Left Quinney's Bush Camp at 9:00 with the sand fleas chasing me the whole way. First stretch was on the highway which was busy but not too bad. Then the turnoff on Korere - Tophouse road. This was great. No traffic at all. Steady climbing into a slight headwind. First farms and then forests. Lots of Doug Fir. When the road joined Kerr Hill road, and the main Golden Downs route, it got busier. Still climbing until the mountains came in view. After Tophouse it was a quick downhill to St. Arnaud.
Once again I was exhaused by the time I got there. Fortunately the store and cafe had nice shaded picnic tables, and plenty of food. I expected Jelle would catch me here but I got a message from him that he was at a Warm Showers host so I headed off for the campground. Didn't get very far as right across from the cafe is the Alpine Loge and Backpackers. I needed to sleep so I got a room aned immediatly lied down for a nap. Jelle ended up here as well so we had a nice reunion and then some dinner. Tomorrow we head out on the Rainbow Trail.
Through Facebook Messenger I had been communicating with Jelle and I decided I would meet up with him in St. Arnaud to ride the Rainbow Trail. I had two days of riding to get there.
I left Harmony's place as early as I could get going and back tracked up the West side road on the Motueka River to Woodstock Junction and then got on the main road. I followed the river upstream most of the day. Traffic was not bad on this road, and the climbing was gradual for the most part, with just one really steep hill I had to stop and rest on a couple of times.
I enjoyed the town of Tapawera. They had shaded picnic tables next to a store and cafe. So I sat and ate and rested a while before heading on. There was also a little "Vege" stand as they call them where I got some kale for dinner and some plums. Less than 10 miles later was the junction with highway 6 where I stopped at the Flat Rock Cafe and ate and rested some more. The riding hasn't been that hard, but I have been tired. I stopped at the first campground I saw after that which was a good choice.
Quinney's Bush was a holiday park right out of 1950's America. It had lot's of room for camping and all kinds of family activities including a great swimming hole with a slide, a go-cart track, miniature golf, a big play ground and more. I had a large field all to myself for camping as the holiday season was now over.
I knew Harmony for a short time in the early 80's. We played music together back then so when I found out he was close to my route on the South Island I wanted to stop by and say hi. He gave me directions to his place. It may have not been the easiest route by bike, but it was scenic and a great ride. There were a couple of good climbs including Moutere Saddle and Dovedale, the later of which I had to walk some. The route started on the Great Taste Trail out of Richmond and then went through Upper Moutere, Redwood Valley. Dovedale, Woodstock Junction, Graham Creek.
The climb to Moutere Saddle was a bit disturbing as there was a lot of logging activity, as well as bulldozing down the native bush in preparation for pine plantations. I certainly get that people need lumber, but those native forests can never be replaced once they're gone.
Redwood Valley was true to it's name as I saw Sequoia and Eucalyptus trees. Really felt like California. There was also a lot of fruit, including some citrus. I passed by a strawberry farm where the plants were grown in containers on benches so that the berries could be picked without bending over. The nice lady working there gave me a few berries to eat on my way. Yummy!
Neudorf Road started off very scenic and then pushed skyward as it became Dovedale Rd (or something like that). It was steep and I had to walk some but then the downhill went on forever. I didn't know where it would lead me and it looked like it was heading into a deep dark valley that I'd never be able to get out off. In reality I was heading into the Mokueke River Valley. The Motueke River empties into Tasman Bay at the town of Motueke, but I would not go that far. Instead I followed a nice small road on the west bank of the river to Harmony's place.
Leaving Pelorus Bridge I had a choice. The more direct route is a rugged 4 wheel drive road which is not recommended for loaded touring bikes. Instead I took the longer route on highway 6 through the Rai Valley and then over the Whangamoa Mountains. At first there wasn't much traffic, but it picked up on the climbs. I had lined up a Warm Showers host in Nelson who said he was going to ride out and meet me. But first I had to get over one pass and start climbing another.
The first pass was Rai Saddle, which seemed like it must have been the big climb of the day, but Whangamoa Saddle is higher at 466 meters. As usual the downhill was over too soon and the road began climbing once again at an and easy but steady grade. I had already gained back a lot of the elevation when Andrew arrived from the other side. "Perfect timing" he said "we can get off the road here". Sure enough he led me over some rocks and through some trees to the "old road" which paralleled the highway but was not accessible to cars. It was great to get off the highway but soon we came to a place where they had bulldozed a big mound over the old road. This required some serious grunt work to get over. Since we still had more uphill to go Andrew offered to carry my rear panniers as he was on an unladen touring bike.
The old road ended too soon and we were back on the highway for the final push to the top. We stopped for a snack at the top where I made another costly mistake. My food was in a front pannier underneath my rain gear, which was wrapped in a neat bundle inside my helmet cover. I took out the rain gear bundle and set it on the front rack. After the snack I closed up the front pannier but left the rain gear unsecured on the rack, and then proceeded to speed off down the hill. Andrew is very fast on the downhill and was soon out of sight. I soon heard a car beeping at me so I pulled over. "Looks like you dropped something a couple of kilometers back up the road." @!%@#! First my helmet and now my rain gear. I could go back, but it was a long climb, and Andrew would think something happened to me. So I said goodby to my rain gear and kept going, feeling really stupid and depressed.
Andrew was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill and we continued on together. It was a long way to his place as he lives on the other side of Nelson. I was ready for a break but we kept going. We did stop at an interesting bike shop that sold a lot of Velo Orange and other vintage style stuff. I was amazed to see so much VO stuff in one tiny shop on the other side of the world. Very cool. We also stopped at the beer store. Craft beer on tap. You fill your own bottles. Never saw that before.
Andrew has a small house distinguished by 2 things. He has a garden on all 4 sides growing a wide range of vegetables and some fruits. He also has a small garage jammed full of vintage bikes he has or is restoring. Very interesting person. Thanks Andrew.
By morning it had stopped raining and it was looking like a nice day. Jelle had made arrangements to go kayaking this day so I headed out Queen Charlotte Drive by myself. I wasn't sure if we'd meet again but we exchanged contact info so that we could.
Queen Charlotte Drive started climbing immediately, but it was up and down as it stayed close to the which which was of course Queen Charlotte Sound. It was all very scenic, with lush growth and views out the sound. This is a very large body of water and the road followed it for quite some time through a couple of little towns.
The first of these tiny towns was Ngakuta Bay which had a wonderful and unique "give cyclists space" sign. This road is a popular route for locals as well as tourists. I stopped for a coffee at the only place in town, which was a converted camper trailer. I noticed they were also selling Sand Flea Repellent. This was my first warning, which of course I ignored and didn't buy any.
Queen Charlotte Drive ended in Havelock, which bills itself as the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the world. I didn't have any, but I did find a fishing supply/sporting goods/hardware store where I found a gas canister that would work with my Jetboil. After Havelock the route is on highway 6 to Pelorus Bridge. Although NZ highways have no shoulder, traffic was not a problem.
The Pelorus Bridge Cafe was a stop on the tour bus route and the place was hopping when I got there. The campground was quiet though and right on the river. Very nice. The water was crystal clear and fast flowing. Camping next to me was Camille from California who was on a tour herself with her bike and a camper van. She was nice enough to give me her contact info and said to call her if I ran into and problems and needed a ride. Meanwhile the sand fleas had discovered me. Fresh meat. They went straight for my ankles and feet and I had lots of bites before I covered up and put on some bug juice. That night I played my shakuhachi by the river.
It was raining when I woke so no choice but to pack the tent wet. Jelle joined me as I rode downtown in search for a bike show to replace the helmet that I lost on the way to Hamilton. Bike Barn had decent helmets. Then a stop at a cafe for second breakfast before heading to the ferry terminal.
The ferry ride was long. We met a couple from the states that was also bike touring. The gray skies soon turned to rain, making the ride less scenic than it could have been. Once again this would have been spectacular on a sunny day.
We got off the ferry in a squall. The wind had picked up in proportion to the rain. The couple from the states rode off into it, but Jelle and I started looking for shelter. At first our prospects looked grim, but with some help from a lady at a backpackers hostel we found a room and another hostel. It was tiny, and I slept on the floor, but at least we were dry.
WS host to train station. Train to Wellington. Train station to hostel.
It was a gray day, but not quite raining. Got to the train station in plenty of time. Got my bike loaded fine. The ride was scenic, and would have been more so on a sunny day.
Collecting my bags after getting off the train I spotted another touring cyclist. This is when I met Jelle (he's Dutch, it's pronounced Yella). I asked if he knew where he was stayig and he said he had this app called WikiCamp that listed a hostel with the only camping in town, not far from where we were. So I followd him along the waterfront and up the hill, and sure enough we were set. Later we went out for pizza and beer. Wellington is a big city. It was a real city vibe where we ate.
Hauraki Rail Trail to Te Aroha, then highway with decent shoulder. Warm but not too hot. Headwind that continued to pickup during the day.
I made my first costly mistake today. I lost my helmet. At some point I stopped for a break and took it off, and then somehow rode off again without putting it back on. Is this age related forgetfulness?
Wonderful Warm Showers host Heather in Hamilton. Tomorrow the train to Wellington.
Once again it was straight uphill from the campground. Tom caught up to me when I was on the first downhill. He was riding a Bike Friday. He said he was a New Zealand dealer for them. I lost Tom when the road turned upward once again. Basically the same steep gravel riad climbing that I have become acustom to. There were a few places where I got off and pushed.
Eventually the road took a dive down to Port Charles. Not much there except some vacation houses. When I got to the south end of Port Charles I saw a sign for the Tangiaro Resort and Coffee LaLa. Just what I needed before tackling the nect big climb. I was then back on the road and heading upward, but not as steep as the last grade. Here I was able to stay in the saddle and keep cranking. Pretty soon Tom came along in the opposite direction. He turned around and rode with me for a while. He still has family in Oregon. Then Tom and I parted ways and it was over some more hills and then down to Waikawau and then Little Bay. Mark and Nedilka had made a sign so I could easily find the place. They were at the beach so I relaxed and had a shower before they returned.
We had some excitement on the drive home. After an hour and a half drive we stopped at Coromandel Town and I got out. I looked at my bike and something was not right. It took me a minute to realize my rear wheel was gone. It had fallen off somewhere along the way. How could this happen? There was quite a bit of rough gravel so I guessed it just shook loose. Mark did not hesitate to turn around and drive back. We had our eyes glued to the road all the way back to Waiklawau when there it was in the grass on the side of the road, completely undamaged. We took another, more scenic road back to Coromadel through Kennedy Bay. Total detour time, 2 hours and 15 minutes.
That wasn't the end of the excitement. When we got home my front tire was completely flat. Further examination reveled that it had been rubbing on the bike rack and had worn a big gash in the tire and through the tube. I would have to purchase a new tire. Bummer because I really like the Big Ben's I have on.
The day started out with a hard climb, maybe as a forewarning of things to come.The views of the gulf were spectacular however. After a few miles of climbing it was downhill to Port Jackson. There was a fancier campground there, but little else. As the road was nearing it's end there was virtually no traffic. One more climb before droping down to Fletcher Bay. Some folks stopped to talk at the top of the hill nd took a picture of me.
At Fletcher Bay was another nice Department of Conservation campground. These are quite large compared to US campgrounds and quite sprawling. I found the office and enquired about the trail. I was relieved to find it was 5 Km long not 10 Km as I first thought. As I got to the trailhead I ran into the same people who had taken my picture a bit earlier. At the trail enterance was a step ladder they helped me struggle my bike up and over. From there the very narrow trail went straight up over bumpy sod, completely unridable. Undeterred I pushed. The folks at the bottom were watching and I waved when I stopped for my first breater, amazed at how high up I was already.
Then the trail entered a cow pasture and was barely discernable in places. I had to dodge the cow pies. I tried riding a little, but mostly walked. I ran into some hikers coming the other way which assured me I was not lost. Eventually it was up and over another step ladder, still steady uphill, some ridable, most not. The hills here looked mostly like California or Oregon in summer. Every now and then I'd come around a bend and get a view of the coast behind me.
After what must have been a couple of hours of mostly pushing the trail started downhill. At first I could ride but soon it became very steep with ruts, rocks, and roots. This would have been challenging even on a full suspension mountain bike. All I could do was hold on to the brakes and fast walk along side the bike. I meet some hikers at this point who were seriously struggling just to walk up the trail. At the bottom was Poley bay. I rested for a bit before even thinking about what was next. The climb out of Poley Bay was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It was litteraly push the bike a couple of feet, clamp the brakes, step up and rest until I caught my breath. At one point I had to take the panniers off, push the bike up, and come back for the panniers. It went on like this for the entire 580 feet from seal level to the highest point. That doesn't sound like a lot of vertical, but when you do it in less than about 300 meters , over very rough terrain, it is brutal.
By the time it started letting up I was pretty well done for. If I had come to a decent place to camp I may have stopped right then and there, but there was nothing flat. Everything was vertical and the bush was getting thicker and thicker. About then the trail came out it the open right on the edge of the bluff. It was starting to look ridable were it not for the 500 foot dropoff on one side. There was a nice bench to sit and enjoy the view, which I did for a while. Just beyond that the trail turned away from the bluff and looked very ridable. I started riding thinking it would only last a few hundred feet and I'd have to get off again, but instead it kept getting better and I was treated to some of the best single track of my life for at least 2 Km on down to Stoney Bay. The trail swooped around all of the little gorges with creek crossings, most of which I could ride though but a few were rocky enough that I got off. I could almost forget the pain I had just experienced with the joy of riding this beautiful trail through the lush jungle. Too soon I was down and riding into the campground at Stoney Bay.
The first person I encountered at the campground was Tom, originally from Portland but a Kiwi for the past 21 years. He knew of Mark whom he considered a legend due to his work protesting and shutting down mining in the 1980's. I talked to Tom for a while and then setup camp in a lovely spot behind a huge Pōhutukawa tree overlooking the bay. Very nice. Later that evening I was treated to a spectacular moonrise over the bay.