Glenfalls to not-Patoka

The hunters returned to camp about the time I was drifting off to sleep. I vaguely remember that and hearing the chatter as dinner was cooked and eaten. But sleep I certainly did after a wonderful day’s riding and an evening with good food, beer and company. A leisurely start to the day, with plenty of chat, we decamped and set off on a grey morning – Ross joined us for the second day. We were attempting to get through to Patoka on more paper roads. But first we had a gentle climb to the highway, and then a long haul up a hill on the highway (ten percent gradient for two and a half kilometres).

Definitely getting closer to the clouds as we reached the summit of the road. This looks north, we turned south onto a paper road and kept climbing.

This view would normally look out over the Pacific in the distance. Not today. We turned onto the next paper road near that small solar panel on a pole.

Junctions and paper roads were not immediately clear as the clouds rolled in.

We stood around and pondered for a while as to which way to go. I apparently took to riding wearing only one glove a fair bit.

We cut across a paddock/field which got progressively steeper. It was tough going. No formed path meant the surface was rather bumpy, the mist making it slippery. I had to get off and walk at one point – losing traction. I really should replace my rear tyre; having done Tour Aotearoa last year and riding since, it is pretty much a 2.2″ slick. But the heavy hub helps keep it stuck to most surfaces. We got back on a farm track, probably the paper road we should have been on through the trees that we bypassed, and climbed through a small cutting.

We were getting into the clouds further and further. Route finding became challenging, but it was decided our path continued to climb (not the track you can just see in the picture, we went up further into the clouds).

On a poorly formed track through more rutted, holed farm track we ascended. It was just rideable. We were heading to the top of Te Waka-o-Ngarangikataka Ridge, which we would follow south west to a transmitter.

Eventually the path became less apparent and we made our best guess as to how to follow the ridge, without falling over it to certain peril. All of us were walking as the cloud enveloped us completely and the wet, slick grass was too steep to ride. Thankfully it didn’t start raining or get cold. There was much discussion as to where the route might be at times; we continued at a reasonable, albeit slow, pace.

Just as well it was worth it all for the views.

We saw hints of the ridge and the bluffs.

Here we pass our first fallen tree….

Still we climbed through the murk; this road is definitely only on paper.

Nearing the summit, we worked out where the paper road went and followed it. Big mistake. We then spent an hour to get a further kilometre down the road, climbing and hauling our bikes over the largest amount of deadfall I’ve ever negotiated. Most of the trees came down in the big snowfall last August. I picked up Mark’s sunnies; I struggled to lift my bike over tree trunks and through branches. I found spiked, flat pedals are really great for getting stuck on trees when you try to lift your bike over.

Stinging ongaonga (a native tree nettle that has been known to kill stock, and a least one human – that was in 1961) was ever present, as was the risk of falling down a steep bank. Fallen tree after infuriating fallen tree was negotiated. Occasionally I got a helping hand as we finally gave up on the road and bush bashed, no easy task in itself, straight up the hill.

Shaun finds the route.

Ignoring the peril, I’m still managing to lift my bike here.

Finally emerging from the trees onto grass and then pasture, we pushed up to the steep sheep track to the summit. We got to the top two and a half hours after leaving the highway, a grand total of six kilometres travelled, and almost three hundred metres gained. The kilometre through the trees taking nigh on an hour.

That’s a lot closer than it was!

The transmitter tower, looking rather spooky in all that cloud.

Short photos stop done, a bit of time on phones working out where to go next and so on, we took off down the service road – it got a bit loose at times. We got to a bit of a clearing, the view opened up some as we were below the clouds. It seemed like a good time to turn off the service road and strike off over a field on another paper road – before we lost too much altitude. The ridge riding was pleasant as we were high above some gullies.

Our only mechanical of the trip – not entirely helpful, but it was quickly repaired!

Out of the clouds. Just.

The descent briefly got very steep on rough pasture before rejoining a farm track that took us into a pine forest – which seemed to have far more roads than we knew what to do with. Still we lost altitude rapidly and it was great fun to be moving a bit faster than we had been most of the day.

Shaun realised we had taken a wrong turn somewhere in the forest and were one ridge over from where we should have been. There was some discussion over whether we should carry on down and cross to the correct valley later, or ride back up the hill. We elected to keep going.

Which meant we had to push up that hill in the centre of the picture, just to the right of the pines. That was after avoiding a large bull that had quite a stare on it.

I pottered over a stream on the farm before making it not very far up the hill – there was a lot of pushing to the top of that ridge.

But that ridge crossed, we were soon back on the paper road and then a proper road. Gravel and everything. Three kilometres down that road, we found the next paper road that might allow us to connect through to Patoka. We regrouped at the gate and contemplated how late it was in the day, what we might face, what time we might get home and so on. Having come this far, we decided to ride down towards the river and at least see what was there.

A couple of kilometres downhill on wide, disused forestry road and we were on a narrow ridge, with cliffs either side of us. To the south was the river with a large cliff looming over the far side. It didn’t look feasible; the road reduced to a narrow track, overgrown and in rather rough condition. That track did at least take us down to the river, and more cliffs on the other side. We contemplated, crossed the river easily and headed towards what looked a possible route. With masses of blackberries and steep cliffs behind them, it looked a whole lot less possible.

Only a couple of twenty metre cliffs between where we stood and the field on the other side – where we wanted to go.

The Mangaone River was quite nice; a packraft would have been nicer.

Wisdom prevailed, we turned around slowly made our way back up the track, most of it so slippery it was unrideable, to the pines and then the road. It was a slight climb back up to the highway, and then a bit more climbing before we started the descent back towards Napier. Despite my arms being exhausted from the tree-fall hike-a-bike, my legs were still in good shape. We made reasonable time, probably the best time of the whole weekend, back to Simon’s place and our cars.

It was definitely faster on the highway! The first half of the day’s distance taking six hours, the second half less than ninety minutes. We were disappointed not to get through to Patoka, but it was a grand adventure with some excellent exploring of new (to me), rather wild, places. I hope such a ride does become an annual event as discussed – the first day is pretty much sorted. We just need to work out a way to get through to Puketitiri/Patoka and avoid the highway on the second day. I’m sure it’s possible. Thanks for doing the organising, Shaun, and the gear transport, Simon.

Biking to Glenfalls Campground

Having heard about my attempt to string a big gravel loop together last year and failing to get through to Patoka, Shaun came up with a route on paper roads (legally roads, just not formed as roads – they exist only on maps as roads) to get from the Napier-Taupo highway through to Patoka. The first day of this long-awaited weekend adventure was pretty much the same as the route Steve & I took at the start of last year. The only difference being that instead of the long, beautiful climb up Waipunga, along the ridge before plunging down from Darkys Spur (all on formed public roads – tarseal & gravel), this year’s route would keep us lower down and use more paper roads.

Similar to last year’s ride, we would camp the Saturday night beside the Mohaka River. As I was the only one set up for bikepacking, we arranged the luxury of having all our camping gear and food driven into the campsite by another workmate, Simon, who would go hunting nearby after dropping our kit off. On a fine, warm Saturday morning Shaun, Mark & I assembled at Simon’s house and loaded his car with our overnight stuff.

With bikes lightly loaded, for an overnight trip, we set off just before ten. Over Hill Road to the Taupo road we were shortly ever so slightly climbing up Ellis Wallace Rd – enjoying the warmth and the lack of traffic. As the railway has been closed for a few years, we made a brief foray from the road and rode over the Esk River on the railway bridge, because we could. Due to re-open this year, if just this one bridge is anything to go by – there is a lot of work to return it to a suitable state of repair.

It was bumpy. Only a few sleepers were missing.

With more gradual climbing on the road, we reached a level crossing and turned right. Big wheels bumping over the sleepers, we followed the rails to the first paper road. And then went past it to check out the first of a series of tunnels on this section of rail.

There may have been a bit of drop beside the entrance to the tunnel.

We walked the length of the curved tunnel, not stumbling over any dead goats in the complete darkness.

Retracing our paths ever so slightly, we turned from the railway up a steep grassy hill as the paper road began. For about half of the ten kilometres of this connection, we climbed gently through open farmland on grass tracks. It was very pleasant riding out in the sun, not too hot; we didn’t encounter any stock or a peeved farmer, so that was good. The second half of was through pine forest on a more formed surface. Still gradually climbing, it was nice to be in the shade of the canopy as the day warmed.

Rejoining the road, and last year’s route, it was great to have been somewhere new. A quick ride down to the highway covered another ten kilometres. Turning left we were shortly at the Tutira Store – where the ownership must have changed (it was for sale last year) as the guy behind the counter seemed to know about actual customer service. We had a fair go at emptying the pie-warmer, eating a large lunch in the shade of a silver birch tree. Shaun somehow managed to hole his hydration bladder, but nothing a bit of tape couldn’t fix.

Shortly after two o’clock we set off on the prolonged climb towards Bell Rock. By now, it was definitely warmer than the forecast low-twenties. Mark kept us honest as we climbed and climbed. Without the big mob of sheep to wait for, I didn’t really take many photos – see last year’s post if you’re curious. Gaining about six hundred meteres of altitude, it’s a steady climb and never gets too steep. We started to feel the sun as there was little shade.

Nearing the top, we stopped at this gateway. Since seeing this picture, I’m disturbed by how skinny my calves look. I’m sure there is some muscle there somewhere.

We finally got to the top of the climb and looked out north in front of us towards Waikaremoana. It was late enough in the day that the side trip to Bell Rock was not feasible. Instead we saw a trig just above the road so clambered up there.

Looking out towards the Pacific.

Well, I clambered – Mark and Shaun took their bikes up too.

After being loudly encouraged to get back on the road by a local, we did just that and sped down the gravel road from the saddle. With recent logging still readily apparent, the hills in the distance were more captivating. Back on slightly flatter road, we turned left onto Waitara Rd and the last fifteen kilometres to camp.

First up was a very steep, long, gravel downhill which we sped down – Shaun nudging eighty kilometres an hour! I was glad I still had some energy in reserve as I remembered this stretch of road being a series of steep uphills followed by steep downhills. Exhausting. I had not misremembered this – it was tiring as the legs had to keep on working and the day did not get cooler just yet. Eventually we hit the sealed road again and had a nice little descent to the river to arrive at Glenfalls Campground – conveniently just before our support crew turned up with tents, food & beer.

Pleased to have finished a great day’s ride. Especially as this was the longest ride on a MTB for both Shaun (left) and Mark (right) – well done guys.

A few of our little group went off hunting; I was more intent on making camp, eating copious amounts of carbonara, wandering down to the river, and getting an early night after a great day.

Art Deco Weekend 2017

Having missed out on Napier’s renowned Art Deco Festival last year, being off riding the length of New Zealand for a couple of weeks, I was not going to let the same thing occur two years on the trot. So I bought a secondhand three-piece suit, pulled my fedora out from the wardrobe, snapped on some braces and rustled up a stripy bow-tie and prepared to check it all out.

Now in its twenty-ninth year, the festival celebrates Napier’s Art Deco heritage (much of the city was rebuilt in the style after a devastating earthquake, and fire, in 1931) with what seems to be a five-day long dress-up party – the twenties and thirties being the theme. Downtown is crowded with people in all sorts of elaborate outfits, there are vintage cars everywhere, and pages & pages worth of events & parties and more besides.

Thankfully for Hawke’s Bay’s countryside, the drought that was setting in broke heavily with over a hundred millimetres of rain in three days. This did however coincide with the height of the celebrations – most unfortunate. Countless events were moved inside and many cancelled – including the most renowned: all three vintage plane flight shows were done for as the planes couldn’t make it here. But the show did go on, and on it went in spectacular (if a little soggy) style.

Most of the public events centre around Marine Parade and the sound shell – opposite the wonderful Masonic, where many gathered.

Cars weren’t the only historic vehicles out and about.

Saturday afternoon’s vintage car parade was well attended by umbrellas. The Bentley club was in town from all over, impressive.

Beautiful cars, and many of them – those in open-topped ones looked decidedly damp.

There was plenty of opportunity to admire the vehicles afterwards.

This number plate caught my eye.

A few of the cars were originally from Napier.

Bikes even got a look in.

More Bentleys.

Apart from looking at cars, there were plenty of other interesting street scenes.

OK, there may have been more looking at cars.

I bumped into many people from work over the weekend – this time an American visitor, Jody, who I managed to get this photo (and the better ones in this post) from.

Sunday morning was finally dry and the Soap Box Derby went ahead. A pretty tame course down Tennyson St, the pushers had five metres to get their racers up to speed before letting gravity and momentum do the rest. Most of the soap boxes were elaborate and some made multiple appearances as different siblings from the same family raced in various age categories.

Yes, more cars – particularly struck by the body work on this one.

This was probably the oldest car around.

Sunday continued to warm, and was very humid. After a brief walk showing Jody some of the sights around Napier Hill and some lunch, it was time to get the town bike out for a little pootle. I’d foregone the organised bike ride Saturday morning on account of the persistent rain.

I did manage to get another photo of myself from an obliging passerby.

The Gatsby Picnic got moved off the soggy lawn it is always on, most picnicers went down the main street of town – this couple set up near Tom Parker Fountain and seemed to spend more time posing for photos than eating.

A most excellent weekend of fun and history – even if it was somewhat curtailed by the weather. I’m really looking forward participating more in next year’s celebrations.

Wet Waikouaiti Week

The first week of the new year was spent in and around Mum and Dad’s place in Waikouaiti. It was nice to sit still for a week (Adele had gone back to work) and spend time hanging out at home, sorting through various family things, doing odd jobs and going on little day trips. It was not at all summery, however, with a whole lot of wind, rain and cold keeping us mostly to inside activities.

Quiet New Year’s was in Dunedin with Adele and some of her friends – we spent New Year’s Day at the “beach” which was very relaxing and not at all hypothermic in shorts and a T-shirt.

South Dunedin a couple of days later was even less inviting – but Dad, Mum & I had a nice lunch – inside.

Wet weather is good for museum visiting – this time the Otago Settlers Museum, which is worth the visit and has this impressive art deco entrance way to the old bus station.

We went home via Port Chalmers to check out the largest cruise ship to visit NZ – I can confirm it was in fact, large.

Things started to clear a little.

To try and find some slightly summery weather, I made an overnight break for Central Otago for a spot of mountain-biking with James, Dan & Jacqui.

On the way I stopped to visit friends on their lifestyle block at Goodwood. It was unbelievably windy and cold up there.

I looked out across some of the many hills I was rather missing not to be riding around and between.

The drive over the Pigroot was lovely – until I discovered fresh snow around Naseby. Snow, in the first week of January!

Back in East Otago, we took a family outing for lunch and a walk. Here looking over Karitane to Waikouaiti Beach – it was nice not to bike up that rather steep hill from Karitane.

Behind Waitati, the view is down to Blueskin Bay.

The clouds at Carey’s Bay could most charitably be labelled atmospheric – but only when they weren’t dumping rain.

We had a wonderful family lunch at the historic Carey’s Bay Hotel.

Driving towards the mouth of Otago Harbour, it was my first visit to the sleepy seaside settlement of Aramoana. Infamous for the 1990 massacre, it would form one of my earliest memories/impressions of big NZ national news. We went for a nice walk on the beach and promptly got caught in a downpour. Funny times (the latter, not the former).

It was a lovely lazy week at home with plenty of chat, reminiscing and thoughts of the future.

But gosh I was glad to be back in Hawke’s Bay, where it had really dried out and was actual, proper summer!

Biking to go places, going places to bike.