Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two dogs on the Tāwhio o Whanganui

March, 2013

Before I get underway...

This blog has been around a while now, and it's taken me the last few days to remember what it's about.   There's certainly a level of routine and self-expectation now - an upcoming ride often involves getting organised, doing the ride, then writing it up.  For me, the blog is part and parcel of riding.

For the most part, that works really well - I love riding my bike, and I love sharing my experience through this blog.  The riding and writing are not the same hobby, they're two different ones, albeit connected.

Sometimes though, it doesn't work well, and the blog "hanging over my head" further adds to whatever it was about the ride that I am avoiding writing about.  I not only want these to be interesting and hopefully inspiring, but I also want to be passionate and honest and revealing.  And sometimes I feel like I can't, and on many of those occasions, I admit defeat, and move on.

Today I thought a lot about this blog - this post, and this site.  I reminded myself that it's mine, not yours.  One perk of me doing this for free, is that no one gets to complain "this isn't what I wanted".  I choose, I've remembered. 

I choose, to an extent.  I choose to sit down on the bike, and I choose to sit down at the computer.  I don't choose how I feel when I ride, nor when I write, and I certainly don't choose what it makes you feel. 

Why has this blog endured?  I daresay the words and pictures are predictable enough, and many of the posts could probably be described as formulaic.  But not all of them.  What I love about this project is the unpredictability of it.  How a simple song can put a new slant on a ride, or how a puncture can make an unmemorable ride memorable.  How material appears out of nowhere and how something so regular and repetitive as pedalling a bike can generate emotions that are anything but.

I hope that at times this makes you laugh, or want to get out on your bike.  I hope that occasionally you might think, "wow, good on you man" and I hope that I will sometimes think that too - "good on you" for getting through that ride, or "good on you" for having the balls to say what you said.  I hope that reading about my struggles helps someone understand their own struggle - even if that reader's me. I'm not writing for sympathy, but rather the empowerment that confronting myself brings. 

Rather than apologise, I'll conjecture that it's actually much more fun reading about what went wrong than about what went right.

* * * * *

April, 2015

Just over two years ago, I was obviously struggling.  In fact, my words ran dry on the morning of the third day, and the blog has remained untouched since.

Today, I'm in much better shape.  One of my university colleagues has just been walking in the vicinity of Whangamomona, prompting me to dig out some of my "Taranaki Tunnel" research.

With it, came the good memories, and a reminder of much of what this blog's about.

Best get this thing finished.

* * * * *

February, 2013

As the 2013 Tāwhio o Whanganui got closer, my excitement grew.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting my routes together, sorting out the gear I'd take, and sharing my enthusiasm with the rest of the "field" and their supporters via the event's facebook page.  The inaugural Tāwhio had been a highlight of 2011 for me, and I was looking forward to more of the same.

Despite being in the same area, the overnight stops were mostly different, and the direction opposite to that of the 2011 route - plenty to look forward to, and boy, was I looking forward to it.

So much promise and anticipation.  Though, when all was said and done, I couldn't help but feel disappointed.  This, despite the format, the location, the amazing riders who'd joined me - including three of my best friends - the incredible photo-sets that surfaced in the days that followed, the scenery, the weather - two days tried not to melt, and another two trying not to dissolve - bike and gear that functioned perfectly and a very positive and appreciative vibe from those that took part.

What was the problem?  Why would I feel bummed out after such a successful event?  Well, Ashley Burgess's wee pup Pilsner was not the only dog along for the ride.  Mine joined me too. 

* * * * *

As is often the case with these things, the event started some time before we saddled up, and I spent much of the nights leading into it getting some routes organised.  The internet makes this mostly a piece of cake, and I had a lot of fun with this website about Taranaki's road tunnels and an AA map.

I had a full car on the way up to Whanganui:  Simon riding shotgun, and Dave and Karin in the back.  I've probably done more riding with Dave than anyone else in the last 12 months (er, perhaps with the exception of Megan - was that really less than a year ago?!).  Karin I'd only met once, down at Le Petit Brevet in 2011.

A midday start in Whanganui meant for a slightly more casual start than recent the Ak Attack or Longest Day rides permitted.  I met Simon at his place just before 8, and then Dave and Karin at the Spotlight car park at the bottom of Ngaio Gorge.  It took us a wee while to successfully stack the four bikes on my rack, but once that was done, the worst part of the drive was already over.


Day 1:  Whanganui to Eltham

We arrived at Moutua Gardens just after 11am, and were greeted by many familiar faces.  Over the next while, we got the bikes and gear organised and got changed.  I had managed to get contact details out of everyone before leaving Wellington, so had no paperwork to do.  But, I did have the pleasure of giving everyone (with the exception of Jeff Lyall, who had his own in a drinking straw) a 20mL tube of Colgate, courtesy of Mary!

Photo:  Bill Brierley

As with the first event, I asked everyone to introduce themselves, wished everyone a good first day's ride, and then shifted them all down to the centre of Moutua Gardens where Helen was on hand to take mostly identical photos on a dozen or so cameras!

And didn't she do well!  (L-R):  Jeff, sifter, Dean, Stephen, Tim, Geoff, Michael, Nathan, Matthew, Pat, Fiona, Jo, Peter, Simon, Matt, Andrew, Dirk, Bill, Dave, Richard, Karin (absent, Ashley)
Almost at the stroke of noon, we rolled out, none of us totally sure which way we were going.  Rather than take charge, I had a sudden urge to check that I'd locked the car, but luckily the field hadn't seen that as an opportunity to attack, and we all rolled down the main drag together.

I busted out a few photo sprints as we made our way through suburbia, and it was cool to sense the excitement in others, and myself.


I'd mapped out the backroads we'd taken back in 2011, and these kept us off SH3 as much as possible.  The peloton broke up once we hit a few rollers, and through to Patea I found myself riding with Dave, Jeff, Michael, and Stephen, the latter sporting a mighty fine looking can of creamed rice in a dedicated bottle-cage on his singlespeed...


I couldn't resist stopping for a photo on the bridge over the Patea River, so was a couple of minutes behind the fellas when I swung into the 4 Square carpark.  It was a busy place, courtesy of a bit of leapfrogging on SH3.


One of the best bits about these trips is that you can eat with impunity.  The supermarket was well stocked, or at least it was when we arrived.  Dave got the last chocolate and custard muffin, but when the blueberry and custard one that I'd bought was so damn delicious, I went back in and got the last two of those as well.

After an ice-block and various drinks, I was feeling the need for a pee, so headed off in search of a loo.

Not a loo...
There was nothing obvious on the main drag, so I turned right soon after the 100km/h zone, and used a likely looking hedge.  I was back at the intersection in time to watch a peloton of almost a dozen cycle tourists roll by.  Andrew, trailing them by 40m or so told me Ash had shown up, and the Dave was minding Pilsner while she shopped.  So, I headed back the way I'd come to say gidday.

Still 500m short of the 4 Square I met Dave, and realised it would be stupid to go further - I'd catch up with Ash later on.  Neither Dave nor I seemed that enthusiastic to ride hard, and we cruised.  After a while on SH3, we turned north to bypass Hawera, and were treated to awesome views of Mount Taranaki.


It was funny to think that in the 2011 edition, we'd barely seen the mountain.  While it had briefly come into view as we crested a ridge en route to Stratford, little had we known it was in our rearview mirror for hours after that.

We briefly saw the bunch ahead, but they vanished again, and Dave and I were content to keep nattering away.  Our first port of call in Eltham was the superette.  We grabbed some snacks, dinner and breakfast before heading off to the Eltham Presbyterian Camp, which was expecting us all for the night.  I introduced myself to the caretaker, who'd let various administrative blunders on my part go unpunished. 

Dave and I weren't finished with the riding just yet, but we did take the chance to jettison a bit of gear.  I was stunned to realise the time had flown, and that it had taken us over an hour to get going again.  Little we could do about that though, as we rolled out of town at 6:20pm, bound for Dawson Falls.

While the best route to the base of the climb was unclear from the map, we ended up picking a sweet one, climbing gently up Hunter, then Hastings Roads before hooking onto Opunake Road which took us through to Manaia, at which point we knew we were about a third of the way through a 52km return trip.

As we hit the National Park boundary, cow country immediately transformed into a tunnel of native bush.  I pointed out to Dave that I was really glad we'd added this on.  I also noted that I was saying it out loud then and there in case I subsequently changed my mind!

Every so often, the road would split - not quite so impressively as on the road over to the Nydia Bay track, but cool nonetheless.

Keep left, just because
The climb was not as bad as I'd expected, though my legs did wane somewhat near the top.  We passed a couple of trailheads, including the one to Dawson Falls itself, but plugged on up.  There was an intriguing sign to the power station which we'd investigate on the way down. 

A short distance later, we came to the end of the road, and grimacing through the not-so-dulcet sounds of an upset child, we enjoyed the various sights on offer.

Up

North

South

Back to front
Time was marching on, and we had shit to see, so it was back on the bikes briefly.  The "Power Station" was orders of magnitude less impressive than I'd imagined, but was cool nonetheless and well worth the few minutes' diversion.

Power Room
Ditto Dawson Falls itself, almost verbatim.


I think Bridal Veil Falls will be hard to top...

I was glad I had my jacket on for the long descent.  And, I was very glad to have Dave's "company" for the ride back to Eltham.  For the most part I sat on his wheel, as we slowly but surely lost elevation.  Progress was good, and we didn't need to dig out lights.

We were back at base pretty close to 9pm, but I got tangled up making the payment for the camp, and so rode the last 100m in the dark.  I was surprised to find a very sedate crowd, with many riders in bed already.

I slunk off to the kitchen, and sculled a couple of cans of baked beans without bothering to heat them.  I didn't have the energy to hunt for the crockery and cutlery that would have enabled me to heat them up in the otherwise very well appointed kitchen (they were in a cupboard in the "dining room" next door, which, on account of the absence of any tables, looked like an empty school hall...).

At least I had Ash's company, and we were eventually joined by Dave and Simon too.  Four was a good number, and it meant we all got half a blueberry and custard muffin!

Not much else seemed to be going right for me.  I'd rinsed my bibshorts, but I never quite got to the bottom of the available washing machine.  A spin cycle seemed like a great idea, but it didn't behave, and I spent many frustrating minutes trying to free my sodden shorts from the security-conscious front loader.

There was probably a men's shower block somewhere, but it was dark, and I couldn't be bothered blundering around.  Nor did I want to disturb my companions in the small lodge, so I retired without a shower.  Tossing and turning during that night, I discovered quite a salt deposit on my eyelids...!


Day 2:  Eltham to Ohura

Sunday was the day I'd been most looking forward to.  Simon had successfully negotiated passage through some private land, though only for a group of up to six.  In the end, this wasn't a binding constraint as most interest was in the Bridge to Somewhere ride south of the Forgotten Highway, and only four of us, Andrew, Dave, Simon and myself would ride together.

Departure from the camp was a slightly stressful experience for me.  We were collectively responsible for cleaning up the facility, and I was responsible for the group.  In the end though, I shouldn't have been worried - everyone had done a great job cleaning up after themselves, and we got a big thumbs up from the caretaker.

Simon had had a bit of a sleep in, and that had been a concern too - I was wondering if he was crook - not imagining that anyone could sleep through the racket the group were making!

The ride to Stratford, 10km up the road, was a nice way to start the riding day.  We caught up to Ash just on the outskirts of town, and I admit to being a little taken by the cuteness of Pilsner in the trailer.  I'm not much of a dog guy, and combine that with a travelling light ethic, I couldn't really comprehend the motivation for dragging a small puppy around in a 14kg trailer.  But, maybe I partly got the point after following them for a few minutes...

YFY I'm cute...
A long ride through the middle of nowhere (or somewhere, as the case may be) deserves a good feed before hand, so we holed up in a cafe for a while, joined by Ash and Dean.  The rest of the bunch were long gone.

Eventually, it was time to move, and we left Ash to her emails, and moseyed.

On your marks, get set...
No sooner had we got stuck into racing out of town, than Simon pulled over with a totally flat rear tyre.  Eventually, the culprit was discovered. 

Guts
Another culprit was added to the list a few minutes later when Simon's replacement tube refused to hold air.  I gave him one of mine, and when Ash passed through, boosted.  

Tortoise about to pass the hares
We nattered for a bit, and eventually were passed by Simon, Dave and Andrew, the marathon puncture repair over.  They'd obviously left in haste, and Dean had pinged off the back. I bade Ash (and Pilsner) farewell, and made haste too.

We rode on SH43 for a while, before making a left turn onto Ahuroa Road.  The intersection was a little ambiguous on the AA District Map I handed to Simon, but I'd been reconciling it with a highly zoomed-in map on my Garmin Edge, so knew the intersection to be the one we needed.  It was funny to have the navigational "argument" we'd never had in the recent Akatarawa Attack.

50m later, we were making the turn onto Wawiri Road.  It was nice to be off the state highway, even though the state highway we'd just left probably has lower traffic volumes than almost all of the Wellington Region's roads.

We paralleled SH43 for a while, our tunnel-anticipation growing.  I was content to dangle off the back of the group, knowing that they'd be waiting for me and my two maps at the next intersection!

We'd been following the now defunct railway line for a bit, but crossed over it on our final approach to Kiore Tunnel, on Mangaoapa Road.


It was all cameras out when we finally reached it!

Outside

Inside
On the other side, we sooned turned off onto Matau Road, and climbed up onto a ridge.  The road was gravel by now, which always seemed a bit more consistent with riding a MTB.  I don't know if it's an illusion, but I always feel like I'm travelling faster with the crunch of gravel "underfoot".

Someone towing a trailer had obviously had problems on a couple of corners on the descent, but we had no such trouble, and safely arrived in Matau.  An old school site seemed to have been taken over by some government outfit or another.  Andrew and I helped ourselves to some water from there, before joining the others at the local Anglican Church (Holy communion, 2pm, 2nd Sunday of every month...).

St James Anglican Church, Parish of Stratford
We had quite a long break here - the day had warmed up significantly, and it was nice to sit quietly. I nuked the water from the school yard with my Steripen, and we ate various sandwiches and things we'd hauled from Stratford.

I'd mapped out a very-long-cut but Simon's negotiations meant we could go right at the next intersection rather than left.  If it didn't work out, all indications were that we wouldn't mind...


Simon's instructions sounded confusing, but finally made sense when we got to the end of the road, and we were soon blasting along an old farm track reminiscent of parts of the Whangamomona Road ride of a couple of years ago.

When we got to the Waitara River, it didn't look like it would have been hard to cross, but, as Simon pointed out, it looked the colour of toilet water that hadn't been flushed for years.

Dave and I had the misfortune of being 20m behind Simon and Andrew when they passed a herd of cows, and ended up shepherding (is that even possible for cows?) them for five minutes or so.  Apparently they were nervous, and kept doing mini shits, some of which we inevitably blasted through...


Eventually we came to a gate, and after a minute of willing the animals back the way they'd come, we were free.



We soon found the bridge over the Waitara, and looking down at the scungy water, I think we were all glad of its existence.  We made our way back down-stream, and after a nifty little ride through some pines, we were back on gravel road (and the map) again.

Next up was Uruti Tunnel.  The approach was stunning, if not a little alarming.


The "notoriously unstable" tunnel had exposed ceiling rafters unlike the Kiore tunnel which was dirt through and through.

Southern portal
 
Northern portal

The day was marching on, and we were almost as close as we'd be to civilisation.  A ute came through the tunnel soon after us, and we flagged them down to enquire as to the odds of getting an icecream at Uruti.  "None" they told us, and the short detour was off the menu.

After a rip-snorting descent, we were soon at the Moki Road intersection, and climbing again.  Andrew pointed out the very cool landforms to our south, which I was glad to stop for.  It looked like the Taranaki landscape had a bad case of warts.


After a decent climb, the next highlight was Moki Road Tunnel, not to be confused with Moki Tunnel on SH43.



This was again followed by another fast descent, and I got a bit of a surprise to see another vehicle on the road.  I indicated there were another 3 behind me, and hoped the fellas would all be OK.

At the Kiwi Road intersection, I was greeted by the sort of sign that really lightens my mood on trips like this.  Simon, and to a lesser extent, I, have really done well picking quiet back-country roads to ride over the last few years, and it looked like Kiwi Road would be another doozie.

 

The sun was beating down on us, and our water supplies were running low.  Cruising along the valley, Andrew spotted a side-stream, and he, Dave and I parked up and did a bottle-filling mission.  When we got back to our bikes, Simon was nowhere to be seen, so we moseyed on, only to find him chilling out under a tree a minute down the road.


Simon and Dave cleared out on the long, hot climb to the next summit.  I trailed them about 100m behind, and focused on not coming to the boil. 

At the far end of Kiwi Road Tunnel we had a sit down in the shade.

Last but not least, Kiwi Road Tunnel

After a parlay, Simon and Andrew decided they'd chill out there for a while.  We had a serious climb coming up - the biggest of the day - and neither was keen to tackle it until the temperature had fallen a bit.  Dave and I were more keen to get to Ohura, riding conditions be damned, so we left them in the shade.

A side trip to Okau Road Tunnel - the one that most grabbed my fancy when working out where the tunnels were, and how to link them up - was so far out of the question it didn't even come up, and we made the right turn towards Ohura.


The road was sealed for a long while, but eventually turned into gravel.  Dave noticed some bike-sign, and before too long we came across Tim on his road bike.  He'd gone the long way around, and seemed to be enjoying himself!

We chatted with him a while, but as the gradient increased, he slipped quietly off the back.  We thought of him, and his narrow tyres, many times over the remainder of the climb, and didn't envy his task.  It was bad enough with fat mountain bike tyres.  On one stretch, Dave and I were hugging the batter on the right side of the road, when an extremely rare oncoming vehicle forced us out of the shade and back onto our own side of the road for some more blazing sunshine.

However bad the gravel on the climb had been, the descent was much more chunky, and again, Tim was in our thoughts.  He subsequently reported no trouble with it at all, surprising us both.

My AA map didn't quite extend as far north as Ohura, but it wasn't far off the map at all.  The outskirts of "town" were a bit lumpier than I would have liked, and I wondered outloud what the point of inventing the bulldozer was if not for knocking the top of these annoying little climbs.

The main drag was dead, and we both realised neither of us knew where the accommodation was.  The "General Store" looked like it wound up years ago, but the "Cosmopolitan Club" over the way seemed to have a bit of activity - not bad for a Sunday afternoon - and so I popped in there to ask for directions.

A few minutes later, we were leaning our bikes against the front wall of the Ohura State Prison - the sole reason we were stopping in Ohura.  Once I'd discovered someone had refitted an old prison as a B&B, I'd fallen hook line and sinker for their "YOU CAN DO THE TIME WITHOUT THE CRIME!!" marketing.


Dave had booked himself into a "cell", while I was in a shared room across the way.  The Bridge to Somewhere crew were already ensconced, and soon, we too were showered and starting to think about dinner.  The Prison crew were all very welcoming, and did a marvellous job of facilitating our calorie ingestion. 


Although there were no obvious expectations on me to play host to my self-supported riding buddies, my own perception of things was different.  I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all, and my mental fatigue was well and truly trumping any physical fatigue.  When in a position of responsibility, I can adequately switch off my introversion, and even depression can be effectively parked to the side, but there's a limit to it, and after a couple of days "on the clock", my brain was starting to push back.

I'd made things harder for myself too, by not really discussing schedules with Simon before we'd left Wellington, and I felt like I'd been two-timing him a little by boosting off with Dave.  I've got a very good ability to make simple things much more complicated than they actually are.  Apparently my brain needs something to fret about.

Nonetheless, I had a solid sleep, so was at least physically ready for the next day's ride.


Day 3 - Ohura to Raetihi

The day we woke to was quite in contrast to the one we'd said goodbye to hours before.  Hot and dry looked to be gone, and cold and wet had arrived.

After a good breakfast, I rolled out with Dave, stopping ever so briefly to grab a nice shot of the old prison complex.  I realised the irony of romanticising a prison, but had appreciated our stay nonetheless.


While the weather was not great, Dave and I were both well kitted out for it, and made good time through to Taumarunui, the last stretch on the relatively busy SH 4.

We stopped for some hot coffee and a bit of food, and were soon joined by other similarly bedraggled riders.  The rain was torrential at times, and although sitting in wet clothing wasn't exactly pleasant, the alternative wasn't flash either.

Peter, Dirk, Fiona and Richie waiting on their orders

Eventually, a brief easing of the rain lured us out, and it was onto the back roads to Owhango.  Although unsealed for much of the distance, the heavy rain hadn't yet turned the road surface to porridge, and there was little to regret about being away from the main road.

A few brave souls were heading for Fisher's Track, but once onto SH 4, Dave and I stuck to it.  We gave ourselves a break from the rain at the bottom of the Raurimu Spiral, smashing back some fresh food we'd bought in Taumarunui, before racing a train up the hill...

Dave offering T-Rex a snack

No problem...
We were both glad to arrive in National Park - our imposing victory over the train hadn't perked us up as we'd hoped!  After browsing the shelves for a bit, I settled on a highly calorific, and uber-delicious Bumper Bar, and a can of hot coffee!  

Coffee in a can
The can was hot, and I didn't want to hang around sipping it's equally hot contents, so chucked it in one of my jersey pockets, and got back on the road.

For the next half an hour or so through to Horopito, that can radiated heat into my lower back, and my only regret was that I hadn't bought six of them.  Remarkably, the coffee was still surprisingly warm when we stopped at the start of the Ohakune Old Coach Road - indeed perfect sculling temperature.

Despite the extra time and energy it was consuming, the Old Coach Road was fun.  It was nice to be doing a bit of mountain-biking, and the track ticked by surprisingly quickly.  The viaduct was as spectacular as ever, and while the rain was on-again off-again, it wasn't so bad as to keep the camera hidden away in my handlebar bag.


I've never enjoyed the last few kilometres of the track, and this day was no exception.  Once back on tarmac, it was a short distance through to the satellite "suburb" of Ohakune.  We admired the new pump track - from afar - neither of us suggested we cut a few laps.


At this point, Dave and I parted.  He was keen to smash out an ascent of the mountain road up to Turoa.  While it is a climb I've enjoyed many a time, I was feeling weary, and wasn't sure I was up to the 1000m elevation gain on New Zealand's only hors categorie road climb.

Instead, I made straight for Raetihi, enjoying the solitude and the spectacular landscapes, and the ever-so-slightly downhill road.


I wasn't the first to arrive at the Snowy Waters Lodge on the hill overlooking Raetihi.  A few had taken the direct route just down the road from Horopito, bypassing Ohakune, missing some good mountain biking, but cutting out a fair bit of distance.  Once clean and into dry clothing, it was nice to sit in the lounge, and keep an eye out for the next arrivals.  Dave was one of the last to arrive, reporting insanely strong winds at the top of the road, which had nearly thwarted his effort to get up to the ski-field. 


There were various dinner options, including a walk or ride down into "town", and a roast put on by the proprietors. 

Bikes all tucked up and ready for bed
Most were glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to wash and dry the day's (or the trip's, in many cases) riding attire.  The return of the laundry made for a somewhat amusing event, as tired riders tried to remember what they'd had with them...

"I think that's mine..."
The low-light of the evening was saying goodbye to Ash.  She'd had a remarkable ride, towing Pilsner and that crazy-heavy trailer around for four days.  She was due back in Wellington the next day, so had started one day early in Raetihi.  Impressive stuff! 


Day 4 - Raetihi to Whanganui

I was organised fairly early in the morning, but by the time I was ready to roll out, I'd seen no sign of Dave.  Stephen had, and said Dave wasn't far from being ready, so I thought I'd wait for him at the cafe on the main street, grabbing a coffee while I did so.

Eventually he arrived, but long after everyone else had gone, so it was just the two of us again.  I was feeling pretty down, and tired physically too.  The pace, or at least my perception of it, became uncomfortable on the many short climbs that we were being treated to, and I lost touch with Dave before the start of the main descent down to the river.

Stopping for a photo or two cemented the deal, and I was able to ride through my rough patch without any social obligations.  While things inside my head were not great, the scenery was as spectacular as ever, and seeing evidence of the land succumbing to the weather was cool.


I continued to have a fairly miserable time through to Pipiriki.  It seemed like my legs - great for the first three days - had deserted me, and that I was in for a long grovel back to Whanganui.

Though helpfully, my symptoms were mental rather than physical, and it took only a few random bits of stimulation before a switch upstairs was flicked, and all of a sudden things became easy again.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 3
By the time I got to a pair of my favourite signs, I was still alone, but hauling again. 


Luckily, I'd not been completely shut off from my surroundings, and their beauty had been motivating.  I stopped giving myself reasons to struggle, and started to simply enjoy where I was.

Before too long, I started seeing riders, and kept motoring along until I found Simon.   We were battling into a cold, wet southerly wind, and his weather-proofing cracked me up!

Oh-hurro!

The Matahiwi Cafe and Gallery was impossible to go past, and it was lovely to stop for a hot drink and some fresh food.  It was also nice to see again the lovely kuia who knew my great-aunt, and who had served a similar motley crew at the first Tāwhio two years earlier.




All good things must come to an end, and eventually it was time to get back out into the elements.  I made good use of my recently rediscovered powers, and did my best impression of a locomotive, with Karin, Simon and Dirk tacked on behind, accepting that a face-full of spray off the rear wheel in front was a small price to pay for shelter and the relatively easy progress that it afforded.

After so many hours without civilisation, it was cool to see signs of life again.


By the time the Whanganui River Road hooked into SH 4, we knew we were almost done.  I made a quick stop at the church at Upokongaro, and found a plaque that had eluded me the previous two times I'd passed through.  

John Randal, grandfather of John Randal, who in turn had a grandson named John Randal, aka sifter

Not long after, we were hauling on the brakes at Moutua Gardens.  Despite a relatively short day of a "mere" 110km, the conditions (and resulting temptation of a long stop at Matahiwi) had ensured the day had marched on, and it was 2:30 or so. 


The car brought with it welcome new clothing options, and once suitably kitted out, it was time to grab some food, locate Dave, and then load up the car for the mercifully short drive back to Wellington.

It might not have always felt like it, but it was good to get out.
 
Thanks to Colin, who recently went walking out back of Whangamomona, and who prompted me to dig out my tunnel research.