Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/20/2009 - Ups and Downs, but Mostly Ups

I have to say that things went remarkably smoothly with the rear wheel. For a bargain price of NZ$21, my wheel was straightened with a new spoke in place and the bike was ready as promised at 9:00AM. I had already packed up camp, so after a quick ride back to the campground I was hitched up and ready to roll. Once again, gravity was not my friend as I found that the way from Whakatane to Opotiki was blocked by a steep gorge, so my morning was kicked off with a 400ft climb, helped by the thumbs-up of some friendly older Kiwis who were walking down (and gave me very amused expressions). The road I picked followed the coast and was shorter than the highway, at the expense of more up-and-down. It was worth it, though.

IMGP1362.JPGLooking upriver from the beach. Great day for cycling - scattered clouds meant no direct sunbeams of death, so less melanoma and less water needed.

IMGP1364.JPGLooking south out from the beach toward the peninsula. Note that there was not a single person on this beach.

IMGP1365.JPGI have a weakness for tree tunnels, for some reason. Perfect spot for a Scooby Doo mystery on a moonlit night, though.

Finished out the 25 miles to Opotiki fairly quickly, and stopped by the i-site there (information). Found some good news and some bad news. Good news is that there is a DOC campsite about 30 miles toward Wiaweka Gorge, giving me a total of 55 miles for the day. The bad news?

Well, let's sum it up with the understanding that things change in almost 25 years. When we did this trip then, we took the train from Gisborne to Wellington so that we could see as much of the south island as we wanted to given time constraints. As it turns out, a bridge has since given way, therefore there has been no passenger train service from Gisborne for about 15 years. It would be another 200km to Napier before I could consider catching a train.

Ah, well, will have to try a bus, if they are willing to take the bike and trailer.

Head out again after discussing cycling with a very enthusiastic guy (who was also kind enough to watch my bike while I made a trip to the little boy's room). He loved the Gorge and said it would be no problem. Well worth the trip.

That's good, because most of the other people I talked to about it first gave me an incredulous look and then said, "You're going to BIKE that?"

Off I go, a man on a mission. The flats soon give way to deep clefts into the rock as I hit the gorge itself (for those of you wondering what a "gorge" is, basically it's the canyon worn down by a river).

IMGP1366.JPGI think the brush has overgrown on the other part of the sign, which reads: "Welcome to Bicycle Hell." Or maybe I made that up later.

IMGP1367.JPGLooking up the gorge. Still overcast, which was great for this.

Actually, this part of the gorge was not inclined significantly, though it was long. Finished at the DOC campsite around 6:00PM at an altitude of 590ft. This, I was told by the I-Site lady, was "halfway up". Little did I know that this would mark her forever in my mind as a consummate liar.

Set up camp, talked to some other bicyclists, made a dinner of (What else?) PB&J, and was passed out by 8:30.

IMGP1370.JPGMy little camp. A little cooler here, but really the long sleeves were to keep the bugs off.

IMGP1372.JPGThe river ran just through camp. This was the old bridge, probably what I rode across in '85.

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