Category Archives: bikepacking

Mega Grind 2017

Erik and Pete are the masterminds behind the Geyserland Gravel Grinds. The GGG was the only bikepacking event I did last year, and was full of relaxed days of riding followed by social evenings at shared campsites. Familiar with the calibre of route-planning, I was excited to learn this year that they had expanded their suite of events to three: an overnight Mini Grind, the GGG and the 800 km Mega Grind. As soon as it was announced, I signed up for the Mega Grind, as it was the longest and would take me to parts of the North Island I’d never been to.

Very much in a touring mindset, eager to see new places and spend some time biking, my preparation was suitably low-key. I figured I could finish in four and a half days, 160 km per day not being too much with my base level of fitness. Maybe I’d finish closer to four days if I pushed it. Up to Rotorua after work on Thursday it was a relaxed trip to the night-before gathering.

Close to fifty of us gathered Friday morning near the museum in fair weather; after a short briefing we were off through the early traffic – not much to deal with as we were soon on cycle paths and then heading up the Mamakus. I was familiar with the first few hours from the last day of last year’s GGG – up on to the Mamakus, lovely gravel riding along the ridge before descending to Tokoroa. There was plenty of group riding to be had as people chatted away and it was all very leisurely. Only stopping for a short pit stop and to grab a pie (the first of quite a few), I was soon on the road again leaving town.

Gravel roads and bunches of bikepackers atop the Mamakus.

Shortly after I was caught by a couple of riders. It was great to ride with Pete, whose brainchild this route was, and chat away; Pete had a fantastic top-ten finish in this year’s Tour Divide, so to chat as we rode a similar pace (I think he’s a fair bit faster than me, but was being nice) was most helpful. I’d planned to get to the start of the Timber Trail (~175 km) that day and sleep there; with Pete’s knowledge of the trail I was beginning to think I could maybe do a little more.

I was familiar with this section of the Waikato River Trail from last year’s Tour Aotearoa – so was not surprised by the relentless number of pinch climbs appearing each time we got close to the mighty river. It was warm, but not hot, as we made reasonable pace. There was a big group of riders in Mangakino, refuelling and restocking for the remote Timber Trail ahead – I stocked up for potentially more than 250 km between shops.

Six hundred metres of ascent was slowed on the road by the southerly we were riding into. There were a few riders around, just ahead or behind me. Back to the infamous wire swing bridge after the road petered out to an overgrown double track, there was a fair queue of riders waiting to get across. Somehow it was more manageable than on the TA and I was soon over and making slow process up the bush track before eventually joining gravel forest roads again. I passed a few people before Pete caught up to me, again, and it was about now I was easily convinced I’d have enough time to summit the Timber Trail (the highest point on the course, just under 1000 m) – unfortunately my dynamo light had showed itself to be faulty the previous week, so I had borrowed a headlight and was unsure just how much run-time I’d get out of it.

Pausing to eat at the historic Caterpillar tractor (which I slept next to the previous year), another group gathered. Some decided to call it a day while a fair few pressed. The climb is steady and my legs were still reasonably good, to my surprise, and it only took us an hour and we managed to descend a fair bit before it was finally too dark to go on without lights. Crossing a couple of the massive swing bridges (my photos were better last year on a misty morning) we were soon at the shelter Pete had told me about. Pleased with almost two hundred kilometres, I thought it sensible to get some rest and I bedded down for the night on a bench in the shelter. The rest carried on into the night, aiming to finish the trail that night (another sixty kilometres of slow-going bike trail).

Up at dawn, I’d slept OK – but not great as I had been in a constant state of peril of falling off the bench. The Timber Trail was as good as last time – I’m determined to return and ride it with a more fun bike (suspension please) in far more than six hours to appreciate the scenery, the forest, the native bird calls, and the extensive history. As it was, I loved it – especially the lovely chorus of native birds. The trail is in pretty ordinary condition from kilometres fifty to sixty and again around the seventy kilometre marker – I was not the only one to have a very sore back from the section just before the Ongarue Spiral.

Off the trail at the planned time of ten o’clock, I was now on completely new-to-me roads. Excited to say the least.

I think the Ongarue Rugby Club has seen better days – I like to imagine what those may have been like when riding through such places.

I spotted another rider! So I pulled in, slightly off route at the Flashpackers – and somehow ended up with fried eggs, toast and a big pot of tea. Luxury, I didn’t even have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper. Enough faffing (stops can really extend themselves easily) I said goodbye to Les, and that was the last I’ve seen of a Mega Grind rider.

Turning south off a short stretch of highway, I saw this sign and knew it to be a very good sign:

Gentle valley floor riding, overall descending, ensued surrounded by hills, hills and more hills. It was stunningly beautiful and I was loving it – also very happy at how I was getting along and wondering if I might make it past Mokau and 175 km that day. Suddenly, a railway line. I wasn’t expecting that; clearly disused I clearly hadn’t paid enough attention to where we were heading. Soon in Ohura, yet another place I’d not heard of, it was clear that this was the old line that used to go through Whangamomona (of this trip last year) to Taranaki. With a bit of refuelling to be had, from my own supplies as the Cossie Club was not open yet, I gave a couple of local youths on bikes a crash course in bikepacking before leaving town and straight into a big climb and wonderful gravel.

A bit of descent had us on a the farming plateau of Waitaanga before a huge plunge through a beautiful native-bush clad gorge of upper reaches of the Tongaporutu River, which we then followed out to the coast at a more gentle gradient. Thirty kilometres of highway was not too tedious as there was sometimes a shoulder and the wind was now, apparently, at my back – it did not always seem so.

Baches at Tongaporutu.

I made Mokau, my provisional goal for the day and almost halfway around the course, around five o’clock – still many hours of daylight left to get a bit further. So after a huge burger, I was fuelled up again and rolling into the evening. Leaving the highway behind it was a very pleasant, gentle, gravelled climb up one river valley before cresting the watershed and plunging down into the next catchment area. I hadn’t really come prepared for much night riding – my fingers getting the coldest (I had enough other layers) once the sun had gone.

The last two climbs were steeper, but surmountable – I still seemed to have energy left in my legs. Only four kilometres out of Marokopa, where I would sleep, there was another climb – hot work going up, cold whizzing down. Well over halfway now, I found a verandah to sleep under and laid my head for the night – pleased with my first 200 km+ day since the TA, and surprised with how “easy” it was (easy in inverted commas because obviously it was still a fair bit of work propelling a laden bike, but my body seemed far stronger than it should be, had been before; especially considering the amount of riding I’ve been doing recently – few long or hard rides). In part this was because I’d lost over six hundred metres of altitude that day, but there was still a fair bit of climbing – I went to sleep happy, and slept well.

For a change, actually managing to get riding before six o’clock, there was a fair bit of flat riding on Sunday deserted roads – this didn’t help in warming up any. But as the next two hundred kilometres showed plainly, you can’t go far around here without finding a hill. Climbing to the highest point of the day (a staggering 250 m!) there were still no more cars, but the hills were still stunning. Then, there’s Kawhia Harbour in the distance:

Riding around here, on the flat for a bit, was very pleasant as the day warmed.

Stopping for bacon & eggs after three and a half hours, I’d been feeling a little more sluggish than the previous day. Still I was nowhere near wanting to leave my bike on this fence.

Leaving Kawhia Harbour we headed for Raglan. If anything, the hills became more numerous – but not bigger. With more fuel in me and the day warming, I was getting my legs back to normal. By my estimate, I’d be in Raglan by three; as the route got near to Raglan it turned off west for the coast, a definite long-cut around Mt Karioi. Immediately the road turned to gravel and one could see why it was sign-posted as closed during the upcoming NZ Rally – it was utterly sublime. Full of twists and turns, snaking down valleys to sea level and then rising back up – this section was the highlight of the route for me. The sea crashing into the rugged coast, the trees long since succumbing to the prevailing wind and bending away from the coast and there were wonderful, large stands of native forest.

I stopped here a bit to take in the trees forming not merely a canopy, but a blanket of purest green. Mesmerising.

Closer to Raglan, the view opened up north and the traffic increased a little – which wasn’t hard, for an hour or so I’d seen next to none.

I did make Raglan by three o’clock, my plan was coming together as I tried to estimate just how far I’d get that night. I was bemused to see I’d, without getting more than 250 m above sea level, already climbed 2000 m that day – there were many, many little hills. Two pies devoured I hit the highway out of town.

It was awful. A sunny Sunday afternoon seemed to have brought most of Hamilton to town, and they were now leaving. Thankfully the course looped off the highway and onto a gravel back road for a bit. I was displeased to have to join it again, mercifully for less than two kilometres. Turning left at the T-junction, I watched in disbelief as a van just in front of me, at speed, locked up its wheels to avoid another car, started fishtailing, went out of control and barrel-rolled down the highway eventually coming to rest on its now crumpled roof.

There were plenty of people around the gas station rushing to the aid of the driver, so I turned around and did a spot of traffic management before deciding it was time to get off this mad road. Rather subdued when I realised that if I’d been a few seconds faster I’d have been occupying the same time & space that a crappy old Ford Econovan seemed intent on rolling through, I slowed a bit rather keen on messaging loved ones. I was surprised to see an ambulance already heading towards the scene from a back road. Then I came across a recently wrecked road bike (of the motorcycle kind) in a ditch and understood the ambulance’s apparent promptness. Suddenly, I wasn’t so keen on riding a bike on roads – especially remembering some of the tragedies in the international bikepacking community earlier in the year.

After that drama, the roads to Ngaruwahia turned out to be very pleasant and I soon got my head back in a good place and pedaled on. I was surprised to be informed by a sign that I got as close as seventy-five kilometres from my old home of Pukekohe – which is Auckland now. I’d come all this way to get so close to the big smoke?! Unimpressed. But at least I now know where Glen Massey is. We turned away from Auckland.

Stopping to snack as the route joined the cycle trail beside the Waikato River, I set off into the evening through Hamilton to Cambridge. I had been wondering why I’d not bothered to remove the bell from my bike – it turned out to be mighty useful along the busy pathway that evening. The section through the Hamilton Gardens was tedious and poorly signposted for all its twists and turns, but I was soon on back roads in the failing light.

I was having dinner in Cambridge at nine o’clock still rather keen on the plan I’d been formulating to all day to push on and finish this thing that night. It was just over a hundred kilometres and involved the decent climb over the Mamakus. I figured I could be in Rotorua around three in the morning. Just as I was about to leave, I witnessed yet another car crash – I’d recommend not going anywhere near a road in the Waikato!

Having already ridden two hundred and forty kilometres, getting to the finish would be by far my biggest day ever on a bike. Alas, in my effort to try to conserve what light I did have for the Mamakus, I made it too difficult for me to see and I just wore myself out more. I probably wasn’t mentally prepared for more hills near Arapuni Dam and for the first time in seven hundred kilometres I got really slow. It just wasn’t fun (Pete’s words of Friday ringing in my ear), so I realised a bit of sleep would be best and I gave up on my plan of finishing within three days. It was a little disappointing, but as I’d planned on a four day finish the pill wasn’t too bitter.

On back roads through dairy farms at that time, there was little night time traffic so when I saw a strange little (shorter than me) two and a half sided corrugated iron shed, I’d found my resting place for the night. Only after I’d set up my bed did I realise all the grass was making my eyes a little puffy & my nose run, and I had invaded a small bird’s home.

We stared at each other a lot; I slept well and woke to find I still had both my eyes. Success.

An earlier start (five-thirty) and I was off to Putaruru for breakfast. I wore extra layers as it was chilly and as it was relatively flat (compared to the previous morning anyway) I never really warmed up. I was feeling average, but with only seventy kilometres to go it was easy to keep on going. With a full English breakfast in me from the Crazy Cow Cafe (I was too tired to appreciate all the amoosing puns), I was away again and heading for the hills – well, the last hill. Ascending four hundred and fifty metres it’s pretty steady, with a few little pinches; Leslie Rd does seem to be one of those hills that just keeps on giving. Finally I was at the top riding into a stiff easterly and negotiating the huge puddles that form the end of the paper road.

All downhill from here! Or not, the wind was strong enough to necessitate pedaling down hill. Height of rudeness. Still, at least it had nothing on my Invercargill to Bluff TA experience. But that couldn’t come close to dampening my spirits as I turned the pedals around all the way to the finish.

Time to lie on the grass, too tired to ask the small guided tour group to move so I could get a better photo.

I was, and still am, so thrilled to have ridden far stronger and longer than I ever have, or imagined I might. At three days and three hours, that’s an average of 250 km/day – compare that with 180-odd/day I did on TA. I had the same bike and carried the same gear, and had done even less preparation this time around – not to mention entering this event with less of a deadline and firmly just wanting to have a look around a different part of NZ. (Admittedly, this was only three days in a row, not two weeks – and the weather was amazing too.)

So I’m a little taken aback, how did this suddenly happen with no plan or desire? In part, taking a bit more care of what I’ve been eating in the previous six weeks has meant that I am currently carrying significantly less weight on me than for the last ten or so years. As has been usefully pointed out – how much money would one pay to get fancy gear to lose so much mass from one’s bike and gear? The answer would be thousands and involve titanium and fancy composites. After mentally spending these thousands in my mind, sense prevailed remembering what some guru said a few years ago: “Ride what you have”. Another component of this step-change I guess is more in my mind – and that comes from talking to, reading about other people that perform absolutely amazing feats of endurance. Obviously, I’m nowhere near that – but it does open one’s eyes to what is possible, and maybe just rubs off a little, eventually.

Now I’m looking around for more events and routes I can challenge myself on. The cool thing is I can see many areas to improve and with a bit more discipline I should be able to push my boundaries far more (I did after all carry a tent the whole way around and not use it, oops – which is what I did for all but the first night of TA; I think I may be learning slowly!).

Thanks to Pete and Erik for such a great route and well organised event – the hours and days that go into planning such a thing are immense, and all for the love of it. I certainly got to see parts of this country that I’d not before, and probably wouldn’t have otherwise. More importantly, I’ve suddenly seen other things I did not see before.

Apologies for shortage of good photos, I was having too much fun riding my bike. But I suspect if you’ve managed to read this far, you might not mind so much.

Mangatutu Three Hot Springs

Deciding it was high-time that Carl put his recently acquired bikepacking set-up to good use, we finally found a weekend free of other commitments and headed for the hills. Choosing a much hotter and head-windy day for the third annual overnighter to Mangatutu Hot Springs, it was great to have some company on this iteration of the trip.

I managed to cobble the requisite gear onto my bike in plenty of time – note extra water portage for the hottest day of the season so far.

Carl didn’t faff for too long after I arrived at his house and soon we were off into the strong northerly wind, conscious of the high-twenties of centigrade to deal with. With tyres, that have actual tread on them, it was noisy and slow going as we climbed up Puketitiri Rd. However, there was little traffic, the weather was pleasantly warm and the whole road fills me with nostalgia. Carl kept a good pace and there were few photos stops – so these two links will have to do.

A brief respite at Patoka School was used to fill water bottles and prepare for the last thirty-odd kilometres of climbing. Up to Patoka the road approaches five to six hundred metres above sea level; after Patoka the road undulates, constantly flirting either side of six hundred metres. At Ball’s Clearing the seal finishes and we enjoyed the change in surface to gravel – if not the steep hills as we rode into the evening.

Passing a collection of pick-ups, we missed the Search & Rescue training exercise and, thoroughly spent, dropped off the last pass to the campground. Almost-matching tents were pitched, dinners cooked & consumed before well deserved soaks in the eponymous hot springs. It was a brilliantly clear night, with the full moon casting long shadows as it rose. Despite the clear night, it was warm; rather worn out from the hills and the headwind, we slept well.

Cattle kept beady eyes on us as we climbed out of the Mohaka River valley.

There were plenty more hills to lay eyes on as we were pushed along by the warm northerly.

Carl shows me again why I really should get around to fitting some aerobars to my bike.

Leaving the Mohaka far behind, we were soon back at Ball’s Clearing and whizzing down the seal back home.

Yet, there were still many small hills to get up. Nearing Taradale it was fun to be caught up by someone on a gravel bike (who’d ridden roads I’d half-hoped we’d have the energy for) and consequently yarn about past & upcoming bikepacking events.

Beer & refreshments awaited us as we returned – pleased with a successful outing where Carl proved a capable bikepacker and excellent riding buddy. Now, to find some more hills and get some more miles under the wheels.

Waipataki Overnighter

Over my two summers so far living in Napier, I’d not quite made it to Waipataki Beach and its camping ground. Recently bought by the local councils to ensure that it was kept open for locals, I decided it must be worth a visit. The original plan was to load up my bike and ride that bike to work one Friday morning and then after work ride to Waipataki – I figured this would be easily achievable before dark in the summer. However, that never quite worked out and the Friday after work plan was discarded when daylight savings ended.

With a brilliant autumn weekend forecast, I readied myself and shortly after lunch on Saturday set off on a little adventure to explore somewhere new. In actuality not much of the route was new – I avoided the highway as much as possible and took the long route up Waipunga Rd. Waipunga Rd being a favourite route of mine when I was trying to get at least a little ready for Tour Aotearoa.

Leaving the Hill behind, over Westshore Bridge I followed my commute route for ten or so kilometres.

What’s this? Offshore power boat racing. That’s different. Not to mention loud, fast and repetitive.

I was heading for the coast in the far distance, just right of centre in this shot.

The crossing of the Esk is at the start of Waipunga Rd, before the hills start. It’s looking a bit lower than a couple of weeks previous, when we had 200 mm of rain in less than forty-eight hours at work (process water at work is taken from the Esk).

In the mid-afternoon sun (warming enough to only need arm warmers in addition to shirt), the climbing began – as did the views of rolling green hills and distant ranges.

The largest part of the climb ascends this ridge from right to left, steadily gaining about three hundred metres. It’s very nice.

I really enjoyed the gradual climb – stopping often to snap photos to share.

On top of the ridge, the road surface changes to gravel while the climbing slackens off markedly. With no traffic, the warming sun and the changing views it was blissful.

Eventually, the road starts to roll up and down a bit more – gradually climbing overall.

I paused at the end of Waipunga Rd to look north – this was as far north as my route would go, and also the highest altitude. I had five hundred metres to lose in the twenty kilometres to the coast.

I turned right onto Kaiwaka Rd – more lush gravel! I headed for the highway to cross it.

The sun sunk further, setting nicely on this rather out of place patch of toetoe.

More hills – thankfully I didn’t have to ride them all.

I kept a watchful eye on my shadow as I lost altitude quickly.

It seems one can’t really escape work – the pulpmill steaming away on the right; Napier easily visible stretching left across the water, the hills south of Havelock North in the distance.

I said my goodbyes to cell coverage with one big downhill, a few hairpins and cool rushing air as I blasted down to Waipataki and the sea.

That was a great little ride (three hours, a shade under sixty kilometres) in the hills to get to a new spot. Checking in and setting up my little tent, it was time for a wander down to the beach in the last of the light.

First I had to work out how to cross the stream.

Big stepping stones helped, I didn’t fall in; just.

I gazed off over the Pacific (which I can easily do a few hundred metres from home admittedly, but it’s different when there’s no one else around, no houses, no city…) and wondered what might be over there – more new places to explore one day, no doubt.

Darkness overtaking the campground, I cooked my modest dinner, and gratefully accepted three large lamb chops from a couple that had brought too much food; funny, I never have that problem. I found a book and settled down in the warm of the lounge to read for a while before retiring to my tent. Thinking over the afternoon I fell into an excellent night’s sleep.

Up before dawn, I strolled down to the beach in the cool of the morning, found a better place to cross the stream and waited for the sun to rise.

Having cooked and eaten my porridge, I waited a little for the first of the sun’s rays to rise over the cliffs and dry my tent some. I was happy to do so as I still had a book to read.

It quickly became apparent that it was to be another stunning autumn day.

All packed up and ready to ride, I resolved that I must plan a two-night stay sometime so as to explore the many walks and some biking possibilities.

Pedaling up the driveway, the day’s only sizable hill rose in front of me.

It was easily conquered and I was soon on the highway and on the short route home.

The highway gets rather close to the coast and the puffing pulpmill comes back into view.

And just like that I was nearly home, back on my commute route.

A fantastic little ride from home with plenty of wonderful distractions and more discoveries for me.

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.