After bailing on my dear wife at Easter, it seemed appropriate to follow up soon after with a weekend away together.
Sarah swooped me up from work on Thursday afternoon, and we had time to run a couple of errands in Kilbirnie before getting rid of our bikes at the oversize desk, and enjoying dinner at the Air NZ lounge. In our haste to leave to board our flight, I forgot to grab a handful of mints, and had to endure a tough hour masked up.
We caught a shuttle to our hotel at the top of Queen Street and left our bikes in the bags overnight. The next morning after breakfast, we assembled them out on the street, and after stowing the bike bags in the luggage room, rolled down the hill to the ferry terminal. The flow of commuters off the boat from Waiheke reminded us that today, Aucklanders would be going about their business, giving us hope we'd have the island's roads largely to ourselves.
We got changed into our riding gear on the boat, and each carried a small backpack with civvies and a collection of extra riding wear which we were hoping not to need. In many ways, this is my favourite time of the year to ride - no need to lather sunscreen on, but nor is there need to faff around with highly functional, but otherwise pain-in-the-arse winter riding wear.
Our overnight accommodation was at a wee hostel in Ostend, and aside from a couple of stops to get some food for lunch, and coffee on board, we made our way straight there. Having dumped our bags, it was time to start bagging deadends!
Since my Karori caper back in 2014, I've become well and truly addicted to burbing, as it is now known. It has its downsides, that's for sure - it is very constraining, and an enjoyable ride is very sensitive to careful boundary selection. Even after carving out an area, it is also difficult to estimate the distance you'll need to ride, so you tend to spend the entire ride second-guessing its feasibility. On the other hand, you truly do see a place, and there's not been a single ride among the dozens I've now done, where I didn't say "wow", in response to something that a regular ride would never take you past.
From Ostend, we headed along Sea View Road, before dropping down to Onetangi Beach en route to the start of the Man O' War Bay Road - surely a contender for the coolest road-name in the country. As per the brochure we'd grabbed from the ferry terminal (including map), it was unsealed from the intersection with Waiheke Road, but great quality, and initially at least, a mellow gradient.
|Initially, at least...
There were few cars on the road, and they were vastly outnumbered by the number of "Private Land" signs we saw, leaving no doubt that visitors were unwelcome. Even the gate at the end of Stony Batter Road, beyond which was pedestrian access to a WW2 Coastal Defence Fortress, signalled that only pedestrians were welcome.
The climb out of the bay was steep, but there was some nice native bush to admire, and a few kererū hurtling about overhead in their usual glorious fashion.
|Looking down over the Awaawaroa Wetland Reserve
Our hopes that we would be able to ride the downhill were very soon dashed, when we found ourselves staring down a fenceline that was insanely steep. In lieu of steps, a rope had been tied to the fence to support anyone foolish enough to come that way. Figuring backtracking would probably have required walking as well, we picked up our bikes, and started lowering ourselves down the track.
|One of many houseboats in Anzac Bay
|My Pot of Gold and a rainbow
On the return trip, we stopped at the airfield to adjust clothing (yet again), and while parked up, were treated to a great display by a helicopter coming in to land. Our timing and location could not have been better had we tried!
|Best letterbox in the country?!
By the time we got back to the main road, we'd chewed up almost 4.5 hours, and it was somewhat laughable to think that I'd had some hope of knocking that part of the network off the afternoon prior. Even without the hike-a-bike, and the much-needed coffee stop, we'd have been lucky to crack it out in under 3 hours.
Stats: 141km ridden, and a whopping 3600 metres climbed
* * *
Intotal, we covered about 160-unique-kilometres, which, according to wandrer.earth, is only 45% of the island's network. A good excuse to go back and explore some more of the off-road paths, I suppose!
The format worked surprisingly well - the shuttle to and from the airport dealt well with the bike-bag issue, and the ferry out to the island with a small overnight bag gave us two full days riding over there with a reasonably comfortable evening in between.
My shifting issue had plagued me throughout, and my legs felt even more wrecked than they would have anyway after 6000+ metres of climbing. Of course, Oli diagnosed the issue straightway but sorted it out before I had a chance to see the obvious problem that I'd missed - the excess rear derailleur cable had somehow got wedged beside one of the jockey-wheels and was causing issues in the top half of the cassette.
Unfortunately, that is precisely the half that the surprisingly brutal roads of Waiheke Island demand! The highest point we traversed was not even equivalent to Mt Vic, but in 260km of riding, my total climbing was enough for over 30 ascents of Wellington's quintessential hill. Don't let that put you off though, just be prepared!