I’ve made it to Wellington! Its pretty cool because it’s sort of my half way point and I’ve somehow managed to clocked up 3285 kilometres which I never imagined I would end up doing never mind by Wellington. So pretty exciting! The last couple of weeks have been very cool involving some roads which went on for what felt like ages (actually that bit wasn’t so cool) with lots of traffic and some mahoosive trucks, I did a route called the Rail Trail and also got involved in a little bit of farm life which was very interesting! I caught up with with an old friend called Mark from uni and tackled some amazing winds which made me wobble into the verge on more than one occasion! Its been great even if the weather hasn’t always played along!
I had a few really relaxing days in New Plymouth with Pamela and Ken but eventually I thought I better pack my bags and get back to cycling otherwise I would end up staying there for even longer. I was a little nervous leaving because there wasn’t many route options other than the main road to get me to Ashhurst, my next aim a few days cycle away. The highway wasn’t what I would call classic cycling road but it turned out to be alright as there was a hard shoulder most of the way so I could keep out the way of all the big trucks. The weather was a bit hit and miss but the road wasn’t very hilly so I managed to do my biggest day since starting which got me closer than I had expected to a town called Whanganui which turned out to be a good thing as the following day it was raining proper and so I decided to have a short one and stop for the night in a hostel in the town. On my way there I had an interesting chat with a guy from France while I was tucking into a pie who turned out to be a monk….he didn’t look much like a monk I must admit, he looked more like a French guy travelling but I wasn’t about to tell him that. He seemed very nice and tried to persuade me to become a Monk as well which was an fascinating concept but I decided to politely decline and carry on with my cycling instead.
After a night in Whanganui where I bumped into a couple of French guys who were also cycling around who funnily enough I had met back up on the coromandel a few weeks ago I carried onto Ashhurst. It was about 30km before I could get off the main road which was a relief and I found a nice little route through the country side which brought me to a town called Fielding which proudly said it was the friendliest town in New Zealand..a bold claim. I thought a smelly cyclist would be a good test of this friendliness and while I sat outside a little cafe having some food an old lady, who’s name I didn’t catch, came over and had a very long chat with me, telling me how she used to cycle around the area when she was younger and also how she upgraded her mobility scooter when her husband passed away which was interesting topic. Just as she was about to walk off it was like she suddenly remembered something else to talk about and so our chat continued for a few minutes longer. Eventually my new friend walked off so I found my way out of town and got on my way to Ashhurst where I was going to meet Mark. Fielding wasn’t unfriendly but I’m not sure how it got its title, it wasn’t any different to most of the other towns I’d been through. Maybe I just wasn’t there long enough? Who knows.
When I got there I found Mark who I went to uni with but I unfortunately haven’t seen him for something mad like 8 years so it was pretty cool to bump into each other in New Zealand. Mark and his girlfriend Lauren very kindly put me up for three nights and took me to some of the local view points and showed me around Palmerston North which was the nearest big town. On the Saturday evening while I was there I met a few of their friends and we all went down to the beach and had a bbq. It was a stunning spot (below) and we had some hamburgers with a little bit of sand for added crunch. It was awesome! It was here I met Scott and Michele. It turned out Michele’s parents, Alan and Joane, lived on the other side of the hills near a town called Pahiatua which was where I was planning on heading to the next day so she very kindly asked them if I could stay when I passed through. They said I could so on the Sunday lunch time I packed up at Marks and headed over the hills in the rough direction of Pihiatua.
To get to Pahiatua there are three roads I could take to get me over the hilly section, one was the gorge route which Mark took me through in the car and while it was stunning it would have been properly bottom clenching on my bike thanks to the narrow road and all the traffic on it. The second option was called the saddle road which even in the car was a pretty big hill so would have been a good leg test and finally there was the third option which was another reasonably big hill but not as long or steep as the saddle road so this seemed like the best choice. From Marks to the start of this road over the hills, called the Pahaitua Track it was a nice flat road and it even stayed dry. Unfortunately as soon as I reached the bottom of the big hill the heavens opened and it continued all the way up the hill making it a very soggy climb. Once I got over the other side it stopped and I followed the main road until I turned off along a small gravel track. Michelle had given me some pretty awesome directions which were really easy to follow and I soon found Alan and Joane’s farm. Not long after I arrived Mark and Lauren also came over and Michelle and Scott gave us a bit of a tour of the farm. There was many many sheep and not quite so many cows, all in a very stunning setting as the farm was on a ridge above Pahiatua. We then all had a roast dinner which was really really nice, so I very much landed on my feet! Thank you guys! Really Amazing!
Before I set off the following morning Alan asked if I wanted to join him while he did a few jobs around the farm. Not only was I curious about farm life but also the weather was crap when I woke up so I thought hanging out for a couple of hours would give the rain a chance to sod off. The first job was to take a couple of lambs to slaughter, sorry for anyone who’s a bit squimish but on a sheep farm it’s an important part I guess, having never seen this part of life before it was an interesting experience which I didn’t expect to have but it was a good one to see. The second job was something I can honestly say I never thought I would ever do…we had to castrate a calf. Yep not something that happens every day, well not to me anyway. After Alan caught the calf we proceeded to do the deed I guess we could say. Funnily enough he wasn’t best pleased about the whole situation but after three attempts, yep three, a bit of fidgeting from the calf and the odd kick we managed to get the band on…makes my wince just thinking about it! Ooh! After that we headed back to the house and I packed up and set off on my way. As a bonus the rain had stopped, if only briefly so turned out castrating a calf was a good use of time! Well I never! Mind you not sure the calf would agree with that.
I had planned on taking a more scenic route to Masterton by taking a slightly longer route off highway 2 but in the end the road wasn’t too busy, there was a resonable shoulder and the weather wasn’t great so I decided to just cracked on. Showers came and went all day so the waterproof got another work out. Fortunately the only real hill of the day was one called Mount Bruce which actually turned out to be a pretty steady one so wasn’t too bad at all. I got to Masterton mid afternoon and had a quick coffee but decided to keep going to the next town called Greytown which wasn’t much further along the highway meaning a slightly shorter next day. I found a cheap little campsite and then went to continue my fish and chip tour of New Zealand in town. They were not bad at all!
From Greytown it’s about 80km to Wellington so getting there in a day seemed a pretty easy target, the only problem was I had to cross back over the Tararua mountain range which I had first crossed after I left Marks. I’d been told much about this range as the main road over it is a pretty big climb. I was quite lucky though as at the campsite in Greytown I met a few people who told me about an old railway which was now a walking/cycling trail called, rather logically the Rail Trail. The start was about 10km from Featherstone and was clearly marked so it made finding my way to it was really easy. The one hiccup in my plan which Alan had warned me about was the wind! Wow! Obviously I’ve ridden in some wind over the last couple of months but this wind was epic and not like anything I’d come across so far! As I was going along the road to get to the start of the trail it was coming at me from my right, I was blown into the verge on more than one occasion, to anyone who saw me they must have though I was drunk! It was incredible! As I turned for the start of the trail the wind became a headwind which made going along the flat hard, it was like going up hill, blowing me off a couple of time! Bonkers!
The whole rail trail is 17km long but from the direction I was going the first 7km were up hill to the well named summit, it wasn’t exactly everest but it’s good to make it sound like an achievement I guess. It wasn’t a particularly steep hill but add the wind into the mix and it was tough going. There was one part which I couldn’t cycle as it was too steep and had small stream to hop over (Above). The wind made this really hard and pushing a heavy touring bike up the other side was a good work out! I was told after its referred to as Siberia as the wind is funnelled through that part, no wonder it was a little tricky! I went through a few tunnels and eventually reached the summit which I was quite relieved to get to! I had a pie at the top to celebrate. While I was sat in the little hut relaxing having fought my way to the top I heard some voices, I poked my head out to see about 10 kids cycling up from the other side, all chilled and loving it. Cheeky little blighters….I blame the headwind and obviously they had a tailwind making it a complete breeze (pun totally intended)! Someone somewhere was taking the piss out me I think…They didn’t stop long and shot through the tunnel I had just appeared from. Pah! It was a tough climb honest! From the top it was a gentle run down the other side, even the wind had a bit of a break. I did have one little moment when I had another water crossing. Two choices of how to cross said water feature, a footbridge or through the small ford! I went for the ford, it seemed like fun. I shot into it and completely forgot to change down to a smaller gear before getting there. My front wheel hit a stone causing me to come to a complete standstill mid way through. I wobbled but wasn’t quick enough getting my feet out my bindings so rather inevitably I hit the deck! A big splash and I’m drenched down one side. What a plonker! I picked myself up and walked the bike out, fortunately no one saw me but I had a little chuckle to myself. How smooth!
From the end of the trail I cycled into upper hut which is a suburb of on the outskirts of Wellington and from there I followed a cycled route all the way into town. It was a really nice ride and I soon reached Wellington. I had arranged another Help X so I found the address and got myself sorted. I’m staying with a couple called Pat and Doro with their dog Zoey who’s very cool. They live just outside the centre of town in a place called wadestown so it’s nice and easy to get into Wellington to have a bit of an explore. I’m not sure what to do yet but for now I’m going to stay here for a week or so and see what falls into place. I quite fancy staying in Wellington for a few weeks and having a proper explore instead of heading south just yet. I might see if I can get a job to keep me going until the middle of January when I’m shooting off to catch up with friends and family. When I get back from that little adventure in mid Febuary I’ll carry on cycling by catching the ferry and heading to explore the South Island. If the job idea doesn’t work I’ll think of something else! Who knows! I’ll keep you posted whatever I end up doing!
So far while I’ve been in Wellington Pat and Doro have shown me some of the harder to reach places as getting to them by bus is a little trickier. The first was a place called red rock was along the coast and was stunning. We went there in Pat’s 4 X 4 which was a good laugh. There was, as the name suggests, some rocks that were well red. We also went to one of the beaches near by and had a swim, bloody cold but lovely! On one day when the weather wasn’t great I went for my first explore of Te Papa which is a big museum in town. It’s brilliant but I’ll have to go back because I ran out of time to look around it all. So much to check out! Today we went into the centre and had a walk along the waterfront in town, a lovely spot. (Below)
Below are a few other pictures from the last couple of weeks, hope you enjoyed the post!