Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sheep Tracks (NZ part 23)

(NZ part one here)

We ride northeast out of Naseby, after having scoped some possible off-track routes toward Mt. Cook. We opt for riding maintained road toward Dansey's Pass. Before long we pass the scenic reserve of Kyeburn Diggings. We ride along in the Kye Burn River valley, before breaking off and beginning the long climb. It is a long, moderate grade climb, but difficult with the weight of the trailers and a loose gravel surface. We reach a stopping point shy of the actual pass, and head off due north on what the map shows as a vehicle track, but there is very little sign of much traffic. Our plan is to drop down into the Otekaieke drainage, which will eventually dump into the Waitaki River, so even if the track completely disappears, we should be able to make our way to Route 83. We zigzag descend through sheep pastures and tussocks until we reach a barbed wire fence with no visible gate.

Since we have already descended many hundreds of feet and we can see vehicle tracks on the opposite side of the fence, we decide to lift the bikes and trailers over and continue. The riding is a bit slow as the trailers bounce and jostle over the uneven ground, but the scenery is well worth it, and we once again have the feeling that we are surrounded by the unknown. We aren't far from civilization, but just getting off the roads makes all the difference. We drop farther into the Otekaieke valley and occasionally cross over the river. Signs of sheep are everywhere. At times we work to avoid riding through droppings, at other times we give up and just ride. There will be some bike cleaning necessary when we reach camp.

We ride close to 10k down the valley before the track turns into a solid farm road, and quickly come up on a fairly large metal gate, just being closed by whom I presume to be the owner. He is less than happy when he sees us, but as we talk to him he seems to cool off a bit and even becomes a bit friendly as we show him our maps and tell him about our riding adventures. He admonishes us a bit for taking the "vehicular track" designation on our New Zealand Automobile Association maps to suggest a potential route, but overall wishes us well on our journey. Before long we are on Route 83 and searching the banks of the Waitaki River for a suitable camp spot. Though not a big milage day (maybe 70km), we settle in quite happy.

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