Sunday 19th Feb 2017 Cape Reinga -> Ahipara (70 miles)
Well, day one has arrived! It was was a 0600 hrs start today as you can only ride 90 mile beach 3 hours before and 4 hours after high tide and it is really important to get your timing correct. It was 0730 hrs before Wayne, Conrad and myself rolled out of Tapotupotu Bay DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite. It was a beautiful campground and one of my favorite of the whole trip.
although it was only 4 miles to the starting point at Cape Reinga lighthouse (which just happened to be pretty much all uphill) it took longer than expected to reach the starting point at the lighthouse. Suffice to say the legs were not happy and the initial climb was a slog. This early morning uphill section really did set the scene of what was going to be a common theme throughout the TA ride. Hills, hills and more hills!!!
It was really misty at the cape, but very picturesque and we were fortunate that whilst were snapping photos the mist lifted enough to provide some stunning views.
Yes, that’s me. Still half asleep and somewhat apprehensive.
So, after a few photos and conscious of the time it was time to push on. Tide waits for no man and cycling down 90 mile beach was very tide dependent. All of the 3000ft of elevation gain was done in the first 25 miles and the remaining 55 miles was straight down the beach!
Before getting to the beach it was a ride through a river bed. Glad I took the overshoes, otherwise, it would have been wet feet. The doctored ‘No Dumping’ sign as we approached the river bed provided a schoolboy chuckle.
The smiles on Wayne and Conrad’s faces summed up the mood as we cycled down the beach!
The cross on headwind certainly made progress slower than anticipated. It was very hot too. The Garmin peaked at 41c and it was torture cycling along cooking whilst the crystal blue Tasman Sea was beckoning right beside me!
Thankfully, there was a small camp named Utea Park 30km from the finish. I had run out of water and it would have been a real issue given the heat if I was unable to refill my water bladder. Whilst chilling out at the park, we got chatting to a Canadian chap who spends 3-4 months a year in NZ just chilling out at remote spots. He’s got the right idea!
The tide was starting to push right in and certain sections of the beach were now becoming rather soft. Hitting such a section pretty much stopped you dead in your tracks. It was just a case of head down and push on now. If you get caught by the tide you have to drag your bike up the dunes and sit it out until the tide drops.
After 55 miles beach riding getting to the end of the day’s ride was a relief. I practically dumped my bike down, stripped of my shoes and jersey and got straight in the sea. Aside from the cool Tasman Sea inducing cramp in my hamstrings it was absolute bliss! If I had know however, that this would be the only time I’d take a swim in the sea on this trip I think I’d have stayed in longer.
Camp for the night was at Ahipara Holiday Park & dinner was snapper and chips from a local take away in Ahipara, which at $13 was very reasonable, especially, for NZ.
There was, however, one real misfortune. The bottle shop had closed at 1800hrs! so it was going to be another evening on the wagon!