One of the first films that I saw Sean Connery in, as far as I remember it, involved rival haulage firms battling to get contracts. It was in black and white (or I was watching it on a B&W ), and the bare bones of the plot involved trucks being driven at quite impossible speeds around bends until the inevitable accident occurred. The fast speeds were achieved by doing nothing more technical than just speeding up the film. I remember one TV announcer suggesting “well, if Colin Chapman could get his Lotus team to corner that fast he would be on to something”. This was in the days before CGI and the world was a gentler and more easily impressed place.
I had time to think about speeding trucks as we lay awake in our tent at Tutira which is a very beautiful and remote DOC campsite. We had left Wairoa quite late and already the temperatures were nudging 30 degrees. Which was fine, until the road went up sharply. Thirteen percent sharply, which is an uncomfortable way to reach the highest point of our trip so far at Taumatataua Hill.
Again we are forced to get off and push to avoid blowing the legs for the day. And once again the road went up and then down, but here it is quite narrow, tight and twisting. We had decided to ride this on a Sunday to avoid the Logging Trucks, but then Rock Legend, Sting threw a concert down the road in Napier. Locals threw a party to celebrate the opening of a bridge and there was a grass track car race to add to the road chaos.
We went under the highest rail viaduct in the southern hemisphere. Unwilling to take our hands off the bars we were more concerned with the two sharp corners and our nerves were on edge. Esther told me not to swear so much. We ran out of water, found some, got some coke at a shop and when we came out the temperature on my meter was 42 degrees. We found out later that the area had its hotest day in 105 years. We have no reason to doubt them.
So, back to our tent at the end of the day. I can only assume that the night drivers for the trucking companies are all homicidal and perhaps suicidal young guns keen to get on and make a name in trucking or the afterlife. We camped in an idyllic spot some 300 meters from the road, but still every two minutes these monsters rocked the ground and I thought back to Sean in black and white. The abundant wildlife also did a great deal of fighting for its life or evening meal. It looked so perfect in the daylight, how could this happen?
The next days ride was going to be easy enough, but the trucks had me rattled and soon we were on the big climb of the day with them at our backs. We were lucky to come across bits of hard shoulder where we had trucks and mashed down on the pedals in the single track coned areas.
We were so very lucky with how things worked out on this monster climb. A truck on the way up had given up and caught fire, causing a holdup that kept the monsters off our back for most of the way into Napier.
Napier was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and perhaps luckily the availability of lots of unemployed labourers and the vogue for Art Deco design, meant that it was rebuilt in two years. It now trades on this Art Deco accident rather well.
Just a note on the roads of New Zealand. They are well maintained virtually pot hole free and are beautiful indeed. They are however, abrasive. I have gone through my first tyre in just over 1000K. You have been warned and heaven help anyone that comes off their bike.