New Zealand post 7: THE LONG, LONG ROAD TO REEFTON
As we head out of town, we are on the lookout for some good bread for lunch. I spy a bakery sign, but when we enquire we are told ” you don’t bake bread in a bakery”. ” Hey? What do you bake then?” “Pies, mate, it’s all about pies”. Strange! We try the next one – same story. Ok, so it’s pies for lunch or settle for packaged supermarket bread. We opt for pies – a cauliflower curry for me and a chicken pumpkin for Steve.
4 hours later, after a pleasant trundle through farmlands and alongside the river, we settle down on the side of the road, cover ourselves in midge muti and eagerly unpack our pies.
The verdict? Dry! So dry! Dry, dry pie! I need a full bottle of water to coax it down and a packet of salty crisps to add some taste. Steve’s is not much better. A good pie needs some gravy to add succulence and flavour. Disappointing, but they fill a hole and we pedal on…
We are now climbing properly, heading towards the Maruia Saddle. There’s a sign warning of rocky surfaces and stream crossings-4×4 recommended. Yay, sounds like fun! And indeed it is. Lovely and cool too, under the canopy of trees. It reminds us of the old Stormsriver Pass. When we pass a small waterfall, I am under it in a flash, clothes and all. I get an immediate ice cream headache, but it is so refreshing and the cooling effect lasts for ages after, as the water evaporates from my sodden clothing.
Then there’s a rude awakening as we reach the Highway from Hell and once again have to run the gauntlet. Luckily there’s no barrier on the left, so we can bail into the ditch when necessary. I stop counting at 15 squashed carcasses!
There’s a small plane that keeps flying overhead. It’s dumping
Loads of something yellowish and powdery. Time and again it flies over and releases it’s load, which wafts down over us. Whatever it is, we are certainly taking it into our lungs with every breath. It’s doing my head in. We need to get the hell out of here!!
Steve is riding at his normal non-plussed pace, but I can’t wait. I put foot and sprint to get out of the drop zone. When I reach the top of the hill, there’s a Super Hazard Zone in a field, with a wierd machine scooping up a powdery substance into a great cone. In comes the plane, lands, turns around and as the machine pulls up alongside, it opens a flap in the roof and the load is dumped inside. Off the plane goes, trailing residue in it’s wake and the truck loads again. I watch this procedure multiple times as I wait for Steve. The turnaround time is astonishing. What the heck are they dumping, I wonder…?
At about 70km we pull off the road into a small Motel, where we get a cold Coke and assess our options. The planned 124 is looking ambitious. This place is full, so we won’t be staying here. We’ll have to push on to Springs Junction 20km further. We’re told the Motel is a bit dodge, but it’ll have to do. It’s a very long 20km. It’s boiling hot and everything is starting to hurt – sore bum, hot foot, neck and shoulders in a spasm, hungry, thirsty, irritable… OMG, I have never been so happy to see a grotty Motel!!
But wouldn’t you know it, they’re FULL!!!
Our only option now is to push on a further 44km to Reefton! It’s already 17h30. We’ll have to eat first, so we order toasties and coffee and chat to Matt from Sheffield, who’s cycling the length of the country solo. He’s got a problem with his gear housing, which has cracked, so Steve attempts to help, but we finally leave him at 18h30, sure he will come sailing past in his 20-something body on his lightweight steed in no time.
The only good thing about the impending 44 km, is that it’s all on tar and after an initial 8km climb, the rest is supposed to be all downhill. Sounds good, but I take it with a pinch of salt.
Actually, I’m feeling pretty good after the break and have a definite second wind. I’m really enjoying the climb. Steve is plodding along as usual. I try to urge him on. ” Come on babe. I’m sure if you dig deep you’ll find that you have a speed inside you that is faster than dead slow. If you can just go 2km an hour faster, maybe we’ll make it in before dark…”
But it’s no good. His pace is his pace. It’s never going to change and in this lifetime, try as I might, I doubt I’ll ever gain sufficient equanimity not to get frustrated.
I decide to tackle the hill at my own pace and wait at the top. I am comfortable that there is enough traffic that if he runs into any trouble someone will help him, and presumably alert me. And of course, Matt is coming up behind as well…
At some point we pull over to assess where we’re at. 20km to go. “Ok, we can do this”, I encourage Steve. “Just think of top of Chappies to Camps Bay without the Suikerbossie climb – piece of cake!”
We finally roll into Reefton at 21h30 just as the light is fading. The campsite is the first thing on the left as we enter town. We both roll straight past without consultation. Not camping tonight if we can help it!!
The next thing on the right is Wilson’s Hotel. Looks a bit dodge, but fuckit, we’re not searching further. Steve enquires and comes back thumbs up – just $50 for a double room and we are the only people here!! We park our bikes in the passage and have our pick of rooms. We are too late for food and there is nothing open in town, so dinner is not happening tonight- that’s ok, we’re too tired to eat anyway. The manager locks up and tells us he’ll only be back at 10h00 in the morning. We can just pull the hotel door locked behind us when we leave. We literally have the run of the place and wander naked to the bathroom, where we indulge in a deep hot bath and wash our clothes.
Then we realize Matt never passed us. We wonder what happened and hope he’s ok, before passing out on the very wonky mattress with the very lumpy cushions – it’s Heaven. We’re just so happy not to be camping!!