We left Whanganui and headed east, following the Three Rrivers Trail through very hilly, very deserted farmland. It was just us and the cows and sheep. No big climbs but the constant up and down really takes it out of us! We found an amazing DOC campsite by the river which had showers (cold), what a luxury!
From Vingar Hill we swapped trails and jumped on the Gorges to Sea route, we spent most of the day on a tiny gravel road meandering through the hilly farmland with a strong blustery wind. Again, hard work, but really lovely. And we finished with a cup of tea at Apiti tavern before sharing a shelter (shed) with the sheep in Apiti domain campsite. Only a bit of rain but quite cold.
Next it was the Manawatu cycle way, a (mostly) sealed road following a big river through, yep, more hilly farmland. But when the sun was out it was lovely, and we were really enjoying the scenery. At Ashhurst we spent a night with a very interesting warm showers host, and his three goats, two cows and 4 horses. Sinterklaas also managed to find our clogs, despite being halfway around the world.
Another day of beautiful, hilly farmland and a bit of a headwind took us to Eketahuna, and the BEST campsite so far. Super lovely and quiet spot by the river, really really cheap, and free eggs, flour and sugar in a very well stocked kitchen. So we gorged ourselves on pancakes and enjoyed an afternoon lazing in the sun.
In the morning we exchanged cycling plans and tips with a Scottish lady before having a bit of a boring day on a main road to Martinborough. However on arrival we found the whole town out and about in the square and the Christmas parade about to start. It is really weird seeing Christmassy things when it’s 30°C and sunny. And Father Christmas certainly looks odd in sunglasses…
Our warm showers stay that night was really special. Our host Tony drove us down to the south coast and took us to see Cape Palliser lighthouse and the incredible rugged coastline. Then we visited a seal colony. I was ecstatic! We got so close and watched the seals playing and saw lots of tiny pups. It was really magical.
Heading west, we took some tiny back roads, and had a cold river crossing, to the Rimutaka Rail Trail. This is an old fell trainline over the hills, and was an interesting ride up rocky single-track and through the old railway tunnels. Jim’s been really enjoying reading all the historical information signs on the trails. This was followed by a fun descent through the forest to the Hutt River Trail, an easy cycle path next to the Hutt river which took us all the way to Wellington. Jim’s friend Calum had very kindly allowed us to stay at his for a few nights so after tiredly dragging our bikes and kit up the very steep and very long hill he lives ontop of, we enjoyed a quiet night in.
Jim’s words – Achy, Wind, Goats, Alpaca, Seals and Incline