Blog // Tales from the trail
- Total distance - somewhere between 33 km - 66 km
- Total gravel - 10 km
- Time taken ~ 8 hours
- Steep hills - 3
- No. of cows - hundreds
- No. times Girl Sprout drawn to tears - 2
Magnesium tablets, whilst good for cramps, are also good for aiding sleep. On top of heaps of fresh mountain air and cycling, they aid sleep remarkably well. Gosh, we were stiff when we woke up from yesterday's marathon (another PB smashed!) and I was more than a bit grumpy at Keith's insistence that we should carry on that day to Awakino because a) apparently it was only a short ride of about 33km and b) some lecture about the only way we're going to get fitter quickly is blah blah blah... And to be fair there really wasn't much to do in Marakopa. Fortunately the only 'shop' in town (the campsite larder!) opened early and served up toasted sandwiches. A bacon sarnie and coffee later helped with the spirits but did nothing for the legs. Grudgingly, I helped pack everything up, trying all sorts of stalling tactics but Keith was aware of my games and we eventually cycled out together to the turn-off to Awakino. Rubbing my puffy eyes to look at the sign again did nothing to change the distance being shown - Awakino 55 km (NOT the 33 km I'd heard about!) - nor the intimidating-looking climb out of the valley, that was unfortunately 'open'.
I'm not sure how my legs got me up, but they did and the ride down was long and exhilarating, much like the scene out of 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' as Walter cruises down the Icelandic valley on his long board.
Feeling warmed up, we attacked the gravel road, which mostly flat, didn't seem half as bad as the stretch from Raglan, and we came out the other side. And then, 2 things; 1) Rain and 2) A terribly terrible hill. It was such hard work, the bikes feeling so heavy as we struggled to get them up and I'll admit to some tears, feeling very sorry for myself, tired and wet, and most likely blaming poor Keith for the weather. Unfortunately there was nowhere to take cover on the steep slopes on either side of the road, despite the dense bush and we just hoped it would blow over.
Blow over it did, just as we got to the bottom of that terribly terrible hill and stopped on the side of the road for a spot of lunch and cup of tea to warm us up a bit. This is when we saw the next distance sign. Marakopa 33 km - Awakino 33 km.... Huh? Doing the maths could only mean we were half-way, but also that this ride was getting longer and longer by the kilometre.
Pedalling on, we had already and continued to encounter fields of cows and sheep, all curiously looking on as they munched away. One particular herd of cows in a long, narrow field alongside the road clearly spooked took flight as we rode past; however taking flight in the same direction as we were going. All 40-50 cows ran alongside us for at least a kilometre, their pounding hooves deafening, until a fence put an end to their passage. Although I imagine they were running in pure terror, I'd rather like to think that it was their way of supporting us for the journey ahead. It was a unique experience and helped take the edge off the extra distance we had to cover.
The final hill almost killed me off, even the odd car that past us waved or tooted their encouragement, enjoying the fact that they were motorised. But from there, it was mostly downhill and after a tea and cake stop for a final boost of energy, we hit the bottom of the valley and joined up with 'Super Highway #3' and our first real sign of human life for the last few days. Super Highway sounds intimidating, at least I was daunted by the name imagining a Sheikh Zayed 12-lane highway kind of affair, however in New Zealand, this means a busier-than-normal, 2-lane road, with the occasional petrol station.
"A few more kilometres to the campsite" said the lady in the petrol station, which didn't have the food supplies we had been hoping for. A final push and we had made it, the campsite sign making me want to cry, again. Checking in just after 6pm, we found out that the nearest 'store' was in the next village, Mokau and that it closed in 20 minutes. Resigning myself to rice and tomatoes again for dinner, Keith gallantly cried, "I'll go!". Throwing off his panniers, leaving me with the tent preparations, he sped off to try and forage something different. The boy did good! Bagging the last order of the day, he came back with a well-earned feast of fish, pie and chips and some local fizzy pop. It was a mighty meal for two mighty sprouts who had managed to make it across 'possibly the hardest part of the trip' and we very much enjoyed it with a view of the rugged coastline.
The best thought before falling asleep that night listening to the crashing waves was, not the one about getting washed away, but that we didn't have to get up to cycle the next day, tomorrow definitely a day of rest!
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