Words: Tony Hutcheson Pictures: Tony Hutcheson & Dominic Blissett
"A non-event is better to write about than an event, because with a non-event you can make up the meaning yourself, it means whatever you say it means." Margaret Atwood
Bike? check. Photos: Tony Hutcheson
The B52’s know there are a lot of ruins in Mesopotamia but they evidently don’t know about the beer. Beer - brewed by the hipster chicks of the ancient middle east in preparation for the invention of the wheel and its logical conclusion as the Paris-Roubaix.
Unfortunately, while the women of ancient Mesopotamia were blessed with the greatest and least acknowledged foresight in human history, the menfolk failed to catch on and just used their newly invented wheel to haul more grain to the women, who produced more beer. A noble pursuit, granted, but not nearly as rewarding as a bicycle smile. Even Plato couldn’t shake the tree of inspiration when he said "She was a wise woman who invented beer, sure would go good with a bike though!"
The men would eventually catch on. A mere 7000 years later we finally realised what the ladies had known since knowing was a thing: beer and bikes go together, like celery and peanut butter. Dutifully, and somewhat embarrassed by the whole affair, man eventually invented the bicycle and we were on our way.
Set against this dark, factually equivocal backdrop of the history of human development we find Kiwi Beervet, lurking in the gloomy corners of reason.
The third instalment of the now world infamous Kiwi Beervet took place on the North Island of New Zealand in the majestic Coromandel Peninsula. Or at least that’s what you would be reading if that had actually happened. Covid would once again fire a shot across the bow of Kiwi Beervet and cause significant suffering as I crossed my arthritic fingers for three weeks, resting them only long enough to develop a bootleg route lest only healthy crossed fingers bring luck.
Eventually abandoning the crossed fingers plan and the North Island with it, Kiwi Beervet 3.21 instead set sail for Nelson/Tasman/Golden Bay.
Day 0, Prelude - Coppermine - 48km - 1,100m
“Everything you do in life is just an excuse to get hungry and thirsty.” Guy Wynn Williams
I’m pretty sure it was Nathaniel Hawthorne who, in crica 1842, said "I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as a sunny day in Nelson by staying off my bike." No argument there. After a couple of much needed breakfast brews (one coffee, one beer) a quorum of early arrivals were despatched to assess the Coppermine’s suitability for drop-bar gravel bikes.
Coppermine in a fish bowl. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
The resultant field report is presented here in abbreviated format:
Uphill - long, amusing, good warmup.
Coppermine Saddle - not windy (for a change), good for a beer and a dram.
Downhill - long, amusing, good for early onset carpal tunnel syndrome.
Road down the Maitai - good to work up a thirst.
The Free House Pub - good to quench said thirst.
Sam does drop bars and airtime. Photo Tony Hutcheson
The advance party, having deemed the day a success, returned to the temporary offices of Kiwi Beervet HQ in time for the official pre non-event muster and allocation of commemorative trinkets before settling down for a comfortable night on the warehouse floor of the Santa Cruz Bicycles South Island distribution centre.
Monogramed hip flasks - Beervet capacity for personalised flattery knows no bounds.
Day 1 - Nelson to Alpine Lodge St Arnaud - 100km - 1,474m
“I’ve figured out that the non-event is the best part of life." Jerry Seinfeld
It’s Nelson. Any cafe that advertises an opening time earlier than 8am doesn’t actually open until after 9:30. Conversely cafes that claim to open late may open early depending on how keen the proprietor is to get out of bed on the weekend. After calling on all early openers and losing hope of breakfast the intrepid beerveters were welcomed, fed and caffeinated by the good folk at Hardy Street Eatery, a late opener that was open early.
Buoyed by the exceptional service, food and coffee Kiwi Beervet 3.21 was underway. An initial gruelling push of 6.2km lay ahead before calling on the Honest Lawyer for a well-earned pint. This set the tone for the day which necessitated an emergency stop at Wakefield Bakery to aid in the absorption of some of the tone that had been set, before pushing on for St Arnaud.
Honest beer. Photo Dominic Blisset
Scott makes his own social distancing rules. Tony Hutcheson
With few pubs on route the per diem beer rations were drawn on for midday and afternoon libations while whisky was reserved for medicinal use only, of which there was great need. This kept spirits high and roadside bushes hydrated.
Marking the col with a dram. Photo: Dominic Blisset
After a memorably soul-destroying climb towards our goal, a diversion to Top House Inn (a favourite of the inaugural Kiwi Beervet back in 1BC*) sated our beer and salty snack craving and assured our final push to St Arnaud would be endured in icy rain.
Top House three ways. Photos: Dominic Blisset
Fortunately Alpine Lodge had ample hot water, a roaring fire and Eddy Line Hazy IPA on tap. The beetroot gnocchi also deserves honourable mention.
* Before Covid
Day 2 - Alpine Lodge St Arnaud to Tapawera Hotel - 96km - 1,695m
“Everything has a price but not all country pubs should be for sale.” Frank Sonnenburg
An early wake up to catch the Snowshoe round of World Cup Downhill delivered us seamlessly into the restaurant for our poached eggs and smashed avo on sourdough before heading down to the shore of Lake Rotoiti to raise a hip flask to life in level 2.
Instagram-perfect Lake Rotoiti. Photos: Tony Hutcheson
The covid affected KB3.21 was originally going to run counter clockwise until a close inspection of a topo map revealed some rather tightly stacked contour lines between Lake Rotoroa and Porika Saddle. That was all it took to flip the entire 5 days in the opposite direction.
A surprisingly pleasant pedal up the Porika Track through the New Creek Gold Fossicking Area ended at the rather underwhelming Porika Saddle. A beer, a couple of drams and a Megabeervalanche start soon lifted spirits once more for a dicey descent down the aforementioned contour lines.
Porika Track, linking Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. Photos: Tony Hutcheson
The 13ish kilometres of state highway 6 to Glenhope was always going to be the emotional low point of KB3.21 so reaching the Tadmor-Glenhope Road was celebrated in true Beervet fashion. Beer, whisky, salty snacks.
I can highly recommend the pleasant pedal over Tadmor Saddle and down into Tapawera. Enough gravel road to keep it from becoming the preferred shortcut of automobiles and enough downward dancing road to confirm its suitability as an excellent end to a big day.
All country pubs seem to be in a constant state of 'for sale-ness' or 'under new ownership-ness' and Tapawera Hotel is no different. The new proprietors are on the right track though having introduced some great local brews to the tap selection and are working hard on the food offering. A limited number of beds for the night was remedied by selective spooning.
Mandatory ice cream sundaes followed by unavoidable double bunking. Photos: Tony Hutcheson
Day 3 - Tapawera Hotel to The Telegraph Hotel Takaka - 108km - 1,337 to 2,258m depending on who’s device you believe
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change a Beervet route at short notice.” Albert Einstein
There was one aspect of the Tapawera Hotel that could best be described as amusing. The 'continental breakfast' turned out to be four slices of white toast bread in a zip lock bag and a couple of tiny boxes of cereal. At least the zip lock bags came in handy.
Scott pins Motueka for a late breakfast. Photo: Dominic Blisset
With empty bellies and a burning desire to reverse a dangerously uncaffeinated situation, the day's course down the west bank of the Motueka River and over Takaka Hill was diverted through Motueka to correct a disastrous culinary start to the day.
The scenic left bank of the Motueka River. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
With the new route locked in and adding 15km to an already XL day, an additional nutrition stop was considered prudent. Rumours of a new mobile pub in the Motueka hinterland garnered enthusiasm from the required majority and we set out in search of the red 1960’s Bedford school bus that Jamie Nicoll calls home. A couple of pre-breakfast fermented beverages and a tour of the vege garden (very impressive cauliflower) had us set to rights and on our way to Toad Hall.
Tony always happy in his work. Photo: Dominic Blisset Chez Jamie Nicoll Adventures. Photos Tony Hutcheson
We shall take a moment here to ponder the burning question of the age: is Toad Hall the perfect place for a cyclist to rest? The answer is undoubtedly "yes". Plenty of cycle friendly parking, great food, great service, happy people and… and… semi attached to a brewery. The Townshend Brewery Lazy Hazy has to be my current favourite beer and when consumed at Toad Hall on a sunny day with great food and good friends with bikes, well, what could be better? Toad Hall, too good to visit only once.
"Eggs Bene, with Hazy Ale please". Photos: Tony Hutcheson
A detour round Motueka’s coastal cycle path (recommended) landed us only a few short meters from Hop Federation. Essential supplies replenished and land access koha acquired, we headed for the hills, or more precisely Takaka Hill. A collective mental block and cone of silence had kept the subject of Takaka Hill far away from the more enjoyable moments thus far but the inevitable climb was now literally on top of us.
In an uncharacteristic moment of administrative foresight, the Kiwi Beervet committee had managed to gain permission to cross two blocks of private land to ascend Takaka Hill thus eliminating the compulsory shuttle through the numerous road works still in play following cyclone Gita in 2018.
The direct route to Takaka Hill. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
Regrouping at the Canaan Downs Road there was a general sigh of relief from those less informed of the 30km and around 400m of climbing still to go. Although 7km of that was to be the wonderful Rameka Track which, as it transpired, was met with mixed reviews from the drop bar enthusiasts.
Twilight zone on the Rameka. Photos: Tony Hutcheson & Dominic Blisset
Some late punctures and a particularly scary high-speed-gravel-road dismount resulted in the first ever Kiwi Beervet after dark finish. Matt’s answer to the "how many fingers?" question was almost correct and he was therefore deemed fit to push on to the pub in the dark
The Telegraph Hotel in Takaka is a gem. Not much to more say really. Good beer, good food, great people. Give them a visit.
Day 4 - Telegraph Hotel Takaka to Wakefield Hotel (and Snowball Manor) - 118km - 1,405m (the 30km on a ferry still counts as pedalling)
“Don’t pay the ferryman if he uses your bike as a ladder.” Chris De Burgh
Remember Nelson? You know, that place where no cafe opens early, not the ones that say they do anyway. Well, Takaka is not Nelson but hopes were not high. Enter De-Lish Delicatessen. The one establishment in Takaka that caffeinates the early rising tradies. When 16 hungry cyclists appeared unannounced at the door before 7am the good folk of De-Lish served up a lesson in composure with a side of excellent coffee and 16 outstanding breakfast tortillas. An attempt to recommend this place too highly would be futile. Just go there, you’ll see.
De-Lish. Photo: Dominic Blisset
Our exit from Golden Bay would be via a navy seal style beach extraction from Totaranui. That was the plan until, half way down the Rameka the day prior I received a message from the ferry company that our ferry had broken down but "don’t worry, we’ll be there somehow".
Iconic Golden Bay. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
Our early morning pedal along the stunning coastline from Pohara to Totaranui was as chill as it was pleasant. Inclement weather was coming, but not before we could enjoy a golden sunrise and perfect riding conditions.
Much mirth and merriment was had whilst waiting on the golden sands of Totaranui.
Scott hucks to soft. Photos: Tony Hutcheson
When eventually our boat arrived it was a lot smaller than I had imagined. The boat’s driver loaded our bikes, climbed over them and departed, leaving us to wait in hope that our bikes were undamaged and for the arrival of a second vessel which, in a cruel twist of fate, was plenty big enough to take us and our bikes.
Photos: Tony Hutcheson & Dominic Blisset
Reunited with our bikes in Kaiteriteri there was a quick (slow) pint at a waterfront bar before a speedy (also slow) exit via the Kaiteriteri MTB park and a return to Hop Federation for more supplies.
Kaiteriteri Mtb Tracks. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
A slightly urbanised version of Motueka’s coastal cycle path was used Hansel and Gretel style to find our way back to Townshend Brewery and Toad Hall, too good to visit only once. An inappropriately long stay ensured an abundance of enthusiasm for the remaining 40km and 450m of climbing.
Some of the numerous Beervet 'alternate route options'. Photos: Tony Hutcheson & Dominic Blisset
Solid communication and planning, always look out for the team. These are the pillars of Kiwi Beervet that have been comprehensively ignored since its birth back in 1BC*. Soon after leaving Motueka the accumulated enthusiasm boiled over into a stew of outstanding chaos and poor communication resulting in half the crew traversing a forestry block along a ridgeline while the other half were on a similar ridge about 5km west.
Despite our separate attempts to give the local search and rescue some work, both groups found the Wakefield Hotel in time for beer and an unexpectedly excellent meal.
The Last Supper. Photo: Tony Hutcheson
Day 5 - Wakefield Hotel to Nelson - 48km - 380m
“Whisky is liquid sunshine so as long as you have hip flask you will never require a Mackintosh”. George Bernard Shaw
Day 5 was a luxury length cruise from Wakefield out towards Wairoa Gorge before darting back through Brightwater for a sausage roll and back onto the Great Taste Cycle Trail for our return to the temporary offices of Kiwi Beervet HQ.
The inevitable arrival of the big wet on the final half-stage into Nelson via Wairoa Gorge. Photo: Dominic Blisset
Kiwi Beervet’s ability to fly under the rain radar is the envy of non-events worldwide. Day 5 of KB3.21 put an end to that run of luck and the start of an honest deluge. But it was a short day and the good folk at the Honest Lawyer didn’t mind us dripping in the dining room.
Kiwi Beervet 3.21 didn’t quite execute as per the original plan but it was a great time. Beerveters had to pull out, ghosts of Beervets past were visited, establishments were called on twice, punctures were a feature as was high speed crash chaos. All things that would not normally be acceptable etiquette on Beervet but in this new dystopian future where simply walking out your front door seems like an act of defiant freedom, we shall say that the lasting image of KB3.21 is going straight to the pool room.
Portraits: Dominic Blisset
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