The route for Day 9: Hikumutu to Pipiriki
Distance; bike 94km, jet boat 32km.
Altitude gained 1959m, lost 2151m.
1 pie eaten.
It is nice to wake up in a bed after a hard day previously, even if it was at 5am. My washing was dry so I only needed to eat & pack. It is cool out so I choose my vest, which I don't shed until 2nd breakfast time. I realised that I missed people yesterday so being a long & fine weekend there should be some people out.
I have 2 plans for the day.
I have booked the jet boat for 8.30am in 2 days time. This means I need to get close to The Bridge to Nowhere tonight to meet the boat the following morning. The other plan is to get to the top of the second big climb by 1.30pm and ring the company to change the boat to 4.30pm today.
In between, lie 2 big ascents. The first starts nearby and goes up 300m on gravel, but then rewards those that persevere with a 500m descent over the next 40km. I found the climb much easier that my
previous effort 4 years earlier. With the early start I made the remote Blue Duck Cafe, situated at Whakahoro on the Whanganui River.
This services those canoeing the river and anyone else who has lost their way at this road end.
No pies, so Eggs Benedict it is. Enjoyed on my own with great views.
The second ascent is technical grade 4, going from 120m and topping out at 600. Muddy & narrow with some big drop offs to avoid. The guide describes it like this "...... a tough challenge after heavy rain. Expect walking." It is fine, so this just describes a 6km section of the track, which then opens up to a 4x4 road.
As I enter the reverting farm land from the aforementioned track, I met a group of 4 bikers resting. They too are heading for the 4.30 boat but are already booked. It turns out one of them is Simon Kennett one of a trio of brothers who invented the Tour Aotearoa concept, wrote the guide book and are heavily invested in the adventure biking area. Legends I would say. We chat but I need to move on as the climbing isn't over.
As I gain the next track junction, I meet another couple who are doing a shorter loop. They move on as I make my call, it's surprising the random spots that there is mobile coverage. Seat secured, now to gain the top the enjoy the loss of 550m altitude. It's not all in one go and there are some technical areas but I do enjoy a faster pace.
The Bridge to Nowhere is an actual concrete bridge over a deep gorge in the middle of nowhere. This whole area was allocated to returned service men to break into farmland after WW1. They did their best as evidenced by exotic trees, some remaining pasture and this bridge 2km from the river but otherwise it's now reverting to bush. The land was too remote and difficult to farm, so all walked off.
It is a busy place as 2 local companies run jet boat tours here and the canoe trippers come in as well. I caught up with a group of riders in my age bracket doing a shorter loop. My bike attracts attention and becomes a discussion starter. One of the women had ridden the route a few years earlier.
We all headed down the last 2km to meet Rex the boat driver. They won't leave until all those booked have arrived as a safety precaution, we ended up waiting for the Kennett party who eventually arrived.
The river trip is spectacular, towering papa (sandstone) cliffs, bush, water and the occasional canoe to dodge all at speed. It is classed as a great walk and well worth doing.
I planned to ride another 12km to Jerusalem where a convent has a backpackers. Due to the discomfort in my butt from all the rough downhill I decided to call it a day in Pipiriki. There is a basic campground and a small shop where I sourced a pie. The Kennett's have celebrity status here so were provided with a steak dinner, they generously gave me the leftovers, which disappeared very quickly.
So far my best scenery day and nice to finish with company. Tomorrow is all road riding with only 1km of gravel and the usual North Island hills. I think I'm now over a third of the way through and getting fitter by the day. Just need my backside to toughen more.