42ndTraverse (Mountain Biking)

Weekend Trip - Friday 27th to Sunday 29th May 2011

A very merry winter’s mountain biking trip from Top o’ the Bruce to Owhango, 46 km MTB, 29 km sealed road.

We stayed at Mem Hut, Whakapapa, on Friday night with snow expected the next morning. Max was very slow in getting away, packing vast quantities of communal emergency gear. ‘We’ll never use all that, come on.’ I had to wait as I was the back rider on our tandem bike (who is idiot enough to do a rugged mountain bike trip on a tandem?) Brrr, a thrilling ride down a very cold but, thankfully, not icy road on Saturday morning. I had a bit of a dizzy spell at the crossroads. Not a hot spot, lying on the wet verge recovering, but at least an opportune time for regrouping. On to the start of the track with the entry point very poorly marked. Allen had major issues with his bike. Two replacement tubes did not solve the problem and, normally amiable, he looked like thunder. There was some risk of an expensive bike being thrown into the scrub! To the rescue, Max and his mobile workshop with another tube and a spare tyre and finally we were underway on the MTB track. Thank you, thank you Max, for bringing the extra gear.

The42nd Traverse is legendary for its mud and is not recommended for winter or after heavy rain. Naturally, for our specific enjoyment our group of thirteen did it in both. It used to be greasier but now has a layer of metal chip. Up and down, down and up. Steep climbs - pushing your bike, pretending to like the trudge. Jammed gears, no gears, gliding down, pedalling hard when able. Dave took a big head plonk over the handle bars and, to be honest, for a dapper gentleman on his first club trip, he looked a bit rough. Grazed forehead, bloodied eye, ding in helmet. Unlikely to see him again, we thought! Three streams to cross with the middle one being very swift. Stones, mud, undulating, regenerating forest. We were all drenched with intermittent showers throughout the day. Our youngest participant Til, (12 yrs), did amazingly well.Max and Carol in tandem (Photo: Brian Brown)

There was more walking and less cycling the uphill bits as the day wore on. Some great downhill runs, particularly at the end, were enjoyed by all. Max and I managed surprisingly well on our tandem. No tantrums or big crashes, only falling off a few times. In places I was too scared to argue and just shut my eyes and pedalled hard, as can be seen in the photograph (opposite). This was Brent’s first ever MTBing experience and on a borrowed bike at that. After seven hours in the saddle he advised he had some rather unusual numb bits. Kathy also deserves a mention on her borrowed bike with the broken seat. She carried a spare but, stoic woman, didn’t stop to replace it. Margaret took a head-over-handlebars spill. Everyone else cycled on with no noticeable problems. Except for Allen’s drama at the start, no punctures, just a few minor chain and brake problems.

A welcome finish at Owhango and delightful Jackie driving in with a bike trailer and a thermos of mulled wine. Sadly, there was not enough room in the shuttle cars and five brave people volunteered to stay back at the pub for a second pickup. Chrissie was very snug in the back of the car, covered in jackets and packs, unseen at a random check point. Shhhoosh.

Jackie’s 52nd birthday was celebrated that night - a big toast to her for being our driver when unable to bike after her knee op. Thanks, Jackie, and welcome to decrepit old age. It’s a downhill ride from here.

Next day, and I thought some of us would be crippled and no-one would want to cycle any more. Wrong! I obviously toughen people up on my trips. Apart from Max who had left for Wellington after Jackie’s party, we all jumped into the cars and headed towards Ohakune to ride the Old Coach Road trail and visit the disused rail viaducts. Easier gradient but oh, so much more mud to cycle through. I couldn’t understand it, but in Max’s absence, no-one would go on the tandem with me, so I used my work bike with the big compost panniers instead. In some places the trail was extremely narrow, and did I mention the mud? Yes, there was lots of mud! Spectacular viaducts, especially the one that has not been done up. Also a very interesting tunnel which was blocked off at the gorge end. An easy ride into Ohakune, and a leisurely coffee at the railway station - a fitting end to a fun and mud-packed weekend. Thanks in particular to our non-cycling drivers, Jackie and Marcelle.

MTB participants: Carol Exton, Max Clark, Brent Rose, Kathy Engelbrecht, Margaret Law, Fiona, Dave Best, the Browns - Brian, Margot, Til - Allen Small, Deb Payne and Christene Sabin.
Drivers and hangers on: Jackie Hillman, Marcelle Brown, Isabelle