Saturday, 16 January 2010

Marlborough Exploration

At this time of year i find myself re-tracing my actions in previous Januaries, this time last year I had just finished riding around the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, it was every intention of mine to re-write the adventure, make a nice google map and put some of the choicer pictures up here in an attempt to try and keep the odd post up. However my lack of discipline and being a disciple to bad TV it's not committed to text yet. However late on a Saturday night while i should be revising I'm reading the notes of my adventure from a little over 2 years ago, and boy am I a lucky man. It needs a little further sub editing and updating, but it's a story worth telling. So now i hand myself over to the myself of 25 months ago:

I left Wellington on the Bluebridge sailing at 1pm on Wednesday 21st Movember 2007. Managing to just make the boarding after packing panniers and neglecting to tidy my room fully I got on the boat, donned my hat and supped a couple of beers thinking back over the particularly fun packed previous 2 weeks including barbies, wine festivals, films and various epicurean adventures.

Again I am a free man, Though firmly in the knowledge that at some point in the (very near) future I need to find an income, as the kiwi dollars in my westpac account aren't likely to last long with my taste for the finer things in life. I had a vague plan to cycle the Queen Charlotte track as I had heard it was the best off road riding that New Zealand has to offer, and that is really saying something! Beyond that after a winter in Windy Wellington the lure of Nelson, the sunniest place in the country, is too much to resist, and after the confinement of a desk bound job even fruit picking, or anything outdoors where I could work on my tan and develop muscled shoulders seemed like a nice romantic idea.

Once the ferry arrived in Picton I took myself and my loaded bike up to the Tombstone Backpackers which was within sight of the Ferry's mooring place. A fine backpackers it was too, very well appointed, excellent reception from the couple who run it and very very comfortable beds, and comfortable as in comfortable, not just comfortable for a backpackers.

I booked myself onto the water taxi out to the beginning of the track at 8am and went and foraged for provisions. I spent the evening eating, preparing food and a little bit of idle travellers chit chat before getting an early nights rest in a bed for the last time until I didn't know when.

I was up early and ready for the off on Thursday morning, got onto the boat in good time to overhear the pilot (Sailor???) point out that bikes are actually a pain in the arse, but I paid up and was on my way to Ship Cove, the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Track at what I guess is the entrance to the Queen Charlotte Sound.
The sounds are really quite stunning weather from boat bike or plane, and I was happy to take them in from the seat with my head a little fuzzy from the previous 2 days lack of alcohol and the anticipation of this journey and beyond.

The Boat to the track
View from Ship Cove

As we came closer to the cove I started to realise exactly what people were referring to when they said it was a killer hill up out of there. I was dropped off and after a quick banana and some slip slap slop I put the bike into granny gear and headed towards the hill. After about 2 metres I was stopped, got off and started to push. After 4 metres I lost all traction and was stuck with beads of suncream'd sweat dripping down my face. The steepness of the hill combined with the lack of traction, my lack of fitness and the ridiculous amount of weight I had on my bike made this first obstacle impossible to pass. Luckily there were a couple just behind me, the male of which was strong enough to help push my bike up the first 200 metres or so. I stopped, let a few laughing trampers past and readjusted myself for a tough first hour or so, as one of the gleeful walkers had said that was roughly how long the first section was.

This was very hard work indeed, huffing, puffing and sweating I made it up to the first lookout after about an hour or so. But I was rewarded again when I got to go back downhill again. Here the weight on the back of the bike was actually to my advantage. Though the natural effect of this weight and gravity and all was pushing me even faster down precariously steep tracks, at least when I slammed on my front anchors the weight kept the back wheel in contact with the ground, and therefore my face well away from gravel rash.

Almost 2 weeks since particular experiences of the trail all blends into 1 [and 2 years later I'm just happy i wrote this much]. It is safe to say though that every time I was afforded views of the sounds that surrounded me I was quite taken aback. The surroundings, matched with the track and my mode of transport and the perfect kiwi summer weather really put me in a fantastic mood. Even though my gears decided to persistently slip throughout the trip due to my poor maintenance regime, throwing my crotch slamming into the crossbar on more than one occasion, and my calves took a real battering from the pedals, and in the numerous uphill struggles I felt like throwing down and giving up, this was by far outweighed by the general feeling of freedom and happiness.

Queen Charlotte Track Curious Weka

I wasn't exactly making good time, but had no fixed destination and my plan was just to enjoy the ride. After a few stops in the shade for water and sustenance I made it to the DoC (Department of Conservation (not Conversation)) shelter overlooking the Bay of Many Coves well before sundown. I gathered that this was the last opportunity for designated camping for some way, so being quite weary I decided to stop off and rest myself here for the night.

Bay of Many Coves Shelter

Luckily my tent which hadn't been out of it's packaging since last January in Tassie was all still in good working order, so I pitched up, grabbed a few sandwiches and my stereo and sat out watching a glorious sunset over the sounds.
I was a good peaceful night and being really out in the middle of nowhere all alone was quite a pleasant way to spend the night.

Running Maintenance

The next morning I was quite slow to rise and ready, I eventually cleared up and out just after 10. I knew that the first part of the day was a steep uphill so I didn't even mount my steed, but resigned to another day of lots of pushing and swearing. Indeed the first hour or so was predominantly pushing, but the overwhelming memories are still of cruising down or along track, trying to pay more attention to the trail than the speedo, checking to make sure panniers weren’t flying off the back.

A while of pedalling later I came to another hill, after having only seen 2 trampers very shortly after I had set off I wasn’t really expecting anyone else on the trail again, so as I was pushing the bike up this particularly steep and loose path, feeling pain in parts of the body I hadn’t recently been aware of and grunting and swearing like an overworked and out of shape porn actor I was slightly embarrassed to see a young lady in a cycling helmet at the top of the hill. This was the next shelter along the trail, and it turns out that Laura from Exeter was on a tour of the South Island, today as a team of 5 on a guided ride of the QC track, but was obviously well ahead of the rest of the pack. I took the opportunity of convivial conversation as a chance to rest up a bit and take in the views again. As the rest of the group slowly joined here and one by one exclaimed their admiration / disbelief at my attempt to conquer the track fully laden we chatted a bit until I filled my water and headed off on my way. You see these guys saw their cycling adventure as quite a challenge, but seeing me independent and attempting the trail fully laden kind of quashes that. In the same was as I saw a guy tear past me on a full susser the day before who I later found out at the end of the trail had come to do the track in a matter of hours… you see there is always someone more hardcore than you, and you don’t want to see them and have them bursting your bubble of achievement.

However they did impart to me that they had been riding pretty much exclusively uphill all morning, and as they were going in the opposite direction to me that meant that I had a fair amount of downhill to go for a while, and this wasn’t a lie. Oh no, the next hour or so was all spent on the pedals, giving the brakes a good workout, concentrating on the track, avoiding the larger rocks and ruts and keeping the cleanest line down the increasingly precarious dips and downhills. Now I’m the first to admit I’m far from hardcore in off road / downhill mountain biking, in fact I have been known to refer to myself as a bit of a soft-cock in that arena, but this part of the trail was right on the button for me, tough enough to need to concentrate, but affording enough glances up to appreciate the surroundings.

Queen Charlotte TrackA Very Happy Young ManWarning

Suddenly me and my bike were spat out onto tarmac from the trail, the signpost pointed down to portage bay, for food and refreshments, after consulting my watch and my belly I stuck the steed back into high gear and caned it down into the resort and an incredible rate. As I pulled in there were a couple of quite attractive girls in a phone box by their rental car, so I removed my helmet and glasses, sucked in the gut and tried to look as adventurous and alluring as possible while I strode in to buy a delicious lamb and mint pie with 2 bags of ‘lollies’ (high sugar sweets) and guzzle down a bottle of sports drink. I sat and chilled on thee porch for a bit smiling to myself at the stage of my adventure. God it was stunning.

As I had bombed all the way down from the trail to the shop, this meant I was going to have to go all the way back UP again. 35 mins up compared to the 5 mins down. When I got back to the turn of for the trail I bumped into the trio of Germans who were attempting the trail on rental bikes. I had seen them as I set off the previous morning, and bumped into them at various stages over the previous day. One fella was obviously not feeling it, I had happened across him just after a stack the previous day, and he still had a makeshift bandage round his noggin for an apparently quite deep cut near his nose. They had attempted to cover 50 KM of the trail the day before, but apparently too different routes from each other and got a wee bit lost, so weren’t in the best of moods, and now had to spin it for 20ks+ to get to their ferry back to Picton within the next hour. See, the problems presented to you when you plan ahead!

After a brief chat I took another look up the trail ahead. Got off the bike and started pushing again. This was on and off for about another hour, in the hottest part of the day with a full belly, so tiring, so hot, but offering plenty of opportunities to stand back and admire the views, as frustrating as it was at the time with slipping gears and increasingly battered shins and calves, it is all distant now and my main memories are of the latter part of the afternoon, there were about 2 hours of alternating pushing up to crazy downs. After the turn off for Lochmara Lodge which was going to be my (unrealistic) target for the previous day I was at another viewpoint pointing out the view to myself when an American family came along and asked me if I knew where the turn off for Lochmara Lodge was. We chatted briefly about the stunning beauty around and I consulted their map (because obviously, I didn’t need or have one!) of the trail. This and their information told me that it was all downhill to the end, with the whole lot possible in the pedals rather than pushing! Whoop Whoop. There was quite a hairy, very steep downhill with lots of switchbacks down across the face of the hill, then a wee bit more uphill and cruisy single track. Then I got to mistletoe bay, and the whole last section was just heaven. By this stage I was much more connected with my bike, knowing how to use the weight on it, was reading the trail much better and just loving burning down the trail, there was one incidence just after a corner where I scared the bejesus out of a quad of elderly walkers photographing flowers on the trail side. Most of this section was all in densely wooded area, with drop offs to the left where through the trees you could see the water far below, down into gullies and across bridges, back up the other side with the speed carried into the corner, a few open sections with fields either side, and plenty of flowing single track.

I Love riding in New Zealand
Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Track

I was a very happy boy. Even the stack I took didn’t reduce my cheer. As I sat in the bush 5 metres or so down the gully to the side of the trail with a tree stump in my crotch which was what had obviously prevented me rolling the next 200m down to the bottom I put together where I was and how I got there, I thin I just got a bit too carried away, took a corner to close to the inside edge and my bar end caught on a root in the bank and flipped me head first into a tree on the opposite side while my body fell down. I sat stunned for a while. Swore Very loudly for a minute or two, got up jumped around whooped and wailed and started tying up all my bags again. I was a bit shaken, but not enough to ruin the last 10k’s or so of the ride.

I arrived in Anikiwa
, rewarded myself with some gummi Bears and water and wished that there was someone there that I could tell about my adventure. Boy was I pumped. As I slowly calmed down I took into account where I was and went to look for accommodation. I had enough food for the evening still so decided to reward myself with a Double room at reduced rate at the Anikiwa lodge. Had a couple of bottles of Mac’s Gold and a good cleansing shower and spa and had a healthy nights rest.

In the morning I changed to my slick rear tyre and looked forward to Saturday in the Saddle. I left the village and got onto the highway towards Havelock, taking in the countryside and more stunning views, a hot slog up to a viewpoint where I stopped to refresh myself and chat while feeling ridiculously smug about my riding to a few car tourists. The town of Havelock was in view, and looked like a town that’d be big enough to cater for my breakfast. Not only that but it was all downhill into town! Not only that, but as I reached the entrance to the town I was reminded that it was the green shelled mussel capital of the world. OF THE WORLD, no less. Bacon & eggs was of the menu. I cruised in, did a couple of lengths of the high street and settled on the most mussel orientated restaurant! Went in and was tempted by everything but settled for the classic Mussels steamed with Garlic & white Wine accompanied by the ubiquitous bread and a glass of local Sav, Fresh and low food miles, what a breakfast!


I loaded up with provisions and headed happily on my way, with no plan further than getting to Nelson by tea time the next day.

I guess it’s actually pretty hard to explain the day on the ride, though nothing particularly of interest may happen, the feelings and emotions that I can have during a short space of time are insane. I often think I should have a Dictaphone to record my thoughts, because there are so many that come from nowhere, and are then just left back on the highway. The road riding is a very different feeling to trail riding, while you obviously have to keep your wits about you for traffic, when on a long flat stretch of bitumen your mind can wonder rather than concentrating intently on the route ahead. I often travel miles at a go arms crossed taking in the views or recounting happy memories, or fantasising at what awaits me at the end of the day. All I know is riding like that, with all my belongings, and life attached, with no ties or commitment to anything but my own survival and happiness is a happy feeling. I often whistle the theme to the littlest hobo to myself “every stop I make, I’ll make a new friend…” So while not a very sustainable living, or maybe not too eventful there is something that I completely love about it. I don’t now where it came from, it’s just something I’ll try and do at every opportunity.

So anyway, with my thoughts and pedals and wheels and the road I carried on riding until I reached Pelorus Bridge and decided to stop off for Ice Cream. Bad timing, I arrived just after the Magic Bus tour, the lady on the ice cream counter had just served 40+ indecisive whinging backpackers double scoop ice creams and was clearly ready to change to another area of the café/visitor centre. Nevertheless, I had my hokey-pokey single scoop in a cone and sat in the shade and ate it feeling oh so superior over the bus tours doing exactly the same. I checked out a map and had a look around at the river. In hindsight it probably would have been good to camp there for the night, take a dip in the river and tackle the tough off road route over the hill to Nelson the next day. But after consulting Peddlers Paradise and stocking up I decided to head for Nelson that night, but with enough provisions to be able to set up camp anywhere on the way if it got a bit too much.

The ride was fair, the weather was fair, but the sun was HOT. I had 2 hills to handle on the way, the Rai Saddle (247m) and the Whagamoa (357m) now I’ve hit harder hills before, but the bloody heat was just way out there in the sun, and there was no shade. My fitness isn’t what it could be and I don’t think that a breakfast of mussels and white wine is really what you see them eating before attempting the Alpe d'Huez (not that the two are really comparable, but ay!) Anyway, enough with the excuses, I found these relatively small hills bloody hard work and really felt like giving up. But the knowledge of a downhill on the other side, and that after I got over Gentle Annie Saddle (105m) it was a clear flat 12KMs into Nelson, so spurred on by the thought of a cool crisp beer I persisted up those hills and really enjoyed breaking the speed limits on the corners back down.

Those last 10 K’s were great, the sun was still up, and keeping me warm, cycling alongside Tasman Bay into the sunniest town in New Zealand. And with the cycling of the day, on the flat I was going and quite a pace. I cruised back up Trafalgar Street more than 6 months since I was last there and made my way to the most pub lie establishment, again propping my bike up very obviously outside the pub, sucking in my gut and trying to put across my adventurous spirit to all those present (needless o say this went unnoticed by all but me, even when I had all my guide books and sighing to myself at my incredible feat!!!) I walked in and the first person I spoke to was Claire behind the bar, who I knew from the Cambridge in Welly. So it turns out that Nelson really is smaller than Wellington, quite a feat as ‘cities’ go!

I checked into the backpackers ‘accents on the park’ literally just around the corner, had my shower and a beer and burger, again trying to make people strike up a conversation with me so I can brag about my days ride and inspire adoration in all backpackers present, but I’m too coy for that kind of behaviour so scoffed my salted burger and local beer before heading back to the queen Vic for a rather uninspiring 2nd dinner and a few beers. The plan now was to find work and settle for a few weeks before my next holiday. I met up with a mate Mike, and was invited back to his for a Barbie, after my 2 dinners I abstained from the food but tried unsuccessfully to fill myself with beers from the fridge. Seems I had a lead for some work and was happy with that. I made my way back early and slept well. Early the next morning I rose and took an early Sunday morning stroll around Nelson on the Search for Bacon. As Sunday is a famously bad day to search for work, I went and met Karen at her house as this is where my replacement Credit Card had been delivered. I timed it just right to be treated to a lovely lunch of fresh baked chiabatta with home made pesto and fresh tomato, avocado & a variety of cheeses out on their porch over looking their well maintained and produce filled garden, while being given a few local contacts for work.

I then spent about 2 hours of this gloriously sunny afternoon wasted in an internet café trying to upload a selection of photos. The upload was appalling and the fella there obviously didn’t want to now about it. This put me in a really foul mood, which is ridiculous really considering my position in life, anyway, I went for a quick ride to the beach, walked along it reminding myself that it was Sunday so those were more than likely school age girls, so rode back into town!

In the evening my bad mood lead me to eating at Burger King and I thought I’d cheer myself up with a movie, so bought a ticket to Control, a movie about a very talented cultural icon who killed himself at 23, a sure fire way to cheer a man up. After a nightcap in the pub I went to bed reassured about my fortuitous lifestyle.
I spent Monday researching jobs a little and organising plans for my Christmas holiday, looking at various accommodation and replacing my bike helmet which I had only just realised was actually split all the way down the middle from my stack on the trail the preceding Friday!


In the evening I went for a quick ride up the hills at the back of town, my slipping gears failed me on a couple of the steeper climbs again, and I foolishly followed a detour graded as Easy/Med (ish) now the problem with this is Kiwi MTBers seem to grade their trails a wee bit liberally for my skill set, so after pushing my bike up an almost unwalkably steep hill and admiring the view of Nelson I then had to try and control mine and my bikes fall back down the hill to the rideable track! After I decided to keep to the signposted 4WD track (fireball track onto Golf Course Track) I had a whale of a time, even though I was covered in sweat and had no clue how far from town I’d end up… I eventually came to the Matai river and followed it downstream using logic that this would take me back into town, or at the very least be an enjoyable ride, and it did both.

I came out in the Beautiful Queens Gardens at the best time of day. I consulted Wellington about potential jobs and plans for the future while realising why more people don’t live on the South Island – frikkin SANDFLIES. I had settled on the idea that I hate job hunting, so would tomorrow take a ride to Motueka and beyond looking for employment on the roadside, one way or another! So I got back to town, washed and went to the shops to stock up on provisions for the next few days, set up my bike for the next day, paced my bags and took care of a few details online so I could leave bright and early in the morning.

[there's a days gap here in correspondence, as i remember it was a relatively quiet day, riding out of Nelson to Motueka, loafed about and sent a few post cards, had some food, rode around to Kaiteriteri and on to camp at Marahau ]

KaiterteriHammock Heaven

28 nov.

I rose bright and early peeking at the sun out of my tentSunrise rising over the Tasman sea by the entrance to the Abel Tasman park, even with my plans to get an early start a lack of organisation, will and planning meant I still wasn’t out of the campsite til gone 10. I felt tired and groggy, but got on with things and headed out back on myself then on a gentle incline, the sun was heating up, my gears were slipping and I was feeling a little testy. After 8ks or I I started to get into the flow again and made a couple of calls once I came into range to organise my next holiday. After a short ride on the Motueka Takaka road I turned off towards Brooklyn.

Today I had decided to take a back route I’d read about in a dated bike guide pamphlet in a folder in the Motueka Information centre the day before. The route followed the Motueka river, I was taking the smaller road on the west side, also known as the West Bank Road. My choice was indeed choice, this was a quiet little country road, the trucks and motor traffic that travel around the area use the east bank road or the Mouteka highway. We were (me and the bike that is) travelling through orchards and hop fields along the bank of a river on a beautiful sunny day, life is good I was happy and enjoying my time. And why the fuck not aye…

I kept riding, at times meeting and following the river until I came to a bridge to my left back over the river, and an unsealed track off up ahead. In the leaflet I read yesterday it said that around here somewhere the sealed road ended but you could follow the track by bike until another crossing where you rejoin the busier highway. A bit unsure I had some lunch and pondered the route. I was keen to stay away from trucks, but not so keen to get lost. I was also a bit unsure of the accuracy of the map, or indeed my memory. After tossing heads twice, then a third time I got back in the saddle and headed up the track.
Baton Valley RoadBaton Valley Road
This was still following the course of the river and plainly very quiet, pleasant ride just cruising along, after about 6 k’s or so I was staring to get less sure about having picked the right route, but the undulations were fun and scenery very nice. After 15k’s I was pretty sure that I’d picked the wrong road, but carried on until just after 17k’s where the road forded a river. Here there was a signpost showing walking distances to a couple of DoC huts. This pretty much confirmed that I was in the wrong place, but afforded me the perfect opportunity for a bit of a pleasant rest in a calm quiet secluded eddy in the river. I rested the bike up and clambered down to the river stripping down and tentatively immersing myself. It was lush, I went and sat on a little rock on the other side contemplating my good fortune in life until the flies came with a vengeance. So I dived back into the pool across onto the other side and took a little walk up round the corner to take a look at the track, it would be just at this point that 3 horse trekkers are just coming around the corner, I was just quick enough to save my dignity but a luminescent arse was luckily not too much to scare the horses. I dressed and rested up a bit more, and set up a few action shots bursting through the stream on a fully laden bike.
Action Shot

Eventually I faced up to the fact that I had to back track down the same unsealed road that I’d got there on, there was not other option. I resolved myself to the task and just started enjoying it, it was sunny, I was on a bike and there was no one to bug me! I peddled on until I got back to the bridge again, confident that I’d be able to exaggerate this wrong turn in future to make another witty anecdote!

After stuffing a few more sweets (lollies?) into my face back at the bridge I wearily got back onto the road, with a lack of running maintenance and 35ks on gravel track my chain was a bit squeaky, I stopped again after a short while to lube it up with sunscreen and peddled back on my way again. I knew where I wanted to get to that evening, just wasn’t too sure of how I was actually going to get there. The ride through to Tapawera was pleasant, mostly open fields, a few hills, in blue sunny skies with a backdrop of the Southern Alps in most directions. Really beautify, but a bit unnerving being that I may have to actually ride over some mountains I got up to 70+ km/h down one hill and it carried onto a nice flat so I just pounded the pedals for about 10k’s and took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed my day while conversing with the confused cows.

Tapawera came into sight just in time, I didn’t stick around longer than enough time to shovel a pie and cake into my face and refill all my water bottles and stock up on more provisions (snickers & snakes) as there wasn’t another shop for the rest of my planned route toady or tomorrow. I asked about the various routes to where I was going even though I already preferred the idea of the unsealed track, partly coz I knew it’d be quieter, but also because if I took the other main road it’d bring me out on highway 6 the wrong side of Hope Saddle, and I’d already ridden that back in May. So I trundled off with my water and my thoughts (thinking about it now, I think I still have that Tapawera water on the balcony at home, it was trundled round on the back of my bike for the rest of my journey as emergency supplies)

Once I got onto the unsealed track I felt much happier, it may be slightly harder and more effort to ride, but at the same time more rewarding. It was a nice road, again very quiet, a couple of streams and some gentle climbs, though with a complaining chain set they were enough to make me swear heartily at my poor bike. My thoughts were of the usual things, beer and food and if I would get a bed at Hu-Ha that night. I was quite happy to just pitch up anywhere really, but was keen on a shower as it was turning out to be a good long day, and as adventurous as I may think I am, two long days in the saddle tend to go beyond my current standards, but the main reason I wanted to get there was for the record collection. After pausing and contemplating the unknown quantity of the tipi backpackers (“a bunch of hippies” apparently) I rode the last 5k’s of gravel and 2 uphill on tarmac as the sun was setting and light was leaving the day.

I made it to the hostel and had it to myself for the night so washed, picked out some choice LP’s and chilled for the night, when I checked the visitors book which I tend to always write in to leave a memory of myself I saw that the next comment after my last one from back in May was of 2 girls I met further down the road on that trip who had thanked me for the advice to stay there… so nice to know I had an effect on someone.

After poring over maps and guides that night I kinda decided that I was going to take it easy the next day, head to St. Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes national park, it’s only about 30 km away, but looked to be quite a climb form my books. I figured I’d head that way to avoid travelling the same road I had in my previous ride and see what my plans were from there depending on news from Wellington. I could carry on to Blenheim and look for work there, or just keep on riding down to Kiakoura and beyond to meet my Dad in Queenstown in a couple of weeks.

Again even with best intentions I took ages faffing around, attending to my bike and listening to more tunes before I got going, I was also still a bit weary from the long day previous so even though I was starting off downhill I could only think about the impending up hill. After taking the turn off towards my destination off highway 6 there was a bit of climbing, prompting more vigorous swearing with gear slippage, but after rounding a corner I could see that the route followed a valley with a very shallow and easy upward gradient. With such a short day planned I just arsed around, shouted “riders of rohan” allot and took loads of pictures of me, roads and me riding on roads.

The Long Road Ahead
Thumbs up for today!

When I arrived at the lake front by my intended camp spot there was a Kiwi Experience bus parked up, all the contents of it sprawled out eating packed lunches on the beach by the bus looking over the lakes to the mountains. I rode up to the lake front on my laden bike and tried posturing as much as possible, making sure that it was clear to all that I was Sooo much more adventurous than any of them… I then realised that actually I was just a bit lonely and wanted a chat, but without enough desire to instigate one, so set up my tent straight away, found a little clearing with a view of lake Roto iti, stripped my bike down, got a map of the off road trails and went and grabbed a pie and crisps from the store. After eating and a quick phone interview for a job in Welly.

After a bit of a snooze I rode off to hit the trails on my unladen bike, got to the lake 200m away and arsed around for a while taking pictures and looking at eels until I realised I couldn’t be bothered with the off road ride so I whiled the evening away reading and grabbed a few beers and went for a short hike through the forest. By sun down the sandfly attacks were too much so I just retired to my tent and made the most of the relatively early night.

Lake Rotoiti
Ride By
Lake Rotoiti

I rose early the next day thanks to the early morning sunrise and the extra assistance of the riotous school kids who were sharing the camp ground. Got my bike together, trundled back to the store again, picked up some supplies for the day and called into my old work at ACC just to confirm that I had committed to the full month of Movember. I was heading over towards Blenhiem for the day, had a chat with the women in the store to confirm the terrain and weather, it would be a climb for almost 10ks then following the Wairu River Vally down all the way to Blenhiem. Well rested I was unperturbed and started the climb up. Unfortunately the glorious clear skies of the previous few days had been replaced by ominous cloud, climbing the only hill of the day it came lower and lower until I deemed it necessary to stop off to cover the panniers in their waterproof covers.

Shortly after cresting the hill I started storming back down the other side getting a cracking pace and having to slow myself quite considerably for a couple of blind corners. I had decided hat I was just going to get to Blemheim for the day, and cruise around for a bit deciding where to go from there, maybe seeking work, or just cruising on by. Knowing I had the gradient with me I decided to have some fun timing myself, riding against the clock. Unfortunately the wind from the Pacific was being channelled straight up the valley I was riding down so presenting a bit more of a challenge.

I had set the limit of getting to 50km by 12.15. at 12.09 I had got to 49.8km, however after passing a few stationary vehicles I was stopped for road resurfacing ahead…Gutted. I sat and chatted with the stop/go lady for a bit, she didn’t have much good to say about the employment prospects, it may be there, but I sure wasn’t gonna make any money doing it! Just after quarter past 12 she flipped her sign to go I put my glasses back on and fired off to try and regain the momentum and distance I lost. And my odometer clicked over 50km exactly where the resurfacing started. With the new loose gravel surface in place I was trying my best to keep up and above the 20km/h speed limit. It’s a great feeling to be travelling faster than a que of traffic and knowing they cant overtake you. That is until they do and start flicking stones in the general direction of your face!

I was pounding the pedals for most of the day, taking in the changing terrain from the high hills down through open pasture until the wine fields of Marlbourgh were reaching further and further up the valley. I stopped for lunch in a sleepy town of Wiru Vally, forgoing the temping idea of pub grub and a beer I stuck with my sweets and nuts and shop bought sandwich & snickers in the church graveyard. I refilled my water and hit the road again, with the challenge of getting to Blenheim by 5pm.

I was trying to maintain an average of 20km/h, making sure I was covering 5 k’s every 15 minutes. Which generally meant that I would be riding pretty hard for 10 mins, then screaming for 2 to get to the 5k challenge, then ease off to rest up for a few minutes and start again. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the ride as such, but the components I was, the feeling of challenging my body, the absolute freedom, the lack of destination, and the views of the Kiakoura ranges to the south of the vineyards.

The closer I got to Blenheim I was readjusting my arrival time and calculating the new average speed I would need as I varied my input against the changing winds. The aim was to make it to the information centre, though I didn’t know where it was I knew it had to be in the centre of town, that’d make sense. After battling through the suburban sprawl(or New Zealands South Island version of it) and increasing afternoon traffic I made it into the high street by my target, but still had another 5 minutes trundling tiredly around the one way system to find the info centre by the train station.

On the ride that day, as well as counting the miles I was also trying to make some plans for the next few weeks. One way or another I realised that it made sense for me to return to Wellington, for a start the romantic idea of picking grapes for $12 and hour would be even more demeaning than data entry for $17 an hour. I’d be able to pick up work quicker, I’d need more money to survive until January and most importantly there was a very pretty young lady that would make the return worth my while.

When in the information centre in Blenheim I checked e-mails and spoke to a couple of agencies in wellington, I’d be able to pick something up before I left for Christmas in the South it seemed, not really what I was looking for, but then I don’t know what I’m looking for, so that’s all OK. I checked the ferry times and saw that I had about 2 hours til the next ferry from Picton about 28km away. I went into town to refill water eat a banana or 2 and a snickers and get some salve for my poor burnt lips. After resting I had a challenge ahead of me, I could make the ferry and return to a surprised Angela that night, or I missed it I’d book back into the Tombstone backpackers, chill in the spa and get the first ferry in the morning. I had a challenge ahead and I was game.

All I can really say is I stormed it. Just relentlessly stomping the pedals, making sure I was over the average 25km/h as much as possible being aware that there was a bit of a hill along the way to slow me considerably. Having recently read a few tales of some pretty extreme long distance round the world tourers in insane heats and terrain and distances my little ride doesn’t seem much. However the way I’m going to tell it is that that day I rode in excess of 135 kilometres from Mountains to Sea along highways and pathways, in rain wind and sun in order to make the last ferry crossing across treacherous waters to be sure to get to my lady before the end of the month.

I arrived at the ferry terminal chock full of adrenalin after my thundering decent into Picton. I’d ridden the distance in close to an hour, which was good time, I wanted to share this with the guys at the check in with my huffing and puffing, sweating and looking at my watch with pride and feigned surprise… anyway they checked me on the ferry I changed from my stinky riding clothes into my stinky jeans and t-shirt. I got on the ferry and drank a couple of well earned beers, wondered if the Scandinavian girls across from me would be worth talking to if I was single and watch the south island vanish into dusk.