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Day 14 – A two hero day

Mar 2, 2020

Sunday, March 1

Although we started celebrating Lynn’s birthday yesterday afternoon, today was the the actual day. At least we had a few hours together at our sumptuous retreat, Hiwinui Country Estate, before I resumed my ride to Bluff and Lynn headed home.

Tucked away in the bag behind my bike seat are two crucial items Lynn brought for me – a thin insulated jacket made from merino wool, which I’ll most likely need next week in the South Island, and a large tub of Keywin shammy cream to replenish my supply.

The latter item, full of lanolin, is THE essential item for keeping your arse happy on long rides. If a quiet day on the road leaves me little to blog about I might wax lyrical about arse management. It often determines whether one completes a long ride or not. Already on the Tour I’ve come across a couple of riders in agony on the verge of quitting the event. Fortunately, I nipped an incipient problem I had days 2 and 3 of the Tour in the bud with lashings of the cream. I’m now riding arse-happy. Long may it last.

After one last big birthday kiss and hug with Lynn, I hopped on my bike and quickly left behind my 20 hours of luxury. The next town on the route was Palmerston North, though I only skirted around it close to the Massey University campus as I crossed the Fitzherbert Bridge over the Manawatu river.

Back on the night of February 14/15, 2004 a massive storm, the tail end of a Pacific cyclone, hit this part of the country. Because so much of the local hills were cleared of bush three or four generations ago and turned into pasture, mainly for sheep, these hills suffer from terrible erosion, as do many other parts of the country. That night the river was carrying 28 tonnes of top soil a second under that bridge – a total of 2.5m tonnes in the peak 24 hours of the storm and its aftermath. I had visited some sheep and dairy farmers soon after and the devastation of their farms was substantial.

Next up on my route, over the hill, from Palmy, was Pahiatua. Coming down the hill into town I took this photo of the dairy factory, one of Fonterra’s largest. And that’s just the milk drier. In addition there are extensive other processing and storage buildings.

As I was taking the picture, a road cyclist came up the hill and turned into the side road where I was parked. He did a double take and stopped. He said “I know you from the Tour of New Zealand…the prize giving in Wellington…but I can’t remember your name.” We introduced ourselves, and it turned out Andrew Day, a local sheep and beef farmer, had ridden in the 2017 Tour. He was coming up the hill to check on the house of a friend who is away riding in the Tour Aotearoa.

We had a great long chat about local issues. In recent years he has brought three court cases against the regional council to force them to tighten up their farm environmental standards. On the third, he was joined by the Environmental Defence Society and Fish and Game. While they had won, progress on more stringent environmental management was still taking ages, he said.

One reason he could afford to go to court was he signed up more than a decade ago for some wind turbines on his farm as part of a much bigger scheme. And his turbine income is about to increase with a big new project Mercury Energy is starting. A rather nice synergy – revenue from clean energy helping to fund the clean up of farming.

He’d sought a seat on the regional council in the latest elections. But he said, it was always a long shot given he’d so angered local dairy farmers. Sure enough, he lost to a candidate who is a climate denier, he said. It’s always a privilege to meet principled and effective people.

Down in Pahiatua, I nipped into the BP petrol station for more water and something to eat…and was thrilled to find for the first time in the whole ride in a small town lots of One Square Meal muesli bars. The very best! I loaded up.

Back outside, I chatted with another TA rider who’d also stopped – Lucas from Switzerland. I asked him where he was heading today. At least Martinborough, he said, (which was 130km away). “But if I feel good, I’ll ride through the night.”

I must have raised an eyebrow, or something. He immediately assured me he was a veteran of long distance off road races such as the Tour of the Divide, 2,745 miles down the continental divide from Canada to Mexico, and on road such as the Trans America race, in which his highest place was 17th. He looked a fabulously fit 40 year old. Turned out he was 58.

He was catching up time on the TA because his bike and all his possessions had been stolen, I think in Palmy. But he said Lance Pilbrow, who I think is an MTB racer and journalist, heard of his plight and lent him an absolute top of the line Surly, with all the bags, camping gear and other kit he needed to complete the Tour. Lucas said: “You Kiwis are very generous,”

I left the BP before him. Soon after, he came past, relaxed on his aero bars and effortlessly turning a lazy cadence but going at least 50% faster than me. My far more modest goal was another 35km to Eketahuna, making 98km for the day. There I settled into a beautiful campground in the bush on the outskirts of town. It had an excellent kitchen, shower and toilets. The charge for the night was a mere $8.

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