Synopsis of Day 3. Location: Wainui, North Island, New Zealand Weather: Sun, 22-28ºC Course: 345km, Castlepoint to Wainui Terrain: Gravel 180km, trail 10km, highway 155km Tests: SP6: Beach Drift, SP7: White Rock Leatt Neck Brace Challenge; SP8: Trial Top three teams: 1. South Korea, 2. South Africa, 3. Netherlands
Wainui, New Zealand. There was a concerted push south today as the 2020 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy looked to finish the day within striking distance of the Cook Strait, ready for a leap onto the South Island tomorrow. Only first there was nearly 350km of mixed trail and highway, through the never ending hills of the Wairarapa, diving into native woodlands, crossing pastoral flatlands then a return to the spectacular east coast before finally crossing the Rimutaka Range to make camp in the bush on the edge of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.
The GS riders again responded to a pre-dawn 5:30am call to breakfast, yet again finding wonder in the incredible sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, this time seen over the reef at Castlepoint. Less than a kilometre from the start they stopped for the first challenge of the day, Beach Drift. Here one rider from each team rode against the clock over a deep sand section, then crossed back and forth across flatter sands before making a precision stop in a defined box. The deep sand claimed many victims, either tipping over or sinking deep, including the hitherto infallible Team South Korea.
From here the riders enjoyed riding a hard pack farmer’s trail over spectacular cliffs to Waimimi – just another small name on the map marking the location of a handful of farming homesteads. Here the riders turned inland toward Masterton, the Wairarapa’s market town. A mix of flowing roads and twisting gravel tracks, much of it through native forest sections, took the riders east and as they crossed the highpoint of 536m at Pariwhariki they could see in the distance the impressive, brooding Tararau Range that divides the southern half of the North Island, with peaks reaching 1300 metres.
After a refuel and coffee break in the quaint historic town of Martinborough the riders then headed east again – not south! – On the gravel tracks that lead to the iconic White Rock at Pahaoa. The beach here is black sand which contrasts starkly with the solitary white rock that somehow holds steady in the immense raging surf – this is no swimming spot! Here the GS riders were entertained by the Leatt Neck Brace Challenge, hurling their gloves up the beach into the neck braces in something resembling target practice!
The final leg of today’s journey saw the GS riders swoop over the Rimutakas on the biker-famous Rimutaka Hill Road – a favourite weekend haunt of Wellington’s bike riders. The curves are entertaining, but either side of the road (which peaks at 725m) is a vast dense native bush with manuka, beech, cabbage trees, hebe and ferns. New Zealand almost as it was when Captain Cook first arrived. Only the action didn’t end here as the teams again had to elect a rider to ride the final challenge of the day: the Trial, a weaving track that led through the trees and through a stream on the edge of the bush that borders the campground for tonight. Of course this was set against the clock, with time deductions for footing and stalls.
While it was a typically late end to the riding day it was an early turn-in for sleep as tomorrow the GS Trophy makes a very early pre-dawn start for the inter-island ferry to the South Island.