A whole different kettle of fish - Over the hill in Aotearoa - CycleBlaze

November 22, 2020

A whole different kettle of fish

Lake Ferry to Petone, then home

Generally speaking, you know what you are in for when riding a trail. If you're in the Hawkes Bay, for instance, you will cycle by and/or visit many, many vineyards on lovely level terrain. The Alps to Ocean, a stunner of a South Island trail, contains a hint in its title: you travel from NZ's highest mountain more or less downhill through picturesque scenery to - the ocean.

The Remutaka cycle trail, on the other hand, is a trail of two halves. The Hutt river ride and the climb to the historic Summit are undemanding (despite what I may have suggested earlier). Cycling around the little towns of the Wairarapa, or catching a bus even, is not difficult; there are vineyards as well for those who venture to Martinborough.

Today though is the wild ride.  The south coast has no wineries, no buses, but it offers plenty else. It's not for the faint-hearted. But for those whose minds work in a certain way, there is a need to complete the loop, to ride the whole trail.

Prevailing wind direction?
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After a wild night, the morning brings rain and a change of wind direction to the south. There is also that met service warning of high swells.  We mull over our options. Sitting it out by booking an extra night is my preference. I have a book. There are board games. The bed is inviting. But when TD suggests the obvious thing to do if we are not riding around the coast is to cycle back  to Cross Creek and head UP the steep Remutaka Incline, I have a change of heart. (Admittedly, a massive drawback of staying in the railway cabin is that we have run out of proper food and would be reduced to a single bag of sour snake lollies for lunch and dinner.)

Things begin harmlessly enough. A 5km road ride takes us down to the sea. From there we hug the western coastline (though out of sea-snatching range, I'm happy to note) of Palliser Bay. I try to take a few photos but it's hard to capture the grandeur of the landscape, the ferocity of the sea, while hauling your bike out of an ankle-deep ford (again!) Or pushing it through unrideable soft sand.  Or fighting the wind to stay upright.

As is the sign...
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There's a punishing 2km section of large shingle fans, which makes  boulder-hopping Tour Leader very happy and me very tired. I can pedal for so long, until a sudden dip or extra large boulders force me to walk until the terrain is flat and smooth enough to remount.

Progress is slow but we eventually round the corner to the south coast proper and to easier riding. Crossing the Orongorongo river marks a return to civilisation of sorts. We pass a carpark and meet walkers.

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Easier terrain it may be but for the rest of the way we are subject to the full force of the southerly gale. Mostly it is behind us, providing a welcome push, but when our route deviates from that line we're buffeted. It makes for  a quick finish though. We roll into the seaside village of Eastbourne and find an excellent French café (now I regret scoffing  those snakes), thinking we have a couple of hours to wait for the tiny ferry to take us to the big ferry.

But we remember there is an earlier big ferry, one that would get us home mid-evening rather than midnight, if only we could get to the terminal in time. There's no time to wait for the little ferry. TD has a plan. We wish the café au revoir , remount and pedal fast around the bay to Petone station, where a quick train trip would take us to Wellington.

It's Sunday though, national day of trains-replaced-by-buses-for-no-particular-reason. The replacement bus obviously doesn't feel the need to stick to the train timetable and we sense our cross-town dash may have been in vain. The three other people waiting at the bus stop have decided to be involved and are inclined to be more positive; they think we'll make it. 

And so it comes to pass. We arrive at the terminal dishevelled and still fully loaded with hydration packs, panniers and mud. Our bikes are whipped away and loaded onto a ute and we are marched up the gangplank.

Home is just four hours away. A pinot gris finds its way to our table and we clink glasses, toasting a successful mini-tour.

A fishing settlement near Lake Ferry
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The SS Paiaka, recovered from the sea in the 1980s as a memorial to the many lives lost along this coast.
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Scott AndersonGreat shot. I wish they’d done the same thing off the Oregon coast with the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which just keeps decaying away out in the bay.
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6 days ago
Robyn RichardsNZ has a lot of coastline, of course, and a lot of old wrecks. However, when I was 10 or 11 and living in Wellington, a passenger ferry, the Wahine, foundered in a storm in Wellington harbour, not too far from here. It didn't sink right away but 51 passengers and crew drowned, many of them up being washed up on this rugged coast. So I was moved by this memorial.
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6 days ago
He's there in the distance, somewhere
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And lastly, a tribute to my Dad, an adventurer who knew both the Remutaka and Orongorongo ranges well. He worked as an engineer for NZ Railways and somehow managed to convince those-in-charge that it would be a good idea for him to drive his baby Austin through the newly built tunnel before they laid the tracks. I wasn't  born then but this is the same vehicle that I learned to drive as a 12 year old on what is now the Hutt City cycle trail.

Bill Clover 1924-2014
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Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 198 km (123 miles)

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