Tour Aotearoa – My Day Ten – Picton to Richmond

Hustling to pack-up my sleeping gear, the irony of first being told to hurry and get on the ferry and then a few hours later to hurry and get off the ferry was not lost on me. As I’d only been off the bike for three and a half hours, I still had some time of the six hour mandated daily rest remaining. I pootled down to Picton looking for anything that might be open. There was a greasy spoon open – I hadn’t had both first- and second-breakfast in the same place yet, but here I was trying to eat and kill time; so that was what happened.

The six-hours over, I rode off a bit more subdued than previous days. In part this was due to the big day and night ride just completed, but mostly I just wasn’t as excited about this part of the route. That was only because I’d done pretty much all of it the year before over three days on the Kiwi Brevet, albeit in the opposite direction (one of the big hike-a-bike hills was optional on Tour Aotearoa – apparently only one person took that option; I had no desire to tackle Porika again if I didn’t have to). So I’d seen most of the next few hundred kilometres before and the excitement of exploration was gone. On top of that, I was familiar with most of the rest of the course – only really looking forward to the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Around the Mountains section.

Having said that, I knew it was going to be beautiful riding – knowing that I was now ahead of schedule, I decided to take things rather more slowly. Following Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock there are great views of Queen Charlotte Sound. There was another optional trail beside the rode – keen to see something new, I took that for its short distance. It was a wise choice, despite it adding almost two hundred metres of climbing in the first two of its five kilometres – the views were so much better from this vantage point.

Leaving Picton

Up on the optional trail.

Also on the optional bit.

No dolphins this year at Grove, much to my disappointment. That dusk sighting is an enduring memory of last year’s Kiwi Brevet.

Leaving Queen Charlotte Sound, it’s a pretty flat hour (at the relaxed pace I was going that day) to Havelock. The last town before the big hill I knew was coming soon, it seemed a good place to stop for an early lunch (and stock up for second-lunch). Somewhere along the way, I’d started drinking milkshakes – they always seem to go down well and became another staple of the trip. From Havelock it was another twenty flat kilometres, this on quiet highway, before we turned off to tackle Maungatapu. I thought a nap and second-lunch was called for. It was a warm day and forty winks over thirty minutes in the shade was just lovely.

An hour following the Pelorus River upstream on undulating, but gradually climbing of course, gravel ensued before the toughest climb of the whole route began. I assume the track up there is basically just a rugged service road for the powerlines that go over the hill to/from Nelson. It’s double track and I took it rather slowly, knowing at least that going in this direction should be a lot easier than riding over from the Nelson side. And it was, I probably rode most of it until the last kilometre (or two, now that I look at the GPS data) before the surface became too loose for my tired legs and slicker-than-last-year tyres. With little wind and the sun beating down on me it was also stinking hot. I had a bit of a rest at the top – that seven kilometres and seven hundred metres of climbing took me the best part of two hours. So much for an easy day.

We went where the powerlines ended up, thankfully not by the same route.

The trail before it got steeper and looser – still pretty steep at this point.

Hard to believe I was at sea-level but twenty kilometres before – that’s quite a few hills in amongst the sea.

The descent was even steeper, as I remembered, dropping over five hundred metres in about four kilometres – and, boy, was it rough! I managed to grit it out with my fully-rigid and loaded bike bouncing around. I was not surprised to hear later that quite a few people walked this descent; still, better than riding up it – that was tough!

We dropped down to this reservoir, before having to steeply climb a short distance before it was mostly gently down the Maitai Valley to Nelson.

Nearing Nelson, I was pretty tired from the ride to Wellington and, particularly, Maungatapu – I thought a early knock-off was prudent. There were quite a few open homes around Nelson, but there was enough reserves to go a little further, although not much. I ended up staying in the lounge of Mike the Scout just off the route in Richmond. I think I’d missed this previously – Mike earned that nickname by pre-riding the course in the school holidays (as he’s a teacher he couldn’t join the rest of us). I gratefully accepted a roast dinner and enjoyed comparing notes on riding the course at different times.

Clearly five meals wasn’t enough for the day – I rode down to the supermarket to resupply snacks for the following day and was hungry again, so just had to get a large burger and another milkshake. Rest day over, I was pleased to have the toughest climb of the trip out of the way; I slept well. But looking at my spreadsheet confirms my feeling that it wasn’t really a rest day – Maungatapu easily made it the day with the highest specific climbing (that’s a term I just made up, it sounds good and I’m sure I’m not the first to coin the term – the units are metres climbed per hundred kilometres travelled).

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