Tour of the far north – days 5 & 6

Well this was the big test for those old legs – 152 km over two days including 1200m of climbing.

After a good night’s sleep I was up early. The horses that I was trying to avoid, by camping near the kitchen, decided that it was time to investigate this intruder and a very nosey yearling sneaked closer as he he nibbled the grass, eventually lunging at the tent. I shooed him away but he attempted to grab the pannier ties as he left, a sort of ‘middle hoof’ to me.

The horses appeared above my little camp site
Then this pesky fella decided to get up close and personal and see what goodies he could either beg or steal from me.

The honey bees had evacuated the showerhead over night so I took the opportunity to feel clean for at least the first few metres of today’s ride – 50km up the beach – three up the Te Paki Creek (without a paddle) and then 24 up some very steep hills.

About ten kilometres into the beach ride I saw a shape in the distance, as it got closer, I could see that it was another intrepid fool on a bike. However, he was about 40 years younger that me and obviously riding about 40 times faster – it was 10 am and he had already ridden 60km. He and his bike were covered in wet sand – he looked at my bike and commented that: “it looks too clean”. He kind of accepted my argument that it was hard packed sand where I had come from, I had not ridden down a creek and not tried to ride the beach at high tide. When I asked where he was headed he did not know – thought he might go all the way (to Bluff) – “going to be a bit cold by the time you get there” – it was my turn to offer a smug comment.

My clean bike looking very lonely on the never ending beach.

By the time I had ridden up Te Paki stream I looked like him. I was pleased Ruth could not see the state of the bike, she would have given me a good scolding for not looking after my expensive bike. She had told me to look out for quick sand but the only sand I could find was of the very slow variety.

Riding up the stream – it got so narrow in one spot that I had to stop as an all-terrain vehicle came sloshing down the stream – I ended up with very wet feet (pic below)

It was a hot day and I became concerned at the rate at which my precious water was being consumed, only to be processed and ejected from the body as perspiration. There are no shops up this way and no potable water, even at my overnight camp. As I hit the last two big hills up to the Cape the consumption rate soared even further and I knew that the thirst does not stop when the pedalling does.

These were killer hills coming at the end of a long day. Now I know why everyone bikes from the Cape. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the land (and these damned hills) was going to end – there was only sea beyond a certain point.

The sea closed in on both sides of the road – albeit a long way below me.
Last time we were here Ruth and I had walked to that beach way down there as we treked the Te Paki Track- that was hard work as well.

As I wobbled into the carpark at the Cape, it was not the lighthouse that caught my attention but a drinking fountain. I got a few sideways glances as I made a spectacle of myself at the fountain, firstly, laughing insanely as I gulped the liquid gold down. Then fossicking out all of my containers, filling them and drinking yet more. Suitably revived, I was able to take in the fabulous scenery of this place.

The bollards gave me a good excuse for not wheeling the Trek down to the lighthouse and the famous distances too sign. It was a hill too far.

I didn’t have too much time to mess around as I needed to get to my overnight camp, 200 or so metres down a 5km suicidal gravel road. I needed to get the tent up and the bike cleansed of all the sand and salt before the 75km ride back over some of those same hills in the morning.

Having survived the descent and finished my chores, I braved a cold shower, the water heated as it hit the body and was very refreshing. With my surplus water, I dropped a couple of rehydration tabs into a small bottle and gulped it down – I could not satisfy the thirst. I later drank a “Backcountry Cuisine” mocha – add a little water to the dry product. Needless to say that I could not get to sleep that night despite a tired body – too much caffeine – my eyes were popping out the head.

The wind got up over night as a promised storm started to approach. The tent was very dry when I attempted to pack it up but the wind was more interested in trying to disperse it around the camp ground. By 7:30am I was packed and slogging my way up the steep metal road. It was pretty blustery along the tops of the hills, just as well there was no other traffic on the road as the bike got blown towards the centre line on several occasions.

The beach at Tapotupotu Bay – one of my favourite spots in NZ – I guess because it is so far away.
After a restless night the dawn held a shepherds warning.

After around 28km the “shop’ at Waitaki landing appeared. With only a sickly sweet nutritious bar for breakfast I was craving something savoury. There was little on offer and the prices reflected the cost of transport to this remote area. I spotted a sausage roll that looked as though it had been in the warmer for most of the summer but ‘beggars cannot be choosers’. It was every bit as crusty as it had appeared but it tasted good – I must have been hungry.

At Te Kaeo, another 20km down the road, I was ready to try another sausage roll. Does 20km closer to the source improve the product? The answer of my little bit of market research was – NO.

I was meeting Ruth in Houhora Heads and as I biked into Pukenui about 3km from the Camp I saw the Zoe parked on the side of the road. Ruth was busy with the Find my Phone App trying to see where I was, I tapped on the window – what an App. I packed the bike into the car and I cheated for those last three kilometres.

Last stop at Houhora Heads

At Houhora heads I rehydrated with a couple of delicious beers that Ruth had packed into her dinner hamper, had a great nights sleep and drove home in the pouring rain.

Now the planning starts for the other 3,000km to Bluff. I have winter to either talk myself into or out of the rest of the journey.

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