Tour Aotearoa a 3000km journey from cape reinga to bluff
To say the least it was incredible. We saw so much, met lots of amazing people and have many more stories to share. So to start things off, here is a small batch of images from my trip. Enjoy
DAY 1 // CAPE REINGA TO WAIMAMAKU // 208KM
Over a year of preparation and the day had arrived. We all lined up at the start and before we knew it, we were off. After 15km of sealed road we hung a right and cycled down a gravel road which eventually turned into a sandy stream. Clean, quiet bikes quickly became muddy and noisey with the sound of rubbing brake pads and squeaky chains echoing through the bunch. We came out on 90 mile beach and started riding south into a stiff headwind. It was a mad dash to reach the last 8.00pm ferry but we made it in the nick of time.
DAY 2 // WAIMAMAKU TO HUNUA RANGES // 253KM
We awoke early after spending our first night camped out behind the back of a hall in Waimamaku. Although none of us slept, as there were a couple of sensor lights that were set off every time someone rolled over.
We started with a good climb up in to the Waipoua Kauri Forest and unfortunately reached Tane Mahuta in the darkness. It actually took us a while to figure out which tree it was in our very weary state. From here it was a long haul to the second ferry at Pouto Point. We didn't have time to muck around so after a quick stop for food in Dargaville it was back on the bikes. The last section of this leg was a challenging gravel road with lots of hills and by the time we eventually arrived at the ferry we were all absolutely shattered.
DAY 3 // HUNUA RANGES TO MANGAKINO // 244KM
The next morning we got underway early again and 5.00am starts were becoming the norm. In the rush to leave, my sunnies had fallen off my bike and as it was dark I hadn't noticed until we were a few kilometres up the road. I reluctantly turned back in search of them and eventually caught back up with the group.
DAY 4 // MANGAKINO TO OWHANGO // 180KM
We woke to a misty, cold morning and quickly got underway in order to warm up. We continued on the Waikato River Trails before veering off and taking some back roads through to the Pureora Forest. This included a cool section which had an old-school feel that reminded me of my early days as a mountain biker and riding the 42nd Traverse. Soon enough we joined up with the Timber Trail and we climbed up towards the summit. Things started to get a bit boggy here and it was our first real taste of mud of the trip.
DAY 5 // OWHANGO TO WANGANUI // 190KM
It was much harder leaving the comfort of the bed, but a big bowl of porridge and a good strong coffee kicked things off nicely. We had a 2.00pm deadline to make the Wanganui River jet boat so there was no time to waste. The Mountains to Sea trail was a real highlight for me with some great sections of technical single track which I managed to cope OK with on the cyclocross bike.
DAY 6 // WANGANUI TO MASTERTON // 310KM
This was always going to be a long, hard day. It was our earliest start too at around 4.00am. We had committed ourselves to get to Masterton in order to make the Cook Straight ferry the following day.
The first few hours of the day were the usually the hardest for me. Tired and achy, it took a good while to get into it, and I was generally starting to feel alive by the time the sun came up.
Stumbling out of the local dairy in Hunterville with freshly brought supplies, I was greeted by Mum and Dad who had also got up early and driven down from Taupo to meet us. It was so nice to see them and very unexpected, although I wasn't at my finest. We had a quick catchup then I got underway again.
It felt as though the organisers had managed send us down every gravel road in the Manawatu which made for a great day as we traversed the North Island and then south towards Palmy.
DAY 7 // MASTERTON TO PELORUS // 198KM
Another 5.00am start came around far quicker than we would of hoped. We found our way back to the course and jumped on a very familiar road that led into Martinborough. Here we were greeted by Wellington shredder, Johny Waghorn. He rode into the centre with us as we shared stories then we parted ways.
The next stretch into Featherston was horrible and a very strong headwind made for a slow journey. We eventually changed course and the wind was behind us as we rolled into Wellington with a big group of local supporters.
I had worn out my rear tire, so I quickly went and put a new one on, then met the boys at the ferry terminal where we hung around and waited for our slightly delayed departure.
DAY 8 // PELORUS TO MARUIA SADDLE // 248KM
After a good night sleep at the DOC campsite we awoke at 4.30am for a 5.00am departure. By this stage I had my routine sorted. I was able to get my gear packed up a little faster than I could in the beginning, so I'd give myself a few extra minutes sleep.
We had a gentle start on a gravel road before reaching the base of the Maungatapu which I'd never been up before. I'd heard it was going to be one of the toughest climbs on the tour and I tend to agree it was. We started climbing in the darkness and by the time we reached the top the sun had come up and over the hill. A rough decent from the summit slowly led us into the Maitai Valley and before long we'd arrived in Nelson.
DAY 9 // MARUIA SADDLE TO KUMARA // 217KM
Starting early meant we missed seeing some of the stunning Maruia Saddle track in the daylight. We rolled in to Reefton just in time for morning tea, and in my opinion visited the best cafe of the trip. We made sure we ate lots and stuffed away plenty of goodies in our bags for the next section through the Big River and Waiuta Tracks.
I had a blast through here. Wonderful moss lined single track padded with cornflake like leaf litter. The scenery was stunning and the trails technically challenging especially with a bit of weight on the bike.
DAY 10 // KUMARA TO PINE GROVE MOTEL // 275KM
The West Coast lived up to all my expectations. Having a perfect weather window must of also helped.
Day 10 we set off in the dark again and contined on the Wilderness Trail climbing up to the high point inland. After dawn broke I started to freeze. We’d just gone past Cowboy Paradise and I couldn’t feel my fingers. I had to stop and pretty much put on every layer I had to try and warm up.
DAY 11 // PINE GROVE MOTEL TO ARROWTOWN // 291KM
Pine Grove Motel turned out to be a little gem in the middle of nowhere. We had a great night sleep in our tiny cabin which set us up for what would turn out to be our second longest day.
Not long after setting off, I saw a light up the road and I was curious as to who it could be. It didn’t take long to catch up, and when we eventually did we realised it was Steve. He’d roughed it and tried to sleep beside the road somewhere, but hadn’t had much luck so was feeling a bit worse for wear. He made me laugh when he told me, he'd actually fallen asleep while taking a wee. He must of been tired!
Arriving in Haast at the local cafe, we came across a familar face. It was Cliff Clearmont who I’d only met briefly on the Pouto Point ferry. He stuck around and we all shared stories before continuing on. Steve decided to hold back, but it would turn out we’d catch up later on in Queenstown.
Having Cliff join us changed the dynamic of the group. We were all pretty keen to get into a rhythm so started lapping it out hard until the base of Haast Pass. I was feeling good so decided I'd attack the climb and wait at the top.
DAY 12 // ARROWTOWN TO BLUFF // 290KM
Today we were able to get up at the more respectable hour of 5.30am. The Earnslaw ferry departure was at 10.00am which gave us enough time to ride into Queenstown and have a nice breakfast by the waterfront. Everyone was in good spirits and the end felt near. We boarded the ferry and sat down for another coffee while we cruised across Lake Wakatipu.
When we got off the ferry the pace was on. Jeff was sitting on the front and was on a mission. We hit the first big climb coming out of Walter Peak and the group quickly split up. By the top of the hill I found myself out in front with a fairly decent gap. I'd usually stick around, take some photos and wait for the others but this time it was different.