Monday, March 1
We left this morning in plenty of time to ride 50km to Ongarue…where we were certain we’d get decent mobile phone coverage so Kennedy could call in live to Radio NZ for his Off The Beaten Track segment on Kathryn Ryan’s Nine to Noon programme. It was a warm morning, but we had plenty of water with us. Just as well. The “historic horse watering trough” on the climb to the Okahukura Saddle was bone dry.
You might wonder why I’m wearing heavy duty, waterproof, long fingered gloves in this photo, and in fact every day…even when it’s dry and hot. Because I forgot to bring my fingerless gloves.
The Ongarue Flashpackers was a fine old store, with a big marque outside for riders and, in its garage, a modest selection of food and drink, plus packages riders had sent there to collect on their way. Most of this route across the North Island is through very sparsely populated countryside. So cafes are rare, as are stores. You have to plan ahead carefully for food and drink. We had, so we hadn’t sent parcels. We were well provisioned because Kennedy’s daughter Emily and her partner Frankie, climbing guides down in the Southern Alps, have an excellent business making dehydrated, energy packed, vegan meals. We were carrying a fair few of their delicious breakfasts and dinners, keeping some in reserve for emergencies.
Ongarue is also the start of the 83km Timber Trail. We were heading up it so we had a lot more climbing than the vast majority of people who come down it instead. Last year on the Tour Aotearoa I’d ridden that “easier” way…and I thought I was primed for this “harder”way. All the same it took us an hour and a half to ride the first 10km. Still, we were very relaxed because we were booked in to overnight at the very comfortable and modern Timber Trail Lodge at the mid-point on the trail.