It was on Wednesday October 25th around 4pm when we reached Whanganui and we came straight to Durie Hill lookout. We parked our bikes and climbed the tower to take in some impressive views over Whanganui, Whanganui river and sea. When we got back down to our bikes, there were two options: to take an elevator or take a walking path down to the town. We can take the path, there are a few stairs, but it won’t be any problem… A BIG mistake! Somewhere in the middle I had to ask Jakub to help me with my bike because I couldn’t make it. Stairs were too steep. Jakub took bikes without any word and the rest of our way through the town was very quiet. Then Jakub navigated us to Ann and John’s place. That day we booked for the first time an accommodation via Warmshower. There is a app, where people offer a warm shower (obviously), an accomodation and sometimes also a dinner/food for cycletourists for free. So after we met Ann and John, took showers and ate dinner, we were happy again, everything was forgiven and we enjoyed a very lovely evening with our hosts. Ann and John are a lovely couple, probably the same age as our grandparents, and they have already trevelled the world. They told us some interesting information about Whanganui region.
Next day, Thursday, was a rest day. Jakub gave some love to our bikes and then we went to explore the town and plan our next days. We had to chose, if we wanted to carry on on main roads or if we choose the Mountain to Sea cycle trail, which is longer and more difficult. Yes, we choose the plan B – Mountains to Sea, or better to say Sea to Mountain because we were going to do it in an opposite direction.
On Friday morning we had to say goodbye to Ann and John, we packed food for three days and headed up North. The first day was relatively easy – 80km on sealed road to a village Pipiriki. The weather was great, sunny and almost no wind! Even it was mostly uphill all the way, we biked pretty fast. In the afternoon we did a small detour and went to visit a small village Koriniti to look at traditional Maori houses. We met a bus with kids from U.S., who were going to stay there overnight. Thanks that, we could joined them and experienced Maori greetings and then they offered to us a small refreshment – and as we are always hungry, we couldn’t say no. After that it was around 30km to Pipiriki, where we camped that night.
On Saturday morning we booked a jet boat ride from Pipiriki to Mangapurua landind. There is no other way to get to the begining of the Mangapurua track. We enjoyed an hour long boat ride but then it was the highest time to start pedalling. It was 11am and it was almost 40km of single track ahead of us. The first kilometer was amazing! The same as Bridge to Nowhere which we spotted soon. The iconic road bridge, built in 1936, remainds time, when the goverment offered land in the Mangapurua and Kaiwhahauka valleys to returned servicemen as part of a soldier settlement scheme. The intention was to build roads to it later, but the area proved to be so remote and unsuitable for farming that the venture failed and the farms reverted to native bush. Straight behind the bridge the track got worse rapidly. A narrow, muddy path with a lot of stones and swingbridges. The first 10 km took us almost 2 hours. Fortunately before I wanted to start panic, the track improved little bit and we were able to bike fast enough. After a long climb, we reached the highest point, almost 660m asl., and then a well earned downhill. It was around 6pm when we finished the track. But the end of the day was another 14km away in Ruatiti where we wantend to stay overnight. It was almost dark when we came. Tired, hungry but very satisfied. Bikes, gear and legs worked great and we couldn’t be more happy.
The third day was about to get back to civilisation. But there was another 50km. It was raining so we took it slowly. We were sore but then we got the rythm. Unfortunately, on 30.km I ran out of fuel. We were in Horopito, not far away from Mt. Ruapheu, I was hungry, cold and there was 20km on main road with headwind to go. I ate a protein bar and forced myself to bike at least 10km/h. When we after 2hours arrived in National park, a small village right under Tongariro National park, we were wet and tired. Jakub suggested to stay two days there and I didn’t need time to think. We booked a motel room in Adventure Motel and Lodge and enjoyed a warm shower and a big dinner…