Waking to a warm, clear and still day in the north, there was plenty of time to do those last minute things and to pop into town to get some lunch. By the time Dad dropped me at the start point, the parking lot was teeming and buzzing with excited/anxious people eager to begin the journey down the length of the country. With so many people and loaded bikes around, it could have got a bit overwhelming so I just quietly got ready and soon enough it was time for the short briefing (which I think was mostly for those that had hired their SPOT trackers & didn’t really know how to use them).
The first photo control point – I really could not bothered wandering all the way down & back up the hill to somewhere I’ve been enough times before.
My support crew (Dad) snapped a picture of me happy and clean before the off; happy didn’t really change, clean definitely did.
Without much fuss, it was two o’clock and we were off into so many unknowns. But the first fourteen kilometres were known – we’d just driven/ridden up that part of State Highway One to Cape Reinga. A fast downhill was followed by a short climb before descending again and turning off the highway (I don’t think we were back on SH1, for more than a few hundred metres, until the very end of the route) and onto a graveled road to the beach. I started near the back and was trying hard not to put much effort in so early on. Eventually the road turned to riding on sand and down a stream bed as we got closer to the beach and some rather large sand dunes.
Rather large sand dunes looming.
They got bigger/I got closer.
There was quite a bit of stream crossing and riding. Very soon I was glad to be riding without external gears; this feeling amplified on the beach with all its sand and salt.
The standing joke of the first day seemed to be: when you get to the beach, make sure you turn left. And that was the end of the navigation for four and a half hours!
It was just over an hour before I reached the beach. Unfortunately, the still day was no more – there was a bit of a breeze that was more than annoying as it did have a headwind component. But we had it much better than Wave One who battled a much worse wind along the beach. A group was just setting off from the beach as I arrived, so I jumped on as I figured it’d be much easier with company.
This seems to be the only photo I have from riding along the beach – I guess because it is fairly representative of what I saw for four and a half hours.
The beach was stunningly beautiful – but with eighty kilometres of not making a turn, I had to remind myself of this fact often. Groups morphed over those few hours as some slowed, some sped up and so on. My speed was fairly constant with few stops, just trying to get it over with. I thought I was eating & drinking reasonably well, but I guess the wind and the sun took more out of me than it felt like at the time. It was good to be off the beach and into the campground (the endpoint I decided for the first day, so as not to go out too hard too early) around sunset. However, I started to feel rather nauseous and lost my appetite. A shower and a bit of downtime helped and I was able to keep a large burger and some chips down.
Alas, sleep didn’t come easily as more and more riders kept coming off the beach through the night and setting up camp – something it doesn’t seem possible to do quietly, or without shining lights all around. That ended up being the last time I used my tent for the entire trip – yet I carried it with me the length of the country! There were a few times where I thought I’d have to use it again, but I managed to find other shelter that didn’t require the set-up & pack-down time of the tent.
Despite the nausea, I was thrilled with a great day on the bike and that my Tour was finally underway; not to mention, the eager anticipation I felt for all the riding and sights to come. Bring on Day Two, and the rest.