Is that all there is?

With no end in sight, where do I go from here?

img_0167Friday 8:01pm… last orders from a departing sun bursting through my door high on the edge of the Hunua.  It has been quite some time since I wrote the last blog and now that I’ve finished is anyone interested?

In that time I’ve taken the road from Bluff to Rawene, let alone  back to revisit my old life in Ciudad de México. Right now I’m sitting high on the edge of the world, Manukau a reflection of days end in the east as I contemplate an answer to the last question I posed eight weeks ago…

‘Is that all there is?’

People often ask me ‘where am I from?’ and that’s an easy answer, but when they ask ‘where do I live?’ things get abstract… I’m a lost pilgrim, continuously moving with purpose, but without destination. Well not as yet anyway.

‘Is that all there is?’

Years ago I had one of those moments where I asked myself this question. For me the bike trip was part of the answer. So I did it because it was right there in front of me. I did it because it was there to be done and all I had to do was choose to go.

Choosing to go was the hardest part, the going was easy. The memory of it… irreplaceable.

So if you want my advice choose to go. Choose the road.

‘Is that all there is?’

No. There is always a road. For me right now its south and I’m unsatisfied, as I’ve left a whole other island unridden. I feel like a climber reaching a ridge, but never traversing to the summit. Turned back by unseasonable weather, but eager still to return when the conditions improve.

So for me it’s a hikoi south in a season of my choosing and this time I don’t think I’m going alone.

Now… are you interested?

Greytown to the end of the line

Day twenty two

Damp

It was a damp start to the day and nothing of my kit is really dry, but it doesn’t matter as this is the last day. I packed, stuffing everything back into dry bags and panniers and then strolled out of the trees to find some early sun. This is by far the coolest start I’ve had on the road in three weeks, with dew on the ground and a stillness in the air. All is quiet in Greytown. I skipped breakfast, I was out of coffee and wanted to hit the road.

The state highway south to Featherston was light of traffic and breeze. In one of only a few days on this entire trip it was calm and flat, with the sun streaming like staccato through the tree lined road. Rimutaka growing ominous in advance of me.

I’d already chosen the incline route and considering what I’d done to date this should be an easy climb, but trepidation was getting the better of me. After coffee I swung south from Featherston to find the beginning of the incline.

The last climb

The climb up from the Wairarapa proved to be suitable grade as my worn tyres slipped and crawled their way over the rough ground, I just keep going and going, crossing the debris field thrown down by the storm clouds further up the ravine, transiting the tunnel and there is was… the summit. All my trepidation abated. I’d made the top and everything from here was basically downhill.

The southern route was a slow river flowing down the mountains.  It almost felt like it had stretched itself out smooth and long to bathe in the morning sun. Best I get on in case its mood changes. I have to say that the incline has been one of the most stunning tracks I’ve taken so far… and familiar as it dropped down into the high valley of Kaitoke.

I’d reached the top of the Hutt by noon… it was now a river trail south to Wellington. It’s a gloriously still and sunny day. Perfect ground.

I pulled up on the Petone foreshore to get a glimpse of the finish line way across the bay (Wellington), just as Jack White began to wail Wayfaring stranger.

‘I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger. Traveling through this world below. There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger. In that bright land to which I go’

Timing is everything.

The end of the line

I pushed onto Wellington at pace, with renewed energy, I felt I could go on and on. The end of the line was Queens wharf and I was there before I knew it.

1,668 kilometres later, to the hour of starting way up at Cape Reinga three weeks earlier, I was there. Alone. All I could think of to say was… “is that all there is?”

Todays top track: Little feat – Willin’ 

Tiraumea to Greytown

Day twenty one

Right… time for an early start. If today is going to be like the last two then I need to get away early.

The day was grey and cooler than previous days, “looks like rain” I said to no sheep in particular. I packed, ate, left a donation and got moving.

I took a look up that climb that defeated me yesterday, the devil looking down, chalking up his cue. I had to pay a bribe, a toll, something that showed I was righteous enough to make passage and I had it.

Fumbling I put on a playlist from the only band to have sold their souls to the devil… it was time for some Led Zeppelin.

So with ‘Mothership’ blasting in my headphones I made peace with the devil and he was pleased. Beyond that initial climb the land fell away into ever broadening valleys and shallowing peaks. I made it to Alfedton in a little over an hour, then continued south for Masterton. The devils billard table behind me.

It began to rain about an hour out, but that didn’t stop me. I was drinking strong hot coffee by 11am.

The rain picked up as I hit the road again and I was soaked by the time  Greytown appeared through the milky haze.

I may have been wet, but that was the best 100km I had ridden in days. Thank you Jimmy Page.

The last night 

This should be my last night on the road and it was going to be a wet one. It didn’t matter, I was more fixated on tomorrow and the Rimutaka.

I kept thinking about the last good climb to come as I prepared my last dehydrated meal. “I should be good for this” I said aloud, but I was filled with trepidation. I’ve not ridden this way before, “I sure hope I make it”.

As I drifted off I was reminiscing how far I’d come. Maybe 1,600 km in the big wiggle. It had been a cathartic journey with reality on the other side of those mountains. Maybe I should keep going… Maybe the road is my reality… I drifted off…

Today’s top track: Led Zeppelin – Ramble on  

Herbertville to Tiraumea (where?)

Day twenty

Gale left me

I finally got to sleep. I’d teathered the prow of my tent into the wind and beaten off the best gale could give. I awoke late to carnage.

I stumbled out of my tent to see a sea of ripped awnings, tents and debris. Gale had taken it out on everyone else. I had escaped her calling in the night.

It was late, I was tired with a pain in my left knee. This wasn’t a good start to my day.

I decamped at pace and made my way out of the wide valley. A gentle steady pace. Passing open green fields and cows chewing on their early cud. Their necks pivoting in unison as I rode past. I could almost hear them humming out another Glen Campbell classic…“That keeps you in the back roads. By the rivers of my memory. That keeps you ever gentle on my mind” …I smiled back.

The road goes ever upward

img_4133I reached Wimbledon easily and then things went into a purgatory of stiff peaks and valleys, this was the east coast. I kept a low profile (only way to ride), trying to stay hidden but before long they saw me… Gales three sisters. One from the west, one the south and the other at times from the east. They were obviously here to defend gales virtue and they were going to abuse me all day.

I pushed on, into the world, like hells billiard table, never smooth and always tormented and frequented by gales three sisters.

I was sore, hot and hungry. I saw the sign, like forgiveness on the back of a prayer. It read ‘pub lunches at Pongaroa hotel’, that’s when the hallucinations started.

Was it going to be a pie, fish and chips, a burger and fries, a pub lunch. The prayer became a curse for more than an hour. Then I arrived.

Pongaroa isn’t much, it maybe was once, but now it’s another small slow drive by in the middle of the east. It did have what I needed though, a pub and a menu.
Gales sisters waited outside for me. I decided to take my time, Alfredton was my ambitious destination, but already this day felt like a day to concede.

A night in the field. 

I continued on south by south west. An immediate climb has become oh so frequent. That climb eventually leaded to a pass just north of Tiraumea and when I reached it I could see distance south all the way to the Tararua’s and the Rimutaka. All the way the devil was playing the black.

I descended, I was spent and as I turned past the abandoned Tiraumea school house the road rose again. I straddled my bike and gazed upward.

One more climb and what lies beyond? Was it the promised flat lands of the Wairarapa or was the devil setting up for another break?

I wouldn’t know, his table and  enterouge of gales sisters had beaten my today. I swore at that hill.

Withdrawing to the safety of that old field behind the school house, I shared camp with a herd of scraggly sheep.

That golden light

Tired, floating deep in the yellow grass in the heat of a yellow summer I thought back to ‘On the road’ and Jack Kerouac. I love that book.

I remembered leaving my well thumbed copy in a crappy old cabaña back in Talum years ago. It’s one dog eared page marked with an inscription I left with an old weathered pencil. It reads ‘a passage for a wayward traveler’ marked next to highlighted text…

‘…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…’

“what it is to be so mad to live”… I said aloud to no one in particular.

Today’s top track: Sufjan Stevens – Death with dignity 

Mangakuri to Herbertville 

Day nineteen

img_4127-2Still

It was still when I awoke and began the routine. Coffee and a double dose of daring do. It was hard to leave the hospitality of the wonderful Williams whanau, but after hugs and backslaps I slipped down the path and hit the gravel for the road south.

Everything to Porangahau

After listening to well regarded advice I slipped the gilded gravel back roads for the beach then back to gravel on the way to the southern tip of Porangahau, where I met gale.

Let me tell you about gale.

Gale loves the lowlands and the heights, she doesn’t abide by the rules.  When they say she will be north by north west she will be south by south east, no matter which way you turn she is there, in your face, in your grasp. Doing everything possible to delay you, attempting to wear you down with her relentless attention.

I push on, clawing my way through her misguided affection and with every pull of the crank her determination and resolve gets all the more aggressive. Like a lover scorned her anger is not abating, until there is a stand up fight. Me upright on my peddles facing her directly screaming  “enough, for gods sakes leave me alone, it’s over”, but she simple won’t take no for an answer.

This argument continued all the way to the Porangahau general store and ice cream shop. Then beyond. All the way to Wimbledon where I finally managed to turn my back on her. She did her best to grab me and throw me from the bike in disgust. Her howls now at my back.

I made Herbertville at four.

Gale stayed until early morning. Throwing all manner of abuse at me and everyone else at the campground. Many surrendered their tents and self respect. Not me. I didn’t give into the bitch, even when she got to 140 knots.

It was a lousy sleep.

Today’s top track. The Doors – L.A. woman

Napier to Mangakuri beach 

Day eighteen

On the road 

Three days of resting, eating and spending time with friends and whanau and I’m up and gone by eight am.


One of those classic calm Napier mornings for the final lift south along the East coast, making good time to Havelock North before taking Middle road to Elsthorpe. Good ground for cycling.

American honey

The ride folding into the landscape with gentle rolling hills before descending into the wide expanse of the central Hawkes Bay Tuki Tuki valley.

A light growing breeze coiling up from the golden pasture, smelling of sweet American honey, reflected back by a pale blue arch of clear sky.img_4121
Stopping at the Patangata pub for coffee before swinging back eastward to the coast. I’ve been this way on two wheels before, back when I was 16 on a little overnight trip. I remember the pain, this time I’m older, somewhat wiser and better prepared, but fair weather memories none the same.

I got to my destination by two. Earlier than expected, but just in time for lunch, a swim and generous company from the Williams whanau. A night to remember and not think about the remaining challenge ahead.

Today’s top track. Greg Johnson – Don’t wait another day. 

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Kuripapango to Napier

Day fourteen

6am, everything is sore. Time to crawl out and get on with it, it’s the last day of the second stage. I don’t want to move… really I don’t. Destination Napier and a chance for some rest and good home cooking. The thought of sweet mamas meat loaf and raspberry square. OK that got me moving.

I said my goodbyes to Kuripapango camp ground and Nick the Brit and headed east into the dawn.

Nick the Brit

Nick didn’t really arrive as explode through a sea of manuka at dusk the night before. He’d just come up from Napier all vim and vigor with a massive cargo in tow (four panniers, a pack and a water bladder (I kid you not)) bound for Ohakune. We talked for a bit about the joy of hill climbing fully loaded, oohed and aahed over bike kit, then I gave him a low down on the Annie. He was strong, a bronzed athletic fit young Brit (in comparison to a old greybeard… me) and I’m sure he’ll make shorter work of my yesterday.

Onward into the east

Napier was another 86km away (according to Nick) and I knew there were hills between it and me. ‘What do they mean when create signs saying 86km to somewhere?’ Is that to the outskirts? The centre? The other end of town? When you measure your days in kilometres this stuff becomes really important. So I started to scheme about points on the line, stage gates, milestones… like a countdown to liftoff. I was like: ‘T minus 2 hours and counting’. Good god I need a life.

All I know is I have at least another 4 to 7 hours on road depending on the terrain, but I’m expecting less considering everything should be tracking my way, downhill. Wishful thinking…

There was an immediate climb out, then another and another, but this was soon replaced by long sweeping downhills through the forest to the edge of the Hawkes Bay high country. I’ve cycled through a voodoo where a lush green palette  has been replaced with the khaki brown of my childhood. Behold the magnificent Hawkes Bay, laid open and bare from the  Takapau to the Tutira.

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Now it was a case of go hard and get home. Now was a time where descent was more common than ascent. Where the breeze, no matter which direction was as warm and agreeable as was the slope of travel. I made good time. ‘Omahu’ by 10:30.

That was my call sign back to the world (time to turn the cellular on) to let them know I was still alive, ‘Omahu’, ‘Omahu’, ‘Omahu’. And ‘Oh ma’ I had arrived.

img_0529It was the new world. There would be feasting, drinking, sleeping in a bed, there would be showers and I would have clean bits! I was excited.

I don’t think I’d ever ridden so fast to the Ahuriri. The moment had arrived. I was at a watering hole. Rest good, good leggies. You got me this far, you deserve a brake.

Todays top track: Michael Bublé – All I Want for Christmas Is You