Monday, January 10, 2011

Rimutaka Incline Ride

On a day during the first week of the New Year I somehow persuaded my lovely wife to ferry myself and my good friend Alex "The Commander" Tashkoff out to the Rimutaka Rail Trail to ride over to the Wairarapa...

A weird sea mist shrouded Cook Strait and Island Bay as we picked up The Commander from his secret Base. Despite the clammy cold cloud, the day was still and promised to improve.



The salubrious parking accommodations certainly inspire great confidence when considering leaving ones vehicle parked for hours. Luckily Jacq was taking the car far away after she had kindly dropped us there to meet our third rider Matt.



As soon as we hit the trail Al took off like he had a date waiting - here Matt chases while I fumble for my camera.



The ford is not mandatory to ride, although I didn't get that memo.



One of the surviving rail bridges.



Clear roads ahead, but not for long as Al is about to launch another vicious attack, dropping Matt and I once more. Of course I can't speak for Matt, but even though I was feeling good Al's torrid pace was just a beat above my comfort level, so I opted to let him go and ride my own tempo.



I love riding through the cuttings. You can almost see the old Fell engines puffing their way through them...



I made sure of stopping to read all the cool information boards and periodically drinking in the atmosphere of this lovely trail as my excuses for being left behind. By now Matt had seen the camera come out once too often and had upped sticks and disappeared off up the trail to join The Commander...



Roughly speaking, Rimutaka = to sit down. And who am I to disobey?



The top was reached almost too soon - it felt like we'd only just got going! The slightly eerie dilapidated remains of what used to be the small settlement of Summit give a glimpse into what must have been a hard life for the families who lived up here.



The story is told on the plaque...



Poor long-suffering Al and Matt were waiting patiently.



The entrance to Summit tunnel, by far the longest one of the three on route but the only one where our feeble lights were required.



The cheap LED headlights Jacq had dug out of somewhere weren't exactly the best replacements for the good lights I'd forgotten and left at home, but somehow we made it through without major incident...



The Wairarapa side of the tunnel, Matt and Alex exit side by side.



The Tolkien-esque tunnel exit avec waterfall.



Looking down the valley where we would ride the super-fast and super-fun wide open doubletrack that led to Siberia Gully...





...which arrived after an exhilarating swoop. The grave words on the sign concerned us hardened hardmen not one jot.



"Slip sliding away" - never a truer word written down. The massive scale of the slips visible up on the cliffs above the river valley isn't really apparent from this picture.



Looking back down to the river running through Siberia Gully, which had low water levels and was easily cleanable. Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I must state that I fluffed my gear change into the granny and stalled as soon as I began to climb out of the Gully. The Commander made it up okay, but then proceeded to perform an unauthorised lying down while still clipped in dismount at the top. Matt managed to retain his sense of decorum.



A vast bridge support from the long gone railway bridge over Siberia Gully. According to the Kennett Brothers Bible, in the 1890s a 10-tonne locomotive was blown off the tracks by the gale force winds that sometimes blow through here - they don't say though whether the crew survived or not!



Matt and The Commander say their good-byes, as Matt was heading back to the trail head to see if his car was still unburnt, while Al and I would continue on down to the Wairarapa.



More cool warp speed downhill that seemed both to go on forever, yet be over way too fast. Al set off first but when the trail tips down gravity for once becomes my friend and, without even pedalling, I soon caught and passed him in a blubbery blur...



...giving me just enough time to stop and pose my bike...



...before snapping him as he blasted past.



And as suddenly as the Summit had arrived Cross Creek appeared! Surely this couldn't be it already?



We stopped for a while and chatted with a lovely couple out hiking the trail, then rode over the walking bridge across the Creek...



...that led to some neat twisty-turny trail that followed the Creek all the way to the Wairarapa end carpark. I did manage to avoid that tree, by the way. I need to work on my one-handed riding while taking bad pictures technique.



The trail twists and winds along the river...



...and past a farm, where I took a picture of the black faced sheep for Bodhi...



...before ending at the Western Lake Road carpark, which we exited via a gravel road with Lake Wairarapa in the background.



Amazingly for the Wairarapa we weren't dealing with a screaming NWer for once, and the gentle southerly we'd barely noticed all day wafted us happily along the road to Featherston. Despite the cloud the day was a hot one, and we were grateful the sun was being kept under wraps.



Once we hit the road I was feeling good so I set about making Al pay for his early efforts by half-wheeling him until finally he cracked.



All my life I've wondered what the stories might be behind these ex-houses; what were the people like and what did they do? Did they love their house? Was it a home or just a house? Why was it just abandoned?



The sultry heat was exacerbated by the almost total lack of breeze. What might have been thunder clouds amassing over the hills never seemed to amount to much.



The road did go on for a while...



But Featherston arrived soon enough.



As did The Commander, slightly etoliated but none the worse for wear.



We repaired to a secluded street so that I could quickly divest myself of some lycra and jump into comfy shorts and a t-shirt for the train journey home, and so that I didn't frighten the locals. While organising myself I couldn't help but notice that my cunning use of fords and all available puddles had added a carefully cultivated layer of dirt to my bike.



Once changed we located the railway station and confirmed the train would in fact be coming when we expected. We really craved beer and burgers, but sadly decided we didn't have quite enough time for a decent pub feed so it was off to the Kia Ora Dairy for our well-earned snack instead. They do great milkshakes but please make sure you get them to fully heat your pie or it might bite you in the arse. I speak from bitter experience, as the tepid mince and pastry tasted so good I didn't bother to nuke it and I suffered badly later on that night and for the entire next day. Al's two (!) pies were fully heated and caused him no ill effects other than slight sleepiness on the train...



Of course it wouldn't have been the delicious chocolate shake or the superb raspberry slice...mmm, mmm...



After sitting outside the local Police Station finishing our repast, we rolled up to Featherston railway station. It only $13 each to get back to town, with the bikes travelling for free. Good deal, I reckon.



We settled into our seats on the comfortable new unit, feeling that nice post-ride feet-up feeling and looking out at the Wairarapa as it disappeared behind us. Less than an hour later we were back in town.



"Get off your bikes, gentlemen!", the Fat Controller bellowed. Wellington railway station apparently isn't the place for ripping mad skids.



We cycled slowly around the waterfront.



Finishing the day off it was a lovely evening looking north, but when I dropped Al off later on the fog and mist were as thick on the South Coast as when we'd left home that morning...



Apart from the short (but not to be sneezed at) obstacle of Siberia Gully the Rimutaka Incline is almost entirely non-technical, yet is a truly rewarding and scenic ride that I'd have no hesitation in recommending as a fun journey to anyone, no matter their skill level.

From the carpark to Summit took us less than 40 minutes, even with plenty of dithering on my part. From there it was only 30 minutes to Cross Creek, and another thirty or so to Featherston, making for less than two hours in total all up. The train isn't frequent, but it turned up at the advertised 4.20pm to the minute, and had plenty of room for our bikes as well as the three others belonging to some like-minded souls.

Next time I want to extend the ride by catching the train out to Upper Hutt and cycling through Tunnel Gully, then continuing on the rest of the way as described above...

Thanks to my good friend Alex for the company, and Matt for his also. Great rides are made greater by great mates.

Cheers for reading, Oli

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great ride, Oli, Great recant of the ride...
I certainly enjoyed the company, and the scenery - Especially the no-brakes DH warp factor speed assault on the Wairarapa side !!
Look forward to the next 'Mission', Bro.
Always a pleasure to read your blog - you most certainly have a colourful command of the English language.

Commander AL out...

Oli Brooke-White said...

Thanks Commander! It was a privilege to serve!

sifter said...

Great mission, story, and photos! Chur

Davo said...

Loved the read bro.

"Rimutaka = to sit down. And who am I to disobey?"

My fav lol.

Cheers
Dave

Anonymous said...

Great story Oli, I rode from Masterton to Petone via the Rimutaka Rail Trail in October, this time I used my Ibis Cyclocross bike, instead of my mountain bike used earlier in the year, such a good ride.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/steel-is-real/5056017171/in/photostream/

By the way, great "Holiday Bonus Blog" too.