Our day started early on October 17th, for our overnighter to Kaihu Top Ten camp, via Tutumoe Range. The morning was clear and still, as we left the cars to travel along the gravel roads around Parakao. We were a crew of 8 riders, Clayton who works with me, my daughter (13), Greg and his daughter (17) on her first tour, Danielle from USA, Mike, Malcolm, myself and Dave was going to catch us up. It was going to be a hard day as we planned to cross the Tutumoe range following an old closed road, I had been over there a few times 20 years ago, but the condition of the roads were unknown. I had a good old Topo map and compass, if we needed to fine our bearings.
As we climbed and descended the gravel roads, spirits were high and my daughter found her groove with a loaded bike. We chatted about how the day was going to go and the animal life around us, turkeys, the males showing off to the hens, rabbits and hawks circling above. The riders spread out along the gravel, finding their own pace, we had set meeting places along the route to make sure we all stayed on course. As the kms ticked over we got closer to the head of the Tutumoe range, the conversation turned to the height that we would have to climb to summit the pass, 600 metres was our highest point of the day, the gradual climb had started, as we rode on the right hand side of the range. We rode up the valley between the bush on our left and the stoney river below us, into the forest and our first big climb was underway. Danielle was away, she was cycle touring around New Zealand so had a good amount of fitness and was build like an athlete, not like a keg of beer, which I resembled. My daughter took up the challenge and chased her up the ever increasing gradient, ” don’t listen to your dad”, it is about pacing yourself. We rode, walked in the heat of a beautiful spring day, but the lack of wind under the trees kept the temperature up. Catching Aysha on a long straight climb, she was in tears as she had pushed herself to breaking point, a guttsy effort, but as I explained, “we are here for the long haul, not a short race”. We drank and had a small snack in the shade till she felt better and then carried on to our lunch stop at the crest of our first 500+ metre climb of the day.
Dave had caught us on his old Salsa El mariachi, a great looking bike that handles really well, and for an old fellow, he doesn’t do to badly. Lunch was well received, sitting eating and chatting about what we had just completed.
The down was fast and exciting, the road was rough, with large gravel and washes where the water had scowed out the rocks. Malcolm shot past me, I was laughing uncontrollably, as I watched him try to make the fast approaching corner, back tyre trying to get grip on the gravel, leg out to keep control of a loaded bike sliding and bouncing around under him, leaving the road and into the long grass, this slowed his speed just enough to gain control, the tears were flowing down my face as he told me about the journey that I had just witnessed. We hit the cross roads where the two rivers met and regrouped after the 260 metre decent.
I new this point well, we were about to embark on our biggest climb of the day, sections of the old Oputeke Road were steep and rough. At the next junction I got my map out, left looked right, but right looked better, so we were off, then the tree fall. We worked as a team to get over and through the trees, making our way along the grass covered track to eventually come to a turning around point, dead end. I felt a little dejected at this point, I was leading this group and my decisions had led to a potential backtrack for the group. Some slumped in the grass, some ate, but Dave got out his GPS. I walked forward into the scrub to find the track that Dave said was there, over a small slip and there was a track under the trees, pigs had been there, as the mud holes showed fresh sign. I gathered the crew and we pushed on to get back to the road, well ” what used to be a road” more like a muddy 4×4 track. As we climbed, the track slowly got better, as we gained altitude, and wound it’s way towards the native bush. Forestry has made this area a mess, what they leave behind is really disheartening.
We hit the top of our ride at 598 metres, and looked out over the views to the northeast, I was looking forward to the next 15km of down, following the old road through the native bush, creeks and water falls. Everyone was hooting, as we dropped down the trail, wild goats leaping over the edge. It was a long descent, but finally the track became a road and the smoothness was appreciated as we dropped into the valley. We rode on, talking about what we had just come down and knowing that at the end of this road was our nights camp, food and a shower. 53kms, the longest my 13 year old had ridden and with a loaded bike.
Day 2, we packed up and headed to Kaihu for a classic Kiwi breakfast of pie and drink. The roads were quite as we turned onto the first piece of gravel, flowing along, up and down, watching the kms tick by. Turning onto Waihue Road and our main hill for the day, Dave left us, as he was heading home and was going through Dargaville. We cruised to the base of Waihue mountain and skirted its base, dropping down through the bush covered valley to the War Memorial Hall for an early lunch.
Back on the seal for a few Kms, heading south towards Dargaville, we were looking for Avoca Road, this is a gorgeous green valley with flat to undulating terrain, then crossing into Tangowahine Valley, we followed the sealed road and our last gravel section before the finish of our tour. Our young riders were starting to feel the kms traveled, combined with the heat of the afternoon and progress slowed, but on any tour, “you travel at the slowest riders speed”, no one was complaining.
The last few kms of gravel ticked over and we arrived back at Parakao for a drink and chat. Great bunch off people and an awesome ride. Just under 55km for day 2.