Great Taste and Less Filling

We are still in a bit of a daze about our approval. It had just started to feel like it wouldn’t happen. We had dreamed about a lot of stuff but we couldn’t really do any of it until we knew. Now we know. Since the hippie bus got ruled out, camper van here we come! Buying a house will have to wait though. Firstly, we don’t know where we want to live and secondly the prices are super high, so we will have to time it correctly with our ability to afford it. But we have really started to enjoy our nomad life and the going plan is to get a nice camper van and mix that with dog sitting gigs for a while.

Something like this will do just fine

The house we are staying in has been very nice and location in Upper Moutere has been ideal for exploring the area. Plus, it is an easy ride up to the Great Taste Trail where I can do a lot of riding without getting squished by a logging truck. I even became a “local legend” for frequency on one of the Strava segments. Now I really feel like a local.

There are five chooks at the house. Sadly, they are well past laying age, so we don’t get any fresh eggs. However, they are a hoot. We feed them all of the various leftover food scraps and I think we are spoiling them rotten. They seem to really like the kiwi fruit peels and were over the moon with some leftover fish. This all great, but now they come around in the morning loitering about, looking in the windows, wondering what the hell is going on and why we haven’t given them more food. Pushy chooks.

“Hey man, where’s our food?!”

Our host Sue had to go away on a yoga retreat for a few days, so we said we would be happy to take care of them. It doesn’t take much. Just walk up to the coop at 4 pm and give them a few scoops of grains. When you start walking up there, all hell breaks loose and they race across the yard to get there as quickly as possible. One day they weren’t around, so I gave out a shout and they came barrelling around the house and followed me up to the coop like I was the pied pipper. That made me laugh.

The not center of New Zealnd

Susanne wasn’t up for a big hike, so we decided we would drive into the Nelson area and explore something around the botanical gardens and just get a different view of things. There is a monument at the top of Botanical Hill called “The Center of New Zealand” which has long been considered the hub of the nation because it was a central survey point in the 1870s. Nelson brags about being the center of New Zealand. However, like almost everything in life, this is not without controversy. In 2019, it emerged that their efforts may have been in vain.

Nelson had a new rival in the Centre of New Zealand stakes: the small Wairarapa town of Greytown in the North Island. According to an investigation by

“The problem with the 1962 survey, according to GNS scientists, is that it didn’t include New Zealand’s undersea continental shelf.”

I guess there is a new plaque in Wairarapa which according the GNS scientists is a more accurate center, but it is on private land so it’s hard to go visit. So there you have it. Anyway, it was a nice tramp up to the top of the hill with a great view of Nelson.

Panorama of Nelson

The next day was supposed to wonderful weather, so I wanted to go ride a part of the Great Taste Trail that had just opened in April 2022 and was much more a back country ride. The plan was to meet Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock….ok, that wasn’t the plan, but the ride did start at a town called Woodstock. Susanne would drive me up and drop me off and then I would reappear at Rabbit Island about 5 hours and 60 miles later.

We had our coffee and I prepped all the gear necessary, including my spiffy Garmin In-reach to allow me send texts to Susanne and let her know I had not managed to ride off a cliff. We headed out and the day was amazing. The view of the Kahurangi Range was incredible as we drove toward Woodstock (see cover photo). We got to Woodstock, but it wasn’t clear where the trail started so we headed up the road. Pretty soon it became clear that we had missed it, so we headed back. Finally we found it. It was chilly, but not too bad. I reconfirmed my plan with Susanne and headed out up the road.

The trail followed a gravel farm road with little or no traffic. In the first hour, I had one farmer pass me. The scenery was fantastic both with the mountains capped in snow and the beautiful Motueka river flowing along next to the road. I was very happy to be out riding on such a glorious day. I really appreciate that New Zealand has been working hard to build up the bike trails around the country.

The start of the ride in Woodstock
Just me and cows
and the river
and the snow capped peaks

The riding was simple, but after about 30 minutes a pretty good wind started blowing down the valley. Bummer. But I figured if I had a head wind here, I would get a tail wind on the leg down toward Nelson. No problemo. There were really only a couple of climbs on the route (Cat 4s) that weren’t any big deal, but it did climb steadily for about 30 miles to summit at Spooners tunnel.

Baton Pass Summit

I felt good and my legs were behaving. My spirits were high and I was making pretty good time despite the constant headwind. I got to Baton Summit and just let out a big “wow.” This part of the trail is world class. If you ever get a chance you have to come ride it. If you don’t want to do it old school, it would be perfect on an e-bike. Evidently, there are a lot of companies in Nelson that rent them.

They had just completed a cycle bridge across the Motueka River that made the whole segment possible. The cool thing about this part of the trail is that it was nowhere near the highway, so you got to ride in solitude and quiet other than the cows and sheep. I tried to send Susanne a message off my In-reach but it wouldn’t find a satellite. Sheesh. I hooked it to the outside of my backpack thinking that would help.

Baton cycle bridge
My already well used new bike

I made it to Tapawera around noon and ate some lunch. The wind had really picked up and with the slow steady grade upward, it made progress a little slower and harder than I would have liked. As well as traversing a lot of sheep paddocks, the trail took me through a bunch of hops fields. I guess the Nelson area is the center for New Zealand hops.

Hops (not currently growing)
Old dude

The wind was relentless and it was starting to make me a bit crabby. The hills weren’t steep, but it was a ton of work to keep any speed up at all. I keep thinking I would either get to the top or the wind would switch. At Kohatu, the trail changed directions and sadly the wind got stronger in my face. Ugh. I finally made it Spooners tunnel which was the end of all the climbing. Whew. I tried to send another message via the In-Reach. Still no signal. WTF?! What a piece of junk.

According to the Nelson/Tasman tourist agency:

“Spooners Tunnel is one of the key highlights along Tasman’s Great Taste Trail. At 1.4km long, the tunnel is the longest decommissioned rail tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere, with the cycle trail following the route of the old railway line through Norris Gully.”

I had to bring a headlamp to navigate through the tunnel. It was kind of freaky as it is long enough that in the middle it is pitch black. It was easy going and clearly downhill now, so that boosted my spirits. I didn’t encounter anyone in the tunnel and came out the other side with a smile. That was pretty freakin’ cool.

Heart of darkness
Light at the end of the tunnel
Bike spelunker

After the tunnel it was truly all downhill, which made riding into the raging headwind much more tolerable. I made good time and finally got some cell signal in Belgrove. I sent Susanne a text and told her all was good. I continued on and sent another text in Foxhill. Oddly, I got no response from Susanne. I continued to Wakefield and texted her again. Still nothing from her. I figured she only need to hear from me, so all was good.

I got to Richmond after riding along some lovely trails before that to only reconfirm my opinion of Richmond. It is a pit. Sorry, Richmond people, I know there are some nice parts of Richmond, but it is and I am sure you will agree, mostly a pit. The wind was really howling now and of course it was a dead headwind. Bummer.

I had thought I might ride to the ferry and end up in Mapua, but both the timing was looking wrong and I was getting tired of fighting the wind. I got to the the turn toward Rabbit Island and decided to text Susanne and develop a pick up plan. That is when I noticed I had been dutifully texting Amanda, one of my former co-workers who I had recently wished happy birthday, the whole time. Doh! User error! I texted Susanne and told her to pick me up on Rough Island. She responded instantly, of course.

I got there about 2 minutes before she did, drank some water, and ate a little food and just thought to myself what a wonderful day that had been.

We drove over to Mapua and got an outside table at the Apple Shed and drank a glass of wine and toasted again over the fact that we had been approved. I was getting hungry and a bit cold, so we walked over to the Rimu wine bar where we could get some pizzas and more wine. The last time we were there, we only ordered one pizza which was less than filling (see? I had to work in both the Great Taste and Less filling in the blog somewhere!) so we ordered two.

That’s not us, but the wine and pizza looked similar …

It tasted great. The wine was lovely. I was super happy. I was really grateful that Susanne was willing to shuttle me around and put up with my biking habit. I don’t know why, but biking is just pure joy for me….although I could have done without the headwind.

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