New Zealand post 2: LORD OF THE CHAIN RINGS
We cook up our oats and are up and away before 07h00. Just out of town, we spy a bike track that leads off the main drag onto a forest path. We decide to give it a go and it turns out to be the most extraordinary ride through indigenous forest with hundreds of giant Tree Ferns and huge, moss covered trees, that look like hairy, shaggy monsters. It’s not hard to imagine Gollum popping out from behind a trunk or an army of trolls marching through the undergrowth. This is true Tolkien country!
The riding is fairly challenging, especially with fully-laden bikes on a narrow track with lots of short, sharp uphills and some tricky hairpin bends, but it is exhilarating and far preferable to the tar road down below.
Every now and again the forest opens up to reveal sweeping views across the Marlborough Sound, with islands dotted roundabout all covered in dense, green foliage – a testimony to the volcanic history of the area.
The morning flies by for me and I am feeling fresh as we pull into the country town of Havelock, but the challenging trail has taken its toll on Steve, who is starting to flag. We decide to look for a sheltered spot to have our picnic lunch. Now that we are out of the forest, the wind has really picked up and clouds are gathering thick and fast. We have been flirting with the rain all morning, but the relationship has not yet gotten serious. We hope it remains non-committal.
It is at this point that our usual Steve/Di bikepacking dilemma rears it’s head. We are only 38km in. I feel great, Steve is knackered. It’s 14h00 and he is making not-so-subtle noises about calling it a day. I would happily go for another 3 or 4 hours. I make it abundantly clear that the decision is his alone to make. I will go with whatever he decides.
After our lunch break and a large coffee, he decides to push on the 25km to Pelorus Bridge campsite. I know the rain is due for real around 16h00, but reckon we should easily make it before then, as it’s all tar and relatively flat.
Ha! Famous last words!!
We are literally crawling at a snail’s pace with Steve stopping from time-to-time to stretch out a cramp and bemoaning his decision not to stay at Havelock, when about 4 km from the campsite, the Heavens open with a vengeance. We are soaked to the skin in 30 seconds flat. Thunder booms and lightening crashes and the sky darkens as if it’s night. Within minutes we are cycling through deep puddles, which we can’t skirt, as we need to keep as far left as possible, to avoid the cars, which most likely can’t see us at all in the poor visibility. It’s the longest 4 km of my Life!
We FINALLY arrive at the campsite like 2 drowned rats. “Please tell me you have a hut. We can’t put our tent up in this!” , I implore the reception lady, who kindly assures me they do not, “but”, she says with a twinkle in her eye, ” maybe we can make a plan…”
We end up in a store room, with a single bed mattress in one corner and 4 heaters around the walls. In a flash we have a wash line up and our sodden kit is hung up to dry. When the rain finally abates, we venture out to the showers, then cook up our proverbial pasta and I thank God that I decided to decant last night’s 1/2 bottle of red wine into a plastic water bottle instead of tossing it !!
Tomorrow is supposed to rain twice as hard as today. I wonder if we’ll get away or be forced to hole up in our 5 star hotel and wait it out…