About Climbing, Crossing Creeks and Camera’sMarch 15, 2012
It was a bit of a climb out of Cromwell.
It was only the next morning, when I reached the top of Dufflers Saddle, that I realized I’d just cycled up the highest public road in New Zealand.
Well, that explains that then.
I had a pretty good campsite that first evening.
Just as I had left Cromwell, and I sat on the side of the road to enjoy an apple I bought at one of the roadside stalls, Bill pulled up on a little 4-wheel motorbike. He is a bit of a local legend, I met him on the cavalcade. He told me about places to go and people to see along the way.
A minute up the track I came across another little stall selling eggs. I bought half a dozen which, in hindsight, was not my smartest move as on the bumpy road the eggs busted in my panniers and made a big mess.
I rode down the spectacular scenic Nevis road till I reached a sign telling me I had 25 fords to cross in the next 24 km.
For the first two I took off my shoes & socks, waded through and put them back on. After this I couldn’t be bothered and left it all on to get very wet feet.
If I’d known it took 4 days for my shoes to dry out I might’ve changed tactics.
Suddenly I saw two bicycles coming around the hills! It was Tony & Margaret, the two who told me about this road in the first place They also happened to be the only cyclist I would come across in the next two weeks or so.
After saying goodbye and see ya later we set off in opposite direction. I still had a bit of distance and a lot of rivers to cross for the day.
It all went well, apart from my map going for a swim and falling apart.
But that’s fine, I’m only on one bit at the time anyway.
But then, at the last crossing for the day (although I didn’t know it yet) I slipped and the bike fell over in the cold mountain stream. That would not have been a massive problem had I have my handlebar zipped up. This wasn’t the case and so my dear old camera and trusted phone went swimming and died on the spot.
I was severely annoyed with myself, this is the last picture I took with the canon eos 500d.
Just after that last and disastrous ford-crossing the road started climbing. I knew I had to make it over the hill if I wasn’t going to camp at the last river. But I wasn’t sure how far and high it would be.
I could hear this noise and figured there must be some 4wd’s coming up the hill, when suddenly this huge plane shot up from behind the hill and flew so close over me I could see the pilot blink. It looked like he was about to crash and I wasn’t the only one thinking so. The next day I read in the newspaper someone had actually rang the emergency services. But this Hercules C130 didn’t crash. It was a military excercise. And a spectacular sight. Sadly my camera had just drowned, so here’s a drawing of it instead.
As I came over the last hill the old ski hut I intended to stay at came into view. Together with a beautiful view over the valley. Lucky I saw it now, because that night I could hear the rain starting to fall on the roof and it didn’t stop for the next 5 days…
So I splattered down the mountain to get back onto the road on my way to Gore.
As soon as I got to Gore I got a cheap replacement.
Graham lives in Gore, together with Elza he’s got a lovely spot just out-of-town where they look after a whole lot of cows. And chooks.
As it happens Gore is the country capital of New Zealand and home of a big guitar. Just like Tamworth in Australia. I felt right at home
It also boasts to be the trout fishing capital of the world and has an enormous trout at the entrance of town.
And it happens to have the biggest inland boating-club in NZ, or so I’ve been told. Graham is a member of this club and they happened to organize a beer tasting night just when I was there. How lucky is that! Beer tasting is one of my favourite past times.
It was during this evening I discovered I am a Hop-Goddess. Obviously I knew this. Uhum.
While at Graham’s and Elza’s I took my camera and phone apart to see what could be saved. One morning the camera was making little noises and I did a little dance around the room saying things like: “yippie” and “hurray”. I celebrated too early though as a minute later it gave up steam altogether. Darn.
When the rain finally decided to give it a rest I farewelled the comforts of Gore and set off down the road towards lake Onslow.
Just cruising along, enjoying the meagre sun and lovely scenery, a car pulled up in front of me. “Hi cycling dutchgirl! … We met last August in the Simpson desert”…
Well there you have it. I am officially in this part of the world for too long now
Every one I came across on my way to the lake Onslow turn off warned me about how remote it is. Pfff, I guess they haven’t cycled across outback-Australia Also I got many warnings about the road conditions and weather.
There is a little bit of water damage.
Lucky I picked a fine day for the climb up. Roads, or actually the distances, keep surprising me. As my map doesn’t show them.
So I climbed and climbed a little more ’till I came across a not-so-useful farmer who told me the road was just gonna be flat after the next turn-off. Yeah right.
I kept climbing, passing many cows and a few bulls on the way up. I like those a lot better when there is a fence between us. This is however, not always the case. Just hope my flapping red poncho doesn’t set them off.
Coming over the last bump I could see the lake and the barren hills around it.
Some nice considerate people have built little huts on the side of the lake.They’re all locked but have great little verandah’s . It’s a good spot to pitch your tent for the night. Out of the wind at least.
There’s two roads after the lake. The high road and the low road. I took the highroad, I guess it took me about an hour longer, but the views are just wonderful.
I love the outstretched hills with nothing but tussocks…
The road dipped into a valley and I kept cycling when I noticed a sign on a shed saying “Stonehenge”.
I remember that name, Bill had told me to call in here and say hello to Jim, the owner and Sandy, Bill’s son.
So I walked into the shed and was surprised to see a shearing gang shearing sheep twice the size of the shearers themselves.
They were massive! They were Merino-rams. Jim told me, when I located him. He sent me down to the house to see Sue. Who immediately took care of me and showed me a room where I could stay. I was only slightly overwhelmed. The room was massive! And the house was gorgeous. It even had one of those windows you can sit in and stare into the distance like some princess in a fairy-tale.
Sue and Jim have two sons, they both play rugby. That explained the birthday cake Sue got just a few days earlier on her 60th Birthday surprise party. It had a rather rugby-related theme. Her son, Andrew, is an ”All Black” (that’s him in the middle)
But her real birthday isn’t untill today. Happy 60th birthday Sue!
When Sue mentioned she was heading to Dunedin for the day it seemed like a good idea to tag along and organize some bits and pieces I needed to do into town (pick up stuff from bank & post office) It would however have been much more productive if I didn’t leave my wallet at home. Little chance of picking up anything without ID. Dumb.
But at least I got the chance to catch up with Johnny (cavalcade again) and drink lots of coffee…
So I got to stay another night at ‘the palace’ as I now call it, and before I’d set off Sue had already rung her sister-in-law, Mary, who happened to live exactly down the road I was taking.
At a very convenient distance for one day cycling.
So one glorious day across the Danseys Pass later,
I arrived at yet another sheep station in the hills where Mary & Nevil set up home and welcomed me with lovely meal and a warm bed.
There was one more port of call not far past their house.
John & Josh, father & son, who left mum/wife, Doreen, at home to join the cavalcade where I met them. Own a farm 22km down the road.
I thought I’d call in for a coffee, say G’day, and move on.
Instead I called in for a coffee, then lunch, shifted some lambs,
went up to the lake to go fishing
And admired their deer,
cows, chooks, sheep, horses and ostriches (yes, ostriches!).
In the morning John was even so kind to drop me off where I wanted to be, so I didn’t need to ride the same (busy) highway twice.
Yes, I found myself back at Omarama. The exact same spot I set off from on the cavalcade a few weeks ago. But this time I was headed up the hills on my bike. And so I did.
The day wasn’t as glorious as I hoped but at least it didn’t rain (to start off with)
I was pleased to still get the chance to cycle (push) up the 1280 meter high Omarama saddle. From where I had a view as far as Mount Cook and surroundings.
It was only slightly disappointing to see the road shoot down straight into the valley of the Oteake Conservation Park on the other side instead of going along the mountain tops for a little bit. But it was nice getting out of the wind.
I came across ‘Top Hut’, one of the huts maintained by DOC (department of conservation)
A little sign told me there was another hut just 8km down the river.
Easy, I thought.
I’ll be there in no time, I thought.
Not realizing the track will cross the river many, many times in this little distance.
I realized quickly that the Nevis had been very easy.
Here the river was a little deeper, a little faster and a little rockier.
So after taking all my gear off the bike and carrying it all across carefully the first three times I went for the option of pushing the lot across. Thinking a heavier bike would keep me steady.
It did work! Although my panniers are not as waterproof as they used to be, and when it gets deep they float. Taking the bike (and me) along. Still I didn’t fall and my shoes did not get wet. ( I decided to go barefoot this time)
I did get very tired and a little worried looking at the sky as it started to drizzle a bit…
I was very happy when the hut finally came into view and I made it there just before dark.
Enjoying being inside and dry I tried to light the fire which resulted in me smoking myself out of the hut. I was surprised to see a car pull up. Three men from a nearby station had gone pig-hunting and beer drinking and invited me to come along. But the most I’m likely to shoot is a picture of the pig they had on the back of the truck . And thanked them kindly for the invitation.
They asked If I had seen ‘snowman’. I had not, I did see some rain however. But no, Snowman was a mate they’re supposed to catch up with. He had taken a different route but had planned to stay at this very hut. This very night.
So it wasn’t surprising when he showed up about an hour later.
It was nice to have some company, and a first for me to have a man blow a horn outside a hut in the middle of the night in the hope to attract stags.
Snowman himself, who’s real name is Karl, said he thought the other guys were joking when they told him ‘there was a lady in the hut’ In all his years of hunting in the hills of NZ he has never, ever, come across a lady in a hut… I guess there is a first for everything.
It was lucky he was there. Because in the morning the rain was at it again. This made the river rise quickly and if he wouldn’t be there I would probably be still stuck in that hut. Instead he gave me a ride out. And after a shower & a good sleep I’m fully organized for the next part of the trip.
Starting to like this country. Yay.
Just a few hours ago, my sister in the Netherlands gave birth to a perfectly healthy little baby boy. Welcome to the world Siem!