A couple of years ago I cycled to Castlepoint and camped overnight -
this time it was Riversdale Beach's turn.
|Bedtime - the view from my tent|
Did you know kilometres stretch in extreme heat?
I also discovered that the degree of road incline also expands, and I believe these two facts may be closely linked.
Temperatures well in excess of thirty degrees made my trips to and from the coast over the past couple of days less fun than they could have been. Glancing at my heavily sun-blocked forearms as I trundled over liquifying tar seal, they started to look to me like giant melting Kit kat fingers, and I really had to question my wisdom of picking two sunny days for this trip just so that my tent wouldn’t get rained on.
The tent was on my back, contributing generously to the total 9.2kg strapped to my shoulders, but I kept telling myself, during many gulps of fast-warming water, that 85 kilometres should be a doddle. I have friends who might consider that distance a warm-up.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t a doddle, the heat made everything much harder, including breathing. As mentioned above, signposts seemed to mock me, distances were surely distending grotesquely under the relentless sun I was probably saved when I started to feel an off-shore breeze pick up, but naturally it was also a headwind.
|The long and winding road, gradually inching seawards|
So I’m hardly proud of the seven hours it took me, butI was very relieved to finally arrive at the coast. I bought a delicious cold beer, and pondered my next problem. I had been told that freedom camping was possible at Riversdale Beach (there is no camping ground) but the plethora of signs forbidding tents was fast making me believe otherwise.
A tentative enquiry resulted in the suggestion that I could ask the local adventure camp if they had space. I’m a law abiding citizen, but I didn’t come all this way with a sleeping bag and tent on my back just to be barely tolerated in a corner of someone’s playing field. Dammit, I was sleeping on the beach!
|Rock formations at the south end of Riversdale beach. If you squint you might|
make out the Castlepoint 'castle' at top left.
My rebellious streak only lasted as far as me walking miles down the sand, as far away from holiday homes and potentially officious beach ramblers as I could get. I located a likely spot semi hidden by toe-toe bushes and safely above the high tide mark (I hoped).
After a huge serving of fish and chips I set to work, deciding just to lay out the inner part of the tent without the flysheet - it was a perfectly still evening and still very warm and the pegs didn’t really have much purchase in the sandy ground. The finished result looked a little shonky, but unobtrusive, and I just hoped a wind didn’t get up.
|No place like home...|
Wriggling inside as the sun finally began to dip I was encouraged to see a quad-biker passing right in front of my hideout without even noticing me.
I fell asleep ridiculously early, but on waking up in the middle of the night was very glad I hadn’t put the flysheet on - the stars were blazing above me, hardly dimmed by the tent netting and I recognised new constellations each time I re-awakened and the sky had shifted. And right in front of me a crescent moon cast a glittering path on the dark waves.
Very conscious that the next day was going to be even hotter, I manage to pack my tent in the first glimmer of dawn and be on the road by 6.30am. (These little personal challenges are all very well, but the transit time means that I barely get to enjoy the destination).
I was determined to cover as much distance as I could before the sun got high, and pedalled furiously through the coastal hills like a dawn-dreading vampire so reduced in means that he doesn’t have a black coach to race back to his castle in. It had been a very dewy night (the tent was somewhat damp when I packed it away) and fortunately the warming sun also produced a cool thick mist over the landscape, which gave me another hour of grace.
A brief stop for muesli and UHT milk, scooped out of a former cat dish by hand (MUST remember a spoon next time!), and soon the golden hills fell away on either side of me and I was back on the Wairarapa plain.
I had considered catching the train home from Masterton, as Highway 2 isn’t that much fun on a bike, but I was also keen to get home; so had a large breakfast and then hit the melting road again. I really must have been eager to get home - shaving an hour off yesterday’s time. Or perhaps it was the thought of plunging into the Waiohine river which motivated me, (and it was well worth it).
I’m a little sore, but tomorrow is the next solo misadventure: an overnight tramp to the Tauherenikau Valley, and I’m off to pack a spoon.
|One of my favourite parts of the trip to Riversdale, this beautiful corridor of poplar trees.|