got a new favourite loop ride. Starting in Wakefield, we follow the
Pigeon Valley Road up and over the Dovedale Saddle down into Dovedale.
Then we pick up Jacob's Ladder, followed by a road up the Rosedale Saddle
toward Neudorf. The first two times we did the ride, we came back along
the inland highway over the Moutere Saddle, but I had seen a few interesting
looking roads on the map through the Moutere Forest that I wanted to
check out. So this time, we decided to explore a bit more. The day could
not have been nicer. The sky was crystal clear, and winds were calm.
We stopped at a picnic table at a cricket ground in Dovedale to have
our sandwiches. The views of the western ranges were just beautiful.
our plan to do a bit more exploring, we actually bypassed Jacob's Ladder
and Rosedale and headed straight over the Neudorf saddle before stopping
for a Devon Tea at the Old Hop Kiln Emporium. We had a grand time looking
around the antique shop and made friends with the shop cat before having
our tea and scones. It was one of those picture perfect days, ideal
for sitting around sipping tea, but we decided that we probably should
head off if we were to do much exploring.
came upon a Buddhist Meditation Centre, with a gorgeous flame red oak
tree out front. This was quite the sight for us. Many of the trees around
here are pine and grown in plantation forests for logging purposes.
As such we don't get a tremendous amount of autumn colour. Since there
isn't a blanket of oranges, yellows and reds, we notice the individual
trees much more. But what was truly special about this one is that it
is oak. Back in New England, we rarely saw oaks turn any calorie
other than brown. Maples are the ones with the really brilliant colours,
but oaks usually just went straight to brown. Then the leaves hung on
til spring, dropping a few here and there, in an annoying fashion that
makes raking impossible. But here we have seen very vivid reds on oak
trees. I don't know yet if the leaves will fall off before spring. The
colour season seems much longer. It maybe lack of frost, but the colours
just seem to last much longer.
after passing the meditation centre, we came to a gate at the Moutere
Forest. We lifted the bike over and started along an overgrown trail.
We soon came to a steep firebreak, and finally popped out onto a main
gravel road. It was almost as wide as a highway. It ran along a ridge
and the views were very nice. We had to stop for a photo of this road
sign for our friend back in Washington State, Jan Heine.
map seemed to show another road off to the left to get us back toward
Wakefield, but the turn we took was actually a firebreak, and was a
bit too steep for my comfort. We turned back onto the main road, and
came back out at the top of the Dovedale Saddle. We plan to get back
out here some more to explore the forest and come up with a reasonable
way of getting back through, avoiding firebreaks!
our next big adventure was to do the Maungatapu Track. Like many of
the other local rides, we'd heard lots of good things about this one.
The most common comment from folks related to its steepness! Despite
being called a track, this is actually a four wheel drive road, and
one person had even told us we could drive the van on it in the summer.
As with most other rides, most folks do it as one way, getting a lift
to the start. We, of course planned to ride to the start, about 57 km
from Nelson, along route 6. But to make it more interesting, we decided
to ride out the Maitai Valley, up to the Caretakers House and onto Teal
Saddle, then through the Hira Forest on Central Road to get to the Whangamoa
Saddle, avoiding about 25 km of road riding on route 6. We'd then take
the sealed road out to Pelorus Bridge and follow the Maungatapu Road
about 12 km in to the start of the 4 wheel drive section. The next part
climbs steadily and sometimes steeply up to 740 metres before an exhilarating
and steep descent down to the Maitai Dam. Then it's a short climb back
to the Caretakers House, and a short descent to the Maitai Valley and
back into Nelson for about 100 km round-trip. We'd been talking about
this ride for ages, when we finally committed to doing it the day after
our ride out to Dovedale and through the Moutere Forest. As usual we
got a late start. Then we met some very friendly folks in the Hira and
stopped and talked to them for ages. Despite the forest for a repeat
of the day before, it was actually overcast and chilly. So after spending
quite a bit of time talking and exchanging contact info, we looked at
our watches and the sky, and decided to wait for a better day. A week
later we tried again, and we were amazed when we met the same people
at the same place on the trail the next week. This time, we kept our
stop short and pressed on.
met another cyclist at the Whangamoa Saddle, but again tried to keep
the conversation short. We flew down the far side, across the valley
and up the Rai Saddle. We decided to stop in Rai Valley to top off our
water bottles and have the sandwiches we had brought along. When we
reached Pelorus Bridge, I saw a sign for a tea room, which probably
would have made for a better lunch stop. Given the time, we passed on
a second stop for tea. We did have a vacuum flask filled with hot chocolate
and some cookies, that we'd have out on the track somewhere.
road started out quite pleasant and with lovely views. We stopped a
couple of times to check the map to be sure we wouldn't miss the turn,
but the start of the track did have a signpost, so there was no fear
of getting lots here. Our guidebook had mentioned a couple of intersections
later, and good signage on the far side.
Traffic had been fairly light all day, including the section
on Route 6, but shortly after getting on the gnarly four wheel drive
track, we were passed by two cars! The road was climbing steadily and
the views were pretty impressive. The sky had been crystal clear earlier
in the day, but we noticed a few clouds over the mountains. It never
rained, but did get a bit cooler as the day wore on.
I should mention that one of the things that makes this
track famous was a robbery and murder during gold rush times. A notorious
gang heard that a group of miners was heading over the track back to
Nelson loaded with gold. After murdering and robbing their victims,
the gang made their way into Nelson. The victims were quickly missed,
and one of the gang members ended up confessing in exchange for some
amount of immunity. The others were hanged. The site of the ambush and
murders is marked with a plaque. We had no gold with us on the tandem
and felt pretty safe in our crossing.
trail did indeed become very steep, and the fact that it had rained
the day before made it tougher to keep traction. This ride is probably
better done in the summer when its bone dry.
We did finally reach the top and after a brief photo stop,
decided the shadows were too long and the sun was too low to spend much
time having hot chocolate and cookies, so we pressed on.
I'll admit to being totally freaked by the descent. It
was incredibly steep, and to add to that quite wet, making traction
pretty well non-existent. I seem to have become more and more skittish
on offroad descents lately. Maybe it's being in the middle of nowhere,
where if something goes wrong, we won't be found for ages, or maybe
I'm just getting old. It might be nice to try again when it's dry, with
our mountain bike and it's front shock, but maybe we'll just find some
other track to explore!
We almost made it all the way down before dark. Fortunately
we had lights with us, which were necessary for the final descent down
from the caretakers house. We were both happy we had not taken a long
break at the top. As we got back into the valley, the temperature seemed
to plummet, so we rode all the way home before pulling out the vacuum
bottle to enjoy our still hot - hot chocolate.