Day 14 -Socked in – Kaikoura – 0 kms
Well the cabin was a really good choice last night, the wind howled and the rain bounced off the sides of the cabin with a vengeance. This morning, the only difference is that it is a tad lighter outside; also it is still very cool, only 13°C inside my cabin and much cooler outside with the wind chill – I can actually see snow on top of some of the nearby hills!
A decision had to be made – stay put or head out directly into a face-full of wind/rain again, onto a road with no services for 83 kms, and a few serious climbs to almost 500m!
I am smart – sometimes – I’m staying put for the day. I went to the office and paid for another night. The morning paper was there – a quick look at the forecast showed continuing southerly winds up to 60 kms/hr and rain. However, it also predicted that the winds would ease later in the day. Also tomorrow’s forecast looks quite a bit better – clouds with sunny periods. Of course the west coast, where I’m trying to get to, has sunshine right now! This is quite out of the norm, as the west coast here is known as the “wet” coast (sound familiar, Pacific Northwesterners?) and this eastern coast down to Canterbury is renowned for it’s dry weather. When I was in Blenheim, the motor camp had a lot of seasonal vineyard workers staying there; they told me how the grapes were not very good this year due to the weird weather patterns – too much wet, not enough dry. So here’s a tip, don’t buy any New Zealand wine from the year 2004!
I passed miles and miles of vineyards and wineries yesterday – two that come to mind are… Mount Riley and Montana – there were many more, but my memory is good but short! Anyhow, the grape growing region is known as Marlborough.
Kaikoura is known for its large crayfish and lobsters – so far, from what I saw on the way in yesterday, they seem very pricey though. I’ll have to scour the town later for a deal, maybe! There’s also supposed to be dolphins around here too; if the visibility improves to more than the 100 yards that I have now, I might go to the beach to see what I spy. I have to go shopping anyway – fool me only brought a very lightweight rain jacket on this trip, figuring on summer weather with a few showers. Well the laughs on me because the damn jacket ripped from the many frantic donnings that it has endured. I managed to patch it up with some duct tape, but I’ve got a long way to go yet, so I’ll have to bite the bullet and splash (ooh, there’s a pun!) out on a new one.
More tomorrow – hopefully from another town…
Day 15 -Kaikoura to Gore Bay – 83 kms
Kaikoura was a good place to sit out a day of continuous rain squalls and a cool wind from the south – probably all the way from the Antarctic by the feel of it!
Kaikoura is about the size of Sidney, BC, and has similar facilities on the main street – lots of cafes, restaurants and gift stores. Although it was too rough yesterday, there are all kinds of activities available in Kaikoura – whale-watching, swim with the dolphins/seals, or even wings over whales (flyovers). All in all, although a forced break, I enjoyed the day and met some more friendly people both back at the camp and in town. The town has quite a few outdoor stores, so I managed to find a decent replacement for my beaten up rain jacket. I bought a Marmot brand “Precip” jacket- imported from the US and highly overpriced here, but beggars can’t be choosers, Basil says!
I have to say, that even with the crappy weather, I’ve been fortunate to meet lots of people from all over the world – and in one way, that is helping to override some of the, shall we say, grey times! I met a couple of Dutch cyclists yesterday at camp, they bussed down from Blenheim (where I came from) – they tried riding into the wind, but one of them was blown off her bike after only three kms! Like I said – that wind sure was brutal! They were very surprised that I rode down all the way – I replied with a big “me too!”
This morning the temperature was only 7°C! I looked up at the snow line on the hills and it was very low – I got a good photo of it too! Anyhow, I nixed the idea of heading over Lewis Pass and going to the west coast. One reason was the cold weather, but also heavy rain is expected on the west coast by Saturday – the day that I would arrive there to ride south! Meanwhile, the forecast is for the east coast to enjoy some sunny weather – this was not a hard decision! I decided to head south towards Christchurch and then head inland a bit to Lake Tekapo and points south from there. Perhaps I’ll be able to ride the west coast from south to north later – we’ll see how the weather pans out. I figure that I may as well chase the good weather as the bad?
Well today’s ride was a little short, but the south wind is still giving me a headwind – although nothing like the other day! And even though the sun is out, the breeze is still a little cool. So the next camping opportunity after this would have been another 70 kms down the road – too much for today. However, I’m really glad that I took this side trip off the highway to Gore Bay. About 8 kms of really rural New Zealand road to get here, and I’m sat on a quiet and spectacular beach. There are some large sand cliffs at one one end and the surf is crashing in from some big waves – can you hear it? The beach is popular with surfers; there were some here a little while ago – now that was fun to watch! The campground is a very basic municipal site on the beachfront, very friendly caretaker – only charged me NZ$6.00 because I cycled here!
Otherwise today, after three hills that were groaners, the road was relatively gentle. In fact, I am heading into the Canterbury Plains, which have some of the flattest roads in New Zealand – that’ll be a change! – I’m sure that it won’t last for long. Second breaky was more like lunch at Cheviot – not many services on the route to here, but some more fabulous coastal views for about 20 kms south of Kaikoura. I even had to ride through a few (very) short tunnels. I have also been riding adjacent to the rail track in many places all the way from Picton – This will be an excellent train ride to take from Christchurch back to the ferry in Picton on my return trip!
There’s definitely less traffic here on the South Island and many more sheep than on the North Island. Hardly a cattle farm to be seen here!
Well I’m off to do some beachcombing – in the sunshine, no less!
Day 16 -Gore Bay to Rangiora – 112 kms
Gore Bay was on a “scenic route” side trip off SH1. As I mentioned the village was remote and full of seaside cottages. I should have guessed, that this morning after riding through the sleepy scenic village, that I would reach the mother of all “scenic” hills! Talk about a steep climb out of there – unbelievable grade – but of course, the fabulous “scenic” view from the top!
After riding along some more remote roads, with virtually nil traffic I might add, I rejoined Highway 1. The traffic noise and velocity was immediately noticeable after riding in peace and quiet of the countryside.
A few more rolling hills before I reached Waipara for my second breaky in the local tearoom there – that was after over 65 Kms with no services at all. After Waipara the road flattened out and I was on the Canterbury Plain proper.Not being too far north of the large city of Christchurch, and with another highway – SH7 – joining SH1, the traffic volume increased every kilometre that I rode south. A few miles down the road from Waipara was the town of Amberly, with an option to leave the main road and take some more back roads – yeah, another scenic route. But lo and behold this one “was” flat, so far anyway. We’ll see how plain these Plains are tomorrow!
Rangiora is a fairly big town – pop. 6000 – so I was able to stock up at the supermarket with some decent supplies. The motor camp is next to the racecourse here, and I believe that there’s a meet tonight – should be fun!
Weather was great (“mainly fine”) today after a cold start. It seems that the sun does not have much heat until after about 10:00 a.m., and then loses its heat quickly in the evening – very much like our September (early Autumn) weather in BC. Sure makes it hard to get out of the sack in the mornings though!
~The majority of kids here seem to wear school uniforms.
~English pub culture is alive and well here – some nice pubs (and beer), but smoke filled for the most part – Yuck!
~I haven’t heard a boo about hockey – or baseball – lots about rugby, soccer and cricket.
~A “Trundler” is a shopping cart.
~I’ve learnt to say “G’day mate” and “No worries” without batting an eyelid.
~You can get your “Flagon” filled at the bottle shop.
~The elusive Kiwi bird is still elusive.
~Diesel fuel is almost half the price of petrol (gasoline) – hence, many old cars belching out black smoke.
More tomorrow as I trundle south…
Day 17 -Rangiora to Mt. Somers – 129 kms
Well here I am scribing/typing whilst sat in the pub in Mt. Somers. I opted for a pub meal, as once again it started raining today – so a meal out and a couple of pints should brighten my perspective.
This morning actually started well, with some sunshine and only a few clouds.
The tent fly was wet from a heavy dew and condensation, but I figured that it would be no problem drying it out later, so I packed up as usual and rode off after my usual quick breaky. The flat road was marred only by a constant light but annoying headwind. Second breaky happened in the small village of Oxford about 35 kms down the road. The road actually, although seemingly flat, was taking me up a very mild grade. On and on I rode through many more dots on the map and through mostly sheep farmland and numerous small villages. The wind was that same southeast bugger that gave me those headwinds down the coast. And sure enough, the “Golden Orb” was soon covered with the gray clouds. I stopped in Glentunnel for a quick snack of milk and a pie, after that the road began some undulations and bends – quite a change from 70 kms of straight road! Anyhow, according to the map, I had to cross Rakaia Gorge and sure enough the road plunged 200m very steeply to find a bridge and cross the Waitikari river. As all we cyclists know, one good plunge begets one big un-plunge – read big steep hill – to get out of the gorge. My theory held up – one steep climb for 2 kms! After the gorge the road began a very slight downhill grade – good! Then the rain started – bad!
Anyway, for the ninety-ninth time, I covered the panniers and donned my raingear – this bloody country doesn’t seem to be allowed more than two days of sunny weather! So I arrived in Mt. Somers – an old limestone mining town – with rain as my companion. Dry out the tent? No chance. Of course, my luck is to arrive on the only busy weekend that this dot on the map has had since last year – it’s the annual mineral arts and crafts festival! I tried for a cabin at the motor camp, but no chance. Luckily though they did have a small caravan available. I took that, anything’s better than dealing with a soggy tent in the rain! It’s quite cosy really and Basil’s got his own bunk, so at least he’s happy. And, there’s a convenient pub next to the motor camp!
This weather was not forecasted, so I feel that it might be futile to check the news tonight to see what the next couple of days might bring – but I’ll do it anyway – I’m a bugger for punishment!
Today the Ironman New Zealand event is being held on the North Island – now that I’ve left there, it’s sunny and hot there – go figure! All the Kiwis are rooting for local boy Cameron Brown to get his fourth Ironman title on this the twentieth anniversary of Ironman New Zealand.
Well, it’s cool and damp outside – to hell with it, “Another pint please!”