the noise of the water was intense. Massive slips were present from previous storms, with boulders as big as houses sitting perched against small trees, stopping them from falling onto the road.

Haast pass was steep with road works, which meant that the traffic was slow and considerate. I walked up the steep pass beside the road, as the cones separated me from the one lane traffic. Up the pass on the flowing roads was pleasant and the fast descent as I dropped towards Makarora. I pulled in, to warm up next to the fire and eat some well earned calories. Other riders flowed in to sit and try to dry out, and eat enough for the next part of our ride.

Moving on we encountered a few riders, as stops were made for photos and food. Through the Neck between the two lakes (Wanaka and Hawea) and the southerly wind hit us, the last 23km were hell, sore knees and pedaling down hill is not what I want, these are supposed to be free Kms. At last Hawea and onto the local pub for food, a beer and an education on how these small towns make money, as a non local, my price for food etc, was more expensive than locals.

Back to the camp ground to pitch my hammock in rapidly cooling temperatures. At 5pm it had dropped to 4 degrees. Tonight I have put on all my clothes, except my rain jacket. Freezing!

Haast – Hawea Dist 128.30 Tm 7.20.47 Avg 17.23 Temp 17c

Day 25 Hawea- Wanaka

Cold wet

Today we booked ahead for a cabin in Wanaka, as we would be there by 10.30am and wanted to have a pack explosion to dry out from todays and previous days cold, wet weather. The river trail was a great ride, it was going to be a short day so we just blasted into the rain and wind. Toshi needed brake pads, as his were on the metal, so it was repairs and a kiwi boil up once we got to Wanaka. We were ready for the last push if the weather lifted tomorrow, it was going to be an early night and start. Bloody cold with snow on the mountains above the camp ground.

Hawea- Wanaka Dist 31.71Km Tm 2.15 Avg 13.34 Temp 5c

Day 26 Wanaka- Walter Station camp

Snow on Cadrona range, Cool river and lake trails

It was cold and dark as we left Wanaka and the traffic was steady. The air was freezing, -0.5c and my hands were sore as we made our way along the valley towards Cadrona. The plastic bags that we had put on our feet did little to stop the ache of cold. It started to warm, as we started climbing up towards the sun, snow on both sides of the road from yesterdays storm made for a beautiful pink glow. Up we climbed and the sun appeared from behind the mountains, like a shy boy peeking from behind his mother. Higher we climbed, the traffic was heavy and fast, which made for some close encounters, the top was in sight and I could see Toshi taking photos.

As I left the car park an Audi A4 SW had a look at over taking me, I went for it and tucked into the corners of this awesome down, glancing back occasionally, the Audi dropped back as I accelerated past all the dead ferrets on the road. As the road flattened, the Audi overtook me with a toot.

Onto the trails of the Arrowtown area and coming into Queenstown, the trails were awesome. Toshi was pushing to get to the SS Earnslaw before the last sailing, that would take bikes. I followed him, darting in and around tourists on the busy lake front trails, waiting for someone to step the wrong way, but it wasn’t to be. We just made the Earnslaw and had to jump on board as the gangway had been removed. What a trip across the lake on this amazing piece of machinery and the magnificent views of this area. Off at Walter Peak and around to the beautiful new camp ground, flanked by snow covered peaks and a view back over the lake to Queenstown, not bad.

As we had rushed onto the boat, we had only limited food with us, so we got a chip and cold meat platter for dinner at the restaurant and rationed our food for the next days 110km to Mossburn.

Wanaka- Walter Peak Dist 83.82 Tm 5.43.26 Avg 14.64 Max Temp 12.6

Day 27 Walter Station camp- Taringatura camp

An awesome day of gravel and mountains

Today was an early, cold start, the snow was falling up high on the mountain tops as we rode out into the darkness. After a few kms and the  light of the morning, I realized that my front bag was undone on one side, I didn’t note anything missing, but would later fine my vest was absent. Toshi was struggling to keep up on the rough gravel roads and I was feeling good, these 2.8 tyres just ate up the gravel and made for a pleasant ride up onto the “Von” at 750 metres.  The vast valley stretched before me, flanked by mountains on either side and the low clouds trapped in between.

No wind and it was time to make as much distance before the projected afternoon wind. The road surface was rough and narrow until we hit the 55km mark near Mavora Lakes road junction. Here the freshly graded road and the dusters flying past, choking us with clouds of blinding dust, made for tough going. As the road turned to trail, I gathered water from a nearby creek and boiled up the last of our food, sitting on the grass verge waiting for Toshi, pondering on the vast area we had just traveled through. One of my best days, if not the best. No accommodation at Mossburn, as the organised riders had booked it out, so we got some takeaway muffins and pushed on to Taringatura camp, what a great place for the night.

Walter Peak- Taringatura camp Dist 157.4 Tm 8.59.42 Avg 16.72 Max Temp 23.6c

Day 28 Taringatura camp- Bluff

As the alarm went off Toshi and myself ate the 1/2 dozen muffins that we bought the day before and set off, just on light. The roads were straight and flat as our wheels ate up the Kms, farms, cows and hedgerows flashed by. We were near the end and new it was going to be a fast day, no wind made the mist and cool southern morning pleasant to be on our bikes. Hitting the out skirts of Invercargill , we skirted along the estuary on the trails, it was really nice and I pushed on, I remember the unusual smell and couldn’t put my finger on what it was or is to this day.

As the trail ended, I hit the road and had to wait for Toshi. The book had said about the traffic and I had apprehension regarding this, but it was a Sunday, so I hoped that the roads would be free from vehicles. It was actually a good ride to Bluff and we stopped for lunch at a local cafe, before the final 2km to our destination. Other riders were around, some had finished, some were still to get there. One guy was selling his bike outside the cafe, before he flew out of NZ.

The ride to Sterling Point was somber, a rider we had met cheered us and we took the obligatory photos, to be honest, it wasn’t a happy feeling, more, “what next”? It is definitely the “Journey” and not the destination that makes the ride. As we talked and reminisced, we rode slowly back to Bluff. Toshi and myself parted ways, I had to meet my mates wife somewhere near Invercargill, for the trip out to their daughters place and Toshi was staying in Bluff. After a phone call, I was instructed to ride to Invercargill. A 110km thrash to Sterling Point and now a ride back to Invercargill, the traffic was terrible with boats on 4x4s buzzing me, a big difference to the ride in the opposite direction a couple of hours earlier. I was glad to meet Dianne and my ride to the farm, I must say that being crammed into a car after a month in the open was a scary and unusual experience.

Taringatura- Bluff  Dist 111.51 Tm 5.15.37 Avg 21.47 Mx Temp 17.5c

Turn around and ride to Invercagill Dist 26.6km

28 days, 1 rest day in Te Aroha (day 7), Starting weight was 105kgs and finishing weight was 96kgs, training consisted of 3 days a week commuting 6km each way, 2x 70km rides, 2x 55km and 1x 64km, a few MTB rides when I could. I started my training in November of 2017. I have been MTBing for  28 years so had an experience base, but by starting slow, “well, except for the first day” and riding at my own pace/ distance to how I felt, I was able to complete the Tour of Aotearoa 2018.

The above times are moving time and not stops or total time between camps.

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