Blog // Tales from the trail
- Total distance - 72 km
- Total gravel - 0 km
- Time taken ~ 7 hours
- Steep hills - 3
- No. lifts offered - 1
- No. waterfalls missed - 1
Well it's true what they say about stiffness being worse on the second day; even the magic of the hot springs wasn't able to alleviate it. Keith did his best to gee me out of 'bed' that morning but with only the prospect of a long, hard cycle to entice me, it took some geeing. Managing breakfast, washing up and then packing everything back up to go on the bikes was also a bit of a lengthy experiment, particularly rolling up the 'unpackables' and making them stay inside the blue tarp, but no doubt, Keith would have an efficient system in place soon... We pedalled out by 10am, the Christmas cake crew waving us off, some, rather embarrassingly, taking photos of us; we were probably the most unpolished cyclists they'll ever meet! It suddenly dawned on me that the last part of our cycle into Kawhia, a cul-de-sac town, had been downhill which could only mean... 5 km uphill later and I was most definitely awake and my legs were already starting to burn.
For some reason, the 'apps' on my phone had decided to take advantage of the terribly weak Wi-Fi signal at the campsite to do a mass update (without my permission) - including the only one we really needed at that point in time - GoogleMaps. Not before long we were in black-out 'no-service' territory and all updates only barely begun had frozen and GoogleMaps was out of action. Fortunately, as far as we were aware, there was only one road to take, once we had 'cruised around the bay, past the yellow house on the hill, 2 km after which we needed to turn right', but we were going to miss tracking how far we'd come and more importantly during these hilly times, how far we had to go.
We swept around the bay with the wind teasingly behind us, past the yellow house and turned right. We seemed to be making good progress, and the rain that was threatening earlier had disappeared. At the top of a bit of a climb where we were grabbing a quick drink break, a pick-up drove past, stopped and reversed back to where we were stood. Wondering what we had done wrong, it turned out nothing it was a nice man taking pity on us. He stuck his head out with the genuinely kind, and almost unbelievable offer "Do you want to throw your bikes in the back? I'm going your way." (there was only one way); we foolishly smiled and said "thanks, but no thanks". Foolishly because we hadn't really even started and the day was just hotting up! For the next 70 km, we hardly saw a soul on the roads or in the little hamlets, that we cycled through, which were so small that blink and you'd miss them. We were on our own with the cows and the sheep and only the occasional road sign to guide us.
The journey might not have been so tough, had it not been so damn hot, not a cloud in the sky, and for the change from the earlier tailwind to a strengthening headwind. As we wound around the lake we crossed a bridge and hit the bottom of the valley, gently cycling through the beautiful hills.
The uphills weren't long but they were frequent although we were rewarded with some short downhill sections the other end - 'Enjoy them, they're free miles', someone had wisely told us. At about 4pm, completely drained from the sun, we hit a devastating climb for that point in the journey and still with not much idea about how far we had to go, but we were fingers-and-toes-crossed hoping that it wasn't, couldn't be, much further. We hit the top, a T-junction, and struggling to get our breath back we saw a distance sign. Sadly, there was still a few hours of riding to go, so after murdering a handful of dates, we plodded on.
Hitting the big lights of 'Te Anga' which by all accounts, wasn't anything apart from a name on a map, we almost missed our final sign. Screeching to a halt, we had 'Marakopa 12 km' signed one way and 'Marakopa Falls 5 km' signed the other. Decisions. While the thought of cooling waterfalls was very appealing, the thought of an additional 10 km onto our journey most certainly was not and we turned down towards Marakopa into a howling headwind. Deciding to make a quick refuel stop in a shady spot on the side of the road was a wise decision because those 12 km seemed a whole lot longer with the wind blowing us back in the open valley. We passed a sign welcoming us to Marakopa but after that it was just empty green space, the odd horse ranch and the road winding its way through the bottom of the valley to....well, nowhere it seemed. Where is this bleeping campsite?!
Thinking that it literally couldn't be any further, because otherwise we would be swimming in the Tasman Sea, we suddenly passed a house with a sign saying 'Camp Manager's House'. Whilst wondering whether we should stop, we saw the left turn to the campsite ahead. Weary, we pulled up to find the campsite office closed. Cursing ourselves and each other for not stopping at the manager's house and the lack of mobile reception, a side door opened to the communal area and Keith dove in and found that wonderful invention from the old days, the landline. A phone call and a few minutes later, a grumpy teenager pulled up on a quad bike, clearly been sent out by mum, threw us some keys for the facilities and roared off. We pitched up on the near-empty site, crawled into the showers and pretty much dragged ourselves to the equally tired-looking kitchen to cook an unexciting yet delicious dinner of rice and sun-dried tomatoes.
Feeling a little more human, we hobbled over the road to watch the waves crash into the estuary, the light just perfect now, reflecting off the black sands of the west coast. We could just make out a small huddle of anglers - seemingly the only forms of activity and life in Marakopa. It was a good end to a long day and by 9pm, we got our achy bones as comfortable as possible, popped a pill (Dirk had recommended magnesium tablets to prevent cramping after long cycles) and promptly, passed out.
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