Blog // Tales from the trail
- Total distance - 47 km
- Time taken ~ 3.5 hours
- Number of saddles - 1
- Elusive tailwind? - Hell YES
After 3 glorious days without cycling, without even really looking at the bikes, it was time to don the padded lycra shorts and hi-viz vests again and get on our way to our next stop, Oaonui, not too far away but with two potential routes. We could brave the coast road around the headland and more potential headwinds or we could cut the corner and cycle over the saddle of Mt. Taranaki. Heeding Malcolm and Melanie's advice, clearly more experienced cyclists, who said that while the saddle was a long, slow climb, they much preferred the route to the coastal road which saw a fair amount of traffic.
Saying our goodbyes and thanks for the luxurious rest, we were waved off, our first hill being of the down variety. After 3 days of relative inactivity I though that my legs would be fresh and strong but they felt slow and heavy. The first hour almost was a bit of a trudge, though the road looked flat it was gradually creeping up, passing between the base of Taranaki and the hills on the other side.
Legend has it that Taranaki used to sit alongside Mountains Ruapehu and Tongariro in the centre of the north island. Taranaki was married to the beautiful Ruapehu but after an affair between her and Tongariro, a fight for the girl ensued and Taranaki lost and was banished west to where he now sits all alone. A sad tale but on the positive side, Taranaki has a lot of influence over the local climate and high productivity of the area and is a thoroughly impressive sight.
We finally hit the top of the ridge, which turned from an open upwards hill to a bush-lined and tight, windy road which was more akin to a mountain bike trail and much more fun to ride. Though, every time we got to a peak, thinking we'd broken the back of it, the short downhill would twist back up again. We eventually hit our left turn and with it one of those frustratingly-elusive, until now, tailwinds, I'd heard about but not experienced. A westerly was blowing straight off the sea and took us with it, taking us up over the hills. It was incredible how much easier it made the riding and before we could say "Wham, bam, thank-you ma'am!", we had hit our destination in time to catch Taranaki peeping through the clouds.
We were going to stay with an old-skool mate of mine, Nathan, who I hadn't seen for a long, long time and I was starting to get excited and nervous all at the same time. The house number though was in the hundreds, but as far we could see there were only a handful of houses on the long road so we weren't entirely sure we were in the right place. As it turns out, the house number is actually a measure of the distance from the house to the main road, the surf highway on the coast which was quite a logical numbering system really. Finding the letter box parked outside on the road, I popped my head into the garden to see if it was indeed where we should be and was greeted by a spray of water from above. John, I came to learn was the house-owner and Nate's room-mate, was giving the roof a good old clean with a high-pressure hose. 'Nate's inside', he cried through the mist. And he was too! It wasn't long before we had beers in hand and were reminiscing over the good old days.
Getting a tour of John's lush and hilly piece of land that he had bought a few years ago, we learnt about the beast-sized eels that live in the little brook running through, the trees that were used for timber, the chickens that were used for eggs and the small herd of pretty cows, which would one day be dinner. "Home kill", Nate said matter-of-factly, "that's just how it is." As a meat eater it makes so much sense to have a connection with and a responsibility for how the animal is reared and looked after before it becomes part of the food-chain. We had a delicious spag-bol that night courtesy of one of John's previous cows, which was rustled up and eaten in a bit of a merry blur.
Some beers later, rosy-cheeked, we all called it a night, our 'no dramas!' host going to great lengths to look after us. After a strong coffee and a BLT the next morning to combat the foggy heads, we set off to Opunake, 'the jewel of the south' according to the boys, and beyond, along the appealingly-named Surf Highway #45.
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