Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday Stroll

Sunday morning was beautiful - sunny and hardly any wind at all. There is a saying here, "You can't beat Wellington on a good day" and Sunday was one of them. We decided to go for a walk down by the beach to help loosen up the stiffness in our legs from the run the day before.

Walking along Oriental Parade we were surprised by a camera and microphone pointing directly at us. A reporter informed us that it was "national PDA day" - she clarified that this was "Public Displays of Affection" not "Personal Digital Assistant". She had picked us out as we were the only couple holding hands while walking along the beach. She asked if we thought it was natural to hold hands, and whether we kissed in public, to which Aaron answered "No". She then asked if we would kiss for the camera - to which Aaron answered "NO!" We carried on with our walk and joked that it could potentially be on TV - but thought we were too lame and scruffy to have made the news.

Unfortunately the final question about kissing for the cameras made the evening news, much to the amusement of our work colleagues. All very surreal and entertaining.

Cannon Point Run

Saturday, Helen and I decided to go for a run. Since we had heaps of time I thought we should go explore a bit. We ended up in Upper Hut, about 30 minutes drive to the north. I picked the track out of a hiking book hoping that it would be runnable - not covered with masses of roots or too steep.

The run started out with a swing bridge across a small stream. Then the track started climbing up beside the stream, crossing it occasionally on small wooden bridges. After about 10 minutes we reached a small reservoir and a group of hikers. After we passed them the track started to climb steeply. We managed to keep running for a while, but eventually had to slow to a walk. Luckily the track finally started to level off and we were back running again. Once we gained the ridge-top the track started to undulate. The steep bits were were pretty painful, but luckily short.

After a couple kilometres on the ridge we reached the trig. It is called "Cannon Point" because a tree felled during logging resembled and cannon from the valley. The track down from the trig was damp and pretty slippery. After a short tricky descent we emerged onto a logging road. We followed this most of the way down to Totara Park. We negotiated a short bit of sealed road through a neighborhood before turning left onto the Hutt River Track.

After another kilometre or so we finished back at the carpark. All up it was just over 9 kilometres and took us 70 minutes.

The route (sorry it is a bit hard to see, I'll make our track a different color next time)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Biking with the Boys

While Aaron was off running up volcanoes I joined the boys, Josh, Alan, Phil and Hilary to ride an NZ classic mountain bike route called the “42 Traverse”. The 42 traverse is approximately 42 km of track across the Tongariro Forest Park along old logging trails. The great thing is that it starts 900 m above sea level and ends at 550 m – so a total descent of 350 m. Unfortunately it is not all down hill and there are a few short steep climbs, a longer climb and several river crossings to keep you entertained along the way, not to mention the sketchy muddy rutted sections. It is obviously a popular route for the trail bikes too, as we bumped in to quite a few and there was plenty of evidence of their regular presence on the track.

The morning was pretty cold, as evidenced by the iced over puddles on the track, but with clear blue skies and no wind it soon warmed up and was quite pleasant riding conditions.
There are quite a few views of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu at the beginning of the track. Logging in the Tongariro Forest ended 20 years ago, so the area is slowly regenerating and has a bit of a prehistoric look about it. It is also a very strange lumpy landscape (highly eroded ignimbrite sheets for all the geonerds out there).

The boys raced off at the beginning of the track – probably because it was freezing and we all wanted to warm up. I tootled along at the back, where I pretty much stayed for most of the ride. We caught up with another group of cyclists about 2/3 of the way along the track and I realised that compared the average mountain biker I’m not so slow after all. Unfortunately all the mud took its toll on the bikes and several of the guys started getting really bad chain suck and gear issues.

We got to the end of the track at Owhango and rode up the hill, probably the hardest part of the whole track. Fortunately we were rewarded with a beer at the end, as the track appears to unofficially end at the pub. So we patiently sat in the sun drinking beer while Phil and Aaron shuttled cars.

Back at the bach in National Park we queued for the one outdoor tap to spend a couple of hours cleaning and fixing bikes up to allow us to ride the next day.

After much debate and consulting the Kennett brothers mountain biking guide we decided to change our initial plan for Sunday. The final decision was to attempt the "Mangapurua Trig" ride – although none of us knew anything about it - the description promised 80% single track and 20% 4WD.

Sunday morning we woke up to drizzle and low cloud - disappointing. We were here so we were going to ride.... we headed off down a twisty back country road in the middle of nowhere to the start of the track. There were a few vehicles parked at the end of the track - but they all had trailers for ATV's, or quad bikes, so this was obviously good pig hunting country. We headed up a relatively gentle gradient 4WD track through some farm fields - this must be the 20% 4WD track. A couple of kms in we reached a more forested section and the 4WD track continued - in fact the 4WD track continued the whole way to the last 10 m, a short hike up to the trig. So much for the 80% single track - what is the definition of single track? I assume it means you can't ride next to each other. In general this ride was less technical than the 42 traverse, with only a few muddy sections to make hard work on the uphill and entertaining on the downhills, especially for the boys with v-brakes. I think we almost spent more time in the creek cleaning the mud off our bikes at the end than we did on the whole ride. Don't think we'll be doing that ride again in a hurry.

Covered in of my muddiest rides ever.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tama Lakes Run

Last weekend Helen and I went up north with some guys from her work. They were going mountain biking and I was going for a run. My bike wasn't working and they needed someone to shuttle cars.

I did an out and back run from Whakapapa Village to Upper Tama Lake. It was just over 19km and I did it in about 2 hours 40 minutes. I ran most of it, but there were a few places where I had to walk – either it was too steep or the track was too rough. I felt pretty good the whole time and had an awesome run. On the way back I went a slightly different way, which took me past Taranaki Falls.

The route


Lower Tama Lake and Mount Ruapehu

Taranaki falls

Monday, May 7, 2007

Queen Charlotte Track Adventure (Part II)

After a wet night, where Aaron discovered he was in a slight depression and his sleeping bag got rather soggy from water seeping up through the ground sheet. Needless to say we got little sleep after that. We got up in the morning to low cloud and drizzle, we had a quick breakfast, packed up our very wet tents and left our bags down at the jetty for the water taxi to transfer to our next stop. This is the great advantage of the Queen Charlotte Track, that you can get a water taxi to pick you up and drop you at various jetty’s or you can just get your stuff transferred between stops. This meant we only had to carry small packs during the day.

We set off up the hill to the Keneperu Saddle. The track was slippy from all the rain – but not too bad and once we were on the ridge line the riding was quite enjoyable – even in the misting rain. We even got the occasional view down on to the sounds through the low clouds. There was a lot more farm land along the first part of the ridge than I expected, and the track didn’t feel quite as remote as it had done at Ship Cove.

One of the many coves in the Marlborough Sounds

The ridge line was fairly undulating with a few steeper climbs that saw Aaron and I regularly off our bikes, pushing them up the hill. Dave Osmond, however, was powering up the hills as if they were extra grippy grit - we shall have to find more unfit friends to come on our adventures so they don't get bored waiting up for us the whole time.

Dave Osmond

The descent down to Torea Saddle was a fun ride – although we were all going pretty cautiously as our brakes were not working very well as a result of all the mud. Our final ascent of the day was up the hill the other side of Torea Saddle. This was pretty brutal and after 5 hours of riding already I certainly wasn’t feeling the most fresh, so I was soon tramping up the hill with my bike. We descended down to Mistletoe Bay, our stop for the night, a very idyllic little inlet. A total of 35 km in 6 hours.

Mistletoe Bay appeared to be rather deserted, which was a little disconcerting as we hoping not to camp as Aaron’s sleeping bag was soaked. Eventually we managed to track down the manager of Mistletoe Bay and got access to a half renovated back packers accommodation. We didn’t care, there was a shower and a bed.

After a great night’s sleep we woke to pouring rain. After dumping our bags at the jetty to be transported back to Picton by the water taxi, we set off with a steady gentle climb up the final hill of the track. By this time only my granny gear was working as my back derailleur had seized up. Didn’t really matter – I’m not sure I would have been going much faster with a harder gear. We were riding through some beautiful forests alternating between large tree ferns and open beech forests, with some great views down to the water below. The track was great and we would have been flying down the final hill if it hadn’t been so wet and slippy and our brakes had worked….

Beech forests

We got back to Anakiwa at the end of the Queen Charlotte Track after 2 hours covering 12 km, had a quick snack before cruising back on the road to Picton, another 25 km on the tar. This was a beautiful ride along the road, riding along the sounds. We were deliberately riding through the puddles on the side of the road to clean off our ridiculously muddy bikes…. We were totally soaked by this stage so extra water was of little consequence. There were a few hills on the ride back to Picton, and I was almost looking forward to them to warm up. The descents were also becoming hard work as our brakes were almost useless by this stage. It took us an hour and a half to ride from Anakiwa to Picton and we were just hoping that our bags with dry clothes would be waiting for us. Unfortunately that was not the case and we sat wrapped in blankets at the water taxi terminal for another hour until they finally arrived and we had to sprint over to the ferry terminal to catch the boat back to Wellington.

So a rather wet couple of days – we will have to ride the last two days in the dry sometime and do some justice to those fun flowing single tracks through the lush forests and experience the great views down on to the sounds. Sorry Dave, we wished we could have provided you with better weather - but I guess it was a novelty value to see that much rain and mud after the last few years in Canberra.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Queen Charlotte Track Adventure (Part 1)

Dave Osmond flew in to Wellington on ANZAC day. We whisked him on to the Interislander ferry and over to the south island. The ferry trip over to Picton in the evening was uneventful, apart from the fun balancing act of riding from the ferry terminal to the hostel in town carrying a big backpack and small day pack. Fortunately it was only a couple of hundred metres and not much traffic.

The next morning we were up early to catch the water taxi up Queen Charlotte Sound out to Ship Cove, the start of the track. Ship Cove is a sheltered idyllic bay near the end of Queen Charlotte Sound, and was a favourite resting/recovery spot for Captain Cook, as well as the Maori.

Ship Cove pier

Captain Cook memorial

After a few minutes exploring the Cook memorial we set off on the QCT. The first part of the track was ridiculously steep and after 30 m I was already off my bike walking. This first ascent was a brutal start with no chance to warm up, and I think I spent a large part of the 250 m climb pushing my bike up to the first lookout at the saddle. After a brief stop to take in the spectacular view over Ship Cove and Resolution Bay, we set off on a fun, fast descent into Resolution Bay. The climb up the other side of the bay was much kinder and a slow steady ascent which you could just keep spinning your legs. There were several other groups of mountain bikers on the track and we kept leap frogging past them.

The track

We stopped for a snack at the top of the second big climb. There were some benches to sit on a glorious views of Endeavor Inlet. There were also some curious (both looking and behaviour wise) chicken like creatures running around. They are known as wekas and turned up quite regularly along the track.

The weka

Endeavor Inlet

For the rest of the day we followed the edge of Endeavour inlet to Camp Bay. There were masses of holiday homes along the inlet some pretty fancy ones and some total dumps. We reached Camp Bay about 2:00pm. We collected our camping stuff from the jetty where the water taxi had dropped it off, and during our explorations of the area found a small cafe where we rapidly consumed some very tasty hot chips. We rode for about 4 four hours, covering 26 km, and were happy to be done for the day.

After we got the tents put up in started to rain lightly. We crawled inside and played hangman while we waited for the rain to stop. It stopped long enough for us to cook dinner, but then started up again and rained until 8:00am the next morning.