Monday, April 19, 2010

Easter 2010

After the cool experience of the Kiwi Brevet I was keen for Tim and I to do some touring with minimum gear and so we decided on a biking trip for Easter.

We took the 6.30pm Interislander to Picton on the Thursday before Easter. As we had bikes and had to wait for all trains, and vehicles to be loaded first we were last on. Of course, as this was the busiest sailing of the year there were no seats and so we had 3 hours sitting on the floor!

We stayed at the Tombstone Backpackers in Picton and I would thoroughly recommend them. Cost effective, modern, clean, pleasant staff and close to the Ferry with a good outlook.

On Friday we set out for Port Underwood Road. The day was sunny and warm and with a tail wind the ride was great. After fixing some problems with Tim’s rack we were on our way. I forgot how many hills there are on this road and I enjoyed being able to stay ahead of Tim on some of the climbs. At some point around Cable Bay Tim mentioned he was having a hungry emergency and we agreed that we’d stop lunch in the next bay. In the last 2 hours we had climbed one big hill and then lots of little ones that dropped into nice relaxing looking bays. Not this time, 35 minutes later we were at the top of the next hill and as we headed into Robin Hood Bay and had a quick stop. There was a very brisk northerly blowing and so with full stomachs we headed up another big climb that lead to a decent into Whites Bay. We had planned to ride the Whites Bay loop but decided instead to go and sit on the beach (a decision I am now regretting). To me, Whites Bay was a pleasant surprise. It was sheltered and the beach flat and smooth. We brewed up a cup of coffee and generally relaxed. We made a plan to head to Spring Creek and the pub.

As we headed in the direction of Blenheim Tim quickly ran out of gears and so it was my turn to continually check he was still there (that made a change). Tim was dreaming of strawberry milk, and cranberry juice (the contents of our fridge) as he was still feeling the effects of his hungry emergency. Then disaster, the Pub and the Four Square at Spring Creek were both closed! Lucky there was a small icecream shop/takeaways open. This was a perfect opportunity for another brew, 1.5 litres of coke zero, hot chips and Strawberry milk for Tim, and an icecream.

There was a serious headwind on our trip back to Picton on SH1. I love that there is so much space on the road and the consideration the traffic gave us. Back in Picton it was time for a beer then a spa and then dinner and wine to go with our slight sunburn. All up about 100km and 1700m of climbing.

Saturday was our big day - The Queen Charlotte Walkway all in one day. It wasn’t like we weren’t a little tired from the day before! We left Picton on the 8am water taxi to Ship Cove. I always enjoy a trip through the sounds and especially enjoy Queen Charlotte Sound.

The only way to describe the climb out of Ship Cove is “brutal,” and on a full stomach it is even worse! After 26 minutes we were at the top and enjoying a cool traverse with views of Resolution Bay and then a neat descent into Furneaux Lodge. One thing that surprised me was the number of rocks on the trail, I suppose I was expecting more dirt and tree roots. At Furneaux Lodge we had a quick beer in the sun and luckily the wind was strong enough to keep us moving.

We were passed by a group of cyclists also riding right through. It was a situation where they could see us and so they smashed past us, and then couldn’t get away. They had a girl with them who couldn’t keep up and so we ended up stuck between them. Eventually we let them go, or Tim opened a gate and they went through and left Tim to shut it! They clearly thought they were better riders than us and were getting frustrated with their girls inability to pass us. Of course, we just cruising, knowing we had a long day ahead. The ride around the coast was nice and we passed many walkers who always let us past.

Next stop was Camp Bay. I didn’t realise that we could have avoided a big climb by not going into Camp Bay. At Camp Bay because of the wind our coffee took an age to brew and a Weka stole my sandwich. I can tell you I was not amused! I chased it through he bush until it dropped it. There was no way I was giving up my food supplies! Of course, this was entertainment to at least 10 German Tourists!

We found the next section of the track hard going. There is something about pine trees that just doesn’t cut it after native bush, there were also a lot of small pitches in the track making it hard work. Just as the track got nice Tim got a puncture – sidewall tear in the small block 8.

I really enjoyed the section along the ridge where you could see Queen Charlotte Sound on one side and Kenepuru on the other, then there was a long descent into Portage. By this time it was 3.30pm and we had covered 50km. There were still 21km and one big climb to go.

In this last section we had passed two lots of couples. On both occasions the girl was at the back grovelling and the guy was up to 1km ahead waiting impatiently. We couldn’t help but notice the tension in the air. It didn’t seem like a fun weekend for either party. Tim and I are lucky we can ride at a similar pace and can enjoy long rides together. (well, I can ride fast enough not to annoy Tim)

I started to make another coffee while was decided what to do. Lesson learned – it was too windy for the Bialetti to work, it just wouldn’t get hot enough. In the end 30 minutes was wasted. This swayed our decision and we headed along the road from Portage to Havelock adding 10km to our trip but cutting out climbing. It was 50km to Havelock, and in no way flat. The road was pretty and quiet and it was neat riding out of Kenepuru Sound to Mahu and the Pelorus, though the hill over to Pelorus was totally mean and unexpected.

After 10 hours of riding we arrived at Havelock with Tim redlining and having another hungry emergency. I can recommend the pub at Havelock for a good meal at a reasonable price.

It was fair to say that the YHA Havelock is pretty average and after a terrible sleep, the inability to get food early on Easter Sunday and being kind of tired we decided to head back to Picton and head home rather than tackle Nydia Bay.

The ride back to Picton was nice and easy with a stop in Anakiwa. At this stage I kind of regretted skipping the last 20km of the track…, we’ll have to go back I think.

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