The Power of Buckwheat
Riding time: 16hrs
Alarms went off at 5:15, goal to be riding by 6am. I cooked up some buckwheat porridge – filling, warming and edible with the addition of tinned peaches, milk and sugar; but not recommended if other cereals are available. We made it onto the bikes a little after 6, refreshed after a good night’s sleep and looking forward to the tailwind that would surely be waiting for us as soon as we made it round the corner at Inchbonnie. Although it was grey and overcast, it wasn’t raining, and I was pleased to find that the soaking of the previous day had miraculously fixed the squeak in my bottom bracket.
As we cruised towards Stillwater we passed Nathan sitting on the side of the road having breakfast. He had also decided that Otira wasn’t far enough, had gone through Jackson and camped on the side of the road. A little further along, Peter had already passed him after a comfortable night in Otira. I was beginning to get an appreciation of the different styles and strategies of different riders. The good thing about riding with Mike was that we were riding at a similar pace and also had similar philosophies about when to ride and when to rest. Also, he laughed at my jokes (mostly), and could fix my bike if necessary!
On the road between Stillwater and Ikamatua we were passed by twenty or thirty vintage Fords. We were hoping for a really old one so that we could jump on the draft, but no such luck. The drivers all smiled and waved, possibly recognising a commonality between obsessive enthusiasts or maybe driving a Model T just makes you happy?
The shop at Ikamatua was our last chance to stock up on calories before the Waiuta to Big River Track, the next section of single track. The owners had been tracking the Brevet online, and asked our names so that they could follow our progress. It is a really cool feeling to think about all the people following your little blue dot around the country, even if it does have a line through it for taking a detour via A&E. Following the dots of the other riders becomes addictive from within the Brevet as well as from outside. Every time we got cell phone coverage, we would see where everyone had got to. “It’s not a race”, but it kind of is!
The next 18km took us up the Blackwater Creek, a gentle climb up a gravel road through a pretty bush-covered valley to Waiuta, a historic mining town. A wasp flew into my shirt and stung me three times before I could get it out. Mike was up ahead and lucky to miss out on my emergency shirt removal.
|Mike finding it hard to contain his excitement at the start of the best single track of the Brevet.|
The Waiuta-Big River Track was the highlight of my Brevet in terms of riding. Most would be rideable on an unloaded bike on a dry day, but I walked a few rooty sections, remembering Bryce’s advise, “ride to survive”. The loamy sections, roots and boardwalks brought back memories of the BC Bike Race; and the babies’ heads boulder descents were Karapoti-esque. I was glad to have front suspension; Mike’s arms were a bit the worse for wear after the descent on his fully rigid bike.
|Big Grin after the Big River track.|
The next stop was Reefton, where I discovered the ultimate refuelling combo: a deep-fried chocolate donut with chocolate sauce filling, with a chocolate thickshake. Strangely, this was all I could stomach after suffering from heartburn since the summit of the Big River track where I had made the mistake of eating a chicken sandwich - too much protein for riding single track. Gastric reflux was a minor problem for the rest of the ride, a hazard of constantly fuelling on sugar. I had been drinking diluted Powerade until then, but stuck to water and the occasional Gaviscon from Reefton onwards.
I noticed half way over Big River that my saddle was pointing fractionally upwards, pulled by the weight of the saddlebag. I readjusted it in Reefton, and the change was amazing. Suddenly riding on the aerobars was infinitely more comfortable and I could actually pedal in an aero position.
Our accommodation options were Springs Junction, or a little further to Maruia. We didn’t think we would benefit by pushing on late into the night to get to Murchison. We decided to ride to Springs Junction, and then ring ahead to Maruia Motel and book a room if we still felt like riding further.
The ride up the Inangahua Valley was really pleasant, a nice gentle gradient and we reached the Rahu Saddle just as the sun was beginning to fade. Unfortunately there wasn’t really a view from the top, but it was still nice to get there. We put on jackets and (both) leg warmers for the descent into Springs. Still a few more ks in the legs, so we headed onward to Maruia. It was an easy ride along straight gravel roads in the light of the full moon. The motel owner didn’t have any food for sale, but kindly dug out some eggs and muffins from her own kitchen for our breakfast.