Just a quick post as I sit on the ferry to the North Island to say that I made it and completed the Kiwi Brevet 2015 edition in just over six hours shy of a whole week. Very happy to finish, that was also about twelve hours quicker than I vaguely planned. So that’s nice – but mostly due to a crazed decision to bike through to the finish on the Friday night, rather than being twelve hours faster. That option turned the last day into a nineteen hour day as we finished at 3.40 am Saturday morning.
I had three main reasons for wanting to ride and complete the Kiwi Brevet:
- To reacquaint myself with NZ countryside & riding after so long away – especially in a part of the country I’ve spent very little time.
- To meet some like-minded (read: similarly mad) people that would even contemplate doing such a ride.
- Finally, to challenge myself a little/lot on the bike and put to some use all the riding I’ve been doing since August.
On all three counts the boxes stand firmly ticked. They were probably checked off after the first day or two. The scenery was stunning for much of the ride, the first five days in particular, and I was happy to stop and take the odd photo. As the ride progressed, naturally the field spread out and I kept seeing and getting to know the same people as we passed each other – that was fantastic.
I did it toughest on the first evening and into the second morning after not drinking enough on a day that was hotter than it seemed – I struggled to even keep water down, let alone my dinner, and was rather nauseated for quite a bit. Once I got that under control, things got a lot better and I could concentrate on simply riding. The all-nighter into Blenheim was also a good challenge and one that I was keen to do mostly just to see if my body could cope with so long on the bike (we had plenty of stops, Oliver & I that is, as we didn’t really plan to ride so long – so were taking it very easy most of the day). Only early in the evening did I feel sleepy for fifteen minutes or so, otherwise the pedals kept going around steadily (mostly slowly) – I was very pleased, & a little surprised, with how well that went.
In some ways we were very lucky with the weather – it was quite unseasonable (January was a particularly hot and dry month) and never really got proper hot, which would have been exhausting. But we did get bouts of very heavy rain and extremely strong winds which were less than ideal (struggling to pedal downhill & only achieving 15 km/hr or pedalling on the flat in an easy gear and only just achieving 8 km/hr for kilometres on end is never fun). Mostly due to the weather, I stayed in hotels/motels for three of the nights and camped the rest. Apart from the last, none of the days were particularly long – three over ten hours, the rest around nine hours (moving time). I managed 1178 kilometres for the week – easily my most intense week of riding ever.
Riding highlights were the top half of the St James Cycleway, riding through McDonald Downs Station in the moist early morning fragrant air, and best of all – the Big River Trail and following long 4WD road out. The Big River Trail, near Reefton, was originally a track to access remote gold mines a hundred-plus years ago. It climbed gradually in very damp and moist conditions – never all that muddy, it was plenty slippery and with a loaded bike it was prudent to dismount at most of the stream crossings or when the rocks and roots got too off-camber. It was one of the few times all week that my big beefy tyres made any sense at all – ten kilometres took me two hours, but I rode the majority and it was so beautiful in there that I never resented the slow progress. By contrast the 4WD road was quite steep (mostly down, but some climbing) and covered with big loose, jagged rocks – I had an absolute blast and arrived in Reefton to find I’d made up a fair bit of time on quite a few, that didn’t happen very often due to there being so much road and my slow tyres/legs.
While we got stuck in many herds on country roads during the week – sheep, cows, hot-rods – the best wildlife sighting was ten minutes spent watching a large pod of dolphins extremely close to the shore at the Anakiwa end of Queen Charlotte Sound at dusk. Unfortunately, my camera was packed away due to the recent heavy rain – so that memory will have stay in my memory bank, but believe me it was astounding.
That’s probably enough for now – as I’m prone to do I’ll post later with too many words about each day. Here are some of my favourite photos of the week as a reward for reading/absently scrolling this far down.
Steadily riding up the Rainbow Valley – Day One.
Getting out of my tent at Lake Tennyson – start of Day Two.
Heading down to the St James Cycleway.
Somewhere after Porters Pass, but before Arthurs – when the wind was still with me.
Would I do it again? While I’m sure I could do it better and faster (carry less, faster tyres and put in longer days), at this stage I have no desire to repeat this route – because now I know what’s there and the sense of discovery of new places would not be there, and that’s a big motivator for me.