The genesis of what we eventually started referring to as "The Triangle Trip" was some months ago. Last year, around this time, Simon and I met in New Plymouth, and a few days later parted in National Park after some great riding (NP2NP write up here). It was great fun, and set us up nicely for a good summer of riding. We were looking for something of a similar length, and reasonably close to Wellington. Eventually one of us stumbled upon a loop two night trip, from Palmerston North or the Northern Wairarapa, to Hawke's Bay, then Taihape, and back -- the Triangle Trip was born.
With a long, wet winter, it turned out to be pretty tough to schedule the ride, and to sort out a plan that was reasonable, given the levels of fitness we had. Some plotting and scheming later (Simon on his favoured google maps, and me with mapmyride.com), we settled on a start/finish at Woodville, in the last weekend of September. We'd both be at the end of the Wellington MTBO Series, with some hill sessions under our belt. We also both done a nice long 45km MTB ride, the Karapoti Original, back in ... March. Gulp...
Friday -- Day 1
Before we knew it, Friday morning was upon us, and Simon's Cannondale 29er was loaded up on my car next to my Giant XTC in 69er mode. My bike was nice and clean, with two outings under its belt since the Brevet. It was also sporting nice new XT brakes and a replacement fork (my SS was refusing to part with the Brevet fork...). The weather was pretty crap, and when we got to Woodville we were pretty anxious about the state of things. We shacked up in a cheesecake shop, sadly not eating cheesecake, and watched the rain sheet down on the main road.
|Rain, rain, go away...
A couple of short second-hand store stops later, we were both suited up and looking for a place to leave the car. In the end, we settled on the main road just opposite the Cop Shop. The bikes were duly pulled off the car, and final checks were made. I remedied a flattish tyre, while Simon loaded his gear up.
We were both travelling very light. I'd innovated slightly from my Brevet setup. I'd followed Jasper van der Lingen's lead, and sourced a 2.7L Ortlieb seat bag to replace my smaller Topeak one. In it, I had a "full change" of clothes: socks, tights, short shorts, long sleeved woolen top, and long sleeved woolen hoodie. I also had my GPS charger in there! For the back-story, check out the Brevet tales... Two tubes were taped to the bike; pump and two bottle cages with a 900mL bottle per, were also mounted. I couldn't for the life of me find my feed bag, but had my Edge 705 mounted to the stem, and front and rear lights on board, commuter styles. On account of the chilly weather, I was pretty happy to carry a back pack. In it I had pretty much the gear I took on the Brevet less a bit of first aid (Simon had agreed to bring that). I also had a Baked Alaska riding top, waterproof overtrou, and a bit of food.
Over the weeks leading up to the grand départ, our ambitious schedule had us somewhat worried. We wanted to keep to back-roads where possible, but also successfully getting home was also important. We were therefore a bit more conservative, and deviated a lot from our planned route on the first day. Both google maps, and mapmyride had plotted a couple of small routes which weren't shown on the AA Touring Map I was carrying, and we consequently decided to stick to what was shown on the map as we left Woodville. To begin with, we were travelling north-west of SH2, and these wind-swept back roads spat us out just at the northern extreme of Dannevirke.
|100 and how many kms to Hastings?!
Next stop was Takapau, and the local 4-Square was literally humming. If we'd teleported into it, and hadn't seen that we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the sheer number of people in that shop would have given us a pretty skewed sense of where we were. From memory it was just before 4pm (we'd left Woodville at 12:30), so maybe people were stopping in on the way home from school.
While we sat and ate, several locals stopped to say gidday and ask where we were heading. One fella delightedly described the time he and his brother, probably about 50 years ago, had "ridden to Waipuk, and then Waipawa, and then we were having icecreams on the foreshore in Napier. AND we had to ride back..." It was cool to hear, as were various suggestions about back-routes to Hastings.
The weirdest thing happened on the way to Waipukurau. Simon's knee was starting to play up and he stopped to put his seat up. I stopped by him, and just as I was about to head off I spotted a coin lying on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I realised I was now the proud owner of $3.70. We'd cover about 430km on this trip. I wonder how many other dollars we rode straight by?!
We didn't stop in Waipukurau, and like the Takapau local, we pushed on to Waipawa. By this stage I'd discovered a feature of my Garmin Edge which plotted us a route to our destination. We declined its offer to take Harker St, and after a brief pit stop...
... we were back off SH2 and heading NE on Racecourse Rd. The winds were making life a little hard as was the unfamiliarity of our activity, and its duration. Complaining wasn't going to get us there any faster. Nor for that matter, was the GPS's route choice which would have added about 20km to our ride.
Nearing Hastings, we'd seen the last of our daylight, and were now navigating solely using the GPS unit. As is often the case in orienteering events, getting close to the control is much easier than actually finding it, and so it was here. A cycle path had recently been closed, and the last 100m of our ride turned into a kilometre or so. It was with some relief that we finally found the home of our hosts, Paul, Meg, Bella and Sam, and within minutes of arriving (at 7:30) we joined Simon's bro Jonathan and the family at the dinner table.
We collapsed into our beds a few hours later, clean, fed, and entertained. But, with trepidation about the day soon to come. A relatively flat 150km down, Saturday's menu featured a 150km climb-fest up the Gentle Annie to Taihape.
Saturday -- Day 2
The morning came quickly, and after a relatively light breakfast, we were on the road again. We'd got our wires crossed a little, and I was expecting to make a bee-line for a cafe. Simon, on the other hand, was keen to hit the road. Our compromise was a corner dairy, where we grabbed sandwiches, bars and drink for the day ahead. It was hard to believe we could have had fried chicken and chips at that time of the day. I wouldn't have thought there'd be much of a market for that at 9:30am on a Saturday.
My GPS unit seemed to know where we were going, and it was pretty easy getting out of town. A sign on the outskirts reminded us what we had in store...
We had a while battling some shitty cross winds before the road tipped up ever so slightly. While traveling light like at the Brevet, this weekend was full of food and photo stops. The first of these was at on a bit of old highway that had become obsolete as the road was realigned. The casual nature of the trip was a real highlight, and the stops were a great chance to relax, especially when the sun was out.
The map showed a few little communities along the way. I joked at a sign before one which was advertising "Safer Communities" - a collaborative effort by the Police and locals; it looked to me like "Welcome to Sherenden, home of a public toilet" so prominent were the stylised figures of Man and Woman standing next to each other. We stopped at Otamauri School for elevenses.
|There's snow in them there hills...
|Steep?! No shit...
By the time I took that last one, I was getting well over this riding lark. My legs and arms were tired, my arse sore, and my mind beginning to weaken. I'd had enough of admiring (and possibly coveting) Simon's wicked looking Ground Effect Juggernauts. Looks like I'll be adding to my fleet of 4 pairs of Supertankers this summer. Despite beginning to waver, or, as is probably more accurate, despite wavering all over the road, there were reasonably frequent highlights. Short sections of unsealed road were a blast, and each of the river crossings and high saddles were pretty neat.
|The climbs were starting to feel like a grovel...
I was well broken by the time we crossed a stunning old suspension bridge, running parallel with the road. We faffed around for a bit, but finally got the money shot.
By the time I reached the top of the next hill, I was rooted. Simon had finished putting his storm gear on, and I did the same, trying to keep the strong cold wind out. I was out of food (apparently), but Simon still had some vittles and was happy to share.
The final hill was a mere 150m or so, not even as high as Mt Vic. The climb was a steady one, over about 6 or 7km, one which when fresh, I'd probably have easily done in my 50 tooth chain ring on the road bike. This evening though, 22 x 34 wasn't quite enough, and I was reduced to a walk for a short section. Partly, I just wanted a change from pedaling. Mostly, I was too fucked even to push that ridiculously easy gear. The final calories in took the form of a Strepsil -- as much energy as a barley sugar, I was told. Keep moving was the subtext.
Taihape arrived at 7:30, the same time we reached Hastings to the minute, though our meeting was a bit of a disaster from my point of view. We went straight to New World and I shopped up a storm. I downed a small tin of tuna and some crackers, and followed that up with a muffin. Not yet sated, I started on a second muffin, barely stopping for breath. By the time that was a wee crumb on my lip, my body had started to grizzle. Stomach was telling brain to let up a bit, and brain's response was something like "well, what you gonna do about it, spew?" We walked to our digs, and I wondered whether or not stomach would take brain's challenge.
I made a pot of tea to see if that would ease things, and we both unpacked and showered. One of the great things about traveling so light is the packing and unpacking are pretty simple affairs. It's easy to decide what to wear as well.
We then made for the main street, and settled on Chinese takeaways. The $10 meals were huge...
... so was my ridiculous plate of left-overs...
That's probably the most food I've failed to eat, ever. I had enough room for a few bits of chicken, and a couple of mouthfuls of rice. Despondently, I gave up, and we slunk out. I felt pretty lousy, and wished I'd told the proprietor that his food was delicious, but that I was sick or something. After all, that was pretty much the truth.
We retired to the motel, and while Simon got stuck into the Dom Post, I had a nap. When he woke me at 10pm, he was offering me a chocolate mousse, of which he'd eaten about a fifth. I inhaled about half of what was left, brushed my teeth, and was soon asleep again.
Sunday -- Day 3
We got the worst bit of Sunday over and done with at the very outset. We woke at 8 or so, and immediately changed our watches to 9. Razzin' frazzin' daylight savings robbing me of a precious hour of sleep, I think...
I ate the last of the chocolate mousse, Simon didn't even notice, and crumpets with nutella soon chased that down. We stocked up at the servo, and I had a cup of coffee and we shared some sort of kumara pattie. The roads were dry, and the wind was at our 6...
As we rolled out of Taihape, I could immediately tell that I was going to ride well this day. My legs felt strong, which surprised me after the shambolic previous evening. Today was shorter than both Days 1 and 2, and, I was well trained now, having nailed a couple of long rides in advance of today's duties.
We knocked the 7 or 8km on SH1 out quickly, hanging a left turn towards Kawhatau Valley. Immediately the scenery improved out of sight, and we were treated to some great views into various river gorges.
Just as we were setting off from a snack-stop, Simon spied a "Gorges to Sea Cycleway" sign. I enjoyed giving him a hard time for getting so excited.
Finally, we were on the sort of terrain my bike was set up for. While it feels OK on the tarmac, the big volume tyres are sluggish. On the gravel though, the bike really comes to life. The 29er front wheel and rigid carbon fork soak up all but the worst bumps, and the stiff rear end gives good bang for my pedaling buck. The descent from our wee picnic stop at Auputa Scenic Reserve was stunning. There was a big stand of mature kahikatea on our right, and the gravel road was a hoot and necessitated regular photo stops... My cell phone camera struggled to get Simon in the right place at the right time, though he was a good sport about it!
He seemed to have much better control of his camera!
At some point, buggered if I can remember quite where, we hit the seal for a while, and apparently joined a recent race-route.
Not long after the sheep, we had a stunning gravel descent, before a climb or two and our next stop. I proudly produced a twin pack of salami I'd got at Apiti. Simon didn't hesitate a second before turning my kind offering down. Likewise, I didn't hesitate a second to scoff it down. Tasty!
We'd been fantasising about all-day-breakfast at a cafe in Ashhurst, and while the town centre had slim pickings, I phoned in a likely venue only a few minutes after leaving Simon. That important job done, it was into TT mode through the gorge. I had a wicked tail wind, but with the armco barrier on one side, and cars on the other, it was a little nervewracking.
Shortly after a bunch of cars had passed me, I saw them up ahead in what appeared to be a traffic jam. Soon enough, I saw what all the fuss was about. I'm glad I still had my camera with me!
The engine looked to be at an angle of about 20 degrees off the track. The driver must have fair shat himself. I extricated myself from the makeshift carpark, and then took advantage of my slim vehicle for a final shot. Great views of the windmills up above too...
Then, it was back on the bike for the final kilometres back into Woodville. I missed the cheesecake shop by about 30 minutes, but was happy to knock out the 14km jaunt from Ashhurst in a little under 30 minutes. Not bad for a fella who couldn't eat his dinner the night before, and who had to stop for a phone call and to take photos! Gotta love those tail winds...
It was with mild relief that I found the car where I'd left it. A quick TXT to Simon signaled him to drop down a dinner order. Those scrambled eggs were just the ticket!
The drive South passed quickly, and Simon mocked me mercilessly as I described the delicious steak I was going to cook myself on arrival home. I screwed things up by eating some tuna and crackers at Mana, and dinner was off the menu. By good fortune the steak offerings at Woollies were unappealing.
The next morning I woke with heavy legs to a knock on the door. By the time I opened it, the courier was long gone, but there was a parcel on my doorstep. Opening it, I found a nice new saddle... Today, the bike got a jolly good clean, and the seat was installed, all ready for the next adventure... I look forward to it, knowing full well that the last will be very, very hard to beat.