My landlady in Hamilton very kindly offered to take me to the station and we went pretty much on the route the bus had taken the day before and skirted the lake so I got one last look. Arrival at the station was in plenty of time and I took my bags to check them in. They plonked my big bag on the huge old weighing scales and it was up to 23 kgs, oh well I have nearly a month to sort that out. I got my boarding card and was sitting in the seat right behind the one on my first journey. The train arrived and I settled myself in with no companion again, On one hand that’s good you are free to get up and down, but on the other hand it would be nice to have someone to chat to for a while. But a good window seat for taking photographs.
Off we set on the way to Ohakune which is the next stop after the National Park. Again I had chosen it because of its close proximity to the National Park and I was considering hiring a car so I could access some of the sights more easily. I had booked a bike for the Monday afternoon and also spoken to the bike company about doing the Old Coach Road and they said they provide a shuttle service to whichever end I wanted to start at, one way being a steeper climb than the other. In the end I decided against a car as there seemed to be enough walking around the area.
The journey was beautiful and we started a climb into the mountains.The climb into the mountains was spectacularly beautiful but also there were many amazing engineering feats such as viaducts. But the most important one is known as the Raurimu spiral which takes the train on a route which has some serious bends and goes in a full circle as well. There were times when I could see the locomotive from my seat in Coach D. I managed to find a couple of pictures which give the a visual of the way it works. Without this route the train would have had to circumvent the mountain and that would have added a considerable time to the Auckland to Wellington Journey time which is about 10 hours.
We then went over a viaduct which was relatively new, and we could see the old viaduct in the distance, I actually saw these close up on my bike ride, but more about that later. Below are some photographs of the journey.
When we arrived at National Park so many people got off, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision about getting off at Ohakune, too late to change my mind now. I was in the dining car towards the end of my journey having spent a little time in the viewing car and I heard them say that they stop at Paraparaumu. I had been told when I booked my ticket in England that the train didn’t stop there southbound, and this was planned as my next stop. I had already booked accommodation and really wanted to stop there for the beach. So I had planned to go to Wellington and get the local train back. When collecting my luggage at Ohakune I asked the train manager, who said, Of course we do, and told me to ring the enquiries number on my booking confirmation and they would change my ticket to allow me to stop there. What a relief I wasn’t looking forward to that extra lugging of the bags around the station in Wellington.
Next find a taxi, none around, no signage for taxis, and no Uber’s available. The train confirmation definitely said there were taxis available. There was a shop on the station platform which sold tea, coffee, beer and designer clothes, I know that’s the last thing you would expect. So I went in and asked the young woman in there if there were any local taxis. She said no there were none. People usually get picked up by shuttles. I explained where I had to go which was some three kilometres away and she very kindly shut her shop to take me there. She refused to accept any money from me, it really touches my heart when people are so kind and go out of there way to help you like that. I made a mental note to make sure I bought a coffee when I was on my next leg and I also have a leaflet as she had some lovely pieces and she does free international postage, so I may treat myself when I get home.
Anyway on with the story, and here is where I had my first real disappointment. I had booked a little self contained cabin and I must admit I was really looking forward to staying there. Oh boy it was awful. There was a horrible musty smell which hit me as soon as I went through the front door. It had certainly seen better days. The bedroom was on a mezzanine floor, the stairs were quite steep and the bannister rail at the top was loose. The duvet cover and pillowcases had been put on the bed, but not the sheet. Unfortunately this meant that I saw that there were two sheets of foam rubber on top of the mattress and they weren’t very clean. So I had been there five minutes and was already dreading the prospect of being there for five nights. Anyway I gave myself a talking to and set off for the town to get some supplies. Feedback said it was five minutes to the local shop, not sure which shop they went to, but it was a good 25 minute walk into town. The town itself seemed quite sweet, I went to the supermarket and thought I might need a glass or two of wine tonight so bought a bottle of red. Something I am trying to resist in the effort to continue to lose weight but needs must, it was a definite need tonight. I went back to my little home and this was when I discovered that the shower dripped and echoed through the place and I was unable to stop it. It was like torture. There was no internet, but there was Sky TV, a whole four channels, brilliant. The sofa was a bed settee and after sitting on it for five minutes the seat cushions sank into the mechanism for the bed. What else could possibly be wrong with this place you might ask? I soon found out. It was freezing, I put the heater on and I made a hot water bottle, yes a hot water bottle. Then I fell asleep on the sofa under a blanket with my hot water bottle how sad is that!
I woke up about midnight and decided I better go and get into bed although I wasn’t relishing the thought. This was when I realised that all the cabins around were empty and I started to feel really isolated. I spent the next two hours trying to sleep wrapped around my hot water bottle. Then I started researching other places to stay. A lot of soul searching went on that night. In the morning I made a decision to move out and find a hotel, I knew I was not going to be happy there, and I was already worried about how I was going to get back to the station. It really was the best thing I could have done. I found a motel quite near the station and they came and picked me up and the minute I walked into my lovely warm room I felt the smile return to my face. The couple were lovely and there was a big kitchen where I could cook for myself. I was soon settled in and resting up after the stress and disappointment of the day before. I didn’t take a photo of the place but saw one in the window of an estate agent which is below. They look so cute, and I am sure during the season they are great, but not for me. Interestingly this was an AirBNB and when I wrote to the host to cancel he never responded. Then the systems seem to get really mixed up and gave me a refund based on a combination of two currencies, so reducing me refund significantly and also the time difference seemed to impact it as well. I did eventually get my money back and of course there was no point in reviewing the property because he was not communicating so he would not write a review for me. Anyway let’s close that book shall we.
Safely ensconced in my new place I had a quiet day and the following day was bicycle day.
I went into town a little earlier and had a late breakfast in a local cafe, the large latte was huge and I managed to hop on to the WiFi of the bank next door and pick up my mail. Then I took myself off to the sports equipment shop where a lovely and lively young man got me sorted out with a bike, and arranged for a shuttle to come a little earlier for me because by now I was starting to realise what I had let myself in for. There was a schematic view in the shop of the hills and although I was doing the easy route from Horopito to Ohakune there were still a lot of hills. I tried out the bike and the front wheel was wobbling all over the place and I couldn’t change gear. So he took it back and there was a problem with the bike it wasn’t just me thank goodness. The next bike only had one set of gears and seemed ok. The shuttle had arrived and so off we went. I asked the lady who was driving me if she had always lived here and she started giving me a potted history of her life, including the death of her mother at the age of 15. She asked me if I had been to New Zealand before so I started talking about coming here when we lost my sister Helga and I got really emotional. I have to say being in New Zealand has been a very emotional experience for me. I completely understand why Helga fell in love with this country and wanted to live here. But I am finding that I can’t even talk about her without crying. I wonder if I didn’t have the opportunity to grieve properly at the time because I had Erik with me. Although I did feel like I went through the process. Who knows, all I know is I am sitting on the ferry writing this and crying again. Just like I cried in that shuttle bus on the way to my cycle ride. Its inexplicable to me why I am constantly in a state of heightened emotion. Maybe she is here with me, making me cry, bad sister
So the first part of the cycle ride is down and up a small incline but on horrible gravel and they had suggested when talking through the route that it’s is better to walk that bit because the gravel can be quite slippery. I slid all over the place walking it, thank goodness I didn’t attempt to get on the bike! Having done that bit I got to the gateway which was the start of the trail and as I was standing there pondering my fate so to speak the Great Northern Railway train went past heading for the 13:45 arrival at Ohakune. The people in the viewing car were all waving at me, so I gave them a big wave back, so funny that was me two days ago.
So off I went, at first it was a wide trail, it had been the link between two sections of the railway line until the viaducts were built and then fell into disuse quite quickly. The terrain was pretty rough but I was sort of coping, and then came to the first bit of a hill. I soon found the combination of the terrain and the hills made it quite impossible for me to get enough speed up going down one way to give me the impetus I needed to get up the hill. The gravel in some areas made going down slippery, you need to have breaks applied and there are lots of hairpins and sharp turns at the bottom of hills so you have to go down quite slowly. There were a couple of quite big hills and pushing the bike up these hills was hard work, I was soon removing layers and feeling the pain. On some of the flat parts of the trail the rocks and tree roots were treacherous again meaning that I had to walk rather than ride. I had my endomondo app on so I knew how far I had gone and that the whole route was 14 kms. My lap times were getting longer and longer and I started to worry that I wouldn’t make it back to the shop before they closed. The young man had assured me that if they had gone home I could just ring the number and they would come out because they all lived very close by. I had also asked him what the chances were of getting a puncture because I had to admit my husband is the one that always fixes those for me! He said not to worry he could get out to me in a bike if I needed him.
So I was making slow progress and I was also surprised by how narrow the trail had become quite quickly and by how high up I was with sheer drops albeit wooded to my side and many hairpin bends. There was one point where on turning the hairpin there was virtually no ledge and I had to try and push the bike ahead of myself as there wasn’t room for me to push it by my side, that was really hard and scary with a sheer drop to my side. So as usual I was battling in places with my fear of heights, I was finding it impossible to cycle and and I was becoming quite tired. Another woman passed me at one point and we had a chat about the skidding and the terrain but clearly she was managing much better than me. I then had a thought about my recovery when I was resting and remembered Thomas, my trainer, saying that when you have used a lot of strength you needed to give yourself more time to recover. By this time I was over the worst of the uphill and I started to do this and found I was able to power through more. I was also quite tired before this and once when trying to get on the bike I almost fell over. I had to give myself a stern talking to about that, because I realised that no one else might come past and I didn’t want to be lying here on my own until someone found me! Or falling off the edge never to be found. The proper rests started to help and I got to about eight kms and started to be able to cycle more and more as it was mainly flat or a gentle gradient down hill, even managed a few small uphills. But I have to say even then there were times when I don’t know how I didn’t go head over heals over the handle bars. I realised on this journey that I had gone into this completely blind, I was completely outside my comfort zone and I felt very very alone. But my determination and resolve to complete it got me through. There were also some amazing moments. I talked earller about the new and old viaduct. I actually stood on the edge of a hairpin bend underneath the new viaduct taking a photograph of both the new and old even though I was scared. It was hard to believe how these viaducts had been built when you see the sheer size of the chasms they have to cross. The woodland canopy I went through was very beautiful and once more I was stunned by the sheer beauty of this country. When I got to about 11 kms I was now back on a wide track mainly grass and as I came out of the woods there was the most fabulous vista of rolling green countryside and that was should a great moment not only because of the beauty but also because of the fact that I had made it though to the other side. The very nice young man rang me to check I was ok and offered to pick me up at a car park below. It meant I only did 12 and a half kms but what the hell, it was the biggest hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I think I could have walked it faster, well maybe not. Would I do it again, let me think, no probably not, but I may be up for learning how to do mountain biking. The one fatality was one of my tops which somehow ended up with a big rip in the back. Small price to pay. I took myself out for much deserved dinner that night and a Gin and Tonic and a couple of glasses of wine.
The next day was a little jaunt into town which by the way was about a 5km round trip, coffee in my local coffee shop and a late lunch early dinner in the local bar. I did some writing and bought some stamps for the New Zealand set of postcards, and early to bed. I must say though the what surprised me most on the Tuesday morning was that my body was not hurting in the way I expected it to after the walking cycle experience, I am clearly much fitter than I think even if I am crap at mountain biking.
So Wednesday was my last full day in Ohakune so I did three shortish walks, two in the mountains one was only ten minutes but interesting in that there were plaques talking about life and death in the forest, and how the trees that have fallen become hosts for new life, with all sorts of other plants growing out of them, and leaves falling provide a bed which helps then animals and insects survive. I then did an hours walk which once again took me up high and on the edge and then back again. I walked into town and then took the river walk out of town. I should also explain that there is a river running through the forest with lots of different streams feeding into it and it runs through the town too, so when walking in the mountain you can often hear running water. The walk along the river was very peaceful. There is a lot of gorse in the area and also lots of yellow lupins which look like they grow wild and they have a slightly different leaf formation. I had to cross the river on a bridge about half way down the track. There was a limit of eight people on the bridge at any one time. It was quite a bouncy bridge and I was laughing to myself as I crossed it because I imagined bing on the bridge with my boys. I knew they would be jumping up and down in it just to wind me up.
It’s funny on all my walking I find my mind wandering to different places as you do and then I half trip over a stone. So I have to learn to be focussed and not let my mind wander too much and keep my eyes on the trail.
I had by now taken to spending time in the local bar writing everyday, and having a glass of wine and a bite to eat, all the food was very enjoyable. I had to do it there because I had very little WiFi in my hotel. 500Mg that goes no where these days. I spent some time that day talking to the owner of the motel and he was saying times are really hard there, the AirBNB culture has really taken a toll on their business and really they only have good business during the winter months then business is very minimal. The town council won’t do anything to attract people into the area during the summer and just seem to be stuck in the mud. It’s a real shame because it is a lovely little town, but a lot of the restaurants and even motels close down in the summer.
My last day I went for my daily wander into town and did some writing and had an early lunch because I was moving and so wouldn’t have much food in stock, well none and didn’t know what local shopping would be available on my arrival. Then I took a last walk down the river, and went to the station for my cup of coffee with the lovely young woman who helped me out on my first day. It was I have to say the best cup of coffee all week and when I told her that she asked me were all the others awful. I had to laugh, no I said, they were good, but yours is great. The train came in and it was time to depart for Paraparaumu. See you there.