Another early start, and down to Wellington Airport for a coffee and a quick skip across the ditch to Nelson to start four days of fine weather, fine bycling and fine food and drink. That’s the plan anyway.
One advantage this time of course – we now know where the Nelson Cycle Hire shop is, so no getting lost on the airport grounds before picking up our hired bikes – upgraded since 2015 – a quick test run around the car-park, last minute adjustments, and off.
And in keeping with the finest traditions of bycling (which after all, is all about the journey between refreshment stops) we just had to stop at the Honest Lawyer for the first of many refreshment breaks. Trying to justify this on the basis that the trip from Wellington was more than our usual “leg” between breaks of 30 – 35 kilometres – was probably stretching things a little when the ride from the airport was actually less than two, but I guess it helps anyone with a guilty conscience.
The Trail from the Airport to Rabbit Island and the Mapua Ferry service is one of the most relaxing and visually variable rides on the GTT: virtually all off-road on a mixture of sealed and compacted grit trails, with a few board-walks around the Waimea Estuary and cool forestry trails on Rabbit Island thrown in for variety – and no hills! Some lessons here for Wellington regional Councils. And the views aren’t half bad either: from the built up “resort” of the Monaco Peninsula on the Waimea Inlet, the wildlife thriving in the Waimea Estuary, and the vineyards and forestry tracks approaching and around Rabbit Island. A fine way to spend a sunny day.
Well, that was the theory anyway. I decided that a visit to my sister Shona and her partner Max was again in order, given that we passed through the back of their property on boardwalks they had funded. So with a quick discussion of the route through to Petite Fleur at Seifried’s Vineyard for lunch, and the luncheon order sorted, “4Men” headed on to order while I stopped off to see the family.
Family obligations over, a speedy ride through the trail realised the expected views and wildlife. Arrival at the vineyard however revealed a different experience for the others: turning onto a main road one block too early resulted in a challenging ride along the busiest part of SH60, crossing one of the longer and narrower bridges on the main road, and an eventual approach to the vineyard and restaurant from the wrong direction. Enough to produce a few heart flutters for all.
Still, everyone got there, and the lunches were again up to standard – although Paul had problems figuring our where to start on his Seafood Platter. The effort was apparently worth it though. The Monkfish for Steve, and the Asian Beef enjoyed by Kev, Kem and Dale weren’t bad either – and less of a challenge to figure out!
The route through to the Ferry could best be described as slow and steady, initially on road, but once on Rabbit Island, along pine forest trails and gritted access roads. Arriving a bit early for the next ferry gave time to relax, then over to Mapua, being dropped off on the foreshore at the Leisure Park.
Accommodation this time was in two separate cabins with Kev, Kem and Steve in one and Paul and Dale setting the world to rights in the other. Booked in, and a quick change into casual gear, then off to the local Beach Café for a quiet beer and afternoon snack.
Kev and Steve had arranged to be picked up for an off-site commitment for a few hours, so the remaining group cycled down to the Mapua Wharf for that familiar staple: “Fish’n’Chips” on the wharf again for tea.
A few night-caps while awaiting Kev and Steve’s return, a brief catch-up on the basketball for Dale , before retiring for the night to catch some shut-eye before the long haul up the hills on Saturday en-route to Kaiteriteri.
A good way to start: familiar ground but different memories, and a gentle ride to warm up for what was to come.