Electric Travels: Did I just bike along the Rhine?

The car journey from Taupo to Ohakune was pretty much up-hill from Turangi and, up-hill is not battery friendly. Our available range was sinking faster than a stone in a swimming pool. Because we were not going down the other side of the ‘hill’ that day, the car performance data at the end of the day was a fossil fuel enthusiasts dream. Why the heck would you buy an EV with that sort of range? Of course the answer was to come the next day when the stats were an EV enthusiasts equivalent of a wet dream. 

THe rain had stopped and Ruth had knidly dropped me at the top of the first big hill – only 80km to go.

On Sunday we headed DOWN to Pipiriki where I was to be left with my bike while Ruth guided Zoe the 80km to Whanganui. By the time we reached Pipiriki, in torrential ride-threatening rain, we had not used any battery and in fact had added an additional 25km of range. In EV parlance, ‘every down has an upside’. In fact the trip stats for the car were unbelievable, we had an effective range of over 400km. The learning from the two days was; always look at the profile of your trip. If you are going to spend two hours primarily climbing uphill, without doing the downhill run during the same trip, trim your expected range back a little. Of course this is not different to driving an internal combustion engined car but when the next gas station is just around the corner you don’t bother about the stats. 

Jerusalem – I kid you not – there was a church there.
No castles above thr river, no tourists but still really impressive.
About the closest structure that I could find that resembled a ruined castle.

It took me somewhat longer to get to Whanganui than Ruth. 80km on the little Onya was testing both it’s and my limits. The bike handled it really well, I handled it ok, thanks largely to the chilly and overcast conditions. I suspect that had I been riding in the same temperatures experienced on the previous two rides there would have been a little overheating, especially on the last hill inappropriately named ‘gentle annie’.

The earlier rain had loosened the papa (soft grey rock) on the sheer cliffs – it did not pay to linger on these sections as sizable chunks of it were tumbling down as I rode along.

What a ride. Starting in Whanganui National Park, the narrow but sealed road winds in way along the left bank of the Whanganui river. I have read that it is “the Rhine of New Zealand”. Whoever gave it that description must had had more than a few bottles of Rhine Riesling before reaching that conclusion. With no tourists, no traffic, no people, nothing but bush, a few wayward farm animals and a sense that you are out the back of beyond. The only similarity with the Rhine was the water flowing towards the sea. I suspect that the same character had been responsible for naming the ‘settlements’ along the way. First I rode through Jerusalem, then London and a little later, in dense bush, Athens.

Athens – the last of the well known destinations along the river. Caronavirus fears must have scared the tourists off.

Without doubt, it was one of the better rides that I have done. The F19s little motor got me up the 1,000m of climbing and I enjoyed the freewheeling down. The beauty of being on the bike was that I could stop where I wanted and take in the amazing scenes and snap a few of them on my X30 camera which is still limping along. Ruth had driven down in Zoe and while she also enjoyed the slow drive, she commented that with such a narrow road it was not possible to stop where she wanted too.

At the top of ‘gentle annie’ hill
Finally, the end of the river!

We stayed out at Castlecliff ‘beach’ in Whanganui. The camp ground had a Type 2 charger and when I enquired at the office about using it, the camp owner said he was keen to come out and find out it worked. After my experience at Ohakune camp where the lock on the charger had seized up (through lack of use), and then the charger would only work after we tried a magical reset on their fuse box, I did not have high hopes in Whanganui. “We have not had many people needing to use it” said the owner of the Whanganui device, “it is a ‘trickle charger’. It wasn’t, in fact he had two reasonably fast chargers available. The one that I plugged into worked first time and this location is probably one of the best kept secrets in Whanganui. I got a free charge and he got a free lesson on the value of his his charging setup. A win win. 

Our next charging experience was in Palmerston North and when we arrived the charger was blocked by a trailer and another car parked in front of the trailer (but not attached to it). Ruth went into the associated premises and enquired as to whether or not we could get access – the owner jokingly said “that the trailer should be charged by now”.

The Zoe uses an AC charge while the only national charging network in the country, only provides DC charging. Not much use to us. While we are in the north, this is not a problem, but since Taupo, AC charging facilities become a little thin on the ground. Our PlugShare App tells us where we can find compatible chargers but the mystery is often the power level available. As with the plug owner at Whanganui, most plug hosts don’t seem to understand the significance of whether it is a 7.5 or 22kw output. We can top up on the latter in the time it takes to have coffee. The former would require us to visit an establishment where you could wine and dine the evening away.

Despite these potential challenges, our planning and research has paid off and we have not suffered any unexpected delays over the first 1,200km of our journey. The good news is that it has only cost us $12 for our fuel.

Zoe gets recharged at the accommodation charger in Thorndon Wellington

Ruth was very sceptical about my chances of making Whanganui but having arrived earlier than expected and still be capable of talking (coherently) and walking in a straight line, she started to get keen to join me again. We completed a 25km ride around the bike tracks and roads in Whanganui, 20km along the Manawatu river trail and today we broke our trip to cycle 21km along the Kapiti Coast trail from Waikane to Raumati. All three we very ‘Ruth friendly’ and declared a great success.

Ruth’s kind of ride – along the Whanganui River in Whanganui.
Do you try and negotiate around the back of the sleeping seal who is blocking the bike path? NO – it was only pretending to be asleep and was very territorial.
Castlecliff beach has plenty of driftwood – this person was rescuing it and using it to decorate their property.
Another Ruth friendly path – this time along side the Manawatu river in Palmerston North.
A change of scenery for our last ride in the North Island – Kapiti Island provide a backdrop for most of the ride – along with the South Island.

Tomorrow we head off to the South Island where Ruth is again going to desert me, this time at Picton, and hopefully meet me at Havelock. This ride is theoretically 35km but the proof will also be the number displayed on the trip recorder upon arrival.

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