New Zealand post 18: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS…
The clouds are looking menacing as we head towards the mountains. We’ve lightened our load considerably, but need to carry all our warm gear plus rain kit and of course, a ton of food.
It’s a chilly 17km ride on a flat, dirt road to get to the turnoff to the
Manuherikia Track, which heads for 4km along rough farm roads and then turns up a PROPER 8km 4×4 track. There’s a sign calling for help with eradication of Wallabies – seems those carcasses we saw on the road weren’t Kangaroos (which are actually much larger), but their smaller cousins, who give their name to the Ozzie rugby team. Like almost all creatures in NZ, apart from birds, cows and sheep, they too must be eliminated!
This raises all manner of questions in my mind as to the moral issue of Man deciding which creatures deserve to live and which are pests and must die. Seems to me like a form of animal Aryanism. It’s a complicated debate and I don’t have the answers, but I do think it’s question that needs to be asked…
I ponder the above as I steadily make my way up the steep, rocky climb. Wowzer, this is tough. I’m glad we don’t have the bags!!Steve does a lot of walking and I ride ahead in bursts, then rest and look back to admire the view. As we near what seems like the summit, I speed ahead to don my warm kit in anticipation of the downhill, but as I round the corner, another long up reveals itself. “Sorry Babe, false alarm. It’s far from over yet!” On we trundle and are almost at the top, when I hear what sounds like a car? I glance back and sure enough there’s a 4×4. With 2 Japies on board nogal – she, married to a Kiwi, plus grandma visiting from East London and the 3 kids.
We descend cautiously, but faster than the car. I am glad for no bags, but sorry for no suspension. It’s a very rough ride! We stop occasionally to rest our hands.
When we come to a river crossing, it’s all excitement, as we get the camera ready on video and prepare to capture the ride across. I even go back to try again when I get my gearing all wrong. By the time we get to crossing # 10, we are no longer taking pics, by # 15 our feet are starting to feel numb, by # 20 we are getting weary, making mistakes and suffering a few injuries, by # 25 we can no longer feel our feet. We stop counting and start praying for the river crossings to end!! The 4×4 passes us, “Wow, you’ve done so well crossing all these rivers”, they cheer enthusiastically. We are too dazed to answer, but wave weakly…
Mercifully, we finally reach the end of the gnarly track at 48km and turn back onto a gravel road – never thought I’d be glad to do that, but I am so worn out from the incessant pounding on my rigid frame and from the intense concentration of the river crossings (some of which were really deep and flowing hard), that it’s a relief to just turn the pedals. We are very grateful that the threatening rain hasn’t materialized and that the wind isn’t in our faces. Buoyed by the thought of what could have been and by what we hope is awaiting us, we put our heads down and pound out the remaining 36km to go before we reach our mystery lodge, “God, I hope they have a bath!”
We enter the 1-street town of Oturehua. Our guest house is supposed to be 300m from The centre of town. We cycle 1 km out then U-turn, as we realize it must be on the other side. This is confirmed by some friendly locals shutting up the General Store for Christmas. They’ve just finished freshly varnishing the floor, as it will have all of tomorrow to dry. They direct us onto the old rail path – ” it’s just past the church, about 1.5km out of town, with the flags”. Off we go again and I feel a single big rain drop go plop on my cheek. Better get a move on!
“Here, flags, this must be it…” No, some other lodge, on we go, now 2km out. Plop, plop, plop and just as we’re thinking we’re on a wild goose chase and about to get soaked, there it is, Marchburn High Country Lodge -YAY!! As we cycle up, Steve and Dahlene and our hosts, Graeme and Donna, come dashing out to greet us. Before we can say Jack Spratt I am downing a beer and Steve has a coke and then out come the coffee and mince pies. Our hosts thought that when Steve said we were arriving by bike, he meant motor bike. They can’t believe we’re travelling on bicycles and declare that we are their most adventurous arrivals to date! I must say, we are thoroughly knackered, but it’s been a truly Epic day and we are feeling quite pleased with ourselves.
And then I head for the loo and lo and behold, a bath! Oh Joy! I waste no time in getting the hot water going and am soon luxuriating in a blissful soak. I look around for shampoo and am faced with 3 little bottles. Hmmm, now which is which? I attempt to read the labels, but it’s no good. I need my glasses. “Steve…”, “STEve”, “STEVe!” , “STEVE!!!”, but to no avail. There are 2 closed doors between me and the lounge, where he is firmly ensconced in front of the fire with a pot of coffee. There’s nothing for it. I have to get out of the bath and go dripping through to the room to dig in my panniers for my glasses! Bugger this old age lark sucks!
I spend ages luxuriating, creaming my body & drying my hair, then wrapped in a fluffy gown, I venture out to see about dinner. I gave Dahele a list in the morning, so hopefully we have everything we need to whip up a fabulous Christmas feast. Our guest house consists of two lovely en suites with a large lounge and dining room between the two and a fully equipped kitchen attached.
It’s already 19h00 by the time we get the chicken in the oven. We won’t eat before 21h00. Ah well, let’s open the wine and get this party started!
When dinner eventually comes, we are FAMISHED and a little tipsy, but that only adds to the pure deliciousness – crispy roast chicken, roast potatoes, bright, green broccoli, tender asparagus, sweet carrots and gravy, followed by Bavarian chocolate torte. After so many nights of pasta, rice or mash, this is a feast fit for kings and we feel like royalty. In fact we decide then and there to declare tomorrow a rest day and spend another night. Seems like the right thing to do, considering it is Christmas …🌲