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.