Over winter I have been trying to get out for a bike ride each week but confess that the thought of the winter wind chill blasting my delicate legs is usually enough to kill my enthusiasm and limit any exercise to walking. However, on Friday I ‘bit the bullet’ and rode. It was actually very enjoyable and as I pedalled along, I decided that I must encourage Ruth back onto the bike for a few short rides before we get back into some ‘serious’ cycling in Spring and early summer.
I was a little surprised when Ruth came in from work that same day and announced that we were joining a colleague and her partner to ride from Okaihau to Horeke, -a ride of around 29(ish) km. Ruth never volunteers to ride 29km, especially when she is in her post-travels ‘I am never riding a bike again’ phase – a phase which usually lasts 4-6 months.
“This is great” I enthused, I have always wanted to do that ride but, um, how come?” It is really important to find out what the motivation is as you can use the same encouraging words in the future. “It is all downhill” she responded. “Ah”, maybe Sarah had read my blog post on how to get Ruth to participate in a ride. The downhill argument is very persuasive, especially if you add ALL downhill.
The air was pretty crisp when when Sarah and John collected us on Saturday morning but, despite the chill, we were looking forward to this ride. It was the last section of the Twin Coast Trail that had only recently been completed.
We gave the day a chance to warm up a little by dwelling over a coffee at the cafe in Okaihau. This village was once the northern most terminus of the railway line through the North Island but like so many rail lines in NZ, trains are just a distant memory (for old people) and the track is now a cycle trail.
You could not help but notice the elevation of the village. Furthermore, the surrounding countryside did not look terribly ‘Ruth-friendly’. However, we were heading towards a harbour and that meant that we had to get down into one of the surrounding valleys – Ruth was convinced and eager to get underway.
After about 5km of riding along the flat, but interesting, countryside we came to a sign displaying a rider going over their handlebars – did some prankster know that I was going to be riding along here and put it there for a giggle. No, it was a warning that we were about to go down into one of those valleys.
We were soon following the course of a pretty, rock strewn stream and also soon finding that ‘all downhill’ is usually too good to be true. Ruth was beginning to show signs of her lack of ‘match fitness’ and by the time we hit the boardwalk on the harbour edge, some 15km later, I could see that she was ready to chuck the bike into the tidal mud.
But the Horeke Hotel, New Zealand’s oldest, magically appeared out of the mangroves and I noticed a little spurt of energy from Ruth as she powered the bike towards the finish line. We had encouraged Sarah and John to ride on ahead and have lunch and quite possibly dinner, while they waited for us to catch up. There was even accommodation should we not make it before Sunday. When we staggered in through the door, they politely told us that it was their first drink although I did notice that they were already on a first name basis with the other patrons.
The publican shared his wealth of knowledge about the very interesting history of this part of NZ. In addition to the first pub, it also boasted the first post office and was the site of a bustling ship building industry. Food was served and a couple of cold beers were downed, I even saw Ruth down a handle of cider and shortly afterwards proclaim how great she was feeling. Despite her cider induced bravado, the service thankfully included a taxi ride back to Okaihau which we were more than happy to utilise.
They have high hopes that the shiny new cycle trail would bring in some much needed business to this remote area. We certainly enjoyed the ride and agreed that this section was up there with the best in the country and, having a cold drink in New Zealand’s first hotel, just added to the experience.
We will head back again in summer, by that time Ruth will be leading the charge.