Monday, 7 March 2016

Wairarapa ride – Martinborough to Gladstone

On Wednesday 2 March, having spent several days at my desk making changes to my blog, and not having biked for ten days, we thought we should do a substantial ride somewhere. And since there weren’t many rides listed in the Wairarapa Rides tab, we decided to remedy that by biking the route we had done when we took part in the Martinborough Charity Fun Ride, back in November. 

But instead of doing the 48 km loop without any stops in the middle, as there are no cafés along the way (how barbaric!), we decided to go as far as Gladstone so we could stop for lunch at the Gladstone Inn. This effectively meant we were doing the 67 km loop.

The two routes. This map is a truncated version from the Charity Fun Ride website

We parked our car in Martinborough (a 75 minute drive from Wellington), and first of all fortified ourselves for the ride ahead with coffee and scones. Then we tootled out of town on Hinekura Road.

Hinekura Road. With John’s new camera attachment on his handlebar he can take photos while riding – which means lots of photos of my back (photo by John)

When we biked here in November, I commented on how green the hills were. Now, they are quite dry and brown. Along the road and in the paddocks, we saw lots of thistles with their white fluffy seed heads or brown spiky seed pods.

Brown hills and paddocks with clumps of thistles (photo by John)

Some distance along, near the turn-off to Te Muna, John thought we’d made a mistake, and missed a turn-off, so we turned and backtracked for a couple of kilometres. I was having doubts, so when I saw a man walking along with his dog, I stopped and asked if Longbush was “this-a-way or that-a-way”. He pointed to where we had just come from. We had been right in the first place. John meanwhile was pedaling back towards Martinborough, so I had to call out to him to come back.

We rode past a garden that had intriguing topiaried shrubs in it, dotted round a lawn. It was hard to see from a distance what they were meant to represent. When we enlarged the photo, the lumps on top of the rounded shapes looked like animal heads – sheep? poodles? or even ducks? Very odd.

Some very odd-shaped topiaries dot this large garden - click to enlarge (photo by John)

We enjoyed the ride up Longbush Road. The gently rolling hilly countryside is very attractive. We saw some mudstone cliffs, and beautifully textured hills – like velvet from a distance, a green oasis by a stream below the road, vineyards covered in netting to deter birds from scoffing the fruit, and a ubiquitous NZ red woolshed.

Mud-stone cliffs

Velvety hills (photo by John)

A green oasis below the road (photo by John)

While stopped here to take photos, I listened to the silence. Well, it wasn't really complete silence, as I could hear the high-pitched whine of the cicadas, the distant mooing of a cow, and the chortling of some magpies in the trees on the hill above. But it all felt wonderfully "silent" and peaceful.
Vineyards covered in anti-bird netting (photo by John)

A woolshed

We saw a number of cyclists travelling in the opposite direction. They had a similarity about them – all seemed to have minimal amounts of luggage, like handlebar rolls, and smallish bags attached at the back of the saddle. Not your ‘regular’ touring cyclists, who are usually loaded down with rack bags and front and back paniers. After a while it dawned on me that they might be taking part in the Tour Aotearoa which I knew had departed the previous week. 

This is an organised ride of 3,000 km – three thousand kilometres, can you imagine that! – from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It follows the route described by the Kennett Brothers in their book “Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails”. Participants can expect to take between 15 and 30 days to complete what must be an incredible ride. From the website, it sounds like an amazingly well organised and regulated event. 

The next time we saw a couple of these cyclists, I called out and asked if they were riding the North Cape to the Bluff tour, and they said yes. We wished them luck, and John managed to get a photo of them as they went past.

Two participants in the Tour Aotearoa (photo by John)

In fact, we saw the same two people again later, when we biked back into Martinborough. Just like us, they must have stopped for lunch.

At the turn-off onto Gladstone Road, we saw this encouraging sign from the local community

Just before we turned off at Gladstone, we saw a contribution left over from the Gladstone Scarecrow Festival that was held in November. It was the “Goodnight Kiwi”, going to sleep in his satellite dish. This was a character shown on television at the close of each evening’s transmission, in the days before multiple channels and 24-hour programming. 

“Goodnight Kiwi” (photo by John)

Gladstone Church (photo by John)

A couple of kilometres up the road, just before the bridge across the Ruamahanga River, we found the Gladstone Inn, where we stopped for lunch. We had done 37 km so far, and we were ready for a rest. The Gladstone Burger Special was delicious and filling. There were other things on the menu that sounded equally appealing. We will have to come back some time for another lunch stop.

The Gladstone Inn (photo by John)

The ride back to Martinborough, via Parkvale, Kokotau and Ponatahi, was not as pleasant as the Longbush Road. This was a much busier road, with a lot of traffic hurtling past at 100 km/hr. Longbush Road had been very quiet with hardly any traffic, so this was a bit of a shock.

We were now also heading into a brisk southerly, so we cranked up the e-assist to 4, and biked along as fast as we could.

We did stop, however, at the sight of a model aeroplane, perched on top of a pole, by the roadside. The plaque below it said: “At this location, on the Hurunui-o-Rangi Flats, on June 21-23 1913 the Fisher monoplane made twelve short flights. These flights were the first made by an aeroplane in the Wairarapa and are among the first flights recorded in New Zealand. The Fisher monoplane was designed and constructed by David Percival Fisher and flown by Reginald Harry White, both of Wellington. Further flights were made in Carterton. This half-scale replica model was erected on June 21 2003 by the Wairarapa Community”.

“The Commemorative Model of the Fisher Monoplane” (photo by John)

Another sight we stopped at was a rather creepy remnant of the Scarecrow Festival (I think). It was a model of a horse, but time and weather had obviously caused it to deteriorate. The horse’s head looked disturbingly real, while the “human” arm over the back of the horse made you wonder what happened to the rider.

A “scarecrow” horse (photo by John)

A nice row of gum trees along the Ponatahi Road (photo by John) 

It was another 35 km before we got back to Martinborough, making today’s total 72.2 km – almost as much as our longest one-day ride (Paeroa to Thames and back, which was 72.5 km). I must say, I was very glad to get back to the car. My knees and behind were certainly feeling the worse for wear. And I was so tired, it took me several days to recover.

We found the first part of the ride on the Hinekura and Longbush Roads very enjoyable, but the return trip much less so. We think that if we do this ride again – and we are sure to, some time – we would probably return by the Longbush Road after lunch at the Gladstone pub, rather than making the full loop.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful description of a mammoth ride! No wonder you were tired afterwards. As for John, he looks as though he was taking part in Tour Aotearoa ...