Richmond to Spooners Tunnel: final day - To and fro along the The Great Taste Trail - CycleBlaze

November 25, 2021

Richmond to Spooners Tunnel: final day

Completing the circuit

Disappointingly, there is no drama to report from today's ride. The dog behaves impeccably and I manage to more or less follow the trail. This makes for a pleasant, if unexciting day to recount.

We leave Bill basking in the early morning sunshine at our campsite right next to the A & P showgrounds. (A bonus for Scout earlier was watching horses and sulkies at their early morning trackwork session just over the fence.) It's an easy ride to the start of the trail which turns out to be a railway reserve - an old rail line converted to a walking/cycling path. Scout is free to run alongside and we meet enough dogs and owners to make the ride interesting.  We move on to country roads, heading for our first landmark, Brightwater.

These purpose-built blue bridges are a feature of the Great Taste trail
Heart 2 Comment 0
A roadside fruit stall with an inner life
Heart 2 Comment 0

At Brightwater, Bruce turns around to bring back Bill (this sounds like a tongue-twister!) while Scout and I pedal on to the meeting point in Wakefield. But first, a visit to the memorial of 'New Zealand's most famous son'. No, not an All Black or opera singer. Ernest Rutherford, the renowned physicist, sprang from humble beginnings here in Brightwater. His mother, according to the information board, was a highly regarded local primary school teacher who taught mathematics at a level unexpected for a female teacher. So the board said. Wee Ernest, later Lord Rutherford of Nelson, spent most of his adult years in England and Canada - and was claimed by both countries as their own. But he wasn't, of course; he was ours!

Wee Ernest, clutching his arithmetic homework . . .
Heart 2 Comment 0

We arrive in Wakefield early, so I manage to sneak an extra flat white before Bruce turns up. This café, like so many, is popular with retirement-age cyclists - in fact, I wonder how the nation's cafés would survive without active old-age pensioners like us to prop them up during daytime hours. So here we both are, sitting with the other fluoro-vested ones at Rhubarbe-with-an-e for a leisurely morning break - and a superb date pinwheel scone. There is warmth in the sun, the dog is asleep at our feet; all is right with the world.

Eventually, though, the trail calls. The final logistical piece of the Great Taste puzzle falls into place: Bruce and Bill will drive to the far side of Spooners Tunnel (where we began four days ago) while the dog and I carry on as we are. Bruce will bike back to Brightwater, throwing me the keys to Bill as we cross on the trail . . somewhere. Simple.

Eagle-eyed readers (if such a category exists) may note a few extra red lines around Wakefield on the Strava map below. Up until this tour, I'd have described myself as a reasonable navigator, sometimes even smugly pointing out to the driver the error of his ways. But yesterday and today have humbled me. Having taken the wrong turn out of Wakefield, I approach a  fluoro-vested couple on ebikes. (I used up my Phone a Hubby lifeline yesterday.)Yes, they do know the way out of town; why don't I follow them? Sandwiched between John and Judy of Mapua, I have absolutely no chance of straying as we make quick progress following the Wai-Iti River up the valley. There is some on-road and some roadside trail, but also some lovely single-track through bush. We farewell each other once John is convinced I know where I'm going. They are heading up the Quail valley while I am about to begin the ascent to Spooners Tunnel.

The last section of trail is a 5km forestry road, metalled but in good condition, rising gently to the tunnel's portal. For the first time on this tour, I have to unhitch Scout's trailer to get through the barrier at each end of the tunnel.

A quick stop to switch on headlamps, then through we go
Heart 1 Comment 0

 Built in the 1890s, Spooners is the world's 5th longest tunnel  (at 1.35 km) that is open to cyclists and walkers. Inside, it is well-paved and dry and, with good lights, easy to navigate. BUT I find it extremely claustrophobic. I talk about this with Bruce later and he has exactly the same experience on his solo ride through. We both feel as though a monster is lurking over our shoulder, waiting to pounce. The light at the end of this tunnel can't come soon enough.

But it does come, and - with it - the end of our Great Taste journey. This has been an excellent adventure, reassuring us that we can tackle more of New Zealand's Great Rides with the dog in tow. As it turns out, I am the only one of the three of us to have ridden every kilometre of the trail (I'm leaving Bill out of the equation). So it's not all about the dog after all.

Through, under and over the gates . . .
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 39 km (24 miles)
Total: 170 km (106 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 4
Comment on this entry Comment 4
Rachael AndersonSorry to see it end!
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Robyn RichardsNow we are thinking what other multi-day trails we can do with the dog. We'll be back!
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Carolyn van HoeveGreat journal Robyn! And good on you for pulling off all the complicated logistics and having such a great adventure with Scout. I'm sure there will be more to come!
Reply to this comment
2 days ago
Robyn RichardsThanks, Carolyn!
Reply to this comment
2 days ago