Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cycling NZ - Cyclists meet... again... and tackle Lindis Pass

Back to cycling stories. I've got such a backlog of posts that it's driving me crazy, but we'll get there eventually. So here comes the next bit.

Remember how I went to Twizel to "cure" my sore knee? Popping into town was a lucky stroke, irrespective of the knee business. I spotted a bike rack by the supermarket, and guess what was in it. Bikes! How strange... anyway, jokes apart, one of them belonged to Neil, the Taiwanese fella I had met before, and the other one to Olivia, a French girl I ended up travelling with to Wanaka. What a jolly cyclist gathering, eh?

Anyhow, we left Twizel too late and didn't make it to the next town. We put the tents next to the road and tried to gather some strength for the next day's big challenge, Lindis Pass (965m). However, if it wasn't for all the sugar in the morning's big muffin, even bigger coffee and bigger still home made steak pie (no sugar in there) in Omarama, I don't think I could have climbed the pass without switching to the granny gears.

Day 14 - 12 Nov 2011
Distance ridden: 101 km; Route: Omarama - Lindis Pass - Tarras; Weather: fine until the pass, then very wet

Grinding up Lindis
It's funny how the human mind works. Even a small obstacle can become a big nuisance if you don't expect it, but when you're mentally prepared for big challenges, you end up wondering "was that all?" when they're finally beaten. That's how I experienced Lindis Pass.

It's a mountain pass about 40 km from Omarama. The first 30 kilometres were easy and it took me only two hours to reach the start of the real climb. That's when I thought "oh, bloody hell". The long tarmac snake was stretching up the mountain for about five kilometres and then disappearing behind the next peak. I thought that was just the warm-up, but it was actually the whole thing. Instead of more climbing, what awaited me was the sign "Lindis Pass - 965m" and the road bending down, downhill. The pass had been beaten!

Six months in New Zealand, a celebration
I was overwhelmed by euphoria after beating the so far hardest climb in my cycling career and while trying to dry my t-shirt, completely soaked with sweat, I started writing a message to Olivia, who was nowhere to be seen (the poor girl was pulling a trailer and not coping with hills very well). In the meantime, a young Ozzie driver stopped by and totally made my day. He stopped because he thought I had a flat tyre, but that's not the point. The point is: what does an Ozzie do if he sees a cyclist at the top of a mountain pass? Offers him a beer. And if it's been exactly six months since the cyclist's arrival to New Zealand, what a better way to celebrate?

Chatting with a Jehovah's witness on top of the mountain
Apparently, the beer offerer's family are all keen Jehovah's witnesses, including himself, but he got excommunicated from their church for having sex with his girlfriend and not wanting to get married. The poor guy was lost, helpless, and although it's usually the witnesses who lecture other people, I ended up giving advice to him. I hope he'll be able to sort out his thoughts.

Down with the rain
My lingering and beer sipping took long enough for Olivia to arrive and then we were ready to start descending the incredibly steep road on the Wanaka side of the pass (700m down). It would have been an awesome ride if it hadn't started raining; instead of a crazy downhill ride it was a crazy breaking ride on the slippery road, and of course we got completely soaked... so much for drying my sweaty t-shirt.

Anyway, we did make it down safely, the sun came out as soon as the road flattened and we carried on with our jolly ride until Tarras, something marked as a town on the map, but if there was one, we missed it. A ghost town, perhaps. Either way, it was the first human settlement after 80 kilometres.

It was getting dark by then and we weren't going to make it to Wanaka, so we found a nice little patch of pine trees for the night. If it weren't for the young bulls making all sorts of noises right behind us and the screeching birds right above us, it would have been a nice night. But after 100 kilometres and two big climbs behind us, the screeching was like a lullaby.


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