Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 14: Turangi to Raetihi

Distance: 88.5k
Distance so far: 876.3k
Speed: 14.8k/h

Runkeeper log: 1

Awesome, awesome day today.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, today was about 85k long, and involved over 1100 meters of climb - probably more distance and a greater climb than any other day I've done so far.

I got up early as usual, had a rather mediocre breakfast at a truckstop - Turangi is lacking in good cafes - and set out for State Highway 47, the road I'd be following for the day. Pretty much as soon as I left town I hit the first hill, locally referred to as 'the saddle', a steep switchback climb for about 6k. Taking this down took a while, but about halfway up I diverted into a lookout for a quick rest stop, and was greeted with the most amazing view.

The photo really doesn't do it justice, though capturing sunrise vistas is difficult even with a decent camera. The view looked out over lake taupo and the forest and farmland around Turangi, and combined with the light in the east from the rising sun and the mist hovering in places made for an incredible view.

After a short pause to admire the scenery, I continued the climb. It was pretty tough, and I could see why locals had suggested a diversion via a gentler route (but that route added nearly 10k to the day's ride, so I opted for the steeper but shorter option). Eventually making the top, I got to enjoy a short downhill segment, plunging straight into some of that fog. Then, it was back to climbing.

Climbing was more or less the order of the day, but the scenery more than made up for it. Throughout the day I was treated to, at various times, views of farmland, pine forest, native forest, alpine tundra, and more. Every so often I would crest a rise and the view would open out and I'd be able to see for miles.

About a halfway to my lunch stop - the oddly named town of National Park - I stopped for a coffee, discovering that an organised ride was headed my way, going in the opposite direction from Wellington to Auckland. Speaking to one of the organisers, I discovered they started the day in Raetihi, and were going all the way to Taupo - a distance of over 130km!

Before the riders could arrive at the stop and find me being lazy, I got back on the ride, encountering the first of nearly 150 cyclists about 10 minutes later. We waved, gave the thumbs up, and shouted encouragement at each other, a process that repeated itself every 5 minutes or so as another group went past. Pretty much universally, thanks to the terrain, this was while I was crawling up a hill, and they were racing down it. Everyone seemed pretty cheerful and friendly, except perhaps the poor guy crawling along on his own at the back.

Continuing on, the terrain continued to be uphill, the scenery continuted to be amazing, and the weather continued to be cloudy but not raining. I made it to National Park at about midday, just in time to stop for lunch. National Park is about 50k into the ride, and almost all the hills are before it, so I was left with 35k to go, consisting of some uphill sections, some flat, and about 20k of gentle downhill at the end.

Another 15k from National Park and the hills were done with, which is exactly when the rain started. Initially light, it rapidly graduated to 'apocalyptic', just in time for me to hit a major set of roadworks, with dirt laid down on the road. Mud ensued, exacerbated by my lack of mudguards.

Shortly thereafter, the rain let up - and indeed, the road beneath me was dry, tending to indicate it hadn't rained here at all. Then the rain was back, and the road waterlogged and covered in puddles. Then the rain was gone again, the road was dry, and it was hot and sunny. Back to the rain. Back to the sun. Then - I am not joking - I rode through about 30 seconds of hail. Then back to the sun. This continued for most of the rest of the road to Raetihi. I've never encountered a clearer example of microclimates - the differences were stark and startling.

Rolling into Raetihi, I found a room for the night at the Snowy Waters Lodge, a backpackers-style affair that clearly caters mostly to skiiers, and is almost completely deserted as a result.

After tackling everything today could throw at me, cycling over 85 kilometers and climbing over a kilometer in altitude, I've come out the other end with legs sore but not worn out - and I feel like I could do it all over again tomorrow. The impact that two weeks worth of riding has had on my fitness and my endurance is remarkable. If I can take a day like this on, I think I can handle damn near anything.

Tomorrow I'm headed to the Whanganui river, following it for most of the day on a gravel trail - which is likely to be slow, but hopefully not too much of a hassle. The road's part of NZ's new network of cycle trails, and it'll take me most of the way to Wanganui, on the west coast, before I stop for the night at the charming-seeming Flying Fox.

No comments:

Post a Comment