Hill Rage Strikes

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tarewara Cafe

Flag of New Zealand  , Hawke's Bay,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Graeme had warned us that the route across from Napier to Lake Taupo was horrendously hilly and could possibly be the toughest day we would face in New Zealand. In preparation for this he cooked us an energy breakfast of French toast with bacon and bananas, smothered in maple syrup. It sounds an odd combo, but was delicious and definitely something we'll be having again – probably in a diner in America. After two days in which he cooked, showed us around, helped plan our route ahead and generally made us feel incredibly welcome, we said our farewells to Greame (he was heading straight out to work, project managing his son’s factory build). Hopefully he and Robyn might visit England on one of their cycle tours (I tried to entice them with tales of Sailing Barge Alice) if not we will have to pop round again when we return to NZ as we surely will.

After a relaxed pack-up and leisurely supermarket shop (no shops for 150km) we headed out. I don’t think Mikey had really taken onboard just how tough the day was going to be as he was pretty relaxed and not setting out the usual drink stop/rest restrictions required when tackling a possible light fading situation. The first 15 miles were pretty chilled out, apart from quite a few big trucks whizzing by, but at that point we hit the first of many serious hills.

After two, Mikey realised what we were facing and got the hill rage. They were steep and mostly 3-4 miles long. There was no flat and nothing to do but keep toiling on and up. It was awful. We were both sweating buckets and going so slowly we were really worried about the time. At 24 miles we stopped at a very random pub in Te Pohue where we collapsed and had a coke. It was a very dingy and dark place, but as usual the locals were incredibly friendly. They laughed when they saw us and sadly told us that we had at least 2 more massive, steep climbs before Tarewara where we hoped to camp. The lady was very sympathetic but thought it was better we knew what we were up against – we agreed. We also made friend with a very small and cheeky little chap called Vinny who was extremely chatty and excited about the fact that he was four, had new gum boots (he went and got them to show us) and that it was only one more sleep before he went to school! He was keen to drink our cokes for us and after following us out to the bikes, even keener to make off with our crisps (not happening).

The two ridges we’d been warned about were enormous and by the last we were completely drained and still had 10 miles to do. A massive downhill meant we made up some ground, but then we hit more hills and with the dark encroaching got seriously enraged by the whole thing. By the time we reached another hill 3miles before our destination, I thought my legs might not keep going. We also started to feel a tiny bit worried about whether the place we’d checked out online might be shut and we might have pushed ourselves only to wild camp anyway.

Arriving at a deserted café, we initially thought we were right, but venturing behind it, we found the very helpful owner who offered us the option of free camping with only toilets or hot showers in his campsite for $15 a couple (£7.50). Soaked in sweat and now freezing cold, we splashed out the very fair price for hot showers and quickly put the tent up. The camp owner knew what we’d been through so sensibly brought over some beers for us to purchase and we settled in by the tent on some handy log stools. Once showered and layered up in the winter gear, it was pretty cosy and very scenic under the stars. We had a feast of chicken flavoured delicacies which had been reduced at the supermarket this morning – chicken flavoured crisps, then chicken noodle cup-a-soup followed by chicken flavoured instant rice accompanied by an obscene amount of broccoli. Mikey cooked, whilst I helpfully read my book. Although in the middle of nowhere, the roadside location turned out to be a noisy spot. The bull dog tied in the middle of the campsite took a long time to stop barking at us every time we moved (she eventually fell asleep in her kennel) and the enormous steep hill just up the road meant that the constant stream of logging trucks passing on their way to Napier port screeched their brakes all the way down. Despite this, by 8pm we were safely tucked up in bed watching a DVD on the laptop. At 9, I woke up and realised we’d both fallen asleep virtually straight away, so switched it off! Glad this part of the route is over.

Miles Cycled:  49 horrifically hilly and horrendous miles.
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