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Posts tagged ‘mountain biking’

Pathetic

Two days after getting home, I decided to bike into Hakana Bay.

I disregarded the fact that I had done no exercise for the previous month, apart from climbing into bed. It’s a 10km round-trip to Hakana Bay with 800ft straight up or straight down, depending on whether you’re pedalling furiously or frantically braking respectively; I also considered this largely irrelevant.

Apart from a brutal uphill sprint at the start, the rest of the leg to Hakana Bay is more a trade-off between setting your brake pads on fire, or doing a starfish off the top of a cliff. Despite these tense negotiations, arriving at Hakana Bay I felt PUMPED.

Shame I couldn’t say the same about the back tyre.

After a brief stop to inflate and let Jed roll around in mud, we struck out for home. About 200ft up the road, I thought my lungs were going to explode. 400ft on, I understood what dying must feel like.

I dismounted the bike, pumped up the back tyre again, and started pushing. I was averaging a rate of about 2km per day when, at the hairpin bend overlooking the valley, we came across three loggers.

I stopped whimpering and paused for a chat because, you know, I’m friendly. Also because I wasn’t sure whether walking another step was biologically feasible. Also the back tyre was flat again.

Jed tried to intimidate the loggers by barking; the strategy had limited success because they thought he was a giant poodle. He should stick to farting. In a bid to win him over, one of the loggers threw Jed a biscuit.

Watching my dog pounce on the biscuit, I realized I was starving. Ravenous enough to claw that biscuit out of my dog’s jaws and wolf it down myself, except that Jed swallowed too fast.

“Can I have one too?” I asked with barely contained drool.

The Irish amongst you will appreciate how hungry I must have been. In Ireland, asking for a biscuit is a cultural taboo on the same level as pointing at strangers, or necrophilia.

Obviously taken aback, the logger said, “Aw yeh.” He proffered the pack. “Take a handful.”

I momentarily considered snatching the entire packet and making a run for it except that I could barely walk, never mind RUN. Also, there were three of them, and just me and a giant poodle.

In the end, I thought taking any more than two would be rude.

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Destiny’s grand design

We woke up to blazing sunshine yesterday, so decided to venture out to Riverhead with the mountain bikes.

“It’s going to rain, though,” predicted Andrew gloomily.

I ignored him, because:

a) Husband is a pessimist who often asserts things with no basis in reality or the NZ Met service; and
b) we’ve been together nearly 12 years (look, it would be virtually IMPOSSIBLE to pay attention to EVERYTHING that comes out of the man’s mouth) (although barf always gets my attention)

While I organised coffee to go, snacks, finances and dog balls, Andrew loaded the bikes on the back of the car.

As we trundled down the drive, tiny pricks of rain settled almost imperceptibly on the windscreen. Along Mountain Road it started drizzling in earnest, intensifying to rain with a definite spatter effect up Candia Road. By the time we reached Swanson, it looked like a blizzard outside.

We pulled up outside The Station Café and made a dash for it across the carpark; me with a couple of old magazines clamped to my head, Andrew using the dog to shield himself from the driving rain. Sitting miserably moist and lightly steaming over a couple of coffees, we agreed there was no point biking.

Driving home, the rain eased up, the sun sullenly emerged from behind the bank of clouds and, by the time we pulled into our drive, the elements were entirely agreeable. So we could have gone biking after all.

Evidently, the cosmos had other plans for Husband and me.

These plans being investigating the leaking differential on the Hilux, and lying on the sofa reading respectively.

Depressing that destiny’s plans for us are so pedestrian.

Introduction to frozen water

090723 Logs

Although we emailed sporadically, and I met up with Helen when I passed through Dubai on the way to and from Ireland last year, the reality is we don’t know each other that well. Up to recently, all we had in common was a mutual appreciation for floating in briny water in a manner similar to giant gherkins.

Still, three months ago when Helen asked me to join her on a road trip during her week’s holiday from Dubai, I thought it was a marvellous idea. The open road, floaty skirts, the drowsy scent of pollen, floppy hats, sunglasses, takeaway coffee.

As the date approached, I got increasingly anxious. What if Helen and I ran out of conversation? What if we fell out over fuel? What if Helen bit Jed? What if my snoring kept her awake all night?

Happily, my fears had no basis in reality. On the Sunday morning, Helen’s friend Cathy saw us off with cheesy muffins and roasted pears with cinnamon.

In Tokoroa, we stopped briefly at the lookout point above the town, where Jed tested the limits of his digestive system with a MacDonald’s cheeseburger plus wrapping and an empty crisp packet.

We stayed with another two of Helen’s friends, Kim and Seamus, on their farm just south of Tokoroa. They have three boys, Kieran, Mossie and Padraic; a poster of the nine times tables on the bathroom door; and the ‘ladder of certain doom’ on the fridge. We spent the evening chatting over a bottle or several of wine.

Next morning, Helen and I drove on south, giving Jed a run at Huka Falls.

090723 Huka Falls

The Falls

090723 Helen and Jed

Helen and Jed

090723 Me and Jed

Me and Floppychops

We stopped in Taupo for lunch and a pair of walking boots for Helen (to wear). I also bought a Tongariro 260-T19 topo map, and a Kiwimaps New Zealand Compact Travellers Atlas with six large scale regional touring maps and nine city and town center maps. It was tremendously exciting to know my location.

We arrived in Turangi in the early afternoon and checked out our accommodation: a spacious two-bedroom chalet for $120 at Creel Lodge next to the Tongariro River. The bathroom door featured a map of recommended trout pools along the Tongariro River. It really inspired my bowels – although not as much as the nine times tables.

I had brought two mountain bikes on the rack on the back of the Hilux Surf. After check-in, we returned to Reception to ask about the biking trail to the Pillars of Hercules.

“Where does the trail start?” I asked.

“No idea,” said Richard.

“But it’s on the Creel Lodge website.”

“Really? What does it say?”

“Er. Two hour bike ride, easy grade, fifteen to twenty minutes drive from Turangi Village.”

“Sounds lovely. Be sure to let us know how you get on.”

I whipped out my topo map and located the Pillars of Hercules. We drove about 10km south on the SH1, then turned left onto Kaimanawa Road. We parked 2km up the road, and biked up a logging trail that ran to the south west. Considering Helen had never set arse on a mountain bike, she did exceptionally well.

090723 Helen gets to grip with biking

Helen gets to grips with biking

090723 Coffee break

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo (above) that the cold was bitter in the late afternoon. It was a gradual uphill route, and a section of the trail was overgrown, so we soon warmed up. The puddles were all iced over – Jed’s first introduction to frozen water. He was understandably cautious about this this dangerous, unknown and potentially threatening new experience: galloping towards the puddles and leaping into the middle of them feet-first.

The path eventually gave onto a crazy Kiwi swingbridge, suspended hundreds of metres above the Tongariro River below. Jed was entirely dubious: he ventured out a few paces before scuttling back to firm ground, gaining a little more headway each time; then shot past me in the middle of the bridge to gain the far side where the whole process started again.

090723 Swing bridge

090723 Jed

090723 Pillars of Hercules

We carried on to the Urchin Camping Ground, then freewheeled down the main road back to the car.

The following day, we got up early and biked up Tree Trunk Gorge and north (this time) to the Pillars of Hercules again. In a bizarre phenomenon, although we returned to the car the same way, it seemed to be uphill in both directions.

We were on the road by midday. I am delighted to report that by the time we reached Auckland six hours later, far from running out of things to say, Helen and I had barely even started

090723 The way back

Surprisingly cranky

Mountain biking in Woodhill today:-

Husband: Why didn’t you cycle down that hill?

Me: You mean, apart from the fact that it’s semi-sheer? Let me count the reasons. First of all, I don’t really fancy breaking a fall with my sprained wrist. Secondly, it’s been a while since I mixed it up at Woodhill, so I’m taking it easy. Thirdly, I have a puppy trying to jump through my spokes, which is distracting. Fourthly, I have a husband who stops dead without warning randomly and lethally. Fifthly and sixthly respectively, I am tired and surprisingly cranky. Finally, I urge you to bear in mind that I do not share your cavalier attitude towards life and limb whether mine or anyone elses’, OR your wilful disregard for the laws of gravity.
<note: I did not actually say all that, but I successfully communicated the gist>

Husband: But you rode down there before-

Me: Well I was younger then, and more carefree-

Husband: You mean last year?

Me: YES, LAST YEAR!

Lower limb equivalent of a coma

Because Friday was gorgeous, I took the bike to Fairy Falls. Cycling down Turanga Road is always fun; then I cut across a section of bush to Mountain Road.

In the 500m from the bottom of Mountain Road to the Fairy Falls carpark, I figured out why it is called Mountain Road. I’d never noticed the gradient in the car. I’m pretty sure I broke the law of gravity several times.

After my walk, I wasn’t sure the brakes on my bike could handle the descent, so decided it was safer to carry on up Mountain Road. Over the course of the next six kilometers, I blatantly disregarded several biological laws as well as flouting more laws of physics. By the time I reached Scenic Drive, I was exploding sweat and could only wheeze. I still can’t feel my legs. They are in the lower limb equivalent of a coma.

Fairy Falls

Yesterday, New Zealand experienced ‘the worst storm in 10 years’. Newspapers issued dire warnings of power cuts and rogue winds. After battening down the house and storing outdoor furniture, I repaired to the In-Laws. As I drove to Mt Wellie, the traffic lights in Henderson pegged out.

The electricity is still down at the house, but that’s hardly anomalous Captain. We normally lose internet connectivity and/or power if the wind goes above breeze level

Auckland on better days, for example Friday

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