I was well refreshed by a good night’s sleep in a proper bed, a big dinner and breakfast…and relieved to find when I was packing up my cash and credit cards, in their plastic bag, among my toiletries. Don’t ask me how they got there. When your worldly possessions for a four week trip are in one of six bags on the bike, it’s hard to imagine how one loses things.
Suitably buoyed up, I set off from the Lodge at the mid point of the Timber Trail just after 8am. The next three hours through the woods were mostly easy going. These were once heavily harvested and are now regenerating to native bush. A good part of today’s track followed the old tramway used to haul logs out of the woods.
All was going well until I hit a long, narrow section of track with the centre well-washed away by past rain. Further up the track a crew was putting it right. However, I reacted too slowly to a big hole in front of me. My front wheel dropped into it and I was expecting to go over the handlebars. But thankfully I managed to pull the bars up a bit, and all the weight I’m carrying mid bike and out back kept the bike level and me on board. However, the front tyre blew. So second puncture in two days. This compounded the problem I had yesterday with my first. I discovered my pump, which was a late substitute in my kit because it was lighter than the one I usually carry, only had the Schrader car valve fitting. Normally bike pumps are dual, fitting Presta bike valves too. So twice in two days I had to borrow a pump from passing cyclists.
On my way again, I sped through the forest, then out into beautiful open, tho still hilly country, for the 24km ride to Taumarunui. The sky was brilliantly blue and clear, the temperature almost 30c with barely a breath of wind. The earliest the North Island can expect a serious rain shower is mid next week, my personal forecaster, Jim, tells me. Most of the NI is in the grip of drought, with Auckland starting water restrictions soon. But what if this is not just another drought, but a change in weather patterns and climate systems? Nowhere nearly as serious as Australia’s. They are suffering impacts which were forecast not to turn up until mid century. Nonetheless, we are very unprepared in Aotearoa.
Taumarunui, a classic Kiwi country town, treated me well. The sole surviving bike place, is a sideline at the local Honda farmbike dealer who sold me a pump. I then went to a local McDonald’s for air con, iced coffee and wifi so I could spend 90 minutes of office time catching up on some calls and emails.
Once the afternoon had cooled off, I set out on the last leg of the day, some 27km to Owhango. This was along a true back country road with a gentle but persistent climb up to the settlement on our centre North Island volcanic plateau. The late afternoon sun beautifully illuminated the valley.
In Owhango, I quickly found Mike and Kay’s backpackers which they have just started up in their house. We seven riders who congregated there, thanks to the TA Facebook page, were literally their first guests. I pitched my tent in their garden, while others slept in a large caravan and the house.
This was another 100km day, with a mere 1,350m of climbing.The variation of route from bush trail, to back country tarmac and gravel roads through changing terrain was a pleasure. But with the long stop in Taumarunui, I was on the road for 10 and a half hours.