Fair Flying Down State Highway 1!!
The guys are well on their way, having arrived and cleaned up in Whanganui, now on their bikes heading further South, already 110km down State Highway 1 at Levin as I write. Stages 1 and 2 successful, all on schedule running relatively smoothly!!! Stage 3 the cycling is going so quickly when following progress on their SPOT. The biggest hurdle is yet to come as there is a Gale Warning currently in place for Cook Strait this is likely to create a headache or two. http://www.metservice.com/marine/surf/makara
After our windy and icy climb of Tahurangi Peak, the highest peak on Mt Ruapehu, the highest point in the North Island, we were relieved to wake the next morning at 6am to a clear and windless day.
We were treated to an enormous sumptuous breakfast of sausages, bacon and eggs by Jim the legend Morrow before setting up the bikes and setting off for the 60km cycle to Taumaranui to meet the mighty Whanganui River. We chose to start paddling here because the river is too shallow further upstream. The ride from Whakapapa down 7 km (4 miles) of steep winding road was both freezing and fun. We reached top speeds of 64 km per hour on the hybrid mountain bike’s complete with panniers! We had a nice ride in 2.5 hours to reach Taumaranui. Here we did a quick grocery shop for 5 days food which we then loaded up in to the divorce machine (our sea eagle fast track inflatable kayak), under the watchful eyes of Jack and Rob who gave such helpful advice as ‘you will never get down the river in that f’in thing! You are carrying far too much food and not enough beer, and none of your gear is water proof!’
Undeterred we set off and promptly ran aground repeatedly for the next 20 km as we floundered down the river. It was too shallow to have the skeg (fin) in the divorce machine and controlling her heading saw us doing frequent 360’s and running into rocks where we had to jump out and push her off. However, she is made of tough stuff and 36 km later we had finished the first half day still intact but quite wet through, including some of our gear and food. At one point she filled up with so much water we were the divorce submarine, but taking the bungs out quickly; she shuddered back above the surface like a dog shaking itself free from water after a swim.
Over the next few days we got better and faster; halfway through day two the water was deep enough to put the skeg in and our control was much better. We paddled 7 – 8 hours every day, the longest distance was 60 km in one day, and the fastest speed we reached was 14.6 km per hour. Overall, we averaged around 8 km per hour. On day three it rained and we paddled in rain jackets but the river was still beautiful. I cannot describe what a beautiful and special place that is the mighty Whanganui River. The river banks are steep and lined with dense native bush, as you paddle your way through her many twists and turns you are continually mesmerized by the waterfalls, the cliffs, the bush and the birds. When it rains, cloud lines the tops of the steep sides and you feel like you are paddling into another world.
We reached Pipiriki on day 3; the place most people stop, but we still had 100km to reach the coast and Whanganui city. We spent the first three nights camping in our tent, the 4th night we found a beautiful little hut called Downes hut which we had all to ourselves. Today we paddled the remaining 44 km all the way out to Whanganui City; a hard slog as we battled the tide, head winds and long periods of still water.
So here we are tonight in Whanganui town, it’s very nice to have the first shower in 5 days as usual and wash the smelly clothes. We have deflated, washed and packed up the might Divorce Machine, and tomorrow will start our cycle South to Wellington and Makara Beach. Where if the weather gods are smiling on us, we will attempt to kayak across the Cook Strait. Something I certainly am deeply respectful of and getting more nervous and excited the closer the day gets. Thanks again to the nice messages and comments on Facebook, none of which I can reply to while on the road sorry. Axe out from Whanganui.
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Signing out until their next update!!