Monday, 14 November 2011

Cycling NZ - Blenheim to Nelson Lakes

Click for more pics.
After two nights spent at the good ole' Grovetown Hotel, I set off for the next part of my cycling trip. I originally wanted to follow the State Highway 1 to Kaikoura and Christchurch, but luckily I realized in time how stupid an idea it was. The only reason why I wanted to go that way was my lack of information and confidence: instead of going towards the unknown, I wanted to get a bit fitter on a flat coastal road I already knew (although sections like Seddon, a windy steep bit teeming with trucks, really scared me). A flash of common sense struck me in time to change the plan and head west, towards the mountains.

Fire station.
Day 3 - Thursday 13 Oct 2011
Distance ridden: 80km; Route: SH63 -> Blenheim - Renwick - Wairau Valley - Kowhai Point bridge; Weather: sunny, strong westerly headwind.

I started my first big ride on a sunny afternoon, just after lunchtime, and everything seemed perfect. I had no idea what was coming...

Wind, the cyclist's arch-enemy
Once past Renwick, the road got really quiet and it could have been a nice ride, if it wasn't for the wind. No sooner had I left the town than the "westerly" picked up and never stopped blowing in my face. As the afternoon slowly passed into evening, the damn wind got stronger and stronger, and by the end of the day I had to literally push like an ox to reach even a miserable 9km/h speed. Riding a touring bike loaded with bags (equals antiaerodynamic surfaces) didn't really help, either. If you had driven past me that day, you might have heard screams of frustration and lots of Czech curses flying around...

When I finally reached the designated campsite, drained both physically and mentally, I switched my aching body off with feelings of hate towards my new worst enemy. Not the traffic, not the rain, not the hills. Wind is what can turn every pleasant ride into a hellish nightmare.

Despite the trouble, though, I had ridden 80km in a single day and that was by far my biggest cycling achievement. I fell asleep feeling proud of myself (and dreading the next day's wind).

Day 4 - Friday 14 Oct 2011
Distance ridden: 25km; Route: Kowhai Point bridge - St Arnaud; Weather: strong head wind, rain.

Nothing had changed the next morning, except for the big clouds my new friend Wind had brought from the west. I pushed through the last part of the valley in "just" two hours and then tackled the 6km hard climb at its end with surprising ease (perhaps because, despite the climb, it kept me sheltered from the wind). The weather probably pitied me for not having had the chance to take a shower the previous evening, so I got totally soaked just before reaching St Arnaud.

Nelson Lakes National Park
Still dripping like a melting icicle, I went to the Nelson Lakes National Park for a 2-day hike around Lake Rotoiti. Due to really bad weather conditions I couldn't go any deeper inside the park (waist-deep snow, avalanches, rain and stuff like that) and only took a few miserable snapshots. The following day, when I reached the end of the track and found out that it's another 7km back to town, the rain hit really hard. If it wasn't for the one and only car passing that way and giving me a ride...

Sunday morning, a.k.a. wake up and smell the sunshine.
For the next night I stayed in a hostel, leaving torrential rain to the world outside and enjoying every dollar spent for the warm and dry bed, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, all the bad things were gone. All there was left for me was sunshine. And zero wind!

I was a bit annoyed because the rain ruined my tramping plans in Nelson Lakes, but on the other hand, I had perfect cycling conditions. And it was all downhill to Murchison.

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