Sunday, 24 February 2013

Summer Rhythms on Some Classic Roads

Bird calls greet us in the morning freshness as we wake early in our camp spot. Camped at Cobb Cottage in the Upper Awatere Valley, we are two days into a long-dreamed of expedition, "The Molesworth" and "The Rainbow". We're well in now, getting into the rhythms of riding and camping, and this morning are filled with expectation as we are to head into the Molesworth Station proper, and over our first major high point, Wards Pass (1145m). Our ride is taking us on classic back country gravel roads, winding from the summery vineyards of the Marlborough coast, inland deep into our beloved high country, and out into the beech forest of the Nelson Lakes. From there we will ride to meet family in Totaranui. Our trip is to take seven days, the first half joined by Katie and Andy to make a team of four.

Our team at Cobb Cottage campsite: Ols, Anna, Andy and Katie.

 Our trip began by train, catching the Coastal Pacific from Christchurch to Seddon. A very early morning was needed to finally see us all and our four bikes sucessfully loaded on the train, and rolling out of sleepy suburbs of northern Christchurch at 7am. Then at Seddon, unloaded in a hurry of swinging bags, bikes passed down, rapid counting of panniers "Anything missing?!", the toot of the engine and waves from the passengers, and then we were suddenly alone in the sun baked platform of Seddon station, white weatherboard amongst the golden hills of Marlborough.

Precious cargo in the guards wagon, our bikes enroute to Seddon.
Above a gorge of the Awatere River, nearing our first camp site.

Beautiful riding up the Lower Awatere, quiet sealed lane through the vineyards made smooth, fun riding, we were on our way at last! We left the seal after about 30kms, not to rejoin it until 5 days later. The next 25km to camp was stunning, though a good bit harder as we faced the gravel, hilly terrain and south west wind that would accompany us for the next part of the ride. Our streamside campsite by the Isis River was a perfect end to the day.

Day 2, Awatere Valley near Hodder Bridge
Day Two was hot, we rationed our water as we rode up the valley, skirting the great peaks of the Inland Kaikoura. A wonderful day of winding roads through interesting valley terrain.Another pretty full 50km day, to our camp at Cobb Cottage.

Andy riding in the Awatere, Tapuae-o-Uenuke hiding in the cloud behind.

In the baking heart of the Marlborogh high country, 10kms from the Molesworth Station.

Rolling into our green oasis, the Cobb Cottage campsite, Moleworth Station.

Day Three saw a welcome change to a northwest (and hence tail) wind. A short steep climb to Wards Pass, followed by a gloriously humming cruise all the way down the Acheron River to the Clarence confluence. The terrain was even bigger here, huge open valley flats backed by giant hills, softened only with a scant cover of sub alpine grasses. This is the Molesworth Station itself.

Isolation Flat, upper Acheron Valley

 After a windy night at Acheron Homestead as the nor'wester really got going and lightning flickered over the mountains to the west, we rode out to the Hamner turnoff, again swept along by the wind. Rain broke as we said goodbye to Andy and Katie, who headed out over Jollies Pass. Me and Ols continued up the Clarence Valley as it swung round to the north, and we grinded into a soggy nor'west wind. More expansive valley flats and big hills looming in the cloud, as we headed upvalley beside a steadily rising river.

Nearing the head of the Clarence River, toward Island Pass.
Fording the flooded Upper Wairau River to our hut for the night.

Over Island Pass, and we rolled down to Island Gully Hut, cold, wet but loving it! A great wee DoC hut to spend a cosy night in.

Rainbow Valley near Coldwater Creek

Day 5 saw us heading down the Rainbow Valley. Here the country changes quite considerably to a more mountainous, V-shaped valley, clothed in its lower reaches by beech forest. We enjoyed a cruisier day of gradually dropping and swooping downhill, all the way down the Rainbow and out to St Arnaud. The recent heavy rain had brought some slips down on the road, but we appreciated the work our $2 road toll funded as we met the station owner heading out with pick and shovel to tidy it up! The riding through some of the gorge sections was just supreme, and the experience of wheeling through the dappled sun and shade and summer scents of the beech forest was both new and very special.

Through an avenue of bush on the West Bank Road, Motueka River.

After our rather full 50-60km days of our trip so far, we were a little nervous about the 118km section from St Arnaud to Motueka! Happily though, this road proved to be (or at least feel) like one endless gentle downhill, through summery Tasman Bay countryside. One 12km stretch of State Highway was offset by wonderfully quite sealed back roads, an absolute joy to ride! Eating cake at Tapawera, swimming in the Motueka River, riding past summer paddocks, shady avenues and laden orchards, we were in real summer holiday paradise!

Starting up Takaka Hill in the early morning, Tasman Bay below.

Our last day took us from Motueka out to Totaranui in the Abel Tasman. Getting on Takaka Hill early proved to be well worth it, with the smooth quiet climb in the cool of the morning being suprisingly enjoyble! Some harder work over the top stretches, then an exhilarating fly down the far side, and down valley to Takaka itself. Here we met Nat and Sel, before riding the last stretch around to Totaranui and the relaxing joys of family camping! A really fun way to arrive at Tot, we were feeling very thankful and stoked on the last seven days of journeying! What fun to be on our bikes!

Our last stretch, down the hill to Totaranui!

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