Day 10: Riding Ohakune to Turangi

After the big ride yesterday, I slept like a log. I felt fortunate to have stayed in awesome hostels for three consecutive towns, which seemed too good to be true. So I was reluctant to leave, also because I met some cool people here, and the pizza place down the road was amazing.

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There was rain and snow forecasted for the day, so I had two hours to make it to the next town, Waiouru, 28km away. It’s called the desert oasis, so it wasn’t very interesting, the highlight was when I saw some parsnips that had fallen on the side of the road. Since this was the only stop, I had some coffee and picked up some snacks. There was an army museum across the road, so I checked out some tanks, and then hit the road.

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It turns out I was going the wrong way, the sign said “Palmerston North 140km” (the town I stayed at three nights ago). Luckily I saw this sign after 100m and promptly turned around. I’m not sure how I missed this, but there it was, Mt Ruapehu. I plan to hike across that on Sunday, so it’s probably a good idea to ride towards the huge mountain.

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While I was in Wellington, my dorm friend, Anne, took a much better photo on her flight from Auckland.

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The next 60km was very straightforward, Desert Road, which was as boring as it sounds. There were three main parts, each roughly 20km and very different from one another. The first third was essentially a straight line on a desert plain, where both sides of the road had regular signs saying “Warning, Army Testing Field. Do Not Enter”. There was an unrelenting headwind and rain, and I was so bored that I would have preferred watch paint dry. At least a painted wall or fence wouldn’t spray my face with water for over an hour. I only took one photo, because the rest of the scenery was just fog, highway trash and roadkill.

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In the next third, there was more desert plus hills leading into other hills. Visibility was very low and I was glad that I didn’t get wiped out by cars. Normally I’d be happy about the descent after a big climb, but there was a big sign with flashing lights, warning drivers about icy roads. Now I was even more worried about the cars and trucks going past, so I hugged the road shoulder (or in some areas cliff faces) to make sure I was well out of the way. I was certainly relieved and glad to be alive when I saw the gate for the end of Desert Road.

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On the other side, everything had changed, the wind stopped, there were trees, grassy hills and animals. I was back to the glorious New Zealand landscape and all my work paid off as I coasted downhill for 15km. I was welcomed into Turangi by tree lined streets and looked forward to settling down and finishing off the last slice of pizza I saved from last night. Chicken, cranberry and brie…

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