Wednesday, 16 January 2013
As mentioned previously, I turned away from Tongariro due to bad weather and headed to Hastings, via the old Taihape-Napier Road. That's its official name, but cyclists know it as Gentle Annie, a nickname originating from a hill of the same name somewhere in the Kaweka Range. Whoever chose that name must have had a twisted sense of humour, because Gentle Annie is anything but gentle. It's the toughest ride I've ever experienced!
The road is 150 kilometres long, it stretches over several mountain ranges, farmland and large valleys, and it contains no less than three huge - I mean HUGE - climbs. Starting just off SH1, it greets you with a sweet downhill leading into a long valley with a small Maori settlement. As it starts climbing, steadily for several kilometres, it reaches a wide plateau covered by farmland. That's not the end, though; it doesn't stop climbing until the plateau's eastern side, a good place to check the bike's breaks before diving into an amazingly steep downhill ride leading into a massive valley, with nothing but a fence separating you from a deep drop. A successful descent is the perfect way to finish the day at the basic free campsite near the historic Springvale suspension bridge. The only thing spoiling the fun is the massive climb out of the valley, in plain view and a reason to feel apprehensive about the morning...