Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kiwi Brevet Day 6

Day 6 - St Arnaud to Blenheim - 260km approx

We got out of bed about 6.30am, anticipating a big day. We were too close to Blenhiem not to finish today - I was feeling some nervous anticipation as it was going to be a big day. I managed to eat leftover 2 minute noodles for breakfast and about 7.10am, after taping my shoes to my feet, we were on our way.

For some reason I remembered the road to Nelson to be hilly, I was pleasantly surprised when the incline was very much down and we made good time. The weather was again, bright and sunny and before long we were at the Reay Saddle, and stripping arm warmers and vests off.

One of the elements that makes a brevet interesting is that when there is a seemingly direct route somewhere you are sent on the scenic one. Of course when you are tired this becomes frustrating and is how we felt about Eighty Eight Valley Road. Thankfully it wasn't too long and was quite a nice road and so by mid morning we were in Wakefield. We were slightly short of food as our last purchases had been in Murchison so we took the time to stock up with donuts (food of champions) and Powerade. I noticed the Wakefield Four Square had a post shop and at this point we decided to post anything we wouldn't need in the next 24 hours home, now we were committed to finishing that day.  I was left with shorts and a t-shirt to wear home after we finished, and a rainjacket and tools.

The route towards Nelson took us through endless cycle paths. We got lost in a suburban street, and found it generally dreary.  It seemed to drag and take ages to get to Nelson proper. Once we reached the CBD we headed to the first place we saw, McDonalds, for coffee, chips and milkshakes, then we headed to the Shell for more cookies and by 1pm we were heading up the Matai Valley.

It was another hot day and we were pleased to take the deviation into the Dun Mountain Trail. Hopefully one day soon we can return as the trail really was enjoyable. The Mangatapu track was next and it was longer than I remembered. We rode what we could but were conscious that we still had a lot of kilometres ahead, so conserved our energy. The descent towards Pelorus Bridge passed by quickly and we soon heading towards the main road. Within one kilometre I got my only puncture of the trip, front tyre too. We never found the cause, this always worries me. Mangatapu Road has several farms on it and we happened to pass by just on milking time. The local farmer had all his gates open and electric fences across the road, we were not sure if they were live and Tim wouldn't test them for me.

Eventually we reached Pelorus Bridge, and came across our first bad driver of the trip. The driver chose to ignore that I was already on the one lane bridge and that he had the give way sign. I can't believe he didn't see me as I right in the middle of the lane and man was I angry! I had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Apart from this incident we found most drivers to be courteous and far more patient than anyone you find in Wellington.

We kept riding until we reached Canvas Town (me fuelled on adrenalin) where we stopped at the Trout Hotel for beer, coke and chips. We also thought we had better organise some accommodation in Blenheim. After a couple of calls we found out it was Marlborough Wine and Food festival 2010 I had this problem too. After a couple texts and half an hour Auntie Wendy had this under control for us & we knew a motel room would be waiting.

We look ok after here 1000km in - Havelock - Photo Helen Brumby
Just as we reached Havelock we ran into Dean and Helen on their way south. It was weird, they were so out of place that I didn't recognise them! Running into them lifted our spirits, it was great to see some familiar, happy faces.

Waiving to Dean and Helen - thanks for the photo Helen
We filled our water bottles at the church at Linkwater and prepared for the hilly section of Queen Charlotte Drive. It really is a nice part of the country with great views in the fading light. I was impressed by the waterfront campsites at Momorangi and the white sands. As we reached the lookout over Piction it was time to turn our lights on. We blasted through Picton and headed along Waikawa Road.  We knew Auntie Wendy was waiting outside her house to great us. Again, it was nice to see a friendly face and be refuelled with still warm bacon and egg pie. After a 20 minute break and a couple of pieces of pie we ended towards Port Underwood or "Port Underpants" as it was soon christened by Tim. We left Waikawa about 9.20pm.

When we hit the first hill we already had 200km in our legs, not to mention the other 800 or so from the days prior. The first hill felt long but we were positive, then a guy in a ute came past and and exclaimed that were out late, and that the good news was we were halfway up the hill! My heart sank, I was convinced we were near the top. Then my GPS batteries died and so we had no idea where we were.

The next section was a blur. At the top of the climb before heading into Robin Hood Bay Tim stopped at the top to wait for me. I sat down beside him in newly mown, soft, warm grass. All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep it was so inviting.....but before long we were off again. Once we had climbed out of Robin Hood Bay we could see some lights in the distance - Blenheim but still a way away. As we passed Whites Bay I knew didn't have far to go but it seemed to drag on and on and when we reached the tarseal I assumed it would all be downhill.....

Finally we reached Rarangi and had 14km left. I just sat on Tim's wheel and put my head down. Again there was no wind and so the conditions were pleasant. It didn't seem to take us long to get to Blenheim and to be weaving in and out of the streets. When we reach Seymour Square we sat on a park bench for a few minutes and enjoyed the "finishing feeling" - the time was 2.48am and we had been on the move for 19.5 hours.

Clockwise or Anti Clockwise?

In total the brevet took us 5 days 17 hours and 50 minutes. Two years ago I took 5 days and 10 hours. So, which way was harder? In 2010 the event went in an anticlockwise direction, this year in a clockwise one. In 2012 I certainly rode for less hours and had more sleep (no early starts this year), my butt was fine, my back good, hands good, I only noticed slightly numb feet and sore knees on the last day. Two years ago I had bad chafing, sore knees from standing as my butt was sore, really numb feet, a hand that took 6 weeks to use properly again, and I really felt smashed.
We had great weather and what felt like a tail wind most of the way and this made the clockwise direction seem easy. However, there are roads that I think are certainly best ridden in an anticlockwise direction.  These are, Mangatapu Road, Porika Track, Big River, and Molesworth/ Awatere Valley. I enjoyed crossing the Southern Alps East to West and the descent out of St Arnaud. Roads like Port Underwood are always going to hurt, however I think this road is best ridden early in the event and so......I am undecided which is easier, but what I do know, whatever the direction the brevet format is the winner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kiwi Brevet Day 3, 4 and 5

Day Three – Lees Valley to Bealy – 150km? ish

We had a restless sleep as in my haste to put up the tent I didn't pick an exactly flat spot. Under the trees we were bone dry and there wasn't even the hint of dew. We got up about 6 and were on the road at 6.50am. Breakfast for me was a small packet of Pringles.

The roll down Lees Valley was nice and cruisy and we had the added pleasure of helping a farmer move his stock. The noise of my Hope Hub sure made the cows move!

We nearly missed the turn off to Wharfedale but the arrival of Jimmy and Tor saved us. We followed the track into Wharfedale and I managed to get the four of us lost for about 5 minutes (don't follow the person with the GPS). Once we were back on track the hike to the hut wasn't too bad. Clearly there had been quite a bit of rain overnight as the ground was wet and there was still moisture in the air.

At the hut we stopped for bread and pate, we didn't stop for long as it was drizzly, the people at the hut were loud, and the sand flies were massive. Neither of us particularly enjoyed the trek out of Wharfedale and were pleased to see the car park at the end. As we got closer to the end we saw more and more people. There was one man dragging his young son up the track. The father was saying what a great track it is, the son was just about crying – this is how to put your kids off mountain biking in one easy lesson. We won't be hurrying back to Wharfedale in the near future.

On the access road we took the chance to wash ourselves and our bikes in the ford. Having clean legs and a clean face makes all the difference. Soon enough we heading towards the Waimak Bridge and Sheffield. In the distance we saw a roadie and low and behold it was Michelle. She turned and rode to Sheffield with us. It was great to have some other company and someone to tell our tales too. Richard was waiting at Sheffield and made the smart suggestion we stay at Bealy – thanks Richard. After 2 pies, and a spare in our packs, and posting our camping gear home we were off towards Porters Pass.

As it was Waitangi Day the road heading back to Christchurch was super busy. Porters Pass was better than I remembered, it was just a grind and once we crested the summit we were rewarded with some great downhills only punctuated by the occasional climb that was never too long. By this time the weather was hot and super sunny. We both remarked how great the scenery was and it is somewhere we would like to spend a bit more time in the future.

As we passed landmarks I reminisced about the 2010 brevet and Coast to Coast. The last 21km to Bealy just dragged. We reeled in Jimmy again just before Bealy and he was looking bad!

Hot and sun burnt we arrived at the Bealy Hotel just before 7pm. It didn't take us long to get a couple of pints each and head to our room where we enjoyed incredible views down the Waimakariri Valley. We were able to wash our clothes and get a good meal as well as buy enough food to get us through to Ikamatua 110km up the road. Owen and Michael were also at Bealy and Thomas and Julie arrived later on.

Day Four – Bealy to Reefton – 200km approx

After some sandwiches for breakfast we were on the road at 6.50am and into a pleasant morning. We could see the day was going to outstanding however the first few hours were mighty cold.

We covered the 12kms to Arthurs Pass with ease and passed Jimmy who looked more worse for wear and he was the last brevet rider we came across for over 24 hours. Once we reached the top of the hill it was time for the descent down the Otira Viaduct. At the top I let a fully laden chemical truck past thinking I would rather not have him right behind me – what a mistake! He held us up down the viaduct proper, however it was a great thrill smashing past him and it was a good 15 minutes until he caught us again.

We were cold and seemed to be chasing the sun, eventually we caught it and stopped for a snack at the Deception footbridge (more Coast to Coast reminiscing went on).

Next was Jacksons and then the lovely ride around the back of Lake Brunner. The road surface was great and the scenery neat with a mix of sun and shade. The road to Stillwater dragged and as we approached the Blackball turn off I needed some food and so we decided it was time for lunch. Tim was keen to head to Blackball for a beer but there was no way I was riding up that hill.

I took the opportunity to book a motel in Reefton. The motelier said he would be up late, surely we'd arrive before 11pm? I wasn't so sure as my memory of the next part of the trip was horrific.

We arrived in Ikamatua just after 2pm, and of course the kitchen closed at 2pm! So we had a pie and 2 pints for lunch. We also stocked up at the general store as we knew we would need some food for dinner. Soup and 2 minute noodles were again on the menu.

The sign said 17km to Waiuta but in reality it was only 14km, so straightaway this was a win. We paused at Waiuta for a quick drink and were soon in the Waiuta Track proper. The track was in great condition and clearly DOC has spent a lot of time and money upgrading it. I kept pointing out to Tim where there used to be a stream crossing of epic death, and then another and another, I just couldn't believe the difference in the track.Before long we rounded a corner and there was a generator – odd. As we progressed to the saddle we came across a couple of miners hard at work. They even had huts that must have been airlifted in. It was very out of place and weird to come across this in the middle of nowhere. We reached Big River much quicker than anticipated, this was much aided by the awesome boardwalk across the swamp and all the corduroy steps.

On the way up Waiuta Tim had noticed that my right shoe was falling part. The sole was coming away from the bottom of the shoe, and by the time we reached Big River the shoe was very close to being totally useless.

We had a quick look around at Big River and then were on our way down towards Reefton. I remembered it as being down, but there was quite a bit of up and it was much rougher than expected. Once we reached the access road it was time to use our lights for the first time.

At one stage we rounded a corner and on the hill top in the distance was a brightly lit gold mine, it certainly looked alien and out of place. We arrived in Reefton just before 10pm. I had booked the Bellbird Motel. Malcolm the proprietor was fantastic. He provided some glue and a hairdryer so I could fix my shoe, then being concerned for our welfare delivered some pasta mix and some bread and cheese. Thanks Malcolm :)

Day Five – Reefton to St Arnaud – 200km approx

As we arrived late the previous night and as we needed to get supplies we decided a sleep in until 7am. Neither of us slept well as we had heaters going to dry our clothes and so we were out the door at 7.10 and heading to the Mobil for supplies. My shoes seemed to be holding up OK and so after a sausage roll we were on our way.

The ride up the Rahu Saddle was gentle and we enjoyed the scenery and also the lack of traffic. The sun was again out and I was pleased to be sitting happily on Tim's wheel. A couple of hours later we arrived at Springs Junction. My first stop was the service station as my left shoe had now started to disintegrate and taping my foot into my shoe was the only option. I also taped the right shoe as a precaution.

After a coffee and some chips it was off towards Murchison. This part is really a blur, it was hot, and I was feeling low, my feet were uncomfortable and my butt was starting to feel like I had been riding for a number of days. The climb over the Maruia Saddle was short and really enjoyable and before long we were steaming down towards the Matariki Valley, through beech forest and across white sandy streams. The upper Matariki Valley was stunning, with the rivers inviting and the landscape spectacular. We were offered a cup of tea by some people in a camper van but decided to keep moving. The 29km into Murchison seemed to drag on and on and on. We were exposed to the beating sun and the valley seemed endless and seemed to go up quite a bit too.

We stopped at the River Cafe in Murchison for a late lunch. Food, coffee and a beer later we were ready to. I booked some accommodation in St Arnaud before we left. We got the motelier to leave a key for us and charge our credit card as we would be in and out before their office opened. Again we shopped for packet pasta for dinner.

We headed up the Mangles Valley through yet more thick gravel. It was still pretty hot and every time we paused the sand flies attacked. Just as we reached the road to Rotoroa we saw a guy camped in the full sun on the side of the road covered in a mosquito net. We said hello, we think he was a brevet rider, and he was the last one we saw.

Once at Rotoroa it was on to the Porika track. I took the time to refill my bottles at the campsite and was pleased I did. Even though it was late in the day the temperature was still hot. Porika was steep and took about an hour to climb. By the top my shoes had both come apart again and more tape was required. I was really pleased that I kept Tim in site the whole way up and he was pleased that as he started walking back down to help me I was right there.

At the bottom of the hill Tim nearly took the gate out, and it looked like several other people had had the same problem too. By the time we reached the main road, SH63 I think we got our lights ready and rode the longest piece of straight road I have ever seen. As we had nothing better to do we measured it, and counted out the kilometres as 3.8km. The road felt dead and I'm pretty sure it was a false flat. Eventually we reached St Arnaud around 9pm. We noticed 4 other bikes outside the Alpine Hotel as we passed by to our motel.

The usual washing of clothes and eating followed and then the restless nights sleep whilst trying to dry clothes in front of the heater again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kiwi Brevet Day One and Two

In 2010 I had such a good time at the Kiwi Brevet that I wasn't sure that I could repeat the positive experience, how could it get any better? After Le Petit Brevet I casually mentioned to Tim that it might be fun if we rode together and he agreed, and so it was a team approach for 2012.

The end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 were extremely busy for us and it wasn't until after our wedding in mid January that we applied for leave and the Kiwi Brevet was all go!

Our physical preparation was limited, Tim was commuting daily by bike and I was riding where I could but with a huge amount of travelling required for work this was a challenge. On day one Tim mentioned after an hour and 40 minutes that this was now his longest ride of the year, mine came at 2 hours 40. We were confident that if we rode conservatively we'd fine, after all the brevet isn't a race...........

Day One – Blenheim to Molesworth - 118km 7.5 hours riding

The day dawned overcast and grey, however this didn't last long and by 10.30am there was bright sunshine and a clear blue sky.

As this wasn't a race I was happy to sit back at the neutralised start and sift along just keeping Tim in my view up ahead. It was great to chat to people along the way and I was surprised how many people knew who I was and had read my 2010 account of this event.

Once we crossed the styles it was all on and people just went for it. Tim and I cruised together. The initial plan was to camp at Molesworth, however we decided if we reached Molesworth in enough time we'd make for Hanmer Springs (more to come about this...)

As we progressed up the Awatere Valley the temperature got hotter and hotter and I regretted my choice of clothing. I did test my Icebreaker cycle top around Wellington and found it really comfortable on hot days but this was hotter and I was too hot. I was uncomfortable and sweating madly.

The scenery was varied, starting with vineyards and moving to farmland with a gradual incline and a few hills. We remarked that we were making good time, and maybe should be heading for Hanmer. At this stage I was already hot and upping the pace was a mistake.

We stopped for lunch (fresh bread and cheese) in the midday sun. After this the day went down hill for me and the route went up and up. The heat was bothering me and the hills seemed emense and I started with cramp in my left leg, then my right leg and then my left again. I was sure I was drinking enough. Eventually I sent Tim off ahead to set up camp at Molesworth, I knew he was getting impaitent waiting for me. Even though I felt I was crawling along there were people worse off than me and I passed several in my crippled state. I can tell you that the sign that says “Molesworth 10km” is wrong unless of course 14.85km is 10km?

I arrived at Molesworth at 4.38 about 30 minutes behind Tim. As I arrived a group of about 11 riders headed into the station proper. We decided that we would never get through by 7pm and decided to sit tight and leave in the morning.

We were the first to camp at Molesworth and gradually over the next 3 hours the campsite filled up with 30 or so brevet riders. We camped with Josh and Michelle, Julie and Thomas and Craig with his weird and wonderful set up. It was a fun night with good company, a river to swim in, toilets, warm temperatures, coffee and a pasta meal. We were inbed by 8pm and had a great rest.

Day Two – Molesworth to a piece of road in Lees Valley – 200km and 14 hours riding

The Ranger was kind enough to open the gate at 6am and so Tim and I struggled out of our cozy tent at 5am. Having a cooker meant I was able to have a quick coffee before we headed off. Time tends to get away from Tim and I so we weren't actually on the move until 6.15am, things often happen slowly in our world especially in the mornings.

The climb over Ward Pass was rewarding and not as long as I expected New Zealand's highest road pass to be. We stopped at the top with Josh and Michelle to look at the view and watch some others come up the hill behind us. Before long we were filling our bottles from the ford on Isolated Flat. It was no where near as corrigated as two years ago and its downhill incline was most welcome. Tim and I rode well, and Tim was pleased that everytime he checked where I was I was right there on his wheel. We made good time and were approaching Acheron before long. The scenary really is spectacular and I couldn't help wondering about winter time and amounts of snow the area could get.

We met a ridiculous number of 4WDs as we entered Acheron, approximately 20. We were pleased not to meet them on the road as they were pretty aggressive drivers. I couldn't see the point of driving in a dust convoy, all they were going to see was dust! I heard later on someone had a slow speed head-on with these guys.

As we approached Jollys pass we passed Jimmy who 10 minutes later passed us at a crazy rate of knots yahooing down the hill. I half expected to find him off the edge of the track.

At Hanmer Tim headed for the pub and I did the shopping for dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day. Bread, packet soup, pate, pringles and 2 minute noodles were on the menu. We were soon joined by Josh and Michelle. After wedges, 2 coffees and the first beer of the trip Tim and I headed 50km down the road past Culverden and to the Hurunui Pub where we tried to eat more and had another beer. We were conscious that the next place to buy food was at Sheffield 130km or so away. The Hurunui pub was great, the service friendly and the food fast. We sat outside and soon at company from Julie and Thomas, Pat and another guy whose name I don't recall (an English dude).

The next section was an unrewarding 30km of thick gravel leading into MacDonald Downs station. We had no navigation issues here however I believe others did. Once into the station the navigation was easy as a main trail flowed through the station. The trail was 23km long and we hardly saw any animals. I am still blown away with the size of the station, just massive. Near the end Tim and I stopped for a bread and pate break, most tasty and very timely. With food in our tummys our spirits lifted and we head for Okuku Pass Road. At this point Tor caught us and we all rode together until we met Jimmy who had decided to camp by the first river crossing. By this time it was 7pm and Tor decided to camp too. I wasn't ready to stop, why waste day light? We took the opportunity to replemish our water supplies, add some iodine and then headed over Okuku Pass and into Lees Valley. At around 8pm we decided that it was best to set up camp in the light and so we chose a spot on the side of the road and under a tree. We cooked our soup and noodles and enjoyed the scenery and retired about 9.30pm. As we were going to bed two riders cruised by.....they ended up camping just round the corner.

Around 11.30pm so random animal was sniffing and snuffling around our tent, a possum, or hedghog maybe? Neither of us could be bothered moving to find out!