I took the usual route, biking up the valley a short distance before turning off the tarmac onto the rough dirt and gravel of No. 2 Line. A few hundred metres of level ground, then the climb began. Perhaps it was the slight tailwind, or perhaps the crackers and tomato had fueled me better than I'd expected, or perhaps I'd just struck a good day, physically and mentally; whatever the reason, the result was a quick ride up the steep, winding road in a gear at least one cog higher than usual. At the top I circled a few times; the usual slow, tight circles; time to let the burn in my legs begin to subside; time to gaze out over the valley, up towards the Oroua headwaters, out northwest to where hard hill country receded into the distance under heavy grey cloud. Somewhere out there, Ruapehu slept under that dense blanket. One day he'll awaken fully and remind us of our true powerlessness and insignificance. Or, maybe Taupo will wake first, and if that eruption proves anything like that of 1800 years ago — one of the largest in recorded history — let alone like the Oruanui eruption which, 26,500 years ago, spewed out 300 cubic kilometres of ignimbrite and 500 cubic kilometres of pumice and ash, ...well, no one anywhere near here will survive to reflect on his powerlessness and insignificance.
1. For anyone wondering why running over the stoat might have been a good idea, I added a few notes (with links) to a post I wrote a few years ago. That post includes several photos of a wild stoat.
1 & 3. Looking up No. 2 Line; about three quarters of the way to the road end.
2. The view down the road from the same spot. Loggers had been working there for the last week or so.
4. Beyond the road end, No. 2 Line. A poled route leads a short distance over farmland to the edge of the Ruahine Forest Park, and to the "Ashurst boulder" (300 Kb pdf) — actually about 20 km from Ashhurst (it has two "h"s); it's a group of boulders with a few reasonable problems.