Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 4: Kohukohu to Waipoua Forest

Distance: 58.1k
Distance so far: 244.3k
Speed: 11.5k/h

Runkeeper logs: 1 2

Having previewed the ride the day before, I was a bit intimidated about today. There's a lot of hills, including some quite steep ones, and a gentler but much longer climb up into Waipoua Forest itself. Nothing I can do about them other than tackle them and see how I go, though.

I started early, waking up at 6, and getting on the road by 7, just in time to catch the first ferry of the day. I took the ferry from Kohukohu to Rawene - which I would like to make clear is Not Cheating - then headed for Waipoua. Weather was overcast, with a fine mist falling most of the morning; not enough to make my worry about the electronics. It wasn't cold, though, so I just rode though it. The hills set in immediately, with some fairly low ones between Rawene and Opononi.

The rain abated by the time I made it to Opononi and Omapere, two lovely little waterfront towns. On the opposite side of the harbor are the most incredible giant sand dunes I've ever seen.

I stopped just after Omapere at the "Schooner Cafe" for a tasty and nutritious (second) breakfast of banana pancakes and bacon, as well as my morning coffee. The Schooner Cafe sits just above the foot of the first serious hill of the day, Pakia Hill. Though far from the tallest at only 100m or so high, it's by far the steepest, with a really quite intimidating slope. Freshly fueled with bacon and coffee, though, I surprised myself by managing it just fine.

Fairly rolling country followed, with one more significant climb before the tiny town of Waimamaku.

Progress is slow in Waimamaku.

After Waimamaku, the climb towards Waipoua forest starts. The climb is about 6k long, but with a fairly gentle, consistent slope the whole way. It ascends roughly 400 meters to the summit over that stretch. This proved tough, but not as tough as I thought it would be. I was able to tackle much of it in a gear a few up from my lowest, meaning I made slightly better time of it. Still, 6k is a lot of climbing, so by the time I reached the top, I was glad that was (more or less) it for the day.

Then I got to reap the rewards of all my hard work with a brisk downhill ride into the forest. Waipoua forest is astonishingly beautiful. It's one of the largest remaining tracts of largely untouched native NZ forest, and it goes right up to the road's edge, so you're riding between tall walls of dense vegetation, with ferns, native bushes and trees all competing for space along the roadside, and the occasional Kauri towering over it all.

I stopped briefly at Tanae Mahuta, one of NZ's tallest Kauri, for the obligatory photo:

Then it was onwards for the final short leg of the day. This involved a 2k gentle climb, then about 6k of even descent through the heart of the forest. Imagine this: you're on a fairly narrow two lane road. It twists and turns, mostly with broad curves, through an astonishingly verdant native forest, always descending. You're travelling along it at speeds between 30 and 60k/h, sitting about 30 centimeters above the ground. Ferns whip past you every time you take an inside corner. Occasionally, a towering Kauri tree can be seen poking its crest over the top of the rest of the vegetation. That should give you some idea of what the last bit of my fourth day on the road was like.

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