Late evening Saturday night in Kaiteri, and the discussion turned to the likely weather for the long ride the following day. Rain was widely predicted, however not expected to arrive until late morning, so a relatively early start was planned to take advantage of the expected fine weather for the first part of the morning. A suggestion that “it would be raining by 8:00 am” was widely laughed off, on the basis of the general forecasts on various phones. Dale even went as far as offering odds on it being fine – no takers.
Next morning, 7:45 and panniers being repacked and bikes ready for off. No sign of rain, the sun is up, and everyone is wearing dry weather riding gear. Dale is regretting not pushing harder for takers on his offered bet.
7:55 and everyone is scrambling to unpack raincoats as the rain (gentle, but definitely recognizable) settled in. Sometimes these smartphones are not so smart.
The rain also had another effect, putting to bed any thought of using the MTB track as the way out: the thought of riding uphill on wet clay tracks had little appeal. So, with little likelihood of much traffic, on to the road it was for the initial climb out of the Kaiteriteri bay. With nothing apparently open for breakfast in Kaiteriteri the aim was to get to the Riwaka Hotel for breakfast and coffee. So, up over the hill, back onto the Trail, back through the orchards and over the swing-bridge to Riwaka – where we found the Hotel had been closed for six months for refurbishment.
A bit more backtracking found us at Mrs Smith’s Café & Vegetable Store, a blessing in disguise, where big breakfasts all round and great coffee prepared us for the long ride ahead.
This café (524 Main Road, Riwaka) specializes in creating fresh salads, filled rolls and other fare from vegetables that are harvested daily from their own garden. We can’t vouch for the soups, sandwiches, bread rolls, chiabatta pockets, paninis wraps, cakes and slices which are all made daily on the premises (and looked great in the cabinets) but we can certainly endorse the best coffee from Vivace to go with the Big Breakfasts. And the interesting local art work which adorns the walls. Highly recommended.
The Mystery of the Invisible Cyclists:
One of the eternal mysteries of recreational cycling in New Zealand is the fact that for a large proportion of NZ drivers anyone on a bike is apparently completely invisible. It doesn’t matter that you wear bright “fluoro” jackets, or have flashing red lights on your bike or jacket, some drivers just cannot see cyclists. Highly visible “Share the Road” signs don’t help either.
We experienced this for ourselves after leaving Mrs Smith’s. Biking sedately along a relatively narrow (and slightly uphill) road between neighbouring hop-fields, heading for the Motueka River West Bank Road, Paul and I had moved ahead of the other three by around 30 metres. The road is part of the GTT and clearly signposted with the “Share the Road” signs, so cyclists are presumably commonplace here. Biking in single file Paul commented on a large old two-tone Charger (dark green with a brown top) heading down the road toward us at speed, with both right hand wheels on (and at times over) the centre line. No problem, we were in single file , well to the left and heading in the other direction.
What we didn’t count on was a second idiot approaching from behind – also at speed – and passing the two of us at exactly the same time as the Charger did on the other side of the road. Over top of our bright yellow and blue jackets clearly we were also wearing invisibility cloaks. The rearward car passed at full speed only inches from my right elbow. The turbulence from his passing required both of us to fight to avoid being blown onto the grass verge; the following group commented that our panniers were clearly buffeted, and we both swerved closer to the verge to avoid contact and a spill.
We survived, but what is it about NZ drivers that causes them to treat cyclists as expendable road hazards, with no right to be on the road? There was plenty of room and time for the following driver to slow down between the two cycling groups and wait for the Charger to pass before passing the leaders safely – giving them a wider and safer berth. But either we were invisible, or his house was burning down and losing a few seconds on his terribly important journey was unthinkable – other road users just had to get out of his way or face the consequences.
The chances of either of these idiots (and both were at fault) actually reading this blog is slim. But perhaps someone local will see it and recognize the description of at least one of the cars. Can’t see it changing their behaviour as drivers are clearly more important than cyclists but at least writing it down made me feel a bit better!
Motueka River Valley:
Over the last couple of years we have ridden through some very picturesque areas: the coastal areas of the Great Taste Tasman Trail, the river rides of Hawkes Bay, and the colourful Autumn roads of the Longbush Valley in the Wairarapa, but the Motueka River Valley was right at the top of the list. Although overall the ride is uphill, the slope is so minimal as to be hardly noticeable in most places, and therefore offering an easy and enjoyable ride past a mixture of orchards, hop gardens, farms, and vineyards. Where the road passes closer to the river, the views of river terraces and deep pools (pity it was raining – these looked inviting for a quick dip on a hot day) offered a different perspective.
Taking advantage of the occasional large tree for shelter, Dale kept a running update on the (now historic) NZ – Ireland Rugby Test from Chicago. Hearing the last few minutes relayed from reports on Dale’s phone, while sheltering under a tree on the corner of Graham Valley Road and the West Bank road was certainly different.
One of the more memorable sections was passing through the “sylvan arch” formed by rows of trees on both sides of the road growing together to provide total shelter from the frequent showers. Tempting to stay there, but with a ride of around 72 km in total, stopping too long was not really an option. Fortunately no cars were passing as we stopped for a photo shoot.
Time-out was also taken for a “tea and bikkies” – albeit without the tea – at one of the few official rest stops on the road, just past this area. Pretty sure the old bloke mowing his lawn in the rain was left wondering why we were so far from the main road in such conditions.
Crossing the Motueka River at Woodstock Road, we continued along the Motueka Valley Highway, aiming for a stop at Dovedale for refreshments. No such luck – the General Store has long since closed. Brief thought was again given to diverting along the Neudorf Road, back to the Moutere Highway, but the thought of adding 18 km to an already long ride was not attractive. Surprisingly the shorter but higher climbing Dovedale – Pigeon Valley Road won out.
This also gave us the chance to drop in to see my brother Sean and his wife Di, who live well along Dovedale Road (no point in contacting them earlier – until we reached Dovedale village there was no guarantee we were heading past their house). Di welcomed us all, offering tea and coffee all round, and also managed to produce a selection of baking from her pantry. Soft seats (after 52 km on hard bike seats), hot drinks, home baking, and entertaining talk while sheltering from the rain was very welcome.
Then back on the bikes and back into the rain (heavier of course by now) for the final 20 km up and over the top of Dovedale Road on the forestry tracks, and down into Pigeon Valley and Wakefield. This last stretch was a challenge, with the middle 9 km being on winding, unsealed forestry roads, with heavy corrugations on the bends making riding uncomfortable. Fortunately the climb was steady rather then steep, and with “granny gear” engaged everyone made it to the saddle at 326 metres, our highest climb ever.
Going down the other side the road was similar, but steeper, so required careful riding, particularly in the rain. Once down, and past the Sharp Road turnoff the final 3 km was back on sealed roads, and into the village of Wakefield, where five wet and muddy riders were welcomed to the Wakefield Hotel.
The historic Wakefield Hotel has recently changed hands and is slowly being refurbished, with all facilities being overhauled and updated to provide services to the local community and to support the Great Taste Trail which passes right outside the front door.
Based on our experience of the hospitality (wet gear was dried for us in the laundry, and bikes locked in the garage), modernized rooms and shared bathrooms, and both the offerings and friendly service in the bar and dining room the new owners are clearly on the right track. Special thanks to Maxine, Jennifer and Dot for making us welcome.
A long day, a big climb (for us anyway), finished with an enjoyable meal and a walk around the village (now that the rain had stopped) gives a lot to look back on