Year 13 Outdoor Education Students (James Paynter, Howie McFadyen, Kash McKeefry, Regan McFelin, Jason Kremers, Henry Bagshaw, Ben Bruerton, Isaac Cantrick) recently completed a 3-day Self Sufficient Cycle Tour, that they had chosen, planned for and organized. They completed the Nelson Great Taste Trail and rode approximately 210km over 3 days. The class faced challenges, worked together, got soaked, ate all their snacks on the first day and took on an unexpected river crossing.
On day 1 the adventurers loaded up their bikes with all the food, bike tools, emergency equipment, sleeping bags and clothing they needed for the 3 days and started biking from Nelson. Riding through Spooners Tunnel, the longest decommissioned railway tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere, at 1.35km long, on day 1 was a highlight. The Tunnel ran slightly uphill and was completed in 1893 and used until 1955. It was built by hand and took 2 years to complete. You definitely needed a torch to make your way through, and the temperature was notably colder.
After 70km of riding, the group arrived in Tapawera to find that there had been a slight hiccup in the accommodation booking. As the heavy rain warning threatened, the Tapawera Tiny Home and Holiday Campground helped solved the problem and put up a tent with no poles or front pegs and a large family tent for the group. Leaky tents and a campground kitchen with a bunch of old food sitting around in pots aside, it was a mostly comfortable night which had us wake to the relaxing sound of the volunteer fire brigade siren at 4.06am, closely followed by the pitter patter of tennis ball size raindrops.
Excited to start the second day of riding (or to leave Tapawera), the group loaded up and headed out into the weather for 60km of riding. Finishing with a puncture repair and then a ride through the Kaiteriteri mountain bike park, the students were wet, from the mostly rainy day, but in good spirits. The positive, ‘take on the challenge’ attitude carried over into Day 3. This was the day that tested the group the most. Waking up to torrential rain, a Heavy Rain Warning and knee-deep flooding directly outside the accommodation meant the team had to consider their plan for the day. Taking into account the risks involved, their safety, their willingness to complete the cycle tour and ownership for all decisions, the group decided to carry on and re-evaluate as they rode. After 30 minutes of riding, the tyre puncture from the previous day resurfaced and multiplied. Standing in the downpour the team took time to attempt to fix the puncture and made a makeshift shelter from an emergency survival blanket. 45 minutes later they were on their way again. Many of the roads and parts of the track were flooded as they headed from Kaiteriteri to Riwaka. A baby seal met them on an inland bridge but quickly scurried (do baby seal’s scurry?) away. The rain continued to fall, the rivers continued to rise, and the boys continued to smile. Nearly on the outskirts of Nelson, with the idea of hot showers almost steaming, a slight delay ‘ever so slight’ occurred. The cycle bridge crossing the Waimea River had been flooded. Year 11 OED skills came into effect and the group carried out a textbook river crossing to test the route, unloaded panniers and carried them over before ‘hiking a bike’ to the other side. The group showed fantastic problem solving and risk management skills and came out the other side buzzing. Two more hours of riding in the dark, some of the group at their absolute limit and 80km done on Day 3, the team ended back where they started.
210 plus km finished over the 3 days, torrential rain, technical breakdowns, a baby seal, accommodation miscommunication, sirens, running out of energy food, bodies pushed to the limit for some, bridge washouts and undulating steep hills. Year 13 Outdoor Education students took on the challenge, stepped out of their comfort zones, carried the responsibility and ownership of their trip success and were a credit to themselves. A trip that will be looked back on with fondness…..I’m sure.