Day 4 – Near Moana to Maruia Saddle
182km, 3155m elevation
Day four was the day I nearly pulled out of the Kiwi Brevet. I had already had some tough days but mainly they were mentally tough, not physically. I started day four in the drizzle, a little damp but happy to be riding. After an hour or so my left knee started hurting. It went from hurting to excruciating and within a few hours I could hardly pedal. I adjusted my seat to give me slight relief but it was far from fixed. I worked out where I was going to pull out and started to figure out how I could get back to Blenheim from there. While I was sitting on the side of the road I caught a glimpse of my left cleat. It was skewed off at a hideous angle, definitely not straight. I had given myself a sore knee. Fark! I got out the allen keys and quickly rectified the problem. Would you believe that that was it, no more problems. Pays to check these things!
So back on the horse, I refueled at Ikamatua, bumping into the Iride guys who had had a great night sleep at the Blackball Hilton. Jealous!!!! The climb up to Waiuta was glorious. Fresh air, lovely gravel gradient and beautiful green forest. I was (almost) grinning with happiness at how things can turn around if you keep on keeping on.
The next section on the Brevet takes you into the gold mining area know as Big River. The Victoria Conservation Park apparently has some of New Zealand’s finest native beech forest and I would happily attest to that! Despite walking nearly the entire 9km section, it was almost my favourite part of the brevet. Every type of fern you could imagine was sparking and spectacular in the rain, classic New Zealand!
Unfortunately I had assumed the section after Big River was nice gravel road into Reefton, but it was in fact a long-ass haul on old mining kart track with river boulders the size of my head the whole way. Needless to say I again did more walking. It would be a cool place to visit with more time, exploring the old mining buildings, the DOC hut and mine shafts. Finally popping into Reefton I was in surprisingly high spirits, gobbled down some pies and goodies and headed back on the road.
The climb up to Rahu Saddle, with the setting sun and quiet evening road, was just delightful. I hung my socks out to dry on my bar ends and “wahoooed” my way all the way down to Springs Junction.
The evening was getting fresh but I was feeling great and happy to keep pushing on. I decided to aim for Murchison or close enough to get breakfast there in the morning. As I started up Maruia Saddle in the dark, the temperature plummeted and my enthusiasm waned. I rounded corner to see a grassy corner, sheltered by the wind by large pine trees. I quickly set up camp and had the best, albeit freezing, slumber of the trip so far.
Day 5 – Maruia Saddle to Nelson
226km, 3270m elevation
I luckily escaped an awkward naked hello as Peg and Mike rounded the corner as I was packing up camp. They continued on but we were soon to be new criss-crossing buddies until the end of the brevet. I couldn’t quite work out how Peg had ended up been behind me, I thought she was way in front, but soon caught up and found out she had skipped 200km after she had stitches in her knee at Hanmer Springs. HARDCORE! The early morning ride into Murchison was peaceful and passed quickly as I was looking forward to a big breakfast. I passed Keith Payne who was bleary eyed and looking freezing after a night in a ditch on the road side. We rode the last few kms together into Murchison and both devoured a delicious hot breakfast while I enjoyed my first WiFi of the trip! This is also where I started my obsession with Snickers as the ultimate bikepacking food. By the end of the trip I counted I had eaten 13 Snickers bars!!!!
The next section of the brevet was a steady climb and descent down to Lake Rotoroa. Then started some epic hike-a-bike up Porika Road. The views were sensational, but I would never ever voluntarily go up there again!
The next hours and kilometers rolled on nearly effortlessly. Pretty passes, pine plantations and lonely small towns. Eventually they all gave way to civilisation as we headed in towards Nelson on the Great Taste Trail. I had grand plans of getting into town and getting a motel room for my first real shower in five days. I rode around and around looking for somewhere but evertything said full or was closed. I eventually decided on Burger King and the campground up the road. I bumped into Peg and Mike again and we rode together to the campsite out of town. I had shower and got some shocked side glances from another female camper (bad tan lines, rashes and general disgustingness), ate cold Burger King in the tent at about midnight and had a glorious sleep until my air mattress got a hole and then I froze my tits off! I was absolutely stoked that by tomorrow night I would be finished!
Day 6 – Nelson to Blenheim
151km, 5185m elevation
Tough day!!!! Somewhere in the back of my mind I envisaged a bit of hike a bike up Maungatapu and some hills along Port Underwood and I’d be done by lunchtime. 10 hours riding time later and some serious vertical meters and I was back in Blenheim. Maungatapu was the hike-a-bike hill of doom and by far the longest and biggest mountain (up to 1014m) that I have walked my bike up. The scenery along the coastline before and after Picton was jaw dropping. I was so worried that I would run out of water on the relentless hills of the Port Underwood track (or Port Underpants as some were calling it). Jut to give it even more sting in the tail if that climbing was not enough, I had a ripper of a headwind all the way into Blenheim. Luckily Seb and Ed came to keep me smiling all the way into town.
Kiwi Brevet was the best experience! Many thanks were required including Bruno for not leaving me on Wharfdale in the dark despite my protests, to the YHA owner at Authur’s Pass who refused me a room and demanded I ‘get back out there and harden up’, and to Peg and Mike for fun crisscrossing company and also the Iride guys. Thanks to Jo and Scott for their organisation of a such a grand adventure. Mostly thanks to Seb for putting up with my higgledy piggledy pre-event (dis)organisation. You rode an inspiring event to finish 2nd male!