Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cycling the North Island - Day 01 - Leaving Wellington

Welcome to the North Island.
My cycle-tour of the North Island has finally started and I'll try to blog about it as often as possible. I haven't properly sorted my photos, so just adding a few ones make the post more colourful.

Saturday 24th November
What a crazy way to start! A terrible night at the hostel, in a dorm room hot like the Sahara at midday and loud like a dorm room with a Chinese snoring champion at his best. When I finally managed to get some sleep, it was obviously check out time, so out I went, tired and in a terrible mood, to sort out my last bits and pieces, buy groceries and finally get going. I didn't manage to leave Wellington before noon, frustrated for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that the Hobbit's world premiere was due in just five days and I was going to miss out on all the hype and red carpet, but I had already spent too much time lingering around and just had to go.

So, on a sunny Saturday with favorable wind (which I waited for), I finally started my cycling tour across the North Island. Leaving Wellington by bike is far from pleasant and unless you're like me and want to cycle at all costs, I highly recommend to take a train to Upper Hutt, saving yourselves a 40km ride on a motorway's shoulder, even though it's officially classified as cycling lane and there is plenty of space. It's also possible to go through the centre of Lower and Upper Hutt, but according do a local cyclist, it's as busy as the motorway and has no shoulder, so probably not the best option. At least State Highway 2 is fast.

Middle of Middle Earth - that's the marketing slogan
for Wellington's world premiere of the Hobbit movie.
The Rimutaka Incline Rail Trail, and old railway converted into a cycling/hiking path, starts just 9km from Upper Hutt - climb the big hill up SH2, turn right into Kaitoi Loop Rd at the very summit and you'll soon reach the rail trail starting point. It's an 18km gravel track with a mild 1 in 15 gradient and a few tunnels, the longest being 580m long; bring a flashlight so you don't end up in the ditch at the tunnel's centre. The eastern side is a lot steeper, but still manageable. The Rimutaka Incline is a great way to avoid a chunk of SH2 and also a very pleasant ride, with camping spots along the way. It pops out at Cross Creek, halfway along Lake Wairarapa, about 10km south from Featherston. You can also go south and around the lake, if you're heading to Lake Ferry or to Cape Palliser.

Which brings us back to me; I did go to Cape Palliser, even though I wasn't planning to, but I'll talk about that later. First I want to mention Jim, a 65-year old cyclist I met on the Rimutaka trail - my first fellow cyclist in the North Island. He seems to know a great deal about European history (for a Kiwi, anyway), for example about the Spring of Prague in 1968, apparently Alexander Dubček was his youth hero, and he also knows all sorts of things about the former Yugoslavia. Perhaps that's why he's married to a woman from Montenegro.

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