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.
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.
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.
TOTAL DISTANCE : 2,600kms