Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kathmandu Crazyman

Yesterday Helen and I joined Josh and Mike (a couple of Helen’s work mates) for a bit of a mountain bike ride. Josh is riding the mountain bike leg of the Kathmandu Crazyman – a kayak, run, mountain bike multi-sport race next month. We went along to help him pre-ride the course. We had a pretty late start and didn’t begin riding until about 12:30PM. This gave the day time to warm up and it was almost 18 degrees when we started.

We started from beside the river in Lower Hutt and headed for Wainuiomatta. Unfortunately, between Wainui and us was pretty nasty climb up a five-lane tar seal road. Helen and I had been up it once before on another ride, and this time it didn’t seem as bad even though we started a bit lower. It took us probably 15-20 minutes to reach the top. We then crossed the road and headed into the bush. We followed a four-wheel drive track for a while that undulated along a ridgeline before diving into Wainui on a pretty gnarly jungle track. It had some pretty severe switchbacks that I struggled to ride. Josh and Mike didn’t seem to have much trouble – I am going to have to them to show me how they do it!

We finally made it down to Wainuiomatta. We took some tar seal roads through the town until we reached another four-wheel drive track. This began another climb, actually taking us back onto the ridge we had to ride up to on the tar seal road. It was a pretty full on climb with some pretty steep pinches. Once we were back on the main ridge we followed it for ways north. This was pretty good the track rolled along for several kms and you could keep pretty good pace along it. Then the track dropped down into Moore’s Valley. This was a very chilly descent, but the road was good and again you could really let it go in places.

From Moore’s Valley, we had another climb of about 200 meters up “Everest” the highest point on the course (about 422 meters). This climb was pretty similar to the others with a few really nasty steep pitches that hurt. We had a longish rest at a clearing before the finally pitch to the summit.

At the top we all donned an extra layer as it was mostly downhill from here, it was getting past 3:00PM and the sun wasn’t quite as warm as when we started. The descent was really nice. It started with four-wheel drive track. Soon we dropped into a pine forest and things started to close in on us – it was more like wide singletrack at that point. It was also pretty slippery and I had one pretty nasty near miss. The track emerged back onto a four-wheel drive track before finally ending at the Hutt River. From here it was about 12 mostly downhill kms back to the car on a gravel singletrack that follows the river. On most days the wind comes from the north, but unfortunately yesterday we had a slight southerly, so we had to pedal back into a headwind.

Luckily those last few km went pretty fast and we got back to the cars around 5:00PM. It turned out to be a pretty big ride, for Helen and I at least. Luckily the weather was awesome and we all had a really great time!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wairakei Visit

Aaron headed up to Wairakei, near Taupo, on Thursday to talk to Dr Gill Jolly at the Geological Nuclear Sciences (GNS) office. They are applying for funding to map and model lava flows on Tongariro Volcano, in the centre of the North Island. After two days of talking volcanoes and writing a proposal I caught the bus up to Taupo to join him for a weekend of mountain biking, weather permitting. The weekend started off pretty cold and windy and was threatening rain. Yep winter, or at least autumn/fall has arrived. Saturday we drove up to Rotorua to ride at Whakarewarewa Forest and the sun came out for us. We did get a slight shower after lunch, but under the trees you could barely notice. We rode a couple of different tracks that we hadn’t ridden when we were up there over Christmas. My favourite was Diamondback/Dipper, which is only a grade 2 but was so fast and flowing with lots of nice berms and little jumps and one big gulley that was a little intimidating at first.

Sunday we headed to the local Wairakei Forest mountain bike park. We did the classic Outback loop, and I think that Aaron was regretting having brought his single speed (well except for the kudos that he got from several other bike nerds we met who were keen to give it a try). It was a bit slippery from all the fallen leaves and pine needles and there were times when it was hard to see where the track went through the forest. It was still fun and it is always nice to get out and ride different trails.

We headed home via “F’sh and Chups” at Turangi, and a scenic drive down the Desert Road past Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruhapehu volcanoes. Unfortunately the clouds were slightly obscuring the mountain tops, but there was snow in the gullies on Ruapehu – I’m excited about the upcoming ski season.


Macca and Lisa flew over and arrived late Thursday night. Friday we drove to the Wairarapa Valley about an hour east of Wellington. We went for a slightly muddy walk up the Waiohine Gorge and had a picnic lunch beside the river. The river was so amazingly clear – and cold! After that we drove into Carterton where we had a cottage booked for Friday and Saturday night.

Waiohine River

Saturday, we drove out to Castlepoint. A pretty amazing place on the east coast. There were some awesome geological formations and since we are all geologists we spent several hours wandering around being geology nerds discussing the fossils, sediments and faults. On the way back to Carterton we stopped at a couple wineries. The Wairarpa Valley is famous for its wines, particularly the pinot noir. We tried a whole range of different types – unfortunately my favourite, the pinot gris, were sold out at several wineries, but we did find one eventually.

Geo-nerds at Castlepoint

Sunday, we drove down to the Putangirua Pinnacles. Another really cool geological place. Also the back drop for the Dimholt Road scence in the Return of the King. We spent a few hours here walking and exploring. Then we headed along the coast past Ngawi – a fishing village with more bulldozers per capita than any other place in the world. They don’t have a dock or anything so they use the bulldozers to pull the boats out of the water on to the pebbly beach. We ended up at Cape Palliser where there were several seals sunbathing on the rocks below the light house. The seals seemed oblivious to our presence, and were pretty smelly.

Putangirua Pinnacles

Monday, we wandered around Wellington. We went into town and caught the cable car up to the top of the Botanical Gardens. Then we wandered back into town and home for lunch. After lunch we walked up Mount Victoria and past the Gelato shop on the way home.