Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 15: Raetihi to The Flying Fox

Distance: 57.7k
Distance so far: 934.0k
Speed: 13.5k/h

Runkeeper logs: 1 2

Today saw me riding about half the way from Raetihi to Wanganui, stopping for the night at a rather interesting place called The Flying Fox. In sharp contrast to yesterday, the ride was more downhill than up, though there were some surprisingly tough uphill sections.

The Lonely Planet guide claims that 40k of this ride is on a gravel road, which I wasn't really looking forward to. I was very pleased to learn from a local in Raetihi, however, that most of the road has now been sealed, with only a 12k section remaining of the original gravel. Definitely good news to start my day with.

Riding out of Raetihi, the downhill started immediately, allowing me to enjoy the scenery as the road took me in broad sweeps through the countryside. While yesterday was about wide open vistas and views for miles, today's theme seemed to be more close in, with nearby bush-covered hills featuring most of the day. The downhils were welcome, but the uphills were surprisingly tough, requiring me to gear right down and grind up them at a snail's pace - though I suspect this was more to do with my legs being tired from yesterday's ride than it was due to the steepness of the slope. The road was very quiet - throughout the whole day I probably got passed in either direction maybe once every 20 minutes.

Near the halfway point was the tiny village of Pipiriki, where I stopped for a drink. A group of kayakers were very interested in my bike, and after talking to me, took turns riding it around the parking lot before setting out on their own adventure.

Leaving Pipiriki, I turned to follow the Whanganui river. Not much further on, I encountered the start of the gravel road - rutted, potholed, strewn with large stones, and entirely unpleasant to ride on, it spent more time going uphill than down. My progress, swift up until now, ground to a virtual halt even on the flat and downhill sections. Riding on the gravel road required constant attention to dodge the potholes and ruts, trying to find a bit of the road that won't jar myself or my bike to pieces in the process. I did get the occasional marvelous view of the river and the ravine it's gradually channeled out for itself, however.

After that long on a gravel road, riding on a sealed one is an almost religious experience. Making it to the end, I almost wanted to stop there and build a shrine to the Great And Mighty Roadbuilders, Hallowed Be Thy Names.

Has your car gone missing lately? Or maybe just your license plate?
After that, the remaining distance to the Flying Fox went fairly swiftly, impeded only by the hills, and I arrived - later than I expected, but still earlier than the arranged time - at The Flying Fox.

The Flying Fox is a pretty unique sort of place. It's on the other side of the river to the road, and access - as the name implies - is via a cableway suspended over the river.

When the zombie apocalypse arrives, this'd be a pretty good place to be.
The cableway itself is clearly a DIY job, albeit a pretty impressive one - I wish I'd taken photos. The cable that supports the car is securely anchored at each bank, and power is provided by a secondary wire made of - I kid you not - number eight fencing wire. The wire runs around pulleys made from old car wheels at either end, and terminates on opposite sides of the car, which is made primarily from bolted together sections of alumnium L-section.

Power is provided by a motor driving one of the pulleys on the house side. You don't want to be the last person to leave the house, here - if there's nobody on the house end to activate the motor, you have to use a hand crank and winch yourself across the river by arm power. Crossing was an interesting experience, though it didn't feel at all like an unsafe one. The car's fairly slow, giving one plenty of time to admire the view.

My room for the night is the charmingly named "Glory Cart", an old wooden trailer caravan - gypsy style - that's been converted into a stand-alone sleepout. A gas-powered shower and a composting toilet I hope I don't have to use complete the ensemble.

Tomorrow I'll be continuing the rest of the way to Wanganui, a distance of only 46k. The terrain looks macro-scale flat, with only one very steep hill of more than 20 meters or so, but Earth shows it as very up-and-down and claims a total climb of over 900 meters. We'll see how true that is when I tackle it tomorrow morning.


  1. Hi there Nick
    Nice to meet you at The River Traders last Saturday, and glad you enjoyed our place.
    Just so you know , our cable-way is a legal and fully compliant construction,it will carry a truck if it had to,so you were a featherweight for it, even after your healthy breakfast!We do try to live up to our priciples of reducing our footprint on the planet so use recycled components for any non load-bearing parts of the construction.
    I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip
    Kia ora Annette

  2. I certainly didn't mean to imply any inadequacy in the construction of the cableway. To the contrary, I was quite impressed with it, and the ingenuity that had gone into building it to meet your exact needs.

    I'm a member of the Sydney Hackerspace, as are a number of my readers, and so we always admire people who make useful things when they need them. I've spent a significant fraction of the last few days trying to figure out how I would go about automating your cableway so it could be controlled from the far bank, were it mine to do so. ;)