A New Zealand "Sabbatical"
Permanent link to archive for 02/02/09. Saturday, February 09, 2002

New Photos

Here are some pictures from Oaro to Waipara

Posted at 10:06:58 PM  

A Lot of Catching Up Today

The following three posts are the last three days.

Posted at 9:21:30 PM  

Finally, A Fine Day (But Tiring)

I've made it to Christchurch.
It was a slow start today. I think it was because I didn't have enough blankets overnight and woke up cold. It's pretty cool on the plains in the night. It seemed to take me forever to come alive and get breakfast together.
It was finally sunny and the breeze was blowing in the right direction when I left near 10am. The first forty kilometers or so when by pretty quickly. My max speed, according to the cyclocomputer was 42.5kph, and there wern't any hills to speak of. Traffic increased steadily all the way to Christchuch. Once I got off the main highway, about 20km out, it became pretty tiring. I think that it was the old road into Christchurch, replaced by a motorway. It still had lots of traffic and was not in as good shape as the main road. Since there was so much traffic, I had to stay on the paved shoulder, which was pretty bumpy. It was just very tiring.
The nice break in the ride in was stopping at an orchard-side fruit stand. They had a huge assortment of their own fresh fruits in season--several varieties of apples and plums, couple of types of peaches, pears and citrus fruits. I looking for something sweet and the peaches looked pretty ripe. I went to buy one and the owner wouldn't let me pay for it. It was perfectly ripe and sweet. there were dozens of fruit and vegetable stands along that section of the route; it must have been a market gardening area. I wonder how many times I could have stopped for free fruit?
The ride was quite uneventful. I didn't really notice much, probably because of the traffic. I'd called ahead to find a place to stay in Christchurch from the pay phone in Waipara. I had to call five places before I found one that had a bed for tonight. They wanted me to call back in an hour to confirm, so I stopped at a cafe about an hour later to find out if there was a nearby pay phone. There wasn't but they offered to let me use their phone, which was very nice.
While I was calling, I noticed their pastries. They had some really scrumptious looking tarts and cake and some really interesting muffins. Being that it was after 11, I broke down and had a savoury scone, which was delicious. It wasn't really dense, but wasn't bread-like. It had green onions and red and orange peppers in it along with some cheese and herbs and it came with a little salad with some spicy greens and cucumbers. Along with a cappuccino, it was a great lunch.
After arriving in Christchuch I wandered around a bit in the afternoon. The downtown area, near the cathedral has some new buildings and has been spruced up a bit since I was here five years ago. A lot more people than I remember. They still close the stores early on Saturdays in Christchurch, so most of the shops, except the really touristy ones were closed.
I had my first sour encounter of the trip while I was downtown. It wasn't a Kiwi though, but some Eastern European immigrant. I wasn't sure if I could connect to the Internet at the hostel, so I stopped at an Internet place to ask if I could connect my computer to the net. He was quite rude and grumpily told me that I could, but a $20/hr, which was four times the posted access price. He didn't have to be so rude. They were much nicer in Auckland, even the places that said they were not able to do it.
The place that I'm staying at in Christchurch, Foley Towers, is pretty nice, comparatively, but is fairly large and crowded, so I'm going to move to a smaller one, a little further out tomorrow. I'm just going to rest up the legs for a couple of days and then head on towards Dunedin, probably on Monday.
The Foley Towers particulars:
  • Foley Towers
  • 208 Kilmore Street
  • Christchurch
  • tel:+64 3 366 9720
  • mailto:foley.towers@backpack.co.nz
  • http://www.backpack.co.nz
Picton to Christchurch was 345km; Christchurch to Dunedin is 363, but is mostly flatter until just before Dunedin where there are two nasty hills, Kilmog (a rather gruesome name) and Mt. Cargill (note the Mt. part). They are both twice as high as any I've climbed so far. Maybe I'll take the bus over them.
Speaking of busses. I found out that they are cancelling the southern passenger rail service between Christchurch and Invercargill as of tomorrow, after a hundred years of service (the joys of privatization). I will have to rethink my return to the North plan. I may have to come back north by bus.

Posted at 8:32:32 PM  

It Seems To Be Winter

It was very cold today. Cold enough to see my breath; I looked like a steam engine climbing out of Cheviot. I didn't really warm up until I got to Waipara. It was cool and damp when I left Cheviot this morning and it seemed to get cooler as I went up hill. The route was one where the road climbed for about 30km and then went basically downhill for another 30km. Fortunately, there was only one short steep section, but it was tough going because I couldn't get warm. I was sweating, but since it was so damp, it wasn't evaporating and soaked through my long cycling top and made things even chillier. The only thing that warmed me up were the big double-trailer stock trucks full of sheep passing by. They'd leave about a five second tunnel of warmth as they passed. They were a bit aromatic, though.
On my way up I saw a herd of deer in a paddock by the road. As I passed by, slowly, it was rather funny. First one deer noticed me and popped its head up, then the whole thing rippled back through the herd as each deer noticed the next and popped up from grazing to stare at me--sort of like reverse dominoes.
I also stopped to watch a farmer and his pack of sheepdogs working a large flock of sheep down a paddock and into a pen by a barn. It was really impressive. Working dogs at work are really something to watch. I don't think that I ever seen them working a real flock, just demonstrations, like the one we saw in Australia, or trials. The farmer was working five dogs, the hound-like barkers, who just encircled the sheep and brought back the outliers, whenever one escaped.
I also stopped by another field of deer, not with any intention, just to rest, and they did the same thing as the cattle yesterday--they all came over to the fence to look at me. They were on the other side of the road, but I took a picture anyway. If it comes out, I'll post it.
When I got to Greta Valley, which, in spite of the name, is nearly to the top of the long climb, I was able to stop at a tea room (called "The Snack'n'Chat") to warm up and dry off a little. While I was snacking on my tea and a hot pie, I was chatting with the folks at the next table who were visiting from England. It turned out that the man was an avid cyclist and had just bought a BOB trailer like mine and hadn't even used it yet (they were not cycle touring here). He was quite interested in my experience so far, as he was planning on a 2,200 mile cycle tour completely around Great Britain, next summer, with it. Better him than me.
After I left, having warmed up a little, there was still a couple of more kilometers of climbing (I'd thought that Greta Valley was at the top!), but I knew that I was finally at the top when this long vista opened up as I came over the crest. I hadn't seen anything like it before. Everything was downhill from here. While it was still cloudy, the view was probably 50 miles. I could see mountains way off to the southwest with snow on them (They seemed the only thing in sunlight, since they were bright). I was a great view as I stood there catching my breath.
As I said, it was all downhill from there. I think that I started with at least five kilometers of coasting down a moderate grade and, since there wasn't much wind, I was able to pedal at 30kph in my high chain ring at times in the flat parts. It got warmer as I came down and by the time I got to Waipara, the sun finally came out, for the first time since I left the Pedallers Rest, which was almost five days ago. I hope the weather is turning around. Next thing you know, I'll be complaining that it is too hot.
Tonight, I'm staying at a rather unique backpacker hostel and caravan park called the Waipara Sleepers, which is made up of a collection of old Train Guard's Vans (the NZ railroad equivalent of cabooses) that have been converted into four berth cabins. The one that I'm in has two rooms, a sitting room at the rear, that was originally the train guards room, and a larger room forward, which was originally for light freight, like the mail, which has two set of bunks fitted. It seems pretty comfortable, but they need a table in the sitting room. I'm here alone and since it's now 9:30pm, I assume that it will stay that way.
Last night turned out less comfortable that I expected, Kay and Bryan were quite nice, but the odor of cigarette smoke, spoiled it. They didn't smoke in my presence, but it was present enough that it was not comfortable. As I mentioned when I called, when I opened my trailer bag this afternoon it smelled and I had to wash everything that I had out last night, since they had absorbed the odor. Ugh!
It seems that everyday I see something, out of the ordinary, that I just have to stop for. Today it was a tiny train station. I was riding along and there was this little building, about 4'x6' that looked just like a train station, right next to the tracks. It had a name board on it; Tormore, I think it was called. There wasn't a settlement there, as far as I could tell. So I stopped to take a look. I went over to it and the door was open. Inside there was a telephone with instructions saying to pick up the phone and when it is answered state your location and the service desired. I wondered if I picked it up and asked to be taken to Christchurch, the next train through would stop.
Aside from the cold, it was actually a pretty ride, It wasn't too steep on the way up so I was able to spend more time looking at the scenery than struggling up the road. I don't know if I'm getting stronger, although it doesn't feel like it in the mornings, but I've been able to put together back to back 50km+ days. (Of course it could just be that the routes are easier). I, once again, met some interesting people and saw another 500,000 or so sheep.
Anecdotal Observation--When you are riding on an otherwise empty road and there is a car coming towards you and another coming up from behind you, they will always pass each other right where you are.

Posted at 8:19:55 PM  

Lots of Hills (and wind and a little rain)

Today was my second "what the heck am I doing this for?" day. I finally got up the gumption to do the four hills that were in my way. The total climb was 585 meters (about 1500 feet) according to the GPS. On top of that the wind was still coming out of the south, which made itself apparent whenever I'd get out on an open road. To make it more interesting, as I was nearing the top of the third, and steepest hill, my chain popped out of the sprockets. I put it back on and it did it again as I tried to pedal.
It turned out that one of the links had broken open on one side. So I had to take off the trailer and rear wheel, get my bag of tools out of the trailer bag and sit at the side of the road, with not much road shoulder, and try to put the chain back together. At least I thought to bring chain tool and my leatherman. I was able to straighten the bent link and push the stud back into it. I have not been really happy with the new chain I got just before leaving. It seems to be wearing my chainwheels rather quickly.
And just to make things complete, it rained towards the end of the ride, fortunately, just a sprinkle and I didn't get too wet.
While I was sitting on the road, fixing my chain, another cyclist rode up and stopped to offer help. He was from Halifax, NS and looked older than me, but had that lanky, wiry cyclist's body. He had left Kaikoura in the morning and caught up with me about 15 km into my ride, riding more than twice the distance in probably the same time. He was, however, carrying only two small panniers and a handlebar bag. I asked him how he was able to travel so lightly and he said that he just sent most of his stuff on to his next destination on the bus. He arrived in NZ on the same day as I did and had first cycled on the North Island down to the South Island. I was surprised that he had done it in a week. He hadn't. What he's been doing is taking the bus to someplace that he wants to start at, cycles to the next location and then gets another bus. He had taken the bus from Picton to Kaikoura and started his South Island trip there. I don't remember if he was heading to Cheviot, where I am, or Waipara, where I hope to get to next, to catch the bus to Christchurch.
I rode through a high rolling plain for the last half of the ride and saw about a million sheep (only 39 million left to see). I also stopped to watch a hawk of some kind gliding along a ridge searching for lunch. During one of my rest stops, this entire herd of cattle came trotting over towards me. I took out my camera to take a picture of them, but as they got close, they were mostly hidden by some high brush between us, so there wasn't a photo after all.
I also stopped at a gas station in Parnassus, about 13km from, Cheviot, since I thought that they might have a small shop and I could get something hot to drink (did I mention that it was pretty chilly today, as well). They had some kind of coffee, soup and hot chocolate machine behind the counter, so I asked the mechanic, when he came in, if I could get a hot chocolate. He replied that he was sitting down to have so tea and would I like to join him. I did so. The people here have been so friendly. We talked a bit about the area. It has big farms, averaging around 30,000 acres, and lots of sheep. It has been a tough summer for the farmers with too much rain, keeping the grass too green (the sheep do better on dry grass) and ruining the crops like wheat. He said it was supposed to be sunny and in the 30's (about 85 fahrenheit) at this time of year. The folks that I am staying with this evening were saying that it rained so hard at some points that it was too loud on the roof to sleep and that the water was flowing down their street like a river.
When I left Oaro and paid the bill this morning, I was only charged $NZ50 since I paid in cash (that's about US$21 for two meals and a nice room and shower, not to mention good company). I'm staying at another B&B, Casa del Bosque, in Cheviot, this evening. It is run by a retired couple, Kay & Bryan Woods, who have moved down here from Auckland. He is originally from Wales, but met Kay here wiile in the British Navy and moved to New Zealand after retiring from the Navy for a second career as a civilian employee of the NZ Navy. They seem quite nice.
Their B&B is fair, but is in town as opposed to being in the country.The only other choices in Cheviot were two motels. This seemed a better option and is only $35, but I do have go out for dinner. They also have a 24 year old black cat and a pudgy 8 year old golden retriever, Shan, who is, as most goldens, very friendly...and sheds. The big problem with this place is that I think that Brian occasionally smokes. He had a heart attack last April and is waiting for angiplasty, so I can't see why.
I had dinner at a little restaurant called The Paddock (there were only two choices in town). It was a pretty simple place and had a nice garden outside, although it was a bit cold for al fresco dining. You order by going to the bar and placing your order and choosing a table. I had a huge piece of quiche (cheese and red pepper), with a nice salad with good greens, carrots, tomatoes, onions and croutons and new potatoes with garlic butter. It was delicious. I couldn't resist and had the sticky date pudding for desert. It was the first time I'd eaten out since I took Mark & Marine to dinner. The whole thing came to NZ$20 (about $8.25)
As hard as the ride was, it was a day that turned out fine. The chat with the mechanic was interesting and I had a good meal. Now, if summer would only return.

Posted at 8:08:14 PM  

Daily Digest 9 Feb 2002

  • Cycle Dist: 59.4km,
  • Total Ascent: less than 100m
  • Ave. Speed: 21.15kph
  • Riding Time: 2:48
  • Total Elapsed Time: ??
  • Spent: NZ$30.75
  • Start: Waipara Sleepers, Waipara
  • End: Foley Towers, Christchurch

Posted at 7:50:06 PM  

Daily Digest 8 Feb 2002

  • Cycle Dist: 57km,
  • Total Ascent: 389m
  • Ave. Speed: 19.3kph
  • Riding Time: 2:57
  • Total Elapsed Time: 5:02
  • Spent: NZ$25.70
  • Start: Casa bel Bosque B&B, Cheviot
  • End: Waipara Sleepers, Waipara

Posted at 7:46:55 PM  

Last update: 2/22/02; 10:27:24 PM
Copyright 2002 - Steven Magnell

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