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Tour Aotearoa

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Day 18 – Tunnel of fun

Mar 6, 2020

I opted for the alternate road route this morning rather than tackle the off road route over the Maungatapu Saddle, for reasons I discussed in yesterday’s blog. Catching up with other riders later in the day who had gone over the saddle confirmed I made the right choice given my bike and load.

The road alternative was no second-best, tho. I had a glorious ride. I set off just after 8am on Hwy 6 and had an easy climb to the Rai Saddle. I swooped down the other side then climbed higher, and swooped down faster and longer to the coast. All up that was about the first 25km of the day. From there I scooted through Nelson and on to Richmond on the Great Taste bike trail past vineyards and other sources of the deserved name.

I’d arranged to meet friends Morgan and Pam for lunch at a cafe in Richmond right on the TA route, and handy for their home near by. They insisted on buying me lunch…and my eggs benne were excellent. As you see in the photo below, however, I was even more excited by the package they brought to lunch – more shorts!

A few days before arriving in Wellington I noticed the older of the two pairs of Ground Effect shorts I’m wearing on the Tour had begun to split a crucial seam – the one holding the essential pad into the shorts. While I can keep riding in them at home, I erred on the side of caution for the Tour. While my bike was being serviced in Wellington two days ago, I called Morgan to see if he was at home; and called Ground Effect and talked to Scott, the person who’d been very helpful when I was selecting bags for my bike. He was concerned to hear about the wear and tear. But I assured him the shorts were at least five years old and, I reckoned, have between 10,000 and 12,000km on them. I was very happy to pay for a new pair. They arrived overnight at Morgan and Pam’s and they brought them to lunch.

We had a great catch up over lunch..and their Tour help continued after. They took my old shorts off to the Post Shop to send them home as honourable retirees from the Tour. I then went up the street to buy a proper head torch for a long rail tunnel later in the afternoon.

Once I finished crossing the coastal plain and began climbing into the hills, I spotted my first crop of hops. This area around Motueka is famous internationally for the quality and variety of its hops. And I’m a keen consumer of them in the beers I drink.

Further up the route, I stopped at the Belgrove Tavern for an ice cream. But Jacqui the bartender deftly unsold me to a bowl of fresh fruit salad with the ice cream bar mixed in with it. The pear and blackberries were homegrown, as was the apple I took with me to accompany the banana I also bought. It was the healthiest thing I’ve ever consumed in a bar.

Next came a climb up to Spooner’s Tunnel.

This is a notable feature. At 1.4km long it is, apparently the fifth longest disused rail tunnel in the world open to walkers and cyclists. I let the information boards tell you the rest of the story:

This time I was ready for the tunnel, thanks to my new head torch. I thought this trip would be more suitable for recording than my previous one in the Rimutakas. So I wedged my phone under the straps securing my tent to the handlebars. The photo below is misleading because some of the light is coming from the portal behind me. Further in the tunnel it was a lot darker but this time I could see where I was going. This time it was great fun. Sadly I can’t load now the 9 minute video of my tunnel traverse. But I’ll add it and some others once I get home.

From the tunnel exit I had an exhilarating 17km descent on an excellent track down to Tapawera, my destination for the night, completing a 116km day with 1,000m of climbing. I pitched my tent in a welcoming tho quirky campsite, and drank and ate well at the local pub in the company of a trio of riders from Wellington.

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