Tag Archives: kiwi brevet

Kiwi Brevet – finishing strong

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!

FullSizeRender

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.

IMG_0092

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!

image_2

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.

image_1

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!

image

Advertisements

Kiwi Brevet – plans which don’t go to plan

The Kiwi Brevet is a self supported 1100km cycle event around the top of the South Island in New Zealand, mostly on gravel roads. In February this year Seb and I headed over the give it go. After a few months of 15hr work days, I am finally able to sit here on this rainy arvo and do some writing. I wish I could have written about everything that happened but spending an average of 12 hours a day for 6 days on a bike means that there are far too many experiences to share!

Day 1 – Blenheim to Pool Hut (?) on St James Cycle Trail

205km, 2950m elevation

Standing at the Seymore Square fountain in Blenheim in light drizzle I was so nervous I was actually shaking a little bit. After our briefing in the cinema, it was now 9:50am and I was full of espresso and madly trying to get my GPS to turn on. It dawned on me that I was about to head out for a little 1,200 km spin around the New Zealand South Island with a little GPS arrow as my tour guide. Shit!

image_3

There were a few group photos and I said my goodbyes to Seb and Ed and then it was 10am and this peloton of eager-beavers were screaming out of town in a blur of every colour of rain jacket you could imagine. I found myself comfortably about 10th wheel, keen to sit in for as long as the tar lasted at least. We covered about 35km in the first hour and it felt like warp speed. As soon as we hit the gravel I silently waved goodbye to Sebba who I could see was off the front of the pack, that was the last time I saw him for nearly six days! I dropped back and found myself alone and all of a sudden instantly happy. My own head space, my own speed. And that was where I stayed for the whole of the brevet.

The first 150km of day one passed quickly, the kilometers ticking over effortlessly as I settled into my own rhythm. Passing and chatting to a few people here and there and being passed by a few people too. Mainly I rode alone and began my bikepacking ritual of talking and randomly singing out loud to myself. Gradually the route took us up the valley, riding parallel to the Wairau River for most of the day. As we turned away from the river and over our first big pass, we headed towards the St James Cycle Trail.

Now the big views started. Surrounded by snow capped mountains with the setting sun breaking through gaps in the peaks and illuminating the valley in beautiful oranges and pinks.

IMG_0074IMG_0070

As all plans never go to plan (my plan being that I wouldn’t ride slow off-road sections at night due to my bad light setup), of course I found myself bumping and bashing along the St James Cycle Trail at night, my dynamo flickering like a disco, accentuated by the rigid fork vibrations and the connector plug popping out with every big bump. I urged myself to remain happy and slowy push through, I was determined to make it to a hut although I hadn’t decided which hut it would be. At about 210km one popped up out of the dark and into my light beam, possibly Pool Hut but I can’t be sure. I poked my head in the front door but there was some snoring and all beds appeared full. So I set up the tent outside and drifted easily to sleep after an almost indigestible can of chicken meat and a packet of cold fried rice. Very happy to have day one under my belt and eager to tackle a new day of riding tomorrow.

Day 2 – Pool Hut (?) on St James Cycle Trail to a hedgerow near Springfield

200km, 3100m elevation

It was a glorious morning when I got out of the tent, happy to find the hut-riders had left and I was free to nude up and change clothes outside 😉 I rode alone until I came across Chris Bennett who had stopped for a caffeine pill. According to him that is a big thing so he must have been feeling pretty flat. He had also struggled on the St James track in the dark, having only a dynamo light after his head lamp malfunctioned. We rode the whole morning together into Hanmer Springs, chatting about bikes, jobs, Tour Divide and everything in between.

DSC_0090DSC_0093

At Hanmer Springs we shared a table for breakfast, our first real meal since breakfast the day before. I devoured coffee, juice and amazing pancakes with banana and bacon but was astounded by Chris’ ability to eat a serve of scrambled eggs, followed by a serve of pancakes, followed by another serve of eggs! It dawned on me that I really needed to learn how to eat big and still be able to ride out of town, a skill Chris noted was essential for Tour Divide riders! We parted ways as Chris went to buy a new headlamp and I continued out into the heat.

The day warmed up to be a scorcher and the bitumen was hot and I was saying out loud I wanted to get off this bitch-umen. Where were the trees? In Culverden I downed an ice cold coke and got a toasted sandwhich to go. This is where I started my brevet-long crisscrossing with the IRide guys, Jesse and Kirk. I was a slower rider but pretty spot on with my nav, they were faster but less than spot on with their nav! I passed them just before heading into MacDonald Downs, a large cattle grazing property which the brevet goes through. It was hot, windy, treeless and generally smelt like cows. Slowly and steadily I wound my way up and down through the dry desert-like property, running out of water fast. The guys passed me as I was lying under the only tree we saw for hours eating my amazing toasted sanga, but I soon passed them again as they began ducking into every farm house on route looking for water. Begrudgingly I filled up from a semi-flowing stream with rocks which were covered in cow shit and cows standing on the other side of the stream. I decided that I was happier with giardia over death by dehydration, but put about 10 puritabs in my water bladder and began the slow 30min ride until I could drink it.

The afternoon turned to evening as the guys and I started out on the much talked about Wharfdale section: a walking track in Oxford Forest which can also apparently (??) be a mountain bike track too. I had heard it was hard and there would be some walking and pushing, but I was totally not prepared for what lay ahead in the dark. Hours upon hours of pushing, lifting, shouting, cramping, crashing, more pushing, pulling and whimpering. Somewhere along the way Bruno Geldermans appeared and we trudged along together. The only saving grace for me was that Bruno declared I was not in any state for him to leave me alone out there by myself. At one point I stopped in the middle of the track and decided I was camping right then and there. Bruno headed off and it took me less than 5 minutes standing there in the dark to rush off again to find him! We escaped the forest at about 11pm. I camped in a hedgerow at the bottom of the hill to escape from the strong winds, he decided to head closer to town to get water. I washed myself down in a muddy river crossing on the main road by a farm house and filled up my water from the steam with the sound and smell of cows nearby (eeewww again). Completely exhausted and now cramping from head to toe, I hardly slept a wink. Probably the toughest day on the brevet for me. If I was sensible I should have camped at Wharfdale hut and done the track fresh and early in the morning, but as always, plans never go to plan.

 

Day 3 – A hedgerow near Springfield to near Moana

210km, 2650m elevation

Day three was groggy start, I packed up early and headed into Springfield to find some much needed food as my last proper meal was breakfast the previous day. Luckily I stumbled across the Yellow Shack cafe, where I ate my body weight in delicious homemade goodies including egg and bacon pie, Camembert quiche, a muffin and a much needed coffee. Bumped into the Iride guys at the servo, they had spent the night at school ground around the corner. We headed off to tackle the bitumen section over Porters Pass and on towards Arthur’s Pass. Everything about day three was slow. I knew I was wrecked from the day before so I decided to take it very easy and set no goal destination for the day. The wind was howling and the rain was setting in as I approached the township of Arthur’s Pass. I had all my rain gear on and it was bucketing down. Torrential rain. I ummed and ahhhhed and eventually decided I didn’t want to be caught wet and freezing in the dark on some epic New Zealand mountain pass. It was only 4pm in the arvo but I stopped in at the YHA to get a room. A keen cycling enthusiast and brevet fan, the guy at the front desk  kicked himself for not realising the Kiwi Brevet had started. We chatted and I did some more umming and ahhing, expressing my concerns about the cold and rain. In the end he convinced me I’d be up and over the pass in about half and hour, so he kindly declined my request for a room and told me to get back out there. “Think of how much stopping at 4pm will kill your daily average” he protested.

It was torrential rain, but he was correct. In no time I was indeed up and over the pass, slip sliding down the other side in a river which was running down the road. Over 4 hours passed and I merrily rode along in the easing rain, so glad I had kept going.

As it got dark I looked at the cue sheet and decided Moana was only a short way off course and I could get a room there to dry out for the night. When I t-boned Arnold Valley Road I turned left off course, thinking I only had a few kms to Moana. By now it was dark, I was soaked to the core, freezing and it was torrential rain again. More than 6km down the road I got out the map and realised I had misread the cue sheet, the turn off to Moana was many many kms before Arnold Valley Way. Very sad, I bailed and headed back towards the route. At the intersection again, I noticed a house with a light on. I knocked on the door to ask how far Moana actually was. A lovely old Samoan lady opened the door and she looked a bit shocked to see this bedraggled looking crazy wet Australian standing there. To be honest I don’t know why she didn’t slam it shut again in my face! After agreeing that Moana was too far she kindly offered me her veranda for shelter. Her husband headed off to the midnight shift across the road at the abattoir, and after a handful of rain-sodden cold potato wedges, I drifted off to sleep to the sound of cows being beheaded. I wondered where Seb was and hoped he was dry. I wondered where the Iride guys where, they couldn’t be too far from this horrid weather. Some days bikepacking is not glamorous, and this was definitely one of those days.