Editor’s note: Laura and Russ of The Path Less Pedaled are traveling through New Zealand and sharing with us exclusive dispatches from their trip.
By Laura and Russ
One of the reasons we decided to go to New Zealand was because of the NZ Cycle Trail program, a surprising initiative where the central government of New Zealand invested $50 million into the development of cycle trails around the country to create jobs. In this video, we ride The Forgotten World Highway, one of the rides encompassed by the program and meet the team behind administering the funds.
Some mind blowing scenery on the Forgotten World Highway.
The Forgotten World Highway is a 180k stretch of hilly road where you ride through everything from sheep and dairy land to deep native bush. We did the ride in three days with a really long 85k first day. It wasn’t so much the distance that was brutal as it was the sawtooth terrain. People told us it was “rolling hill country.” We imagined the gentle rollers you’d find around Solvang, CA where if you tucked in on the downhill you could just about crest the uphill. This was certainly not that. We would find ourselves climbing hills over 10% grades only to scream back down the other side and repeat. There were no less than 6 significant climbs that first day. By the time we got to that campsite on the hill, we were wrecked.
The Forgotten World Highway had some unsealed sections that we were constantly being warned about, especially after people saw us riding Bromptons. Ironically, the gravel sections were actually the most pleasant, since they had such little traffic. On our second day of riding, we probably saw less than a dozen vehicles. We found out later that many camper van and rental car companies prohibit customers from riding the Forgotten World Highway. Bad for them, good for us. Most of this drama is reduced to a 20 second riding montage that doesn’t really dramatize how challenging it was.
One of our favorite stretches was going through the Taranaki Gorge.
One of the great joys in touring for us is meeting people. Ian and Laurel were a wonderful and hospitable couple. For me, it’s always a delicate moment when I whip out the video camera and start recording. Too early after having met someone and all I get is awkwardness, too late in the evening it becomes a chore. What isn’t shown in the video is that they later invited us in for “tea” (ie dinner) along with the touring family. It was a wonderful evening of glasses of wine and Purangi Plongers (a homemade concoction of dates soaked in liquor).
For those that follow us, conspicuously absent is anything about my road rage incident in Wellington, which has caused quite a stir nationally in NZ. I haven’t quite decided how to work that into the videos. Should it be its own episode? Should it be a short? Should I mention it at all in the videos? I haven’t quite decided.
The stunning coastal walk/bikeway in New Plymouth. Pretty amazing views.
Today, I’m writing from Nelson on the South island. The most bike-friendly town we’ve encountered so far. We’re starting to continue our journey South deep into the bush and less inhabited parts of New Zealand. Electricity and wifi will become less available so doing these videos will be quite interesting.