15&16/1/16. We woke to a smattering of rain on Friday morning which soon stopped but meant the tent had to be packed away a little damp. It also meant the view was not as good as the previous evening with the volcanoes hidden by cloud and mist.
The road flattened out, or even (whisper it quietly!) seemed to be going downhill (net – there were still a couple of minor ups) as we headed towards National Park (which is a strange name for a village) where we to join SH4 for the rest of the day. We topped up on supplies at the supermarket and headed for the cafe which had been recommended the previous evening for good coffee and the closest available Wifi. The coffee lived up to the billing but there was a sign saying the Wifi was not working. Christine would have to wait to download her daily dose of The Archers podcast!
Thankfully SH4 was much quieter than its cousin, the No 1, although there was the occasional truck racing past. We were told later that some truckers have taken to using it as a quieter and safer alternative (although their choice is not the safe option for cyclists 😢)
All in all though it was a good route to be cycling on – there was a decent shoulder for much of the way, it was quiet AND it was mostly downhill! (And even when we encountered a climb, there was generally a tailwind to give a helping push!)
The road was soon joined by the North Island Main Trunk Railway. This is the route of the Auckland-Wellington train which runs only 3 times a week in each direction, so ut was no surprise to see that it was only single track. We passed a high (79m] viaduct which may have been a significant engineering feat but which was not a thing of great beauty and the Last Spike where the lines from the north and the south met in 1908. (Photos will be posted sometime.)
We were making good time and reached Raetihi, the destination for the day before 2 o’clock having cycled a similar distance to the previous day when we finished 3.5 hours later. The average speed said it all – over 21 kph for Stephen today, compared with 12.5 kph.
The campsite was empty when we arrived but soon filled up with lots of youngsters (and some more mature adventurers) who were about to set off on canoeing trips down the Whanganui River. We were to hear them again in the morning as they readied themselves for a 7.30 departure. The weather had improved as the day went on and there was a great view of the snow covered Mt Ruapehu from the site.
Saturday was pill day so we had booked in the campsite for two nights. Once Christine had completed her mandatory one hour of sitting still after taking the tablet we decided to take the gentle ride to Ohakune, which we had been told was a more “lively” place than Raetihi.
Without panniers (other than one for Stephen to carry raincoats and a few things in case of punctures or other bike related emergencies) we raced along. Well, “raced” may be stretching the point but the hills on the way were a relative breeze!
Ohakune was certainly well stocked with cafes, restaurants and outdoors-type shops. Being within 20 km of Mt Ruapehu, it had clearly set itself up for the adventurous traveller market with skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, zip wires, jet-boating, etc. all on offer.
The local Catholic church had a service at 5pm on Saturday and, with the Anglican church “open” only every other Sunday and it being the “wrong” week, Christine went to Mass while Stephen did the food shopping and started cooking. (A man’s work is never done!) After dinner we had a very pleasant chat with Peter and Glynis, a couple from Cambridge (the NZ one), about cycling on the South Island. We turned in early as we understood there were some hills on the next day’s route but were woken at 11, 12 and 1.15 by loud chatter and laughter from people who clearly have far more energy than us! We were not impressed!