A New Zealand "Sabbatical"
Permanent link to archive for 02/02/12. Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Summer Went Missing.

When I left Rakaia, I considered going west toward Methven, but the clouds had covered the mountains and it didn't seem worth the extra 100km trip for poor weather and no views, so I decided to continue down the main road south. I rode to Ashburton, the next big town, actually the distinct center, which is much bigger than Rakaia. With the southerlies returning and the dampness, my ride didn't start out too well.
My spirits picked up when I saw two mares with new foals right near the road. I stopped and went over to look. There was what looked to be a very young foal who was as interested in me as I was her. I tried to take some pictures, but every time I shifted position, the foal would turn its whole body to look right at me. So I have a head-on photo of a very skinny young horse. I'll post in the next batch.
A little further on I came across a herd of alpaca. I stopped to look at them and several were quite inquisitive, coming right up to the fence to take a look at me. They are handsome animals, coming in several colors, white, black, gray and several shades of brown. They seem more intelligent looking and acting than sheep.
It was a day for fauna, as I kept flushing rabbits who were grazing along the side of the road. My host today, Brent Duncan, informed me that they are considered introduced pests and hunted heavily, but there are still plenty. They get $2 a head for rabbit as pet food. Thumper isn't loved in New Zealand.
Some of the riding was a struggle today; it was the road surface. In places the gravel they use on the roads is so rough, that it is almost like riding on an unpaved road. There is so much rolling resistance that if I stop pedalling, it seems like the bike stops in about 3 bike lengths, and this is on a level road. The vibration from the road is so bad that a couple of kilometers of the stuff and my hands begin to get numb.
After arriving in Ashburton, which was about a 30km ride, I stopped in the town information center to find a place to stay. There was a bit to choose from, and I opted for a home stay, called Adventure Homestay, which was about 10km further south. It is a new house on 10 acres, owned by a fairly young couple, Brent Duncan and Kelley Mitchell. He is a fishing and hunting guide by avocation and a mechanical engineer in the local freezer plant by trade. Kelley raises Arabian horses, owns a cleaning service and is a veterinary nurse. Everyone that I've met seems to do several things.
The particulars:
  • Adventure Homestay
  • Brent Duncan & Kelley Mitchell
  • Ashburton, New Zealand
  • tel:+64 3 302 6686
On their ten acres, they have five acres of horse paddocks and a five acre trout pond (which also attracts ducks, which become dinner). Brent is evidently a very good fisherman. It is his passion. He won the Rakaia Salmon Fishing contest last yaer over 700 competitors. Brent says that Kelley is the better shot. She grew up in the middle of the Southland near Milford Sound, forty miles from the nearest road.
Their house is only about a year old, built by Brent. It is barn-style house of brick, with quite a bit of room. They have a couple of guest rooms available and seems pretty comfortable, just not quite as charming as the old convent. I may end up here a couple of days if it rains tonight and tomorrow. They only charge NZ$20 per night, which is less than some of the backpackers that I've stayed at and NZ$10 for dinner
They offered me lunch when I arrived. It was pasta with locally caught (by Brent) and smoked salmon and peas. Dinner was a venison stir-fry tonight (wild, not farm-raised I'm told). Both meals were tasty, but simply prepared home cooking.
They also have a dog, Fay. She is a two year old lab, super friendly, who bounded up when I arrived and sidled up for a scratch. Evidently a good duck hunter, she's just been bred to another good hunter, with working puppies in mind.
I've had the house to myself for most of the afternoon. Brent went fishing before working the evening shift at the freezing plant and Kelley went back to work. Brent's mother stopped in and said hello. She lives next door in a separate little building that she called a "granny flat". She moved her just recently. They found the building near Christchurch and moved it here. She evidently helps out in the cleaning business, as she came by to make some business calls.
As you can see, it was not a tremendously exciting day. I only rode about three hours as it was getting cooler and damper and there didn't seem to be another place to stop for another 30km and 40km+ seemed enough. It began raining soon after I arrived and it may continue tomorrow. If so, I may end up here another day.

Posted at 9:51:47 PM  

Hot And Sunny, Finally

I left Christchurch this morning and made it to Rakaia, about 60km south.
I left fairly late (nearly 10am) as I had a long conversation over breakfast with another solo cyclist who was staying at the hostel. He was about the same age as I, but about 6'4" and built like a football player. He had ridden inland from Picton and through the hills and over Lewis Pass to get to Christchurch. He said that it was easy cycling, that the North Island was harder since the hills there were short, but steep and here the grades were more reasonable. He had started in the North Island and ridden south. He was in much better shape than I, obviously.
He is a British oil geologist and would periodically stop working and go on a cycle trip. His first one was South Africa to Uganda. His second was Anchorage to the tip of South America (that one took almost two years). He did say that he wouldn't do the African trip again; It has gotten too dangerous. He's currently living in Zambia, when not cycling.
I took a look at his bike, which was just a simple low end Trek Mountain Bike. The big difference was in the gearing. His rear cluster was more like my old one, but the small chainwheel was much smaller than mine. He had much better hill climbing choices than I, not that I would be able to follow him with similar gearing.
My limitations in the kitchen really showed last night. While my chicken and vegetable stir-fry over rice was pretty good. I was in a hostel full of adults who knew how to cook and, I have to admit, had better food resources. One advantage of auto travel from hostel to hostel is that you can bring lots of food supplies.
Summer has returned. It was sunny and very warm today. The Canterbury Plains lived up to their name; they were flat, flat and more flat. One disadvantage of riding on the flats is the lack of coasting opportunities. I basically pedalled constantly when moving. At least the wind was with me today. It was 15km before I got out of Christchurch and its dense suburbs. The end of the suburbs was pretty abrupt. There was the Giant Cookie Factory and then it was suddenly countryside.
Needless to say my first rest stop was the Giant Cookie Factory (Home of the World's Largest Cookie). They are in the Guinness Book of Records for making a five ton chocolate chip cookie. I bought a couple as road snacks (gotta keep up the energy, you know). They are actually very good.
Most of the ride was sheep, cows, fields and more of the same. There was one point, however, when I cam to the end of a stand of trees and a huge vista of the mountains to the west opened up. I will post the panorama once I've put it together.
What I didn't expect, once I got out of Christchurch, was the traffic. It was constant. It seemed that half the population of the South Island was out on Route 1 today. I don't think that there were more than two or three times than I could actually hear the bike, due to the traffic noise. I think the noise is exacerbated by the way they pave the road, since the gravel pressed into tar is pretty rough surfaced compared to asphalt paving. It also make pedalling harder since there is more rolling resistance.
There really is a two kilometer long bridge, with no shoulder, just before you get to Rakaia. It was a little intimidating because of the traffic. The last half of it, however, had just been resurfaced with asphalt paving. I immediately gained 5kph when I hit that part.
There was not a choice of accommodation in Rakaia, so I'm am staying at a B&B which is a little above my desired price range. It is NZ$60 for the night. It is very nice though. It is called the St. Ita's Guesthouse and is a converted convent and parochial school next door to St.Ita's Catholic Church. It is a pretty brick building with some stained glass transoms over the doors and windows, high ceilinged rooms and nice wood floors and panelled walls. It is also surrounded by nice gardens; the view from my room is of a formal garden with fountain and pool. My room is certainly the most comfortable that I've stayed in with a double bed and my own, very nice, shower and a large supply of big towels.
The St. Ita's Guesthouse particulars:
  • St. Ita's Guesthouse
  • Ken & Miriam Cutforth
  • 11 Barhill/Methven Road
  • Rakaia, New Zealand
  • tel:+64 3 302 7546
  • mailto:st.itas_rakaia@xtra.co.nz
  • http://www.stitas.co.nz
Rakaia is a typical small farm service town that the train runs through. Some businesses which supply agricultural and building supplies, gas station, post office, school, community center, small stores, two churches and two pubs and a few streets of in town homes. I had dinner at one of the pubs. I had Hoki, a local deep sea white fish. It came breaded, which probably meant it was frozen, not fresh, but once I stripped the breading off, I had two nice real fillets. It was pretty tasty. Since the dinner came with chips, I passed on the sticky date pudding.
The hosts, Miriam and Ken are about my age. Miriam is from this area, but moved to Auckland a long time ago and met Ken, who is from there. They moved here about seven years ago for an easier lifestyle. The guesthouse, alone, doesn't quite support them and Ken works in Ashburton, the district center. They have a very nice 13 year old Golden Retriever named Zack.
All in all, it was a nice, but not very exciting day, but I got my first look at the plains, pretty plain (or is that plain pretty?). It was just rather tiring.

Posted at 9:19:07 PM  

Daily Digest 12 Feb 2002

  • Cycle Dist: 42.6km,
  • Total Ascent: 66meters
  • Ave. Speed: 18.03kph
  • Riding Time: 2:22
  • Total Elapsed Time: 3:33
  • Spent: NZ$30.00
  • Start: St. Ita's Guesthouse, Rakaia
  • End: Adventure Homestay, Ashburton (10km south of)

Posted at 9:04:35 PM  

Daily Digest 11 Feb 2002

  • Cycle Dist: 64.8km,
  • Total Ascent: less than 212m
  • Ave. Speed: 21.5kph
  • Riding Time: 3:01
  • Total Elapsed Time: 5:41
  • Spent: NZ$82.80
  • Start: The Old Countryhouse, Christchurch
  • End: St. Ita's Guesthouse, Rakaia

Posted at 9:00:18 PM  

Last update: 2/22/02; 10:27:30 PM
Copyright 2002 - Steven Magnell

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