Two hours on a two-wheeler

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Today you're off down Otago Peninsula for a ride with a maritime flavour.

Portobello, Taiaroa Head, Papanui Inlet, Hoopers Inlet, Highcliff Rd.
Distance: 38.5km.
Main climbs: 75m and 240m.
Estimated riding time without stops: 2 1/2 hours.

On this ride you'll see fishing boats, lots of seabirds (maybe even an albatross), sweeping sea vistas in all directions and finish with a brisk downhill ride past Harbour Cone.

Start in Portobello and head towards Otakou and Taiaroa Head. Harington Point Rd leaves the harbour for a while before rejoining near Otakou, the Maori settlement from which Otago gains its name. The marae is worth a visit if you have time.

It's a pleasant ride along this flat, sparsely trafficked road, with plenty to see on the harbour on your left, and farm scenes dotted with quaint cribs on the right.

The final string of cribs is at Harington Point settlement, and here you start the first climb of the day, which quickly affords stunning views back down the harbour.

If you time it right, you might even see a cruise ship arriving or departing, and spot passengers enjoying cocktails in the poolside bar. Time for another sip of water.

After 11.5km, you will arrive at Taiaroa Head, which is usually buzzing with tourists flocking to see the magnificent albatross. You can join them on a tour, or just linger to soak up the great views out to sea and north to Karitane.

Then it's back the way you came, as this is a no-exit road. Just down the hill from Taiaroa Head, Pilots Bay is worth a visit to see the seals. Back you go towards Portobello, but about 2km before you arrive back at your starting point, turn left at Weir Rd and tackle the short, stiff climb on this gravel road up and over to Papanui Inlet. Depending on the wind and tide, this can be an impressive expanse of still water, or a slightly smelly mudpack, bristling with shellfish.

A group of AOK Social Riders head up the hill from Harington Point Rd towards Taiaroa Head, with...
A group of AOK Social Riders head up the hill from Harington Point Rd towards Taiaroa Head, with Otago Harbour stretching out below them. Photo by John Fridd.
At the bottom of the downhill, turn right and meander around the inlet. At the Sheppard Rd intersection, stick to the inlet road, then take the next right, which feeds you over to Papanui Inlet.

Turn right and resume your inlet exploration, which is enhanced by nice views of oft-painted and photographed Harbour Cone, which you're riding towards now.

You're now pedalling along Allans Beach Rd, and soon you'll reach the intersection from where the road rises up and over to Portobello. This is the

‘‘Chicken Run'' on the ride - if you feel you've had enough riding for the day, you can turn right and head over to Portobello. Otherwise stick with Hoopers Inlet Rd (good on you!) and enjoy the changing inlet views as you wind around to the final climb of the day - up to Sandymount Rd.

Turn right up the hill and grit your teeth for some climbing on this gravel road. Up the hill a bit, turn right at the intersection on to Sandymount Rd and keep grafting up this long and climbing road.

Eventually, the surface turns to seal, which makes the climb easier, and as you get higher, the views out over the blue Pacific just get better and better. Watch for the historic lime kiln remains down to the right. Before too long, you will reach your Everest - the intersection with Highcliff Rd, about 240m above sea-level.

Time to celebrate with a big gulp of water or energy drink before starting the fun part of the day - the swoop down Highcliff Rd.

You might have time to glance across the valley to see Larnach Castle in the trees and soak up the great views over Otago Harbour, but keep an eye peeled for oncoming vehicles on the sharp, blind corners.

Adventurous riders can crack 70kmh down this road and sometimes drivers don't realise how fast a cyclist can go.

Before you can say ‘‘derailleur'', you're back in Portobello after almost 40km of adventurous pedalling. Just as well the Portobello pub is at hand, as you'll probably have a rather large thirst to slake.

Coming up: Onward to Heyward Point, after knocking off Mt Cargill Rd.

John Fridd helps organise Saturday afternoon AOK Social Riders outings, which include rides suitable for most abilities, from Tuffnuts to Cruisies. New riders welcome. For more information on the AOK Social Riders, go to: www.mountainbikingotago.co.nz Go to ‘‘forums'', then AOK.

 

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