New Zealand post 13: INTO THE WEST WIND!
It’s pleasant enough when we set off and we’re happy to be back on small country roads. The last 2 days we’ve been on a popular tourist route and have shared the highway with plenty of trucks and RVs – really not my bag, but unavoidable.
I notice a number of huge, sculpted Pine hedges lining the road. I’m impressed by their size and perfect pruning. By and by they are everywhere, creating amazing patterns across the landscape. This should have been an early warning to us. The hedgerows, it slowly becomes apparent, are giant wind breaks.
It starts as a breezy cross wind, which is actually quite pleasant, but gradually it gets stronger and stronger. After 30km, when we turn onto a busier road, it really starts to show it’s teeth. The trucks have joined us again, so we are grateful that the strong, biting gusts blow us to the left and not into the oncoming traffic. I’ve have taken to riding in the rough anyhow, just to be safe, as the increasing noise of the howling wind blocks out the sound of vehicles and Steve’s trusty mirror is fine and well, but if I get ahead of him, I can’t hear him calling out.
I’m actually having fun, gritting my teeth and rising to the challenge of battling to stay upright on the bike. Steve, not so much. He’s always more cautious and chooses to walk when things get hairy. It’s when I dismount that you know it’s getting really dangerous! As we head uphill through the Rakaia Gorge, there’s an insane wind tunnel that comes ripping down the narrow channel between the mountain and the river. I am standing on the pedals, pushing with all my might, when a powerful gust puts me on the ground. I attempt to get up, but can barely lift the bike.
I stay down for a while until Steve reaches me and together we hoist the bike upright and I attempt to push. It’s so wild by now, that small stones are flying off the mountain slope to the left and ripping into our legs. We cross over to the right, where the drop off to the river below is steep, but at least we’re escaping the fallout and can see the oncoming traffic.
“If we can just make it round the corner, I think it’ll be ok?” I venture hopefully. Steve agrees, so we sit awhile amongst the straining grasses and then gather ourselves for a final push.
It’s still very breezy when we make it past the gorge, but feels to me like the serious danger is over, so I continue to ride in the rough on the right, while Steady Steve walks all the way to the top of the hill.
At 51 Km we turn left towards the ski resort of Methven and HALLELUJAH, the wind is behinde us and we are literally FLYING!! Better enjoy this while we can, ‘cos it’s unlikely to happen too often!
We scream into town at 67km. Our planned destination of Mt Somers is 10km down the road, but it’s into the wind. No ways we’re doing that again!!
We check out for the day and check in to a comfy lodging. We shop up a storm, cook up a storm and watch it blow up a storm outside, as we snuggle in for the night. The weather report says wind from behinde tomorrow morning then swinging with rain in the afternoon.
We need to get away early and ride like the wind to make Geraldine before the shit hits the fan!!