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                                                                                 “THE DAY OF THE GALE”

     Sunday October 4th 2015 dawned fine and warm.  Eight enthusiastic cyclists assembled in Nelson Terrace.  Not even a faulty bike rack could dampen the optimism as Christine quickly found a solution and our convoy motored northwards.  Parking in the prearranged spot in Ashburton we met our ninth member, Louise.  Mounting up we rode over the bridge, a sharp right turn and follow the ‘River Trail‘ signs.  Soon we were swooping around bends, through hollows, over ridges and around trees.  After the first kilometre the trail widened out.  Scrub, trees and old logs had all been cleared well back, leaving a wide, clear path to walk or cycle.  Several narrow openings in roadside fences proved tricky and gates slowed us down.

     With a clear trail and a downhill grade for 98% of the way we rode a rapid nineteen kilometres to the coast.  During an early lunch in sunshine we watched fishermen, whitebaiters and sea-birds trying their luck in surf and river-mouth.  The nor-west wind began to rise as we looked around Hakatere so we started back up the trail.  Our leader suggested walking down the only hill, but with wind roaring through the trees by then we all tackled this steep, narrow, downhill, shingle track on wheels, at speed.  Wind intensity grew, the air was filled with flying twigs and branches.  They littered the track.  Some so large we had to dismount and carry them from the trail.  Then a fallen tree blocked our path.  We couldn’t move it so had to slide bikes under it.

     Sharp eyed Louise spotted a small plastic item among the debris.  When we caught up with Barry’s son Reno he was very relieved and to have his speedo back again.  We pedalled determinedly on, wind buffeted trees still shedding branches of all sizes, which showered down upon us and the track ahead.  Breaking our way through them we pushed on.  One fallen, dead, tree-trunk, almost half a metre thick forced us to push bikes through scrub to get around it otherwise we kept on peddling.  After well over two hours of exhausting effort we came out onto Highway one, where traffic was backed up and travelling slowly due to fallen branches.  No one mentioned Lake Hood.  It was everyone to the ice-cream shop then head for home.  Pleased to be swapping bike seats for car seats.  Thank you Christine for an exhilarating if tiring adventure.  Other participants were Louise, John, Dave, Robert, Barry, his son Reno, Ross and I.

      Neville G.