Monday, November 28, 2011

Le Petit Brevet 2011

Two weeks ago (it seems like an age) Tim and I flew to Rotorua to participate in the Great Forest Rogaine. Last year we did this on foot (8 hours) and according to Tim it took a year for his toe nail to grow back! This year the event was 6 hours and we decided a mountain bike was a much better idea.

Navigation is not our strong point, and our night navigation is shocking. However, we found every control we wanted with relative ease and were very pleased with what we found at night. We didn't rush and so didn't make stupid mistakes, our next challenge is to move a bit faster. It is always great to ride in the Redwoods and the rogaine was even cooler as we went places we would never normally.

The wonderful thing about flying was that we were home on Sunday by 2pm after having been for a two hour ride and a leisurely breakfast.

The next weekend rolled around way too quickly. I was far busier at work than I wanted to be and had far less sleep than I needed. Before I knew it I was on the plane to Christchurch and being picked up by the lovely Michelle.

My brevet kit consisted of my Santa Cruz Highball with WTB Vulpine tyres, a Topeak seatpost rack (I have reservations about using my Freeload on a carbon frame), a 20L pack pack, a GPS and 2 drink bottles. In the dry bag on the rack I had a Vaude Bivvy Bag and a summer weight (tiny and cold) sleeping bag as well some spare food and my tools and so keeping as much weight as possible off my back. In my pack I had a dry bag with a light merino hoodie and polypro top, my softshell waterproof jacket a beanie and some leggings, and of course food. I felt like I had a lot of gear......but on arriving at the start the amount I carried was about average.

After a sleep that was way too short Michelle accompanied me to the start and all too soon we were off. Even though Rapaki was closed everyone opted to use it and I followed. Everyone started at a frantic pace and before I knew it I was dead last. The traverse across Summit Road was hard going with the wind and the gear on my rack but before long I was on the Little River Rail Trail. I made a slight navigational error and jumped on to the trail about 1km after I should have and ended up ahead of group of guys - this confused them greatly!

Once I reached Birdlings Flat I followed the instructions to head out to sea and then as promised I saw the trail required, it was difficult to spot and I was grateful this section of the journey was completed in daylight.

The climb up Bossu Road was ok, I found it quite depressing with low cloud and a very cold wind. The view out over Lake Ellesmere was pretty cool. I enjoyed having the GPS and I was able to see how high we were but due to my lack of preparation I didn't actually know how high any of climbs were. After about 2 hills I realised that 600m was a minimum!

The run down to Little River was good fun and the weather improved significantly. I made a quick stop, replenishing my water - it never occurred to me to carry an extra bottle. By this time it was 12.30pm.

The climb up to Waipuna Saddle and Double Fence Line Track was a longest and highest in the event, and after I digested my sausage roll and rode up it strongly. I passed a few people and oddly shaped trees on double fenceline and then made a another error that saw me bush bash through the scrub, cut my leg and get a slow puncture. It was great to get onto the seal again and be able to see Akaroa down below - what a long 24km of riding it was to get there with a couple of mean hills in the way. I ran out out water again and had to stop a couple of times to put air in my front tyre. I am sure the scenery was beautiful but I didn't really notice as I was grovelling big time.

I arrived at Akaroa, the halfway point at about 6pm, and headed straight for the Four Square, this time I thought to carry some extra liquid. Then I found the fish and chip shop, rang home, and changed my front tyre. I felt a lot better after a good meal and a considerable quantity of water and by 7pm I was ready to go again. I had to text Tim and say I was feeling better and to ignore my grizzle.

I think Purple Peak Road is the steepest sealed road I have ever seen, it was just ridiculous and I have no idea how they managed to stop the seal sliding down the road. I was sure I was the last to leave Akaroa and was surprised to see Jasper coming up the hill behind me (the pub was very good apparently). By the time I reached the summit (and the shelter looked kind of appealing) there wasn't much light left and by the time I reached the Le Bons Bay turn off it was pitch black. The sunset was outstanding and it was a great night to be out and about.

The next section is all a blur, Le Bons Bay, up and down and Okains Bay, and up and down and up again. There were heaps of possums and really dumb rabbits to chase in the dark. Once I reached Okains Bay maybe 10.30ish, but who knows I decided as I was pretty cold, even with my jacket on and so decided to push on a bit. I kept telling myself another 15km means 15km less for tomorrow. I eventually descended into little Akaloa and as the descent wasn't huge and I didn't get too cold it was a good time to stop.

I had planned my stop on the way down as I wanted to avoid getting too cold. I found a posy close to the facilities but slightly away from the road. As I got ready another rider arrived, who knows how I ended up ahead of him? I thought he had kept going but when I got up in the morning he was camped about 20m from me! I took off everything wet as quickly as I could and put on my dry merino and polypro top and my leggings, I jumped into my bivvy and sleeping bag bit couldn't get warm. I listened to the waves hitting the near by beach but was shivering badly. I eventually got my survival blanket out and put it between my sleeping bag and the bivvy bag and this was enough to keep the cold from seeping up from the ground. I estimate I had 3 hours sleep - pretty good for my first night ever out by myself!

I woke up as it was getting light about 5am and decided to relax for a few minutes and the next thing I knew it was 5.40am and so by the time I packed up it was 6. I struggled to eat any food and it took about 30 minutes to eat a muesli bar. I decided to get into the sugar as at least I could eat the sour snakes.

The climb out of Little Akaloa was brutal and seemingly endless, I was pleased that I stopped when I did as the night before I was in no state for this climb. The day was stunning and the view back down to Akaroa was spectacular especially with the two cruise liners in the harbour.

There is very little flat land in Banks Peninsular and before I knew it I was heading down to Pigeon Bay and a the nice coastal section that lead to another huge hill leading to Port Levy. At this stage a group of three caught me. Peter and his two friends had left Okains Bay that morning and looking strong. It was nice to have some company. These guys were never too far from me for the rest of the ride.

Port Levy was pretty cool and by this time there was more traffic and more signs of civilisation. One of the highlights of the trip was reaching the saddle between Diamond Harbour and Port Levy, suddenly, I could see Lyttleton, and I was nearly there.

The area around Diamond Harbour is outstanding and I would like to have a look around some other time. The day was perfect with no wind and brilliant sunshine.

I was thankful to arrive at 11.02 and so miss the 11am ferry. There was time for a much needed pie and a couple of drinks. There were four of us on the ferry and before we knew it we were heading to Governors Bay and Dyers Pass Road. I would like to ride this again one day and see what it is really like......Once I reached the Sign of the Kiwi I sparked up and made good progress to the top of Rapaki. I texted Michelle and she met me at the bottom and we headed back to her place for a much needed beer! I was pleased to finish and was very pleased to finish in 29 hours and 37 minutes. I had thoughts of riding through the night but in retrospect, stopping was the right thing to do

I was pretty tired all week. On reflection, I certainly didn't drink or eat enough and so totally wasted myself. Last week was a long week.....

This brevet was a great challenge, and a lot of fun, heaps of climbing, good weather, camping out, and a weekend of riding! As time moves on the memories become more and more positive and the memories of the hard times I'll probably be back

In the end we pulled the pin on the Huka Challenge. I had driven 1000km for work by Wednesday and the last thing I needed was more driving time. There will always be next year!


  1. Wow, epic! Great stuff, Charlotte, and thanks for the tale.

  2. Great story charlotte. Sounds like a wicked amount of climbing.

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