|The conqueror of Burke's Pass (709m).|
Day 8 - Friday 4 Nov 2011
Distance ridden: 74km; Route: Christchurch (Bealey Ave -> Riccarton) - Old West Coast Road - Homebush - Scenic Route 72 - 15km before Rakaia Gorge; Weather: extreme westerly headwind.
After idling in Christchurch for almost three weeks I finally forced myself to get back on the road. And learned a lesson: never stop travelling or you might not want to start again. Not even if the reason for stopping is KFC (thanks for lunch Taylor) and rafting. Rafting is amazing by the way. Of course it wouldn't be me if I hadn't picked the worst possible weather for jumping back on the saddle.
When the wind blows, cycling sucks
To say that it was very windy would be an understatement. My first encounter with antagonistic wind was just a light breeze compared to what I was up against this time...
|The wind is really strong in this area...|
The situation was getting worse by the hour and at the end I was simply unable to cope with the gusts, so I gave up on my plan to reach Rakaia Gorge and instead camped on a picnic area 15km before the intended target (cycling for 74km in total). Completely drained, both physically and mentally, I pitched my tent, shut off the wind with earplugs and fell into oblivion until the next morning.
|Welcome to Rakaia Gorge. Isn't it gorgeous?|
Distance ridden: 90km; Route: SH72, 15km before Rakaia Gorge - Rakaia Gorge - Mt Somers - Geraldine; Weather: chilly, cloudy and still a bit windy, but generally fine.
After the previous day's ordeal, waking up to a sunny, warm and NOT WINDY morning was a big boost for morale. However, I was still exhausted, the wind hadn't died away completely and there were several hard climbs (a particularly nasty one just after the Rakaia Gorge bridge). As a result, at 14:00 I had only cycled 20 kilometres and was giving up hopes to reach Geraldine (considering the 15km deficit from the previous day, it was exactly 95km to ride). Fortunately enough, even a magnet for trouble like me runs out of bad luck sometimes: after Mt Somers the road flattened and I had a really good spell, approaching Geraldine by 17:30. I set camp on a picnic area 7km before the town, by the Ashburton turn-off and the river.
This day was the breaking point in my cycling experience and from now on, things got only better.
|This is what I call LOAD!|
Shortly after setting camp, I met my first fellow cyclist. I was just contemplating the river's temperature for the evening swim when a slow-pedalling figure appeared on the road. I stared in speechless awe for a few seconds, wondering if he was some kind of mule-cyclist, perhaps testing a new type of truck-bicycle, or if he was relocating and didn't want to pay a removal company (the picture showing his 40 kilos of luggage, probably heavier than the guy himself, should clarify what I mean). After recovering from the shock, I called him and invited him to camp with me.
It turned out he's from Taiwan and he had started cycling from Christchurch three days before, not making more than 30km a day (no wonder, with that load). In any case it was nice to have company and to finally meet a fellow cyclist. Not only did it give us the opportunity to share ideas, but it was the first chance to compare my "cycling strategy and attitude" with someone else.
Speaking about cycling attitude, that's a topic I've been wanting to touch for quite a while.
|Let's Go! Click for more pics.|
I'd like to stop here and reflect on my cyclist's morale and attitude for a while. It's really funny how the human mind works and how everything is perceived differently if the weather is different, physical fitness is at a reasonable level and one can compare oneself with others.
When I first started cycling and then when I left Christchurch after a long break, I couldn't stop wondering why I'm doing this, why I'm voluntarily putting myself through such physical strain, why I'm spending all these hours torturing my ass on a bike, exposing myself to the elements and boring myself to death while covering negligible distances (cycling is a rather brainless activity), instead of sitting on a couch watching TV or reading a book while sipping a cup of tea, or simply hitch-hiking. Why the hell did I spend so much money on something I don't enjoy at all? At some point I caught myself actually thinking of tossing the bike in the ditch and hitching a ride.
The mind goes hand in hand with the body, and as I get fitter and fitter, I stop seeing hills and big climbs as an annoying obstacle, but as a challenge. Well, that's probably not true, I still prefer a pleasant ride on flat terrain, but I do love the sense of achievement after conquering a hill.
After speaking with other cyclists I met in New Zealand, I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. But I'm deviating from the main topic now, so I'll stop here and get back to the "daily cycling report". Not until next time, though.