One of the things I like about Adventure South is the flexibility of their plans. Obviously some aspects like accommodation must be pre-booked and you get a detailed itinerary, along with daily ride sheets with profiles, but it might change.
Today was one of those days as we were supposed to ride from Russell along the coast road to Whakapara. It was still blowing a, literal, gale from the East/South East (yellow arrows). After consultation we were driven to Whakapara down the inland main highway (blue arrow), with a short diversion to see the toilets in Kawakawa, and rode the coastal road back to our start point in Russell (red arrow).
That toilet diversion might sound an odd thing to do but they are a unique organic style mosaic finished building designed by Austrian born, later Kiwi citizen, Artist/Architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and have become a bit of a tourist destination. I knew of his work as we had one of his prints (sadly not an original) when I was a kid. He spent quite a bit of time in New Zealand at his farm, near Kawakawa, and on his death in 2000 was buried there. The town has adopted the Hundertwasser theme and several main street buildings, artworks are done in his unique style.
We rode from Whakapara and the initial part was a little bit sheltered as the road runs up a valley. Until fairly recently this was a very rough corrugated gravel road, so bad it was banned for rental cars. I remember the Helena Bay Hill was legendary for boiling cooling systems, on the way up, and brakes, on the way down, as holiday makers carted everything including the kitchen sink ‘up North’.
The road is sealed now but still a challenging ride and the weather, constant rain and gusty wind, made the downhill as taxing as the uphill. We stopped at a lovely café/gallery near Helena Bay, a hot coffee and tasty treats were welcome. The road continues with more twisty climbs and descents as the bays roll past and even the occasional help from a tailwind when the road twisted inland.
‘The moment’ happened on the descent into Taupiri Bay. I had a fall before the trip and a sprained right thumb meant I had much less than the usual grip strength for braking. I’m usually a bit gung ho on downhills but with the wet and reduced braking was taking it easy. Unfortunately this hill was quite steep and even with all the brake I could muster, full rear & part front, arrived at one corner a bit too fast. It was a hairpin that went on, and on, and on with little more, on the outside, than a small grass verge before dropping to rocks & sea. I got to the point where I was running out of road, unclipped from the pedals and thinking of ditching the bike. Was even considering how to explain to Adventure South that their nice Trek road bike had disappeared into the ocean. Luckily there was just enough grip to get around the curve without losing the front wheel from under me or running out of road!
The rest of the ride was uneventful, cycling wise, but the coastal views were spectacular with huge surf crashing on the rocks and beaches (rare on this East Coast). Unfortunately it was too wet to carry a camera and capture the scene. Even the iPhone photo (below) taken on an inland section, while sheltered behind a tree, risked getting it wet from humidity, damp fingers and rain. It survived but spent the rest of the ride in a waterproof carry case..
We rode through to Russell and, after a change of clothes, got back on the bus to retrace our path to the overnight accommodation in Whangarei. It was a backwards but very memorable ride, both in spite of and because of the conditions.