Way back in July, Brendan had a cyclocross bike on order, and I proposed an overnighter that would be a perfect shake-down ride: following the coast from Red Rocks in Wellington all the way around to White Rock on south-east of Martinborough in the Wairarapa. It seemed like a good opportunity for a fun adventure, and also for Brendan to get to know two of my best riding buddies, Dave and Simon. All were keen, but the challenge of finding a suitable weekend was simply too much. The road racing season started, and with all of us having heavy family commitments, the idea was shelved...
... but not forgotten. It is very rare that I let go of an idea I regard as "good", and so it was that this missed opportunity nagged at me. Come mid-December, I was pretty raced out, and I had an increasing desire to return to my spiritual home on the bike: riding from Point A to Point B.
The Longest Day was looming, and completely aside from the Longest Day Ride being an actual phenomenon, it came at a very convenient time, nestled nicely in between exam marking, and Christmas. After a very successful (and very long) tandem ride back in 2012, I was looking forward to notching up another.
I made no effort to rustle up company, partly because I didn't want to reopen the coordination can of worms, but also because I wanted some solitude. As a result, preparation consisted of swapping out the suspension fork on my Yeti Big Top for a nice light carbon fork, and replacing the chunky MTB tyres with some semi-slick Stan's Ravens.
On the eve of the ride, I was a bit stressed about the beginning, having been reminded that Long Gully had removed access to mountain bikes, but, I managed to get Steve Watson's cell phone number, and before too long had his blessing to pass through his land. Had I not heard from him, I would've had no choice but to ride the Red Rocks track - not something I was looking forward to on my rigid steed. As it was, I had a short but stress-free sleep.
My alarm went off 5am, and I replaced my usual porridge which something that took a little less time (and was quieter) to prepare. At 5:40, I was out the door, and ready to roll...
|06:09, 5km. I managed to get past this amusing gaggle of geese in Long Gully unscathed. The ride up Wright's Hill Road had been a nasty way to start the day, but progress was good down towards the coast|
|06:22, 10km. Part way through the descent from Long Gully to the coast, overlooking Cook Strait. I always enjoy stopping here, especially if going in the opposite direction!|
|06:38, 14km. Here with some rent-a-rocks. A couple of my geologist buddies have since pointed out my poor form in not photographing the bike against bedrock... In any case, RED ROCKS!!|
|07:24, 30km. On a lovely little bit of track in Seatoun. I'd decided not to explore the cliff above Breaker Bay, but had hung a right immediately after Pass of Branda and found this gem|
|07:24, 30km. Steeple Rock. I spent a moment fondly remembering trips to this rock in my uncle Colin's dinghy, and clambering over it while he scuba-dived for crays and fish|
|07:59, 47km. Oriental Bay after a noisy ride around the Miramar Peninsula and Evans Bay. The big 2" tyres definitely (literally) hum along, in contrast to the high pressure slick tyres on my roadies which figuratively do...|
|09:04, 62km. I'd met Brendan for a coffee and a scone at iRide - 2nd breakfast, or morning tea, but definitely too early to call it lunch. This mini detour onto Petone Wharf was just about the only time I wasn't heading in the right direction|
|09:12, 65km. A neat little harbour near the mouth of the Hutt River. I'd stayed on the cycle path all the way from the Petone off-ramp, and the route through McEwan Park had brought back nice memories of the City Safari earlier in the year|
|09:15, 66km. In Seaview, with a nice view over the Hutt River mouth of the harbour entrance|
|09:33, 72km. A quick coffee stop with Sarah, who had driven there en route to Martinborough. The coffee was OK, but the cheese scone was decidedly not. The Chocolate Dayz cafe had been closed unfortunately, so we'd resorted to its neighbour|
|10:27, 89km. Just below the turn-off to the Baring Head lighthouse. The warm day and light sou-easter were a far cry from the shitty conditions that Kaitlyn and I had endured on our ride to the lighthouse a few months earlier|
|10:32, 90km. Overlooking the Wainui Coast Road|
|10:43, 93km. The size of this gigantic sign seemed connected to the amusing detour avoiding about 50 metres of road through private land leading up to the bridge over the Orongorongo River, which apparently there's an easement for!|
|10:45, 93.1km. Said Orongorongo River|
|10:46, 93.2km. I sincerely hoped that I wouldn't be taking 5 hours to get to Ocean Beach, but it was nice to have a distance for reference|
|10:55, 98km. Looking out towards Cape Palliser|
|11:20, 101km. This fellow was heading to Martinborough. I didn't take much time out of him on foot, but his very heavy load certainly slowed him down on the bike!|
|11:36, 107km. Looking up the Mukamuka towards Mt Matthews|
|11:47, 109km. Ocean Beach. A nice way to arrive in the Wairarapa|
|12:08, 116km. Looking across Lake Onoke (which until this moment I thought was Lake Ferry) to Lake Ferry. As the crow flies, not far, but I can't fly|
|12:30, 127km. About to head east on the East-West Access Road. The highlights of the road-bash north had been the wind somewhat behind me, and watching a crop-dresser landing on a ridge high above the paddocks it was working on|
|12:45, 131km. Plenty of cow shit suspended in the waters of Lake Wairarapa on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Gross|
|14:48, 169km. Looking along the old road at a couple of baches which are not long for this earth. The sea will be claiming them soon, if they're not demolished and carted away first|
|14:59, 170km. More new road, slowly on its way towards the ocean, at a guess|
|15:32, 180km. The wind was up, and was coming straight at our faces. Progress was really slow, but at least we were heading towards a sharp left turn, whereupon things should get a bit easier|
|15:57, 186km. Approaching Ngawi, with the golf course either side of the roads - not a golfer in sight|
|16:00, 187km. It seems no-one in Ngawi is keen to share their bulldozer. Fair enough, I suppose! It's not often you have an excuse to own one!|
|16:09, 187.5km. Celebrating after discovering a woman in a caravan selling food! My mocha was not at all great, but Sarah's tea, and our scoop of chips slid down very nicely indeed. And, it was bloody nice to sit in the sun for a while|
|16:10, 187.5km. Looking north-west, or thereabouts. Turakirae Head clearly visible, and Sinclair Head in the haze beyond it|
|16:34, 188km. Time to hit the gravel again, for the first time since Ocean Beach (and for Sarah, since forever). Not a great shot of Kupe's Sail, the rock on the left|
|16:40, 191km. It takes a while to see the seals lying on the rocks, but you know they're there well before, by virtue of the stench|
|16:51, 192km. Cape Palliser lighthouse. There were far too many steps between it and us, so we left that particular mission for another day|
|16:56, 195km. Remnants of an old farmhouse made for a perfectly good snack-stop|
|17:04. Very welcoming signs at this end of the track. We did shut every gate (that wasn't laden with a million padlocks), and had absolutely no intention of camping!|
|17:20, 199km. This was the most incredible sight - we'd seen it coming from a wee way off, and the evening light was accentuating its uniqueness. Mind-blowing|
|17:27, 200km. Almost completely devoid of vegetation, not much of this sandy section was rideable. But, the rain of the previous evening, and the odd 4WD that had passed through did give some opportunities to stay on the bike|
|17:30, 201km. We'd had glimpses of White Rock out in the distance, but by now it was an almost permanent feature in the view ahead. The reef in between it and us had very nifty wave patterns criss-crossing it, and by now, the wind was behind us|
|17:45, 203km. We'd safely negotiated a steep 4WD climb and descent, a big gate, but not the aggressive signage we'd see on the back of the last gate we scaled, thank goodness|
|18:03, 206km. A kind Canadian tourist was hanging out here with his (presumably rental) SUV. He'd been told he could bypass the private land at low tide by riding on the beach. Rather him than us!!!! White Rock really is white! WHITE ROCK!|
|19:20. A random stunning sight on the road to Martinborough. At Tuturimuri (231km), we left the gravel for good, and it was sealed road all the way home. A shame, since the Ravens always feel slower on tarmac|
|21:10, 258km. Finally looking down over the lights of Martinborough, very much looking forward to stopping, and even more, to something hot and greasy!|
Sarah had left the car by the Square, and I turned Strava off at around 21:30, with 263.6km on the clock, for a few minutes under 13 hours moving, and almost 16 hours since I'd left home. Sarah's loop had been 147km - a monster effort in itself.
Due to the hour, we had to drive to Masterton, and I thought we were staring down the barrel of my first visit to McDonalds since the midnight finish of the Kiwi Brevet, and my second in a couple of decades. But, we were saved by Pizza Hut! One of the best things about these rides was eating somewhat with impunity at the end of them, and that's exactly what we did.
We stayed the night in Carterton, before returning to Wellington on Christmas Eve to do some last minute shopping. I managed a (very slow) ride to Makara Beach and back with Sarah on Christmas morning, and a Bays+Hawkins ride with Brendan on Boxing Day.
Even had the legs not bounced back so fast, this incredible ride would still have been well worth it. I'm not sure I'd recommend doing the whole lot in one go, but the coastline offers some truly wonderful sights. It was wonderful to have Sarah's company, and mostly stunning weather. This one definitely goes in the "Roaring Success" folder.
|Here's the GPX file, and strava, so you know what segments to hit up...!!|
Happy New Year, everyone!