The final day!
I struggled to start writing this post. I’m not sure why, perhaps I didn’t want to accept that this fantastic adventure was over. Although I will be quite happy to not jump on the bike tomorrow.
While I was getting my bike off the motorhome in Canvastown a motorhome with bikes on the back pulled up. The driver wandered over and said he assumed there was a good cycle trail nearby that I was getting ready to ride.
Well, no. Ahead of me was 9km of busy State Highway, followed by a trail that was going to test my (admittedly limited) technical ability, and had caused 2 crashes that I knew of – one resulting in a broken wrist, the other a broken rib. So I was a little apprehensive about my day.
Ah well, can’t stand here chatting all day, better get on the road. The section of Highway 6 from Canvastown to Havelock is a continuation of yesterday’s final stretch – busy but with a good shoulder and considerate traffic. Flat and relatively scenic as it runs alongside the Pelorus River, it was not unpleasant and half an hour later I was riding through the small town of Havelock, “Gateway to the Marlborough Sounds”.
At Havelock I said goodbye to Highway 6, which I had largely shadowed since day 1, and rode onto The Link Pathway – a fairly new 38km walk/cycle trail connecting Havelock and Picton. The trail largely follows the route of the old Bridle Trail as it twists its way through the sounds, winding around every inlet and headland, providing some fantastic views of the various sounds and bays. There are some reasonably long climbs (more than I was expecting with about 700m of climbing), but most of them are fairly gentle slopes that I could just grind my way up.
It is a single-track trail, mostly dirt, with a few rocks and roots thrown in. As I mentioned earlier, there are sections of it that are just on my technical limit, which kept me focused, especially as the last 9 days of riding had me physically and mentally tired.
The trail starts straight onto the first climb – about 4km up the Moenui hill. This is a glorious piece of trail through lowland native forest, that has been largely rebuilt since suffering major storm damage 10 months ago. It is a credit to the Trail organisation that the significant rebuild has been completed so quickly.
This was when I realised that although the trail shadows the road through the sounds, it did not stick right beside it. Where the road tops out at the Cullen Point Lookout and drops down to Moenui, the trail keeps climbing for another kilometre before descending quite sharply. I was mentally prepared to start descending when the road did, and my knees did not appreciate the extra height gain. It was worth it for the fantastic views down Pelorus sound though. I stopped 3 times to take photos of this, as each time the view got better and better.
Then I lost all the height I had just climbed, and dropped back down to sea level. This is the area that suffered the worst storm damage 10 months ago, and a few nearby roads are still only open to residents. There are several places where half the trail has slipped away, leaving a narrow track to negotiate. Nothing too hairy, just a bit of care and concentration required. At this point I had done 20km for the day and noticed that the bike gears weren’t changing up properly. I stopped for a combination rest/photo break and decided to look at the gears – not that I know much about how they work or how to fix them.
The problem was easy to spot – a bit of stick was wedged inside the cage on one of the shifting cogs and was jamming against the chain. Getting it out was tricky, it was stuck in tight and did not want to budge. It eventually succumbed to some gentle swearing and I was on my way again.
From here the trail leaves the shoreline and runs alongside the road through farmland for 10km. It is a wide gravel cycle trail for this section, flat and straight and into a headwind. It is the least interesting and least technical part of the trail, and I took the chance to put my brain in neutral and eat a couple of sandwiches as I rode. I also missed the trail fork at the Anakiwa turnoff, and had ridden a few hundred metres down the wrong trail before I woke up. At least it was all flat, better than having ridden uphill unnecessarily.
A couple of kilometres later the road and trail started winding through the bush again, and I was soon at the Grove Arm jetty. Perfect excuse for another rest and photo break.
Then back onto singletrack and into the bush right above the water for 2 kilometres into Momorangi Bay. There is a large campground and store here, and I was looking forward to enjoying a coffee on the beach. The campground was reasonably busy, being the last week of the school holidays, but I was disappointed to find that the store was closed. Never mind, back on the bike and the lovely trail to Ngakuta Bay. There were even small patches of beech trees scattered along this section, which helped me forgot my missed coffee break.
I checked the time and remaining distance and decided that I was still on track to meet my reception committee in Picton at 2.00, so sent them a text to let them know. What I didn’t know is that the climb out of Ngakuta Bay was steep, and long, and tricky. The surface alternated between damp slippery clay and damp slippery rocks, and would have challenged me when I was fresh. At this stage of my journey I found it extremely difficult, and there were a few places where I had to use the second assist level on the bike for 50 metres or so to get me up the slope. The trail kept climbing after these steep sections, although on a gentler angle that I found easier to manage. I was again surprised that the trail climbs well above the road, and then loses 40 metres of height to cross the road at its high point.
The trail was winding around every nook and cranny in the hillside, with a lot of tight blind corners. The surface was still lumpy, and I had to assume that each blind corner was a hairpin with an obstacle lurking to unseat me. This made for slow travel and I dropped behind my ETA. Just as well I didn’t get that coffee break at Momorangi Bay. Conscious that I had people waiting for me I lifted my pace, and when I finally started the descent from Wedge Point I was pushing quite hard. Physically I wasn handling the pace OK, but my technical skills were lagging a bit, and after a couple of scares where I nearly introduced myself closely to a beech tree I decided that it would be stupid to have an incident this close to the finish and backed off a little. Better to arrive in Picton a bit late on my bike than to arrive in hospital in a helicopter.
Finally down at sea level for a short section of boardwalk in Shakespeare Bay, before the final (and thankfully short) climb to the lookout overlooking the Picton Ferry Terminal. I was already late, so a few minutes for the obligatory ferry photos would not matter much.
A final 2km cruise down a lovely forest trail, then 2 km across town to the waterfront and it was all over.
David, Mel, Jayden and my father were there to meet me, with Margaret on a video call to watch me roll into the finish. It was a lovely welcome, and I was grateful that everyone had given up their time to come and see me. And that they gave me a lift back to my motorhome in Canvastown.
It was a good day on the bike, despite my hips thighs and knees complaining about the accumulated kilometres. The Link Pathway is moderately challenging for my skill level, and I would like to ride it one day when I am fresh. But that will have to wait, I don’t plan on riding a bike for a very long time.
619km over 10 days. Phew.
The whole journey was fantastic, made better by everyone who helped out with logistics and support. Margaret and Dad did the bulk of the driving duties, I owe a very special thanks to both of you.