On my way into Stratford I couldn't help but notice that a certain big hill was a bit more visible:
A while later Neil turned up and we started getting ourselves sorted for the ride. After the usual briefing we rode past the normal turn-off to the FH and instead took a trip around some of Stratford's back streets before finally getting onto the FH and heading out of town - it's all in the planning...
As you may have guessed from the title of the ride the idea of this ride was to visit as many of the tunnels in the Taranaki region as we could. To this end Neil had a route loaded into his GPS which was going to take us all over the place on all sorts of roads in the search of these tunnels - what could possibly go wrong?
Well, first up we rode past a road sign that was giving directions to a tunnel...this meant that we had to turn around and go find tunnel number one. As this was an out and back we even got to go through the tunnel twice.
After this tunnel we backtracked to the FH again and carried on towards Whangamomona. Turning off to the South we hit our first bit of gravel on Mangaehu Road and while there were some rougher patches it was a nice little gravel intro for the day. Neil liked it so much he had to stop so we could chat about it.
Author's note: from here on in I'm probably going to forget road names and where the various tunnels were etc so I'll just stick to the stuff I remember and try not to make stuff up...
Having taken a Southerly diversion we made our way back onto the FH near Strathmore before turning off for a Northerly diversion. After turning off Mohakau Road onto Mangaoapapa Road we then ended up on Matau Road which pretty quickly turned into a very tight, narrow road that even included a tunnel!
At the Matau school we turned right onto Junction Road to again take us back to the FH. This was a really neat bit of gravel which took us up a nice hill to a fairly decent sort of a view.
Next up was the great ride up over the Whangamomona Saddle and into Whanga for our early lunch stop. Here we were also joined by Graeme (on his new baby), Colin W & Brian S who'd ridden up for Palmy to meet up with us for the afternoon leg.
After lunch we got stuck into more of the same riding with more loops off the FH, more new gravel and of course more tunnels.
We also ended up taking a fairly rough and narrow road (Kiwi Road) up through another tunnel and then out towards the coast.
It was on Kiwi Road that I think we had our two mishaps for the day. One not too seriously resulting in a busted gear lever, the second Ted coming off his Tiger and complaining of a sore leg - more on that later...
The roads we were now riding were mostly gravel and generally in great nick and of the fast and flowing variety - just what the doctor ordered! We also picked up another tunnel on our way out to SH3 and then headed South into Urenui for fuel.
I had thought that this was probably the end of the ride but it turned out that Neil had more back roads planned that would eventually take us back to Stratford. The roads eventually became more and more windy and we even managed to pick up tunnel number nine to complete the set for the day.
Not long after the tunnel I ended up on corner-man duty and had to sprint after the guys. As I was trying to catch them I started recognising roads and eventually I went past my sister's old house and then finally the farm again! Right back where I'd started!
Not long after buzzing the farm we turned off onto a dodgy looking road which eventually turned to a farm track. After going through one gate we stopped and turned around just in case we were heading for trouble with the farmer. Interestingly, when I got home and looked at my GPS tracks look what I discovered:
The yellow line is my ride up on Saturday and shows where I stopped at the gate and turned around. The red line is from Sunday...we were pretty close to finding the way right way out but chickened out!
Back on the tarmac again we found our way back into Stratford where we all split up to head of our own separate ways. I rode home alone at a good cruise and although it was a bit chilly I enjoyed the ride and was home by 6:30pm.
|Searching out the tunnels|
Oh, and here's all the tunnels bar one:
Where to next month?
More pics here.