Bicycle Astride Turquoise Waterways
By Roy Sinclair
Commencing a cycling adventure, sitting in a comfortable train carriage, I have a commendable role model. In March 1878 American author Mark Twain planned walking tour of Europe. He found a companion and servant but at the last moment ``for private reasons’’ they took an express train. My train is the Coastal Pacific enroute from Christchurch to Picton . My pedal steed is securely bungeed in the luggage van.
The café carriage brews great coffee to accompany the superb journey offering one of the world’s longest ocean-side train rides. My bike ride will take me astride two of New Zealand’s most spectacular waterways; Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds.
At 36 km, the steeply undulating, winding, road between Picton and Havelock is not my usual mega ride. It ranks amongst my top short rides.
Before setting off I spend a comfortable night at Picton’s Wedgewood House YHA. Proprietor Peter Bugler, himself a veteran cyclist, is great for a yarn and advice.
The morning is excellent as my veteran Raleigh grinds up the hill overlooking island-dotted Picton Harbour. From the port below me the Railways’ Interislander ferry has operated to Wellington since 1962. Today, passengers are emerging from the plush cruise liner Seaborn Odyssey.
Maori legends explain the jagged land pattern seen on a map of Marlborough Sounds. One has it as the intricately-carved prow of the canoe (South Island) Maui fished the North Island from.
Another tells of Kupe chasing a huge octopus from his homeland, Hawaiki, and doing fierce battle with the creature at the tip of South Island.
The waterway charmed the eye of English explorer James Cook who spent 100 days sheltering at nearby Ship Cove between 1770 and 1777. Cook named Queen Charlotte Sound after Sophia, wife of King George III.
The road offers semi-strenuous climbs over headlands rewarding stunning views of turquoise bays bordered by lush tree ferns. About 18 km into the ride I rest at Momorangi Bay, a typical Kiwi camping and boating destination.
It is a perfect summer day. Chocolate melt from muesli bars. Cheese sticks threaten to become liquid. Bikini-clad women slap on sunscreen. Kayaks and sailboats bob on the ocean. The atmosphere perfectly fits Mark Twain’s perception of adventure, " a picnic on a gigantic scale.’’ I pass curiously-named Aussie Bay then, at the Grove , an array of decorative letterboxes. About 2000 vehicles, mostly holiday travellers, are on the sealed road daily. The route was previously known as The Grove Track.
A ``flyblown’’ pioneer gold seeker yearning for home and his darling said, ``I will not take that road with its slush and high hills. I’ll go back by steamer by Havelock.’’
I pedal over flatter terrain through Linkwater and commence climbing a final hump overlooking Pelorus Sound estuary and then up through Mahakipawa scenic reserve to pause at Cullen Point overlooking my destination.
About three hours from my start, I sip a cold beer at Slip Inn on Havelock’s waterfront.
And I contemplate a remarkable Risso’s Dolphin ``Pelorus Jack’’ that once guided ships through treacherous French Pass. The dolphin became the world’s first sea creature bestowed with Government protection.
I will need to pedal back to Picton. But not yet. Havelock also has a good YHA. I can spend a day or two boating, catching blue cod and learning the finer details of marinating mussels.