Thursday, October 29, 2009

Molesworth (NZ part 4)

(NZ part 1 here)

We spend the night camped near the historic cob buildings built early on in the conversion of the area into agriculture. The previous day we had met a Kiwi named Matt, who is on a break from conservation work and riding a bike through Molesworth on a slightly different route than us. So we have his company at the campsite, and spend a good part of the evening talking, listening to music (Dan has his Backpacker guitar), and envying Matt's back country cooking skills. When not out on riding adventures, Matt works to maintain the population of one of the native parrots, the flightless Kakapo. New Zealand's birds evolved in a unique environment - one with no native land mammals - and since the arrival of Europeans here, introduced predator populations have exploded and severely impact the native species, possibly the Kakapo the most. Matt works with a group relocated to a small island in the hopes of protecting their ground nests from the introduced predators on main land New Zealand.

In the morning I get to work on the bike, trying to make sure that everything will hold together for another day of rough riding and hopefully until we reach a town with supplies. I patch the damaged trailer tube from the day before and hope that I won't need to try to put it back on. And we examine the derailer mount for a while - it currently affords me a few gears, but if I snap it while trying to fix it, I'll have none - before deciding to try to bend it back to shape. We manage to get it close enough to original that I can get into all gears with a little encouragement. Success! We hit the road perhaps an hour behind our new friend Matt, not sure how far the various repairs will last. I feel like a bit of a rag-tag riding partner, but Dan doesn't seem to be bothered by the adversities.

We make good time as we gradually begin to drop out of the highest part of our route. Again we ride valleys to passes, to long downhills, to valleys again, but the downhills are longer than the climbs, and we are following the valleys more. We stop to look at a map on one of the passes and a Land Cruiser with a Kiwi family from the North Island pulls up for a chat. The are all very friendly and curious about our trip. They figure we good get good wet headed down the West Coast (annual rainfall 27M, yes meters, in some areas - that's almost 90 feet!). But overall they think New Zealand is a pretty good, safe place to travel. "Meet a lot of good people aside from the odd nut." This puts me in high spirits.

Shortly after that stop we have dropped enough elevation to slip out from under the clouds and rain. I ride up another pass on my own (Dan will always be in better shape than me, I'm convinced) and look out over an incredible gorge to the East, that of the Awatere River I believe. The downhill is a reward as it keeps going and going and the sun gets stronger and stronger. We start to see houses along the side of the road again, and we talk about all the kinds of foods we'd be in mood for. Matt's dinner the night before had put us to shame, and left us with the thought that we had better figure out a way to carry good food.

As luck would have it, we come to what is referred to as Camden on our maps, although I see only one house. It is marked as a Backpacker (hostel), so we hope they might have candy bars or something of the sort. But the owner, Shelly, insists we check out what she has prepared for lunch and we can not say no - homemade Lasagna served as 6 inch by 6 inch slabs, with a fresh from her garden salad on the side, followed by home made chocolate chip ice cream with fresh raspberries, meringue and whipped cream. After we eat we lay on the grass in the sun outside Shelly's little cottage. We talk of staying right where we are, but realize it would likely leave us broke, fat, and with little ambition to do anything but stay on as lawn boys in Camden.

With a full tank, we make it another 30 km, down an incredible stretch of paved down hill, really letting it do, to another Backpacker. Jackie sets us up with some mutton steaks, bread, salad, and fruit to fix for dinner, and shows us a small white cottage on that is ours for the evening. She occasionally hosts guests on their huge sheep farm, looking North over the broad Awatere valley, with another one of it's gorges of to our East, cut through gravel deposits here. It has been a great fuel day for us, but also one of the longest days of the trip so far with a broken bike. We feel good and sleep well. (~80 km)

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