Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hanmer Springs and off track (NZ part 3)

(NZ part 1 here)

In the morning we eat, pack, and get back on the road. Over the course of the day, the weather deteriorates until it is raining hard. I just accept that I will be wet for the day and pedal on. Our route takes us through more rolling land, with the interior mountains appearing out of the clouds from time to time, closer as the day progresses. We climb more as we get closer to the mountains, and pass through two major river gorges. At the top of the second, we ride over a single lane bridge several hundred feet above the water. Just upstream of the gorge is a remnant rock, standing alone in the center of the river, and upstream of it the river is calm and wanders across a large plain between us and the interior mountains.

We ride down into the plain through more driving rain. Although I don't really mind being wet, it is starting to get cold. A short ride takes us into the town of Hanmer Springs, and some relief. We ride directly to the sulfur hot springs - fairly developed public pools, clean and white paint everywhere, but not overdone. I soak in the 40 degree plus heat of the various pools, and quietly celebrate as the sun leaps out and the clouds slip off the mountains to our west and head out over the valley.

Hanmer Springs has an official campground, that we opt for - bathrooms, a level pitch spot, and clothes lines all sound nice before we head off into the back country. We are unsure how remote the road through Molesworth Station will be, but we've been told there is really very little for a couple of days. So far, our trailers have worked well. Our packing has improved and I can feel the bike handle better with the load as low as possible in the trailer. But Molesworth will be our first really rough terrain test. And we have been fairly free from food raiders until now, although we have already seen numerous Possum fatalities along the road.

We awoke to another tough weather day with a really tough start - the climb up out of Hanmer Springs, over Jollie's Pass, and into the Acheron Valley - to get into Molesworth Station. I ride granny gear for what seems like an eternity, with an anchor of a trailer pulling me back down the valley before finally reaching the end of the climb and a well deserved rest. Dan is already at the top, enjoying the view back down into the valley, and the more rugged peaks of the Boddington Range around us here on the Molesworth road. The road conditions aren't horrible, and I'm somewhat relieved that we aren't going completely off track so early in our acclimation to New Zealand.

(Molesworth hills)

Again we ride in the valleys, with large peaks on either side. The scenery and the rhythm of the ride lulls me. I daydream of what it looked like here before it came one of the largest farms in the country, and what it might look like in a hundred years from now. As we reach the headwaters of the rivers, we climb abruptly over passes, then coast down and back into long valleys. Isolated Pass, Isolated Flats. Before the pass I stop to change my drenched shirt - I realize I am spending more energy trying to dry the shirt with body heat than I am pedaling the bike. As I change, one of the few 4WDs I've seen stops, it seems just to inform me that I have quite a hill up ahead. Thanks.

I pedal onward, having to push the pike and trailer up a few sections that are too steep and loose to keep my momentum and traction. Finally I clear the up hill and crest the pass. I put on my raincoat and prepare for the downhill. Almost at the bottom I try to pedal again and realize I am going faster than my gearing. Around a corner and into the softer gravel in the center of the road. The trailer tire goes flat and I'm going to go in the ditch. Still at speed I try to steer back onto the road and the front tire slides out and I go for a tumble. I escape the ordeal with only a small tear in the raincoat, but the second trailer tire flat of the day means I've got no spare tubes so I'll have to do a patch, and the rear derailer mount has bent, so I've go only a few gears until I can get a chance to fiddle with things.

I get back on the bike and start to creep towards Molesworth. Then the rain stops, the sun comes out, and small songbirds start to flit all around the sides of the road, singing for the sun. Dan has a hot drink waiting when I hobble into the small cluster of historic buildings called Molesworth.

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