(Saturday 29th October, 2016) – sorry folks no photo yet. I have a brilliant one of the hawks but can’t upload it on this wifi…I will ASAP! Update 3rd Nov: finally sorted the wifi connection so your photo awaits!
What a brilliant day! A really wonderful experience. As always, not every part of the day was perfect but overall what a wonderful day. Waking up to sun on the bay coming through the floor to ceiling window of the hotel. Out of my comfort zone breakfast at Milk and Honey: French toast, Greek yoghurt and orange slices with toffee on top, just like what’s on top of creme brulee, hard and has to be cracked with a spoon. Then packing up our cases for the first day, our first briefing of what the day will entail and heading off on our bikes together! The tour company collect our luggage from the hotel and take it to the next hotel which is great; all we have to do is ride! So off we headed after 9am.
The start of the ride is around the estuary: these are always fabulous for birds because of the shallow tidal water and this one was no different with so many birds: wading birds, water birds, birds of prey, darting little tiny birds. Bird bliss for me! I couldn’t do the boardwalk along the estuary last night cos no bikes allowed, but I’ve got it well bookmarked for a walk when we arrive back on Monday. Ever the optimist I slung my camera over my shoulder as we took off riding and ended up have the best bird day in New Zealand so far! That doesn’t say much does it, first day and all, and last time we were here I wasn’t into birds then like I am now, but it genuinely was a amazing day for looking at birds and photography. So, what did I see? An Australian bird that I’ve never seen before in Aus, a white pigeon, a black-ish ground dwelling bird, “New Zealand hawks” (according to the guide, but now that I have a guide book there’re everything but hawks! I dunno what it is) hovering several metres from the path, a total of SEVEN tiny kingfishers along the way (I’ve been trying to find these in Aus for ages!), those gorgeous storybook white swans gliding on someone’s lake, goslings, duckings and I could go on! Wow! Too many photos, but I just want to capture everything! So far we’ve been travelling on cement paths out of town, fine gravel paths for the first bit of the estuary, across an old bridge then onto packed limestone which would make up most of the rest of the ride. We rode at the level of everything else for a tiny bit, then up onto the elevated flood levees that make up most of the 200km of cycle path in the region, the result of a passionate mayor and super passionate tourism minister/Prime Minister with a real vision for the region.
We continued following the inlet and channels for most of the morning before calling at Mission Estate, a winery owned by the Catholic church and which makes the church wine and a handsome profit! A quick wine tasting there cos we were running a bit late, then on to Church Road Winery for a tour. Fascinating facts about the history of the winery, its current activities and the tour guide’s hilarious private life! Tastings from the vats of incomplete wines, then a wine matching lesson…brain bursting! What an interesting experience, although I think we were all done with wine by the time we finished! Onwards before we all drift off to sleep! Hubby was going off to the mountain bike park after lunch, while we continued on the planned tour; the guide has been super accommodating! He mentioned he’d like to do it, and immediately they organised a personal shuttle and made it happen! Very impressed with Takaro Tours and I highly recommend you pick them for any riding you do in the Hawkes Bay area.
Most of the afternoon was spent on the purpose built bike path on the levee passing through paddocks and orchards and along the river. This is awesome for views but when the rain comes…there’s nowhere to hide! As we found out. The weather wasn’t cold, we were just wet so we ploughed on, me in short sleeves with a waterproof vest…I don’t actually have a fully waterproof coat and my semi waterproof coat was in my luggage somewhere. Had decided on no paniers and no coat this morning cos I couldn’t see myself using either! But would have really been good to have somewhere waterproof to stow my camera (luckily someone else let me stow it in their panier) and something to keep my arms dry! Something to keep my legs, head, feet and neck dry would also have come in handy but you can’t have everything in life. So head down, with water landing on and pouring off my arms, water dripping off my helmet onto my face with legs getting progressively damper and toes starting to feel the wet. But luckily there were still birds all over the place to fascinate me. If I hadn’t kept going at this point I would never have seen the second pair of hawks, all the beautiful huge white swans on the lake and the sun as it came out after the rain. As it happens, we sought refuge in a pub that was on our itinerary anyway and that is the epitome of any country pub anywhere. And had the menu of one! The specials board alone was classic: venison pie, lamb’s fry with bacon and something else old school that you never find anymore, blood sausage maybe, I can’t remember. So we sat inside and tried to dry off over a hot beverage. I went into the bathroom but of course no hand dryer/hair dryer/heater, just hand towels so at least I dried off my arms and my hair, a bit. That didn’t really work but the rain stopped while we were drinking so off we went again and finished off the ride. Cold and damp, although we did dry off surprisingly quickly once we got going. It was heads down tails up and homeward bound! We could have gotten picked up, but we opted to continue and the path we took was gorgeous! Green, fresh, and scented by the rain. In the end we did 37km today and it was all so scenic, despite wind and rain! I haven’t ridden that far since my last tour so I was pretty pleased. One thing that was a tad annoying was the gates. The path runs through lovely orchards, paddocks of beef cattle, onion fields and so on. So every time one farm ends and the next starts there is a fence and a gate! In the last stretch it felt like there was a gate every kilometre! And not just gates that someone can hold open, although there were some of those. These were swing gates where someone holds the gate towards themselves, you back the bike in, they push the gate as far as it can go the other way, and you wheel your bike out! It’s quite the rigmarole! It’s meant to prevent cattle; it nearly prevents humans! It does break up the ride and bit, and in the end I couldn’t complain cos every time we stopped I got some photos of the little grass birds that were continually flying up out of the grass as we rode along. Ever the opportunist.
I should have taken advantage of the spa or heated pool when we got back but it was still raining so I thought I’d wait for hubby who wasn’t back yet but wasn’t too far away, but I fell asleep in my bathers! Oh well. A very good dinner at Shed 2, and another good night’s sleep ready for another day on the bike.