Yesterday we all left together – we separated at about 23K’s into the ride. One group went with Vince on a Railway Trail trip along the side of a mountain on an old railroad bed and through a couple of tunnels – i went with the other group along the wild coast line heading towards Wellington. Both routes would be highly scenic but the coastal track required more technical mountain bike skills. There was a pretty good headwind as the ten of us with Lindsay moved along a small country road towards the rough track we would follow along the coast. Q and I took turns in the wind the first portion. However, this wind was nothing compared to what we would experience on the coastal track. The area we pedaled through is a gated park which is kept wild – there are still small cabins located along this 40K stretch but they are just small fishing shacks left over from another era. We gathered together just before we got on the rough trail to decide where we would stop to wait for all just in case someone were to fall and get injured. I soon discovered that the chances of that were quite high. Usually when I hear about a difficult trail it usually falls into my experience level as something pretty doable but when these Kiwis say that it’s difficult you need to perk up and listen. It was really rough. Sandy, yet mostly very rough rocky stretches with a lot of rock added where washouts had occurred the trail was constantly twisting up and down. In mountain biking momentum is your friend to get through the rocky stretches and to keep up enough speed to push through the sand as well. This was pretty technical for a bike like mine with narrower tires, no suspension and the short quick road handlebars which made it hard to keep maneuvering straight when bouncing from one rock pile to the next. All of us had to get off and push, especially through the deeper sand. I wanted to take photos but soon had to give that up as it took all of my concentration to keep the bike moving. The process of taking out my camera and getting it back into the bike case just took too long. I did manage to get a few shots.
Every chance the wind had to move down from the north and into our path it took full advantage of. It blew through the openings along the coastal bluffs and buffeted both us and our bikes. You just could not stay on the bike when the wind caught you with full force. The speed of that force was over 100Km/hr. At one point Horst and I got blown off our bikes simultaneously and into the sandpits behind us. We were pelted with sand through our helmets, into our faces, and down into our clothing. Everyone had sand everywhere before we finished this ride. When the wind forced you off of your bike you had better have a very firm grip on it or your bike would blow out of your hands. It was literally blown sideways from your hands. What a crazy day.
Yet it was beautiful along this rugged coast, the sun was out, and spirits remained high among us. We stopped in a small shelter for our lunch break and waited till everyone was accounted for then pushed on again. About 20K into our rough track the surface improved considerably. No move piles of sand in our path, it became similar to a rough gravel logging road. Now these I am very familiar with and my bike actually does very well. So do I. The last stretch became a real gravel road that in turn became paved and we were well on our way into the city of Wellington, capital of New Zealand. Following a twenty minute ferry ride, Lindsay navigated us through the city and down to the bay near the airport where our motel awaited us.
We had about an hour or so to shower before Lindsay’s daughters and Vince packed us up into their vehicles and off to Lindsay’s house we went. His home sits above Island Bay and has a magnificent view of the harbor below. It is a large multi-leveled home which takes full advantage of its steep setting to bring one along the layers of different uses of the structure. Lindsay and his wife, Barbara, have two lovely daughters and grandchildren (not sure how many) who made sure that we were all made welcome. We waited for all to arrive as both of the daughters had set up an official Maori welcome for us. The women of our group were to be the first to enter – if the men entered first it would designate a war party. A greeting both in English and Maori started the ceremony then we all took turns shaking a hand while lightly placing our noses and foreheads together with each of our four hosts individually and sharing a breath. A wonderful spread followed of several cuts of meat, salads, bread and appetizers. Of course, there was wine for all as well. What fun for us to all gather and enjoy the hospitality as well as stories of the day. Three kinds of desserts ended our culinary experience and we all departed fully sated and ready for bed.
We all have a day off today – I had breakfast with Lee and Scott, Peter, Sam and Marco at a wonderful busy little restaurant just a block or so down the beach. After cleaning my bike, I found a taxi to take me to a photo shop downtown to get a charger for my camera. I had brought the wrong charger with me, got a shop to charge it in Hobart but now needed to get it back in order before we take on the South Island tomorrow. Off we go to Vince’s house tonight for another group feast. Since we are leaving at 6 am for the big ferry we are starting at Vince’s at 4pm today.