Friday, September 19, 2008

Wires Rd hike-a-bike

I couldn't stay at home for a complete set of days-off two weeks in a row, so Monday I packed up the bike & a few other things & went out for my first ride around the Farm Loop at Hunua in three months. As expected, after all the rain in the recent months & general Hunua conditions (it's not a water catchment area for nothing) it was pretty slippy & bits of the track had changed slightly (not to mention an extension I hadn't done before). Due to general lack of riding & being by myself (although I was surprised to see three other groups of riders out there on a Monday afternoon) it was a pretty cruisy ride, but I loved getting back in to the slightly more technical single track - & the Challenge Downhill is always a bit of fun. As always, saw a few wild pheasants.

For a change from Hunua, I ducked out to SH2 (it's always nice to be on roads I've never been on before - even if they are close to home) & headed off to stay with Betsy & Paul (Aunt & Uncle) as they have recently moved close to Thames. Good to catch up & sit through another sitting of UK & Europe photos & see their new place. Leaving early enough for a day off, next stop was Maratoto (home of the Maratoto Challenge - which I think of as a mini-Karapoti) & the Wires Rd track - just north of Paeroa. It must be about three years since about six or seven of us did part of this track (back when I wasn't on shift & had a social life) from the Whangamata side. Short history is that the track goes over the ranges from Maratoto to Whangamata sort following the old telegraph wires that had to be put through during the Land War. Anyway, this time I was attacking it from the west side & it just happens that one of the guys on my shift at work lives close by so I dropped in for a visit. Interesting to see the earthen-walled house that Tim is building & the small wind & hydro turbines that he has installed around his 90 acres of bush & grazing block that has great views down the valley.

Somehow, Tim was persuaded to come on the ride up the Wires - it's always good to have a bit of local knowledge. It turned out just as well, as the ride that Tim had in mind for me was nothing like the one I had initially envisaged. Our ride started off in the cloud down the road for a while before we got to Wires Rd, with Tim filling me on recent local history & meeting a couple of locals along the way for a chat - & Tyler the dog trying to keep up. It wasn't long before we slowed significantly as we hit the up hill for two hours & Tyler was constantly waiting for us. Being maintained by a 4WD club the track was nice & wide & mostly-comfortably rideable in the middle chainring - although I did have one impressive fall trying to tackle a two-stage steep incline of smooth rock. I got up the first bit ok, ran out of momentum halfway up the second, realised disaster was creeping up on me & unclipped one foot & tried a dismount. After a few seconds of hopping around on one foot, but still on the saddle I was over backwards leaving an amused Tim to come around the corner to find me lying on my back!

Eventually we reached the ridge & it was the normal up & down with some nice rocky downhills to keep me interested & a few stream crossings.We eventually reached the Loop Track, which must have been what we did three years ago - but nothing really looked familiar. Anywho, Tim had other ideas - the Waipaheke Motorbike Track. This apparently used to be part of a much longer Maratoto Challenge, but was taken out because it was so hard (it was done in the reverse direction to the way were going), they couldn't get enough crazy people to do it. We found the track easily enough & there was some conjecture of which peaks we were actually going to go around - by now the sun was out nicely & we had some decent views occasionally. In the end that didn't really matter as we spent most of the next hour an a half looking at the track as we pushed our bike along. Since Tim had last been along here a few years ago, the region has had some massive deluges & the track was now severely rutted & overgrown. We battled on & the rest/food stops became a bit more frequent. Eventually we reached the saddle were rewarded with some good views of the ranges & all the way down to Whangamata.Unfortunately, the first half hour or so of the downhill the bikes were mostly pushed as it was very steep & very rocky. I did get some nice bits of riding in at times - big rocks strewn around the track always make things challenging & I tended to bounce around all over the track. My enthusiasm only landed on the ground once - who knows what really happened there? The size of the some of the slips that had carried the track away were quite impressive, even if it did mean more carrying. Eventually, & to my immense relief, the track became more & more rideable & as it had been previously used by motorbikes, a lot of the corners were very nicely bermed & great fun to ride. Plenty of stream crossing & then we were down following & crossing the river - it sure got a lot muddier here. Five hours after setting off, we were finally back facing the climb that is Tim's driveway - what a great ride/push/carry. Rush back home for dinner & now I'm slightly jaded after two pretty quiet night shifts & waiting for the Warriors game tonight.

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