Day 20 – Greytown to Upper Hutt 72km

Another slow start to the morning with a departure at around 11:30am. A quick look through the main street and we were away.

It was a quick 20km of flat farm land to Martinborough, the wine growing area of NZ. We went to a few tastings before having a platter and a glass of Chardonnay at Alana Winery.

We stopped again in the town of Martinborough for a quick afternoon tea before setting off at about 4:00pm for the remaining km.

It was only about 20km to Featherston were we stocked up on water and had a quick break.

Then on to Rimutaka Hill – the biggest climb of the trip, about 500m of climbing over 10km. It was fairly good going with traffic fairly understanding. The views from the top weren’t greatly inspiring but it was a good achievement none the less.

The final 20km was fairly easy going with at least 5km of fast downhill. Then some rolling hills into Upper Hutt.

We arrived quite late at 7pm and the campsite was a bit isolated. So with out food, we set up our tents, showers then took a taxi in to the main street of Upper Hutt for a late dinner.

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Day 19 – Eketahuna to Greytown 65km

It was a grey, overcast, coolish morning that greeted us. Even seemed like a threat of rain but never eventuated. We had a slow start to the day eating an extensive breakfast before getting started.

With not many km left on the trip, we took the opportunity to check out a local bird life sanctuary. It is a large area that has had the predators removed and kiwis re released. They also have a captive breeding program for some of the threatened bird life.

We went straight to the Tuatara feeding. It was fairly unexciting. But the lizard was cute but mostly uninterested in moving, even to eat. In the same building was the famous white kiwi and another juvenile kiwi cage mate.

From then we went on a walk around the park to various captive bird aviaries featuring some of NZ’s famous and endangered species – Kaka, Tui, Blue Duck, Kokako, Kakariki, Hihi.

We then had some lunch at the cafe. Then went to the long finned eel feeding.

Back on the bikes, it was a fast 40km in to Masterton for a snack. The cafe owner suggested pushing on to Greytown instead of the closer Carterton.
Arriving at camp, we set up and then went to quite a fancy pub for $20 stone grill steak.

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Day 18 – Palmerston North to Eketahuna 58km

Getting close to Wellington now.

With only a few km to complete for the day, we took it easy and spent the morning exploring the Square in Palmerston North as well as having lunch and getting some food for the ride.

Once we got going, we didn’t get much of a warm up before hitting the big climb for the day over the saddle. It was 10km of up hill past forestry and wind farms before hitting the top.

On the screaming down hill, we stopped to chat to another cycle tourer.

The afternoon was made up of rolling foot hills and back roads. Unfortunately, the back roads had no small towns and we ran out of water at about 35km. We stopped for a swim in a river and filled up a water bottle from the sketchy looking water and treated it with chlorine tablets.

Post swim, we had one more short hill before returning to the highway in to an intense head wind. We could barely maintain 15km/hr in the strong gusts.

We were thankful to get to Eketahuna. We bought ingredients for dinner and head to the pub for a beer. The camp ground is quite scenic and only $6 per night with all the mod cons. Bargain!

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Day 17 – Wanganui to Palmerston North 84km

The brown day. A day showcasing the drought conditions currently experienced on the North Island. Most of today was spent tracking through farm land and the pastures are all quite brown. A fairly straight forward day. Not much climbing and not much descending.

First stop for the day was a quick servo stop at Turakina. Then a more substantial stop for lunch at Marton at an awesome Vietnamese Bakery.

Afternoon tea was at Fielding visiting with some relatives of Bill’s. Then a quick 15km in to Palmerston North.

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Day 16 – Pipiriki to Wanganui 78km

From the fastest day to the slowest day. Today, we wound our way down the Wanganui River.

With some trepidation about both my elbow and the gravel ahead, we set off. I had taken some drugs and strapped up the elbow so I hoped it would hold up.

We hit the gravel and took it very slowly. The first 3km was a slow up hill climb. Then a windy slow descent. We took it very slowly because the condition of the gravel was quite poor – lots of bull dust, and big lose gravel rocks. Pace was between 9-12km/hr both on the up and down hill.

First stop for the day was at Jerusalem, a historic convent and church. We had a quick poke around but the nuns were out for a walk. We had a quick break and a Cookie Time.

Back on the gravel, we had about 5km of gravel to go to Ranana and back to the sweet tarmac. The going was a bit faster with the condition of the gravel improving. Back on the sealed road, we reinflated the tyres and continued on.

Morning tea was at a lovely local cafe which had delicious home made baked goods.

Then as we followed the river downstream, it was hardly down hill going. It was rolling hills the whole way! Rude. In the heat of the day, we stopped for a swim in the river.

Final hill for the day was about 200m of climbing and lead to some fantastic views. We then completed the final km in to Wanganui.

Elbow held up ok. It was a bit sore with all the jittering on the gravel and uneven road surface but should be ok for the rest of the trip.

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Day 15 – Whakapapa to Pipiriki 76km

Wheeeeeee! The fastest and most down hill day ever.

Heavy dew in the morning made packing up the tents a dirty pain in the butt. With breakfast finished, we set out for some down hill action! We departed Mordor and said our good byes to Mount Doom.

On first 6km back to the main road, we averaged 32km/hr. Then a further 10km in to a town named National Park for a second breakfast due to the lack of towns for the next stretch.

After a further 35km of mostly down hill, we rolled in to Raetihi. The scenery for the day was quite spectacular with Mount Ruapehu featuring in the skyline with bush and farmlands near by. We also followed the train line for a section.

By the time we hit Raetihi, we had averaged 25km/hr over the first 50km with about another 50km to go. We had lunch and stocked up on two days worth of food due to the remoteness of our next destinations.

After leaving town, we were treated with more enjoyable descent and we got our last glimpses of Mount Ruapehu. Then with about 10km until a town, tragedy struck. We were climbing the last hill for the day, only about 150m of altitude gain, when I was stung under the armpit by something. Now, I’m allergic to wasps so this scared me a lot and I out control of the bike and came down heavily on my right elbow.

We patched me back up and I took some drugs but I was unable to put any weigh on the right arm. Thus the final 10km in to Pipiriki was slow even though the riding was easy and mostly descending.

At Pipiriki, we decided I wouldn’t make the final 20km in to Ranana which was our intended destination. It included 12km of poor condition gravel road. So, we stayed in the camp ground.

The staff at the camp ground were helpful and sourced an ice pack for me. They area is remote and there was no mobile phone coverage, so we borrowed the phone to call Bill.

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Day 14 – Tonganiro to Whakapapa 23km

Yay! A short day on the bike.

We were greeted with some stellar riding weather. Cool, clear and not a breath of wind. We said our good byes to Bill who will ride a day ahead to spend extra time with relatives.

The ride today was entirely up hill but was a complete pleasure in the excellent conditions. Excellent views of the mountains including the “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings.

We made decent enough time and got in to the alpine Whakapapa and set up the tents, did some washing and had lunch.

Then a perusal of the info centre and then off on a short walk to Taranaki Falls.

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Day 13 – Taupo to Tonganiro 80km

What a day. It should have been quite scenic and enjoyable. But, man, it was hard work. The day was strong headwinds all the time. What would have been a scenic partial circumnavigation of the huge Lake Taupo, just was a hard slog all day

We were out by the crack of 10:30am and on to the road. I was feeling quite sick so the day was going to be a challenge.

Bill wanted to push 100km today to get to Whakapapa to gain a day on the trip. I was fairly unkeen on this idea as I wanted to split it in to a big day and a small day so we could spent some time alpine at Mount Ruapehu. Anyway, we decided to only do the shorter route and call it splits so Bill would be a day ahead and skip the mountain.

First opportunity to eat was at 36km at a small roadside cafe. Up until that point, the route had followed the lake and was quite beautiful. After a second breakfast, we headed on to Turangi.

At Turangi, we got some local intelligence on the road choice ahead. The steep but 8km shorter or the main longer road. The info centre lady was a roadie and recommended the longer route. We stocked up on two days worth of food and got back on the road.

The last 30km was a long, headwind infested slog with a long 5km climb at the end of the day. It was unpleasant.

Getting in to camp was a relief from the incessant wind.

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Day 12 – Rotorua to Taupo 86km

Finally! A change in the weather. We were greeted with a cool and overcast morning. It was trying to rain but really only succeeding to drizzle. Not enough to require any rain protection.

Had a few chores to do in Rotorua before we left which got us out at about 11am.

As is usual, first up for the day was a climb but it was very gradual and the pace was kept steady. There was a bit of a southerly headwind that was making itself know. Along the side of the road was a bike path which we used for a few km but it was much hillier and windier than the main road so we gave up on it.

A friendly roadie gave us a tip on some free mud pools that were just a short distance off the main road. This was our first stop for the day at around the 36km mark.

The hot boiling mud pool was about 45m across and was quite active. After spending some time there, we head to the near by service station for some food.

The next 40km were flat and fast as we went down a back road. Not much in the way of towns or facilities. It was all dairy grazing and forestry. A few big trucks used the road bur everyone was friendly.

Last up, we were going to side trip to Huka Falls but it is was going to be a 12km one way detour. It is on the main road so we missed it.

The final climb of the day just before Taupo was easy but we were tired. Staying with friends of the boys tonight.

Got a hot tip about some free hot pools from some mountain bikers that we might check out.

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Day 11 – Rotorua rest day

Nice sleep in followed by a decent breakfast at camp. Then put a load of washing on.

Finally, out for the day we lapped the main street and did a few chores and stocked up on those things we were in need of. Followed by a quick lunch.

First tourist attraction for the day was Whakarewarewa – a living Mauri village built on a thermal hot spring area. We self guided for a bit then went on the guided tour. It was very interesting to get a bit of an insight into how the Mauri utilised the geothermal features.

After that, we went to utilise the geothermal features ourselves at the Polynesian Spa. Then went we ran out of time there, back to the hot pool at the camp ground. Total hot pools for the trip: 6.

For the day evening, we went to a Mauri hungi and dance / cultural display. It all felt a bit rushed and we had to scoff our meal and hop back on the bus. The bus ride home was the best part with each nationality on the bus singing songs.

Late arrival back home at 11pm.

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