We set out from Feilding, going North or there abouts on Route 54. We had started the day well with a visit ti McDonald’s for use of WiFi and coffee perk up. The 54 that morning had very few cars but we had the option in a few K’s to turn onto a lower classified road which should be even quieter. Here is a problem for route planning. Back home we have A roads which are fast with big traffic loads and then we have B roads which should be quieter were it not for people doing Rat Runs to avoid the choked A roads. There are even lower, unclassified roads which will have weeds growing up the middle. Throw the use of Sat Nav into the mix and you can get big lorries trying to get down the quietest country lane. In Scotland, I have the temptation to plan bike routes to avoid A roads until I remember that there A roads may have very little traffic and yes, some have grass and weeds growing up the middle.
Faced with an unknown road system and a strange map, we are having some fun. We expect a small village or a half dozen houses and so stock up on food, and we come across a town with multi national coffee options. The 54 was starting to carry a few more trucks and we got to the turn and went in the opposit direction to the next truck. It took the unclassified and we stayed on the 54. We did not regret it until it joined the Highway 1 going North, up the country to Taupo. But again the inclination to keep off the main highways can be wrong as they have a shoulder to ride on, where the smaller roads can carry as much traffic or more and leave you to ride on a 10cm wide white line unless you have a tremendously firm belief in an afterlife.
The 54 served up some very undulating riding and a stunning view at Stormy Point, where the East Coast Mt Tarnaki, with snowy patches, could be seen. This was the first consistent hill climbing for some while and visits to the granny gear were frequent.
On Highway 1 the big open vistas try to hold you back and you start watching the meter on the handle bar. Mangaweka International Airport and its DC3 and cafe are another example of New Zealand making a pitch at something other than obscurity. It works, which is great.
Highway 1 does its best to find an easy grade up into the mountains, but it does most of it in one go. Our legs blew and we packed in the struggle and stayed in Taihape. This was good because Highway 1 continued to go up and down, but mostly up the next day until you get to Waioru.
Perhaps even more amazing is that all through the climbing, the Overlander Railway has been by your side. New Zealand has some underused railway gems that would be worth two days of international airline food just to get here and ride on. If great Railway Journeys are your passion then get here before they stop them altogether and turn them into cycle routes.
Ohakune, carrot capital of New Zealand and the approach of Autumn means we are getting used to being the only people on a camp site. Onto Route 4 and into the National Park and always climbing.
The railway spans deep gorges in spectacular fashion. It continued North as we turned on to Route 47, a highland plateau underneath several active volcanos. This is stunning cycle touring and we were so very pleased it was a calm day as it could be a horrible windy ride in a storm. The wind rattled the leaves of the Flax plants that line the road giving a genteel applause of our efforts.
A high campsite over 800 meters at Tongariro could have been freezing cold. We dressed in our layers and hid in our down bags. Clouds came early in the night and the temperatures went up. We lay panting, too lazy to change. Clocks had gone back over night. No idea why they do that here when we have all the arguments for putting them forward in Spring. It will now get light even earlier, forcing us into a routine of early rising from our comfy bags and Exped mats. This will be one of many misty early morning rides that we will have in the few weeks left here.