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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Day 22 - Only the phoenix knows...

Day 22

A bit about this phoenix I keep mentioning...
A mythical creature that rises from ashes...

To me it is my symbol for that which gives me inspiration... hope and strength. It stands for courage to face whatever is ahead. My phoenix flies above me to be summoned when needed. He watches over me.

Sad news from home...

It was a grey morning for many reasons... the cloud hanging over the mountains reflected how I was feeling. Gone were the white peaks of yesterday... hiding in the dense cloud... perhaps knowing that I would not appreciate their beauty today. It was even cold. The rain had held off... perhaps out of respect for the struggle I had inside. I wanted to be at home.

But would it change anything... no!
Some things are not within our control... like headwinds... you just have to accept.... shout and yell and curse all you want... but the wind doesnt care.

And I had a ride to finish...

I set off... rolling up the road and found breakfast. Oh the comfort of routine... packing up... looking at the day ahead... working out how long it would take me... all part of my ritual... distraction from the urge to run away.

Once breakfast was done... eggs and bacon if you must know... I turned my music up loud and began the climb out of Franz Joseph. A gentleman a couple of days ago told me that the three climbs on this day were more to worry about than the Haast pass (tomorrows little jaunt!) so I was wary of how I would go up this first climb... wondering if my legs would function after my not very restful rest day.

The words of Mike Peters filled my heart and soul as I climbed steadily upwards... taking strength from the lyrics of every song... There are no frontiers... The only limitation is in my mind... only the thunder knows... I breathe the air. I climbed strongly... aware my phoenix was watching me... giving me strength.

The hills.. shrouded in a deep green... surrounded me as I wound around and up. My legs grew stronger as I gained the climbing rythmn (granny gears of course). I was pretty much alone and this stretch of SH6 was bereft of civilisation. Very soon I topped out... hill 1  done and whizzed down the other side in glorious freefall... sweeping bends... still slightly damp from last nights rain.. taking care not to go in too deep or brake too hard.

This downhill did a bounce and catupulted me up the start of hill 2. An equally tough climb with gradients on the hairpins that would make Alberto Contador wince (slight exaggeration but hey ho) The road absorbed all my concentration .. the next inch of tarmac becoming the most important thing to me... leaving me with no brain power for any other thoughts... legs went round like a metronome set at 45 RPM for the hills. (Thanks for the advice Mike!) At one point I got off and hike a biked round the hairpin... it was just too steep. Then I got back on my bike and began again.

On the way up whilst I was sweating... huffing... groaning and generally looking every inch the crazy fool I am.. I passed two girls walking down the road.. As I passsed one of them said... in an American accent... 'You're so badass'. It was the first thing that made me smile all day.

I muttered something like... 'no just stupid' and continued on up.. but a large part of me wanted to go and thank her for making me smile.

Hill number three was easier than hills 1 and 2... though still required a significant amount of effort. All this and I still hadnt reached Fox Glacier yet.. a mere 15 ish miles away.
When I cruised downhill into Fox... I probably should have stopped to replenish water and increase stocks of food. But I hadnt done many miles and time was ticking on... so I whizzed straight through and up the other side.

The whole day to Haast was a total of 87 miles... it was 10:30 and id hardly done any. I hoped the road would get a little easier.

It did flatten out somewhat and as the road was winding around the valley i had descended into... I even occasionally got a tailwind. Id run out of fuck it juice and instead opened the pissed with the world bottle... which gave my legs the strength they needed to really motor... speeds of 17mph were maintained for a short while as all conditions alighned for a brief moment in time and space.

The road after that continued to dip up and down with jungle on either side. Cool strams ran beside the road but I was hesitant to drink the clear running water because id seen signs that stated the land had been poinoned to try and kill the possums. Somewhat a controversial subject... some farmers were using a poison called 1080.. whilst others displayed signs saying No to 1080. All very well but I wasnt confident the water was safe to drink. The sun was out in fits and starts though.. and given that I didnt think id get a refill until Haast.. my end destination.. I split my options and filled a bottle from the stream .. for emergency use only. Incredibly clear.. with no debris.. it would have otherwise been perfect!

I passed places with names but no services... the nicest being a bay with a beautiful beach.. stopped to take a photo and my legs became black with the swarm of sandflies!! I left pretty quickly!!!

Unbelievably a few miles down the road... I saw a sign for a cafe... at a salmon farm. Like an oasis ... it was a good thing cos I was running out of food and energy and there was still 40 miles to go. There were a few coaches of tourists who stared at me when I parked up my bike and two or three other bikes of the kitchen sink variety parked up. I ordered eggs on toast... my daily cup of chai latte and sat ... swatting off sandflies contemplating the miles to come. I didnt take long and was soon suiting up again. I got chatting with a kitchen sink cyclist ... he had come from Fox and as I was telling him about our ride another guy joined in the conversation. I asked him where he had cycled from and he said he wasnt on a bike... he just liked that particular cycling jersey!

His name was Max and he was from the Netherlands... a photographer of mountains.. he is off to Patagonia next... really quite jealous. Lovely to meet you Max... I look forward to seeing those photos!!

Then back on the road... ahead of the kitchen sink cyclist... determined to stay there but given the state of my legs wasnt sure I could manage it. Then it started to rain!! Fairly heavy but I decided not to put on my rain jacket as 'if you dont like the weather in New Zealand..wait 5 minutes'. Sure enough the rain soon stopped leaving me to contemplate another very hilly stretch.  Another 4 longish hills but with a reasonable gradient and a bit of flat in between. The first was ok and I just tapped up it. Coming down I went through a swarm of bees!! Keeping my mouth firmy shut I passed through without incident other than being hit a few times by wayward fliers. I stopped for more food and as I did so kitchen sink guy caught up with me!! Damn.  My bike was lighter but as he pointed out... I had way less gears... making it harder. Swings and roundabouts.

He continued on up and I caught him on climb number 2. Going past once again I struggled up this one ... my legs going round a bit faster so as not to get caught again (damn competitive streak) On the third hill.. there was a lookout point halfway up... beautiful vista of the ocean. Stood there and took photos for ten minutes surrounded by coaches of tourists. They all swarmed out of their coaches... took photos and hopped back on the bus. Wierd way to see a country in my opinion!

Of course had been caught and passed by kitchen sink... so once again set off after him.  Once passed... another bee swarm in the downhill... I bumped into another tourer. He needed some oil for his chain so I dutifully provided some. He had cycled from Slovenia to Singapore and then just kept on going. Admiring my light set up... we chatted for a while... kitchen sink passed me... and then time to go. He informed me that it was flat from here but headwinds all the way to Haast!

He was totally correct... the headwind slowed me down somewhat and were a real struggle. But due to my lighter.. more aerodynamic set up I passed kitchen sink for what turned out to be the last time! Running along the coast... the headwinds were the fiercest I encountered yet and slowed me to 6mph. The beach had golden sand and the sea and sky were bright blue. It was lovely. The sun was out and if it wasnt for the headwind this would have been one of the nicest stretches Ive done.

I fought for an hour before finally coming to the Welcome to Haast sign.. and whooopped with delight. Somewhat prematurely it turned out as there was at least another 5 miles to go. Fortunately the road turned inland a little and speed picked up a bit. There was a long bridge over the Haast river with two passing places... which meant I could get a photo. The mountains were once again making their presence felt... reminding me of the Queen Stage tomorrow. I battled once again against the headwind over the bridge... cursing all the way until finally in the town. 87 miles done on a very hilly day. Not bad at all.

Motel wise.. the first one I went into was full so tried the backpackers next door... yup had a room and showed me round... then you can bring your bike in... unload your stuff... and put the bike round the back.....
Eerrrrr ... no. He was adamant about the bike... comparing it to a car and pets!!!!!!

So I took myself... and my bike down the road where another motel was. Vacancy ... woohoo. And bike could be 'snuck' in the room. All good then. Dinner of burger and chips and all good except for the wifi. My TEP cant connect as no phone signal so had to pay for very bad wifi... hence no blog till this morning.

As for me.. how do I feel today? Only the phoenix knows...