Sunday, March 28, 2021

Grading Gravel

 No, I'm not talking earth moving - settle down Colin - but on Saturday we had our first gravel ride since the TT2000 and the chance to compare our local gravel to the autobahns of the South Island.

I met up with Colin at Sanson and from there the plan was to ride Turakina Valley Road and that was pretty much all the planning we did.  But leaving Sanson I had an idea...

Rather than ride all the way cross to Turakina (yes, all that way!) I thought that we could make for Marton and then try and find that neat bit of gravel that we have often ended our rides on.  I knew exactly where to find it coming off Turakina Valley Road but couldn't remember where it came out.

So after probably making Colin wonder where we were going, I turned up SH1 from Bulls and then into Marton.  We then skirted the township and cruised out Wanganui Road where I started looking for the turn-off to the road I had in mind.

Taking the first right, I thought that I was onto it but nope, just because the road seems familiar doesn't mean that you're on the right one.  And when the road doesn't transition to gravel when you think it should then that's another pretty big clue too...

Nevermind, it didn't really matter as Waimutu Road did get us to Turakina Valley (I recognised enough of it to know that was going to happen) and it has a couple of nice little twisty sections on it so it was definitely better than boring old SH3.

Heading up the first stretch of the valley we had to slow up for some road works and then eventually hit gravel.  

We'd not gone 100 metres when I had to slow up to let a peacock get up enough speed to get airborne and out of my way.  And then not long after that it was a mama turkey and her three very little chicks that needed to dash for safety.  Mama promptly deserted the kids by taking wing and then I was very surprised to see the chicks launch into the air and get out of the way too.  I thought that they were way too small/young to fly but anyway they all got to safety.

Meanwhile, back to the gravel  comparison.  Well, it wasn't looking good for the North Island.  The roads were really hard and dry and had plenty of gravel to roll/drift around on.  Add in the steeper cambers and they just weren't as good as those magnificent Southern stretches.

Just after Colin passed me (the KTM needed to stretch its legs a bit) I had my next run in with the wild life.  Something entered my helmet and started crawling around on my chin.  I quickly stopped and yanked my helmet off and it vamoosed without stinging me - phew!  No sooner than I had got away with that, when something else hit me at a great rate of knots square on my nose and splattering me in the eye!  Oh, but I was having fun...

The next interesting thing didn't involve animals or insects but a reasonable slip in our path.  Not sure how recent it was but there were two diggers and a truck in attendance trying to knock down any loose material and cart it out of the way.  We didn't have to wait long and the truck made a good job of levelling us a wee path through the crap.

The middle gravel section of the valley was a bit better than the Southern end but there were still plenty of corrugations to negotiate and of course a lot of dust.  The final section was more like the first and there were even some sandy sections in places and some digger diggings as well.  It didn't matter, it's still one of our favourite bits of gravel.

From Tangiwai we scooted across to Ohakune where it was time for a snack and a cold drink - it was fairly warm out and we'd been working in places so I think we deserved it.

After lunch we fuelled up and then made our way across to Raetihi before turning South towards the Paras.  But we were not done with the gravel yet.

We turned off onto Oruakukuru Road to take us across to Fields track and then another favourite Whangaehu Valley.  The first bit of the road was seal but it had just been resealed so there was a truckload of loose metal all over it - the road got much better once it changed to gravel...

The sealed section of Whangaehu Valley Road was brilliant except for the girl in the Subaru who wanted all of the road but when we turned onto the gravel section we were back onto some pretty average gravel with lots of corrugations again.

Dropping down the steep hill we had a group of GS riders meet us coming the other way, the road can't have been too bad as I'm pretty sure we all waved to each other - or maybe we just nodded, can't remember...

Eventually we ran out of gravel and got into the reasonably windy sealed stuff and then we had our next animal encounter.  Rounding a corner there was a ewe with her fairly old lamb in the middle of the road.  The ewe got out of the road pretty quickly but the startled lamb slid over on some shiny stuff and onto it's knees and butt.  It then proceeded to repeat this twice trying to get out of the way.  I tell ya, that shiny tar is dangerous!

More seal got us back onto Turakina Valley Road where we finally found the other end of that road I was looking for earlier.  Taurimu Road was a great little blast with the gravel hill climb being a lot of fun.  Eventually we hit Galpins Road just North of Marton and this is really where I should have been looking in the morning...Too bad, we knocked it off anyway.

In Marton it was time for another cold drink before Colin made his way home down the main road and I scooted across to Halcombe and Mount Stewart, avoiding the main road as much as possible.

So yeah, a very nice little ride and it was good to be back on the Tenere that's for sure but I'm already missing those South Island autobahns...


  1. As usual another entertaining ride.

    1. Be good and you can come on another one.