Saturday, 28 January 2017

To the End of the Earth

Monday 23rd January
Mosgiel to Balclutha 68kms

Drove to Mosgiel where we left the car at Athol and Motiko’s around midday – trying to get the later weather improvement as it was raining first thing.  Saw Segumi and Motiko at their place and then left to go to Balclutha. The wind was a fierce southerly – 80km SW winds. Straight into our face and on our side. Found that by Allanton we could barely bike in it. Very dangerous. Paused there to decide whether to can it or not. Really unhappy with the wind.

After a break we thought about carrying on for a few kms to see what happened but to maybe go back and get the car. Turned out that it wasn’t so bad getting onto the first bit of the plains and then it felt like we were almost at Waihola. Unfortuately the wind increased and worsened in the second part of the plains and had to walk across the last bridge to where it turned towards Waihola.

Stopped at the Black swan for coffee at Waihola, still not very happy with the conditions. Didn’t take the tent for the last days which meant stopping at Milton wasn’t really an option but decided to get there and decide what to do. Biked on and arrived in Milton around 5.30pm. Pleased with progress and decided maybe we could get to Balclutha after all.

The trip to Balclutha was hilly and windy – at its worst just outside Balclutha on the last hills. Really so bad that Lucy and I walked some of it. So glad to reach Balclutha at 8.15pm, although a bit disappointing to find the supermarket closed! Had a nice cabin and a nice time at the Balclutha Motor Camp – it was really good. Had dinner – pasta – and relaxed and went to bed early, listening to the wind howl around us.

 Tuesday 24th January
Balclutha to Invercargill 134kms

Couldn’t believe it when the day dawned still! And sunny! Such a treat. Had discovered a broken spoke at Waihola so tried to get that fixed first up having chatted to a German cyclist earlier. Luckily he had told us about the Yamaha shop which was open and the guy fixed it and we were off again. Lucy and Hugh and I went to the supermarket and stocked up while that was happening and then we treated ourselves to a coffee at Café 55. Lucky we did as updated on the weather and a few other things and realised that with the forecast so dire for the next day, maybe later we would look at going past Gore, depending on conditions.

So we set off and it was a delightful feeling to have still, calm conditions in which we were making great progress. Hilly of course, but made good progress to Clinton and had lunch there in the park.
Continued amazingly in the calm weather to Gore, arriving about 4pm. Stopped briefly for a rest at Pukerau before that. Not much open in Gore but managed to find the Station Café which was open till 5pm so we were delighted about that – and it had wi-fi so we were able to book a motel to stay at in Invercargill (had already rung Gore and cancelled from Clinton).

So still calm at 5pm when we headed for Invercargill – and super-excited to have beaten the wind all day. Made fast progress to Edendale where we stopped and had hot chips and a drink at the Discounter! The guy put lollypops in the chips which was cool.

The wind – all 80km/h of it – hit just at Dacre. It came out of nowhere – NW – and blew us to Invercargill except where we came sideways into it just before Woodlands and into Invercargill. It was truly frightening - helped only by a few shelter belts of trees. We were an hour with the wind before getting to Invercargill but it was truly testing and scary. Gusted to well over 120km/h.

Arrived at the Coachman’s Inn at 8pm, glad to get to shelter and safety. Also very relieved to only have 30kms to Bluff to get through. Cooked pasta in the motel and had a bottle of red wine which was great after a huge day.

 Wednesday 25th January
Invercargill to Bluff 30kms

The wind roared all night – gale force and scary. Relaxed in the morning knowing it was a short ride to Bluff.  Weather settled a little so we didn’t waste time getting away and we were soon on the road again into Invercargill – only the wind was stronger than ever and I stopped at least twice trying to get through town. The wind reading was 98km/ h on Metservice, but the gusts were about 140kms/h. I was terrified and once again, we were unsure whether to go on. We guessed it would be behind us once we turned out of town and indeed it was. Had a great eight or nine kms out of town and through Clifton. As expected, we came sideways to it along the expanse in the middle turning into the west, but we were hopeful that would turn again at the end of the strait. Challenging.

Well how wrong we were as it seemed to change from west to south-west and the temperature plummeted, it started hailing horizontally and the wind speed increased to gale. We could barely see and the sky was black , the road barely visible and we got totally soaked. I stopped to get the lights but couldn’t even see John and it was so cold that we couldn’t wait. Every truck that passed was terrifying as the backdraft hit us – especially the oncoming ones.  Lucy and I had to walk in the driving rain over the Greenhills Bridge and stop a number of other times as oncoming trucks passed or we were blown onto the grass verge.

Finally – after wanting it for a long time – we got the wind behind us as we turned a couple of kms out of Bluff and then we barely needed to pedal as the wind blew us into town. Biked straight to Stella’s Café and collapsed into the seats. Looked out for John and Hugh who duly appeared.

 Truly the most horrific conditions we have ever endured. We were all quite shell-shocked arriving to Bluff. Had to get semi-changed from all our wet clothes and sat there for ages eating pies and wontons. It was a weird feeling to be finished but in such shocking weather.

SO we located the Lighthouse Gallery and the man, Mac, took us up to the house which was very nice and we relaxed and then later went to Stirling Point and took photos and finished the epic journey.

Went to the Foveaux Hotel for dinner. The dinner was nice but low-key and a bit sad to finish in such an unexpected way. We were the only ones there and it was a bit hard for it to sink in that we had done it. High winds all night back at the house so glad to be under shelter.

Thursday 26th January

John left with catch-a-Bus to go to Mosgiel at 7am and we packed up and left at 10.30am to go into Invercargill. Spent two hours in the Gardens and at the museum before meeting John again and then had some lunch and headed home.

Sad to be finished but great to be home. Still processing the last bit. Certainly some tactical planning, huge long daysand all our weather expertise called in for the South Island journey. Thanks to everyone for all their encouragement and support on the way. 


Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Road Home

Friday 20th January
Ashburton to Glenavy  146kms

We departed Ashburton before 8.30am and made fast progress south, stopping briefly at Hynds and Ealing. Had a proper stop at the Orari Café which was great. Went to the supermarket in Temuka and then had lunch in the Timaru Botanical Gardens. Gorgeous day with a slight tail wind.

Made it to St Andrews after a coffee and the kids had an ice-cream at the Pareora Tearooms. It was going on about 4pm at this point. Rode on down all the way to Glenavy, arriving about 7.30pm! gorgeous ride but all exhausted. Had a shower and cooked pasta for dinner which we had outside with an outdoor heater and music speakers which was great. Had a really fun time there.

Met some milk workers who told us about the milk factory – certainly a day of cow smells and effluent! Lots of flooding in evidence from the storm the day before.

Saturday 21st January
Glenavy Waitaki River Motor Camp to 23 Mopanui St, Purakaunui  139kms

Another huge day. Made a good departure at 8.15am and got to Oamaru quickly where we picked up groceries and had a good visit with Angela. Left again about  11am and rode out to Kakanui  - truly gorgeous ride. Really stunning. Did come to the closed road and had to detour back, but it wasn’t major. Had a very nice stop at the restaurant at Kakanui.

Carried on down the coast to Waianakarua and it clouded over about then and became a bit chilly at times. Seemed a bit slow going at times but soon ticked off Hampden, where we had an ice cream, and then the Moeraki turnoffs, Shag Point and Palmerston. Rode on to Waikouaiti, arriving about 6pm. Had made the decision about Kakanui that we might continue on to Dunedin, based on the weather bomb forecast for very heavy rain the following day – all day.

Had fish and chips at Waikouaiti and then raced to Karitane, bracing ourselves for the Kilmog. It was hard and long, but nothing compared to the hill over to home. Elated to get to Waitati. John changed the brake pads by the gallery there and we chatted to the lady and then started up the hill. Took a bit to muster the energy to get to the intersection, and then after that it was so steep that we couldn’t even ride and had to push! Almost dark when we got to the end of the steep hills and absolutely dark by the ecosanctuary. Stopped there to put on coats in the mist and drizzle.

The descent to home was something else. 10pm at night and a bit dark and hard to see, even with the lights. But also incredibly exciting to be getting home after 36 days on the road. Arrived in at 10.40pm utterly exhausted but elated.

Sunday 22nd January
23 Mopanui St, Purakaunui   0kms  Rest day.

Satisfying to wake up to heavy rain, more heavy rain, and further heavy rain. Not sure we would have been able to leave Waikouaiti in it, let alone ride over the Kilmog and Blueskin hills.

Spent the day relaxing, reading the paper, booking for the next few days for Balclutha, Gore and Bluff. Went to Barry and Tracy’s. Hugh glad to see Tama and great to catch up.  We are all looking forward to concluding the journey. Not long to go …