March came Autumn! The switch off of daylight savings time seemed to
come early relative to its equivalent time back home (mid March here
is equivalent to mid September there). And the sun seemed to view the
opportunity for shorter evenings as a chance to take it easy. We had
been blessed with lots of light well into the evenings, ever since we
arrived here last October, but it seemed right after we switch off daylight
savings time, the sun set noticeably earlier and earlier. Of course
it is still very pleasant - warm and sunny during the day, with those
lovely cool nights that make great sleeping weather.
Of course since it is Autumn, we've been trying to get
out more and more on the mountain bikes. There are a fair number of
trails around here, as well as lots of gravel roads. We have been discouraged
at times though, since many of these pass through forestry land and
are inaccessible during the week! What good is it for us to be unemployed,
if we can't play during the week? But we have been persistent and have
found quite a few of these unsealed roads that are public and open for
riding at any time.
It's also been enlightening to find that these gravel
roads are not quite like the unsealed roads we love so dearly back in
New England. We regularly took our road bikes down all manner of dirt
roads in Vermont. Often the dirt roads were smoother than many paved
roads in Massachusetts. The dirt was firmly packed down and quite rideable
on road bikes. Well here, they put down quite the layer of gravel. Apparently
the clay base is quite slippery in the wet and this gravel helps with
traction. But it also can be quite deep in places (and thin in others),
making riding a bit more technical. Well, we had these mountain
bikes built with the move to New Zealand in mind, so it's good that
they will get plenty of use.
We've found a lovely loop not too far away that combines
several great quiet gravel roads and some sealed ones too. I was a tiny
bit disappointed on our first trip to Dovedale to find no coffee shop,
tea room or even corner store, but later in the ride, near Neudorf,
we found a great tea room. This has become one of my favourite loop
rides. We've done it several times, using road bikes, mountain bikes
we first arrived, lots of folks asked if we've been up the Brook.
They were referring to a set of trails at the end of Brook Street. From
the trailhead, one can climb up to quite a few trails, some steep, some
technical, and one not too bad for a beginners like me (Pamela). Of
course getting up to that trail isn't so easy. When we first
arrived, we had the choice of riding up a road that got steeper at the
top, or talking a walking trail with many hairpins, some with steps
in them, which got very steep at the top. John, of course, can ride
up the steep technical walking trail without a problem (although one
set of steps in one of the turns causes him a little grief.) I found
the road more to my liking, although I struggled at the top with the
steepness (not as steep as the trail, but still pretty hard). I'm sure
I've mentioned before how the emphasis around here on mountain biking
is on the mountain. Many trails are quite steep - well over 20%
is not uncommon. A lot of folks around here do pretty hard-core downhill
riding, where they drive to the top of some ski run, uh I mean firebreak,
and then go straight down, sometimes jumping giant gaps and drop-offs.
But there are also a bunch of superfit people who ride up these 20+
% grades, without difficulty. I personally want to have words with the
author of a local mountain biking book that rates several nearby trails
as easy that I can never hope to ride up! But back to the Brook trails.
The easy one is a former railroad line that goes to a hut called Third
House. It does a bit of climbing, but not bad by any means. It has a
couple of easy stream crossings, some of which are followed by a steep
bit, but even for a novice like me, it's not bad. I have truly enjoyed
my rides on this trail. But not too long ago, the road access to the
trail was closed. They are upgrading the water system in Nelson, and
the pipeline runs right along this road, so now I get to push my bike
up the steep walking track. I have finally learned why they call non-motorized
bikes push bikes! One day when coming back down, I saw another
fellow near the top of the steep walking trail pushing his own bike,
and I made the comment that it was good to see I wasn't the only one
who had to walk. He wasn't very happy with my comment and informed me
that it was a downhill bike - one of those heavy machines designed
only for downhill, that our friend Peter White refers to as an invalid
bike - one that has to be carried to the top. Of course I figure they
are also invalid bikes, because one wrong move, and the rider
can end up invalid! Anyway after passing him, I mumbled under my breath
that regardless, he was still walking!
has been flying by and we aren't quite sure how we are spending all
our days, but we are keeping very busy. We have continued to work on
the house a bit. We have finished stripping the kitchen floor, and have
now started on the small bedroom and workshop at the far end of the
house. Both of these rooms are pretty small, and in need of some decorating.
The first job is to make one reasonable sized room out of the two small
ones and then we'll redo the walls and floors and paint. See we don't
spend all our time mucking about riding bikes and hiking!
And even though we aren't technically working, we still
think about weekends and holidays. Easter seems to be a much bigger
holiday here than back home. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are
public holidays. And this year, at least, ANZAC day fell on the Friday
after Easter Monday, making for lots of holidays in a short period of
time - like Christmas. And the two week school break encompassed it
all. We had talked about various trips we could do, and had hoped to
entice some friends to do a tour with us, but they had prior commitments.
We have recently bought a new tent, so we decided to give it a test
by heading up to Golden Bay and camping out for a few days. Golden Bay
is an area north of Nelson just over the Takaka Hill. We'd managed to
ride up Takaka Hill once before but John's knee was bothering him pretty
bad that day, so we cut our ride short, with a promise to come back.
Takaka is one of the longer and tougher climbs in the area. The gradient
isn't bad, but it does go on and on, with a few false summits. It climbs
to the west of the Abel Tasman Park. The easier way to Golden
Bay is a water taxi, or hiking the Abel Tasman coastal walk!
read about lots of great mountain biking in the region and also knew
there was nice road biking - the climb back and forth over Takaka Hill,
as well as the ride to the tip of the island to Farewell Spit. We wanted
to do a bit of both, and had a little trouble deciding what bikes to
bring. In the end, we opted for the mountain tandem and a couple of
road singles. It was fun trying to pack the three bikes and camping
gear in our little van, but we managed to wedge it all in. (I do miss
my old van, but I hear that Peter and Linda are getting good service
from it.) We got a bit of a late start, and then found a great coffee
shop in the town of Takaka, so by the time we pitched the tent, we just
had time for a short ride. We took our road bikes and headed north,
but turned back after about 15km when it started to rain. We checked
out another café in town before heading back to camp.
Since it was our first outing with the tent, and since
we had brought a few bikes, we stayed in a proper campground. Most campgrounds
here have quite nice facilities, including kitchens with gas cookers.
But wanting to feel like we really were actually camping, we used our
Trangia stoves and cooked at our own campsite. Of course, we did take
advantage of the back door on the van to get some rain protection while
cooking. It got quite chilly that evening, but we still saw plenty of
kiwis in shorts and bare feet. I don't know how they do it. I was all
bundled up in wool pants, top and jacket!
planned a big ride for Saturday. The Rameka
Track is actually inside the Abel Tasman park boundary, but because
of its status as a legal road, is still open to mountain biking. Otherwise
mountain biking is not allowed in any of the national parks. (Local
mountain bikers are working hard to regain access to some trails that
were recently swallowed up by parks.) We'd read quite a bit about this
trail, including that it had some technical sections, but given its
status as a legal road, we decided we've give it a try on the tandem!
I've mentioned that lots of rides around here are one-way and lots of
folks are interested in downhill. One of the suggestions for this ride
is to get a lift up the Takaka Hill, and ride back down on the trail
and a farm road. Of course we would never do such a thing, so we started
from our campsite in Pohara, rode the paved road up the Takaka Hill,
past our turn on Canaan Road to Ngarua Caves visitor centre where we
could get coffee. It was a bit cool, but still quite pleasant in the
sun. We then started the unsealed part of our journey and headed back
to Canaan Road for an 11 km journey into the Abel Tasman Park.
after reaching the parking lot, we spotted the turn for the Rameka Track.
It started out innocently enough, but soon turned a bit more technical,
and a lot less like a road. The track had numerous stream crossings,
where the trail dropped sharply into a rocky stream while turning 90
or 180 degrees. Additionally there are heaps of roots, which were quite
slippery after the rain the day before. We were able to ride parts of
it, but definitely found ourselves dismounting a few more times that
we had hoped.
John may have had better luck on his single, but I would
not have. It definitely would take a skilled rider to get through lots
of the steams, and drier conditions to not go sideways on the roots.
We eventually came to a short steep downhill, where we did slide off
the side of the trail. We picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off,
and continued. The trail then popped out onto a farm road with a long
steep descent back toward Takaka. I was quite happy to have the tandem
and it's drum brake for this descent!
got back to town early enough to stop for coffee. There are several
cafés in town, and we checked out most of them in our four days
in the area!
I mentioned we'd bought a new tent and this was the first
outing. It had rained the night before, and exposed a potential problem
where the fly touched the inner. It didn't leak, but if it had rained
hard, it might have. We played around a bit with the set-up to see if
we could prevent this potential problem, and eventually decided to unhook
some of the clips on the inner near the point of contact. Of course
it didn't rain anymore, so we didn't get to fully test our theory -
does it sound like I wanted rain?
next day, we took our road bikes and headed up past Collingwood and
to the visitor centre at Farewell Spit. The skies were a bit overcast,
and it wasn't the warmest of days, but the ride was quite pleasant.
We stopped for soup and coffee and the visitor centre and did a bit
of walking around. John really got a kick out of the presence of a whale
rescue kit out front. The bays here are quite shallow and whale beaching
is actually very common. We picked up a flier on how to refloat a whale,
and checked out the rescue kit. Amazingly when we got back to Nelson,
a whale had beached himself that day, and rescuers spent the day trying
to save it.
We stopped in Collingwood on the way back for another
coffee at a lovely little shop in an old villa. The sun poked out long
enough to cause all the outdoor seating to fill, so we enjoyed the warmth
of the indoors!
our final ride, we decided to head up to the Cobb Dam. The first part
of the ride is sealed and follows the river up to the dam. Once the
tarseal stops, the climbing begins. I figured out the average gradient
must be about 10%, as we climbed and climbed and climbed to reach the
viewing spot above the lake, about 10km later. This road heads into
Kahurangi, another National Park where mountain biking on trails is
not allowed. Riding on the road is permitted however. It was a lovely
climb up through the bush, with a nice view on top.
Apparently it can be dangerous to ride upside down
We really had a grand time on our brief trip into Golden
Bay. We definitely plan to get back up there both for more biking as
well as some tramping. The area is littered with tramping tacks! Part
of the reason we made the trip so brief was the cats. We haven't quite
figured out how we should deal with Nightshade's need for medication.
I'm not sure she would take it from any one else willingly, and forcing
blood pressure medication on a cat has to be counterproductive. We recently
took all the cats back into the vet for a follow-up visit for Nightshade
and Echo, and initial benchmark for Diabolo. They are all doing quite
well and have stabilised with their new diet. So we are feeling a bit
better about the possibility of longer trips away using a house sitter.
In the meantime, we are keeping the trips short. Of course the weather
has started to deteriorate, so it's not a bad time of year to keep trips