Apologies for not posting the past two days. They were long and hard, so I had no time except for riding and personal maintenance. I’ll catch up quickly now with a few words and lots of pictures. Please excuse the typos.
Day 8 of the TA for me was Monday Feb 24, and thus the start of my second week on the Tour. In the first week I rode 736km. While some of the stages had their testing parts, such as down 90 Mile beach, the real North Island test was this second week.
On Monday I was almost an hour later than planned starting from Mangakino because I couldn’t find my cash and credit cards. More on that later. Anyway, the first 20km were easy on a delightful track along side the Waikato river, then country roads. The picture above shows you how hot and dry it is for the cows.
But at the 20km mark, the road went in just a few kms from tarmac to gravel to dirt to single track to an old suspension bridge. To get across I had to straddle the bike and push it forward, while simultaneously pushing out the wire sides of the bridge. Other people had other techniques, depending on their type of bike and bags. We heard later that a traffic jam ensued when another rider started coming in the opposite direction from us. They are on the Kennett brothers new East Cape to Cape Egmont route, east to west across the North Island over 1,100km. Delays of up to 45 minutes built up.
After the bridge the trail was tough, narrow and uphill. Soon its surface was covered with lots of golf ball and a bit bigger lumps of rock. Navigating those, particularly on the steep bits was hard. Three times over the next three hours I fell off when, going very slowly a rock pinged out from under my front wheel, and I lost balance. Fortunately I had only some small scrapes.
On this tricky track, I spotted Phil, who rode with me from Cape Reinga to Bluff on road in the 2010 Great Ride For Heart fundraiser organised by the Heart Foundation, coming the other way, and he spotted me so we stopped briefly to chat. He is on the East-West ride, and we hoped we’d pass each other…but we had no idea when. It was only a brief meeting but special given the journeys we’re on.
Further up the track, it improved and in due course we got to the geographic centre of the North Island, in a secluded glade just off the track.
We still had a long climb ahead, though, to get to the start of the 90km Timber Trail. Just 1km short of the start, I got a puncture. It was 3.45pm before I headed into the woods and the big climb up to almost 1,000m, the highest point on the whole TA. I pressed on, confident I could get to the Lodge at mid trail. But it took me 4 1/2 hours to cover the 45km. I arrived at 8.15pm, having managed 100km and 2,000m metres of climbing in 12 hours.
The lodge was a very welcome place to stay. They’d kept dinner for me and two other late arrivals, and there was a lively mix of a few TA riders plus other riders on the trail. This day is known as one of the harder ones on the TA, and it lived up to its billing.