Thursday 9 February 2012

West wet windy coast

This doesn't need any caption
Deciding to stay the extra day in Te Anau turned out to be a great decision as the wind and rain lashed the town all day but come the following morning the crisp morning gave way to a vivid blue sky and a beautiful sunny push out of town. Of course I was feeling sore and pained from the game of squash with Fi which went down to the wire in another epic battle but I had no choice but to get to Nelson in plenty of time to make sure I had everything done and dusted for the start of my course.

Up and over the crown range proved far more challenging than I had anticipated but then I was not in so much of a hurry that I couldn't stop and get a fill of peanut butter sammies for the final push to the 1000m pass. Then it was a beautiful coast down to the Cardona Hotel for a pint and a kip in the trees for the night. In Wanaka I met with rising multi sport star Dougal Allan (watch for his name on or near the top of the coast to coast this weekend) and we set about catching up for years lost, both indulging in our own pursuits.

Driftwood cow. Hokitika
While I decided to take the day off Dougal went to work and left me in the presence of all his flash and shiny toys. Not to miss out on such an opportunity I jumped on his road bike and hammered out just under a hundred k's loving the lightness of the bike and the way everything sounded smooth and efficient. Not exactly like Doris with another worn set of bearings in her peddle causing a loud grinding and clicking with every revolution.

Saying goodbye to Wanaka the road I followed took me towards the head of Lake Wanaka and over the Haast pass through some of the most amazing podocarp forest this country has on offer. A big frontal system had stalled off the south coast and about the time I started the assent to the pass all hell broke loose and the wind became too strong to bike into effectively. Just as I thought I might have to wait it out the system moved on and started dumping heavy rain on me. I pushed on into the early evening and the rain fell in continuous fashion puking 100-150mls on the forest around me. Although I was fairly damp throughout the night due in large part to my worn out tent I woke happy as a monkey in a tree to a blue bird day and raging west coast rivers all cascading down towards the ocean.

Sunset in Hokitika
Particularly impressive were the gates of Haast but many of the tributaries were awesome to watch also. On some advice from friends I stopped into Okarito to have a wander around and bumped into some kiwi tour guides who took me under their wing. Guiding a group of international travelers on a walking, driving, swimming tour of the south island they gave me heaps of food and a few beers on the beach with the waves crashing into the night. My night was not done at this point, I was determined to head off into the bush and find me a rare kiwi localised to this part of Nz. I made the hour walk in and after making some calls I started to dose off to the distant calls of a female Brown kiwi and before I knew it I was lying all curled up on the rocky path trying to keep as warm as I could in the circumstances. Every now and then I would call out to the Kiwis again but they never seemed to come closer than far away throughout the night. Around 4am I decided enough was enough and headed back to the camp ground and continued on my way the following morning.

Once I arrived in Hokitika I was making good progress again and a Nelson finish mid week was looking promising. With that in mind I parked up at the beach to watch a group of body boarders playing in the falling light as the sun painted the breaking waves reds and oranges before slipping silently behind the edge of the world. Still in need of a camp I was just on the edge of town when I pitched my tent on a big flat and grassy field, somewhere between the half way line and the try line of the local rugby field with the rolling surf hitting the sand just a stones throw over the back fence. After this point there wasn't a lot of riding to go. a quick jaunt up to Greymouth and a hop over a small hill to Murchison and finally into Nelson.

Jess and I on the final days ride to Nelson
In a the small town of Ross (population 300 people and 300 dogs) a touch shy of Greymouth I was looking to fill my water bottles at the pub when I  noticed the publican sitting outside with a beer. He just told me to go behind the bar and help myself to the tap. A couple of people were sitting outside on picnic tables in the sun enjoying a brew so I sat down and have a rest with them when a lady riding a beater bike and wearing gumboots rolled over. "I've been looking everywhere for my goat" she said "have you seen him anywhere"? "yeah" replied one of the guys behind me "he wandered down the road bout an hour ago so I tied him to the telephone pole" sure enough across the road was a big healthy looking billy goat gruff who trotted off leisurely on his lead as his owner biked away. Only on the west coast I thought.

My bridge about 50km from Nelson
In Murchison I was eating a healthy sized goody goody gum drops ice cream when someone on the street called my name. It took me a moment squinting into the sun to realize it was old room mate from Te Anau who also worked as a sea kayak guide in the fiords a couple of summers ago. Jess took me in and we had a big Bbq at her bosses house and I had a wash in something other than a river for the first time since leaving Wanaka. Jess was also good enough to bike out with me in the morning towards Nelson on her new roady which made me jealous just looking at it but it was fantastic to have the company all the same.

Riding home. Wakefield
It was up to the hope saddle and then a short climb up the spooners range where I got my first glance of nelson since leaving there over nine months previously and from there it was a coast into the valley and into Wakefield. Needing some food I pulled over right at the same moment a car had stopped and the occupants were waving furiously. Mum and Dad had come out to see me with a picnic lunch under a tree along the main road. As the last 10kms ticked by Mum insisted on getting a few more snap shots while dad mounted his mountain bike and peddled along beside me setting a pace I was not accustomed to obviously unaware I was carrying 40kgs worth or weight on the frame.

Dad and I riding home
And then, without fanfare or consequence it was over! I rode the last few meters up the drive into the garage where I dismounted and lent Doris up against the wall. 23000kms, 28 countries, 2 wheels 4 bags and a sore bum later, that is that, all over and not to be repeated for a long time. It was certainly with a heavy heart I set about making the final days of the trip but a good friend suggested this to me. "You cant start the next adventure until you have finished this one" and with that and the sun in my face I biked all the way home to my family with a big smile on my face and a few stories under my belt.

Mum, Dad, Me and of course Doris. Finished!!

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