The second longest day in terms of mileage and coming after 2 long climbing days... this was not an 'easy day'. Im not sure this country has any of those in it. 97 miles but only 2700 ish feet of climbing... this was a wind dependent day... a lot hung on the wind direction and strength.
I admit... I pushed my bike up the hill from the hotel... and if you'd seen it... you would understand why... 20% gradient is a good way to break yourself for the rest if the day... as it was, pushing the bike up that hill hurt!!
I then coasted down and rejoined SH6... having shunned breakfast in the very expensive hotel.. I knew that there was a cafe to be found 25 miles down the road at Kingston... First though I had to go along Lake Wakatipu..
With a bit of road called Devil's Staircase.. this could be bad.
A tailwind pummled me along to the lake... I hesitated to even think about it... because I knew if it changed... I could be in for a ridiculously hard day. But couldnt complain at the moment... 20mph down a straightish flattish road... with a tailwind for the most part.. perhaps a sidewind at worst.
And then I got to the lake proper and if I have used up all my superlatives previously... please forgive me for repeating myself. The Remarkables mountain range to my left were ... simply... remarkable. The Lake was a beautiful blue.. only with thousands of white topped waves whipped up by the strong wind.. fortunately in my favour... On the right across the lake were more peaks... some with flecks of white on them. The sky was for the most part brilliant blue and I just trotted along gazing at the scene. Then I screeched to a halt... a rainbow... picture time... and I could see where the pot of gold would lie as the rainbow ended in a blur of colours and water spray where the water was blown up by the wind... a little further on was another rainbow ... and as I looked back.. I could see two more. This is the Place where all Rainbows End and it was a silly notion but one that resonated with me and stuck in my head as a really lovely idea.
The road that wound round the Lake was NEVER going to be flat... so it climbed up... wound round and descended again... the wind still at my back... every time I stopped... usually at the top of a rise for a picture.. it hit me hard... as if urging me onward.
One time I stopped for a photo and at least 20 cyclist... unladen... with a support van flashing its hazards.. swept by me. I greeted them as they did me and then started to give chase... the support driver dropped back a little and I managed to find out that they were doing some kind of Christchurch to Christchurch charity ride... at least thats what I think he said. I managed to throw one of my cards into his vehicle and then he sped off. Once again... I tried to chase them down. I wasnt doing too badly but then I thought... ' this scenery is beautiful... this is your last full day cycling...you are never going to keep up with cyclists who have no kit and havent done 1400ish miles previously.' So I slowed down and then stopped for a photo and enjoyed the spectacular view!
And I kept stopping... because pretty much round every bend was a new view .. even greater than the last. I think .. and maybe im biased because of the tailwind.. this was the most beautiful spectacular part of the country that I have seen. There may have been more spectacular bits along the way... just covered in cloud and rain as I went past!!
I drank in the view and it was like regeneration of the soul with every breath... nature coursing through my veins... repairing the broken body from the previous 24 days...
Then the road made a more dramatic climb up... I assume this bit was the Devils Staircase... but actually it wasnt that bad. Whenever I stopped... the wind blew at my back... and the idea got into my head that the strength of the wind helping me up these final hills.. was the strength from everyone back home willing me along. Once again it was perhaps a silly notion but it seems to be the day for those.!
The downward blast was done with a gusting sidewind.. which at the speed I was going caused more than one scary wobble and may me slow down and be slightly more cautious... would be a right bugger to crash now!!
So I tiptoed down... not even worried about the loss of my downhill reward as my reward today was the scenery and the tailwind.
Then I saw two poor buggers.... kitchen sinkers... going the opposite way to me. I shot over and offered sweets etc to mitigate for the fact that they wete heading into that wind and probably would be all day. On chatting to them I found out that they were originally from Canada but now lived up Nelson way and were touring the South Island
They had only just set out for the day... so me bouncing over with a grin on my face.. confirming their fears about a headwind all the way down.. probably didnt help!
Kevin and Laureen... nice to meet you briefly.. I sincerely hope the wind dropped or changed direction!!
The cafe at Kingston arrived just in time and I sat down to my usual pancake breakfast and chai. Going to miss that for sure. My thoughts did turn today to the things I will miss about this ride..
The routine of packing up in the morning
The solitude out on the road
Nothing to think of except food miles and sleep
The serene beauty of the road
Blogging every day... putting my thoughts down to clarify them
The rythm of my legs turning the pedals round
Being exposed to nature...
Breathing the air... watching the sun rise and fall
Then it was back on the road... tailwind still in place and saying goodbye to the Place where Rainbows End ... head forward... metal on the pedals and going for it. I still had a good 70 miles to go. And it was 10:30.
From Kingston the road still wound through the hills... lumpy but with the tailwind unbelievably mainly behind me. As the road twisted and turned it became a sidewind for a bit... Then the valley became wider.. the road now flanked by fields of gold and the hills jutting out beyond them.. some picture postcard moments for sure. Especially now the clouds were beginning to gather .. just to add to the drama. In the far distance I saw lightening but heard no thunder but the sky above was darkening and I felt like I was trying to outrun the storm. It did pour down... but only for 5 minutes and Where was I Hiding?? I was hiding in a cafe in Athol having the most sublime sorbet ice lolly (If anyone finds a source in the UK.. please let me know!!)
After Athol came a succession of small towns until Lumsden at around 14:00 and with 30 miles to go... I felt pretty confident that id get there at a reasonable time
Lumsden spoke to me... (yup I have gone road crazy!!) Firstly there was Lydia Street!!!
Then a Route 6 Cafe... complete with American car inside. The sign is following me! Needless to say... I had to eat at the cafe... lunch ... another burger and fries. Im going to have to curb my eating again for sure!!
Then the last 30 miles. At lunch I had booked a room in Winton... partly to ensure some comfort but also partly because my brain was calculating how long it would take to get to Invercargill where Lorraine was staying. Where did you get to? Her question via facebook... well if you look outta your window.....
It would have been funny but possibly not sensible as have some things to do with real world... like checking flights home and making sure I can get home from airport... with my bike!
Incidentally... It did make me laff when Lorraine (staying in Invercargill... waiting to meet me at Bluff)... confessed to dinner of choc licorice sweets and a bunch of bananas... its not just me that has difficulty finding good road food!
Those 30 miles were mainly flat.. with a couple of longer kick ups ... good for the view at the top... and I blasted them... well until the last 5 ... when my legs gave out and all 1499 ish miles started to tell.
That said I did those thirty miles in under 2 hours 15.. including photo stops!!
I eventually arrived at The Continental Hotel and bar and chatted to the lady in charge. She couldnt give me a discount off the room but the hotel donated $20 to the ride and I got a free evening meal. Thank you!!
Before I ate I wandered along the street to go to Supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces. I shouldnt be allowed out without my bike and without supervision... I stepped in between 2 kerbs.. scraping all the skin off my left ankle. Typical!!!
So now ensconsed in the room... getting prepared for tomorrow (that includes leg shaving(sorry) charging cameras .. phones etc... getting out my spare cycling kit (Lorraine will be pleased that Im not going to sit in her car for 4 hours in my cycling top thats seen me from top to bottom of NZ!) and a myriad of other little things.
So thats the day... for those interested... what follows is a bit about bike and kit! If you really dont care... skip to the last paragraph!
My bike... Giant Defy 1 - 11 speed... 22 gears in all. Possibly could have done with a few more at the lower end but hey... I got up the hills somehow and my knees are intact.
Bags... Apidura done me proud.. pretty waterproof and held up very well. No problems at all. Hardly felt they were there... carried a load of kit. Drew some admiring glances from strangers!!
Bivvy set up... the one time i used it.. brilliant... fast set up and warm and comfortable. Just the sand flies that killed me camping! I would list everything but dont want to really bore everyone... if you are interested in my bivvy set up details.. message me.
TEP portable wifi hotspot... bloody fantastic. Would deffo use again. Well worth the money. Only had trouble one day really.. Haast had no phone signal at all... and slight trouble one other day with sloooww connection.
RAVPOWER portable power bank... exceptional ... would definately use again as holds a huge amount of charge and charges items quickly.
POWERMONKEY solar charger... used a lot in the sunshine on the North Island... really good for rescue charging stuff... i.e not enough charge to power fully but will rescue your phone from 'dead' to 30-40%.
Things I would recommend to take on any long cycle trip like this that I did not take and had to buy...
High DEET concentration insect repellant
Things I brought but neednt have bothered with .... (some may surprise you)
Spare socks... when off the bike I went sockless...
Underwear for off the bike... like the socks.. I went commando (specifically to allow air to circulate) ... yup even in that posh resort in the North near Taupo !!
Towel... only used once as motels provided towels
Unsure about aerobars... my hands arent numb .. so maybe they made a small bit of difference... and more practice may prove beneficial.
Ok... WAKE UP!!!!
I cant believe Im 40 miles from Bluff! This place has been ingrained on my soul. The hard tough days will become the stories told... the people I met... part of the journey... but the beauty and the feel of this country and the emotions it has wrung from me.. will be solely mine... as I cannot explain them to my satisfaction.
Above all ... a lot of money has been raised so far for LHS ... but there is still time to donate
If you can... please go to www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy
So 40 miles to go....
Today Spiritual regeneration every single time I breathed... New Zealand has imprinted itself on my soul.