Monday, March 22, 2010

The Wee McGregor – Return to Racing

After the fiasco that was last year’s Moa Hunt my urge to race completely disappeared, I couldn’t be bothered training and I wasn’t feeling the love on the bike. Then there were the injuries over Christmas, the change in career and the focus on my recent tour that added up to me playing about on my bikes for a while and then training for long, slow rides over consecutive days, rather than fast paced races. Well all that has changed.

My eight days of riding from Greymouth to Cromwell has left me feeling fitter and stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life, and it is a great feeling. I was planning on doing the Vulcaniser last weekend, however torrential rain in North Canterbury lead to that race being cancelled and my focus shifted to the Wee McGregor race in Tekapo. The last time I did this race was 2 years ago, my broken elbow preventing me from doing it last year. Back then it was the biggest race I’d ever done and my only goal was to complete it. There was plenty of bike pushing and taking it easy during the race, but this time would be different.

I was really rather excited about this race and set myself a couple of goals. Firstly to make the top 5 in my division. The second to do it in 2hr 30min. Well the weather has something to say about my time goal, with a very strong headwind on the way out, which then swung round on the return journey to be a headwind for the last 10kms also. This meant that Rob Soothill who won it finished in just over 2hrs, while in the year I’d last competed the winner finished in about an hour 40mins.

The day didn’t start exactly perfectly either as I realised that although I’d bought delicious yoghurt and berries with me I’d forgotten my muesli, so I had to confront my nemesis once more and chow down on a One Square Meal bar. These are much more edible with yoghurt and berries. A bottle of V inside me after registration and a warm up ride out to the lake and back and I was rearing to go. The start was brutally fast and I quickly went backwards and found myself fighting the wind on my own. I saw a man not too far ahead of me and sped up to catch onto his wheel. That went well for a wee while, but on the first pinch climb he dropped me and I spent the next 10kms out on my own in no man’s land. Twas to be the story of my race.

After battling on for those 10 wind-swept kilometres I glanced behind me and saw that there was a largeish bunch a few hundred metres behind me. I dropped the pace and waited for them to catch me. I wanted to rest my legs a bit before I hit the climb because I was determined to ride nearly all of it this year. Note: the whole climb has only ever been ridden once so I certainly had no delusions of doing that. The bunch caught me and invited me to tuck in and worked extremely well, using hand signals and checking on other riders. It was great. We were soon catching those people up ahead of me, including the man who got away from me on that first pinch. In no time at all we were turning off the thick gravel and onto the rough, rocky, rabbit hole strewn farm track.

My legs felt great as I hit the first steepish section and soon almost everyone from the bunch was disappearing behind me. A young boy and a fit looking woman were up ahead and I just kept riding as around me people started walking. The wind was still howling in my face and when it wasn’t in my face it was threatening to push me over as I negotiated the rocky sections. Soon I’d left the young boy and the fit looking woman behind me as my legs ate the climb and the Anthem performed like a dream over the technical rocky bits. I still had to walk 4 stupidly steep, bouldery pinches, but having the light bike made all the difference in the world and I didn’t have to stop and get my breath back once. Slightly behind schedule I reached the top of the climb in 1hr 37 minutes, unlocked my suspension and took off. My legs felt amazing and for the first time in my life I felt what it was like to get to the top of a climb after working hard and still be able to power the descent. It felt damn good. I was soon barrelling along over the rocks and holes and ruts at nearly 30kph and the Anthem floated over everything like a dream. I hucked over rocks and powered through long rough sections. My elbow quickly started complaining at this bumpy rough treatment, but I just pushed the pain away and flew. I was completely by myself. I could see for miles in all directions and there was no one ahead of me and no one behind me. To my right the lake gleamed aqua-blue in the spots of sunlight breaking through the clouds. I looked at the Alps and thought that it was only two weeks ago I was alone on the other side of them, in lush green forests, rather than this barren but stunning high country land.

Ahead I could see the marker arrows stretched into the distance and I powered on. I turned into the next valley and could see a couple of riders far ahead. I decided I would catch them and as I got closer I saw one was wearing a bright pink top, which spurred me on faster, Women! Riding through the creeks and across the paddocks was a blur and soon I was very close to my prey. We headed up a little climb and turned off towards the river and soon I was in their dust as I raced down towards it. I surged through the river and passed them both on the climb out. It was so very satisfying I had to stop myself from yelling “YES!” at the top of my lungs.

Next came the most unpleasant section of the ride, along the river. The enormous rainfall of last winter had changed the river’s course and we were riding on freshly bulldozed track made up of big loose rocks, deep drifts of shingle and continuous bumpy uneven ground. It was hard work, but keeping up the speed helped greatly. I was very happy to reach the site of my previous downfall, where I fell into the river, for it meant the end of the horrid shingle track. I crossed the river with no problems and took off on the last 8kms of the course.

The wind struck me and I cursed heartily. I looked at my speedo and saw that my hopes of making it back in 2hr 30mins were dashed by the combination of sluggish shingle and this wind. It was meant to be behind me! I’d earned it by working so hard to get here. On I plowed. Up the next climb and into the direct blast of the wind. My speed dropped right off, but my anger at the injustice and heartlessness of the wind spurred me on. I hammered my legs and soon I reached the last crest of the race and looked down to the forest where the finish line waited. I took a swig of Replace, shifted up into a nice hard gear and yelled at the wind, “Let’s finish this thing!” Spending plenty of time alone on a race has you doing slightly crazy things like this.

I flew down off the hill, tucked in and pedalling hard. My speed shot up to over 40 and I grinned as I danced through the ruts and round the corners. Soon I was in the forest and smashing my way up the last few pinches. On the very last one I was almost at the top when I looked up and didn’t see a dirty great rock in front of me. I went straight into it and tipped off, laughing and cursing equally. I leapt back on the bike and powered down the finishing hill, blasting at 55kph towards the line. I felt like roaring with triumph.

My legs were toasted, but I had raced hard the whole race. I felt like a racer, rather than someone who participates in races and the feeling was amazing. I hadn’t achieved my time goal, but I was happy with 2hr 48 in the conditions and it is much better than me 3hrs 10 the last time I did it. At the prize giving I was stoked to get a spot prize of the Ground Effect Hot Toddy, which will come in handy with winter coming up. I was even more stoked when I got to see the list of times and saw that I’d managed to get 5th! Yeah.

On the way home in the car, I knew I’d gone as fast as I could and had ridden the rough terrain well. With a migraine pulsing through my head and stomach I was happy that I’d left everything out on the course. My racing buzz is back stronger than ever and I can’t wait to do the Hanmer 4hr race on the 10th of April.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Importance of a Great LBS

Firstly, for those of you not acronym savvy, LBS stands for Local Bike Shop. This does not necessarily mean the bike shop closest to your work or home, it means the bike shop you most regularly frequent, the shop the you entrust to look after your precious babies. Before I became frankly obsessed with riding I went through a number of LBSs and they were part of the reason I never really got into biking sooner.

As a chick, and a chick who doesn’t look athletic, I was often talked down to in bike shops. I really don’t like the feeling of going into any sort of shop and feeling intimidated by the staff, or worse yet, ignored and that has happened to me often in other bike shops, and still does when I visit other shops. Now I find it amusing because I have an amazing LBS and this behaviour by other shops just reinforces that my LBS will be the one that gets my hard earned money.

My LBS is Hub Cycles in Tower Junction. It’s the shop that sold me my beloved Jamis, the bike that sunk its chain-ring into my heart and got me hooked on this great sport. From day one Andrew and Pete have been great to me, they’ve never made me feel stupid, they’ve given me helpful advice, they’ve listened when I’ve come in with issues and they’ve always gone out of their way to help me. Now that I actually know a bit about bikes they know that and talk to me like I know what I’m on about, even when I don’t. They know my name and always ask how my riding is going. Andrew in particular mocks me when I’ve been a muppet and had a stupid crash, which is fair enough, because he also asks how my injuries are healing too. And on top of all this they do a fantastic job of looking after my bikes, even my pre-loved ones that didn’t come from them.

Why am I extolling their virtues so profusely? Firstly because I think they deserve it for all the help they’ve given me over the years and Andrew’s great help setting me up with stuff for my trip. Secondly because we’ve just bought two more amazing bikes off them and they were so helpful and gave us such a great deal on the pair of them.

My lovely husband and I have been together for 5 wonderful years and to celebrate this I wanted to get him a new bike. His old Enduro wasn’t treating him right and he wasn’t riding much anymore, so to remedy this I started searching for a new bike. To cut a long story short we visited many, many bike shops in the quest for a great bike we ended up going with the awesome bike the boys at Hub suggested. And here it is.

This bike is so beautiful I’ve been jumping up and down with happiness at the thought of my hubby riding it. Not only did they give us a great deal on the bike they set it up perfectly for him to get out on it straight away. A few tweaks and it will be mint for the race this weekend.

Speaking of mint (sorry, that was a bad segway), while hubby was sorting out his bike I was noticing that the BMX I’ve been drooling over for the past 8 months was no longer on display. Oh no! Luckily for me, it was just out the back making room for new season’s stock. So I took it for a test ride round the carpark and it was mint. Chilly mint to be exact. My wonderful husband did his best to convince me that I wasn’t getting it so he could surprise me with it, but as soon as I rode it and he saw my enormous grin I knew it would be mine. He still managed to surprise me yesterday though because I thought I’d be getting it next week so seeing it sitting the back of the car yesterday was great. Here it is.

Is she beautiful? (I’ll completely understand if you don’t think so, she’s a love it or hate it style gal). So today I’m off to play at the BMX track in Hornby and see if I can pump some rollers and manual some jumps. Once upon a time I couldn’t understand why people would have multiple bikes. Now I have 5 completely different bikes and I wouldn’t be without any of them. Thanks Hub Cycles for making me fall in love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tour debrief – Were those new pants good?

Yes, thank you, they were. If you don’t know what I’m referring to I shall enlighten you. I recently bought a pair of Ground Effect’s Helter Skelter rainpants and I was quite excited about testing them out in the legendary West Coast rain. It took a number of days for the weather to oblige with a stonking downpour, but on Day 5 the rains came down. Result, a very thorough test of the rainpants. The Helter Skelters are ¾ pants with Velcro tabs at the bottom and cunningly built bendy knees. This means it’s very easy to slip these babies on over shoes in a hurry and then fasten the Velcro tabs so you don’t have flappy legs. My pants performed great in the heavy rain and mud of my trip and kept me warm and pretty dry. Of course biking in them for over almost 2 hours meant I did sweat in them a bit, but I didn’t feel like my legs were broiling in their own juices. And although they swish when you walk (I kinda like this), they are quiet on the bike.

As a bonus I found them really well fitting and pretty stylish. As you can see they go rather well with a pair of high heels which then show off your hard earned calf definition rather nicely. They also look good with cycling shoes, which I would recommend. They are hard wearing as I discovered when I fell in the garden during my photoshoot because of my ridiculous shoes.
A bit of mud from falling on the pointy rocks, but otherwise still looking good as new. I would definitely recommend these pants not just for commuting, but also for throwing in the bottom of your bag if you’re heading on an epic ride as they are light and pack down to a tiny package. Helter Skelters = WIN

My other big purchase before the trip was a lovely new pair of Bontrager Race MTB shoes with fancy adjustable inner-sole. I will admit that one of the reasons I got these shoes is because they looked so good. The main reason was their comfort. I wanted a shoe stiff enough for hours of pedalling, but something I could also walk round in since I wasn’t taking any other shoes with me. These babies fulfilled that brief perfectly. Sure my feet got sore after 4 or 5 hours of riding, but that’s to be expected. I didn’t get any numbness or specific point pain, which was great. Also off the bike I had no trouble tracking through forests, traipsing over rocky valleys, walking up steep hills or leaping over streams in these shoes. They had plenty of grip in all situations and there was just enough flex in the foot that I didn’t feel like I was tottering around looking for a latte. That fact that the lovely boys at the Hub gave me a great deal on these shoes helped also. These shoes are brilliant and if I wasn’t worried about wearing my cleats down I would live in them. Bontrager Race MTB shoes = WIN!!!

Packing for a trip the West Coast is very important. I had packed for rain, meaning my panniers were lined with draw-string trash bags and all my various bits and pieces were sealed in zip-slide bags. I choose the zip-slides rather than the zip-locks because of the ease of use. Slide and sealed. Well not entirely. I don’t know if I got a bad batch, but 90% of my Glad zip-slides broke, some while I was packing. I lived in constant fear that the bags containing my Replace powder would break and everything I had in that pannier would become Orange and Mango flavoured. Luckily these were the only bags that didn’t break. In the future I’ll be going for zip LOCK. Note: using lots of little bags to bundle up toiletries etc is great for packing, even if you’re not heading to a region of high rainfall. Glad Zip-slide bags = FAIL

There are two things I couldn’t have done without on my trip (well apart from clothes and food and my bike and stuff). Horley’s Replace and Keywin Shammy Cream. I chose, wisely I think, to only take bottles on my trip and not carry a back pack. Every day I would start with one bottle of water and one bottle of Replace. On a short day I’d drink most of the water and a bit of replace. On a long day I’d drink most of the water and a couple of bottles of Replace. I didn’t bonk and I didn’t cramp so I think this strategy was rather successful. I seemed to recover well, and to help with this I took 300mg of Magnesium every night. Along with starting the day set up for good hydration, I’d start the day set up for sitting on a bike seat for hours by applying Keywin liberally to my shammy. That stuff rocks, and I’m not going into further detail on that matter.

My final product review will be of my nemesis the One Square Meal bar, made by Cookie Time. Yes I hated them. Yes I thought they were too sweet and hurt my teeth. Yes I dreaded putting it in my mouth and chewing them was an act of will power. BUT they are extremely good nutritionally. When I got to Okarito after 6 hrs plus on the bike I knew that my OSMs would provide me with enough of what I needed to get me through the next day. When the going got tough on the big days and I was ravenous, an OSM would sort me out (and its disgustingness would distract me from my ails). I would and will use them again, in races and on huge rides, they are very clever food. If only they were savoury.

So that’s the product reviews done onto the more important stuff, what this trip meant for me. When I first conceived of doing this trip it was so daunting that I planned it out in 40km days because I honestly didn’t think I could do all that riding day after day. I soon realised that a couple of hours riding a day was silly and got training to see what I could handle. After making a more realistic itinerary I really focussed being able to ride for at least 50 or 60kms on consecutive days. Even so I still doubted myself and was nervous about my chest injury and my ability to keep going if I bonked in the middle of nowhere.

I was also a bit nervous about spending so much time alone. I have been a pretty solitary creature in the past, I guess that’s one of the reasons being a writer suits me, but since meeting my husband and getting married I haven’t really spent any length of time completely alone. Would I go insane, would I get depressed? These sorts of questions buzzed about before I left. How would I handle any dramas? Would I get freaked out sleeping in a tent with no one I knew around? Question after question popped up, and by the time I left I was pretty nervous.

How did I go mentally then? I thrived. I loved flying along the road, only having myself to answer to and depend on. After the tough work situation I was in last year my confidence had been battered a bit and this trip not only restored it, but built it bigger and better than ever. I conquered my fears and pushed my physical boundaries further than I thought was possible. I am glad I did this alone, I chatted with strangers, I wrote in my journal, I talked to cows and birds, I sung and I swore and I loved it. Not only has this trip provided my was a plethora of material for my writing, it has returned me a state of happiness and given me back a feeling of capability that was a bit lacking before I left.

We are so lucky to live a beautiful place like New Zealand where we can so easily get out and experience anything from soaring mountains, wild beaches, dense forests, surging rivers and pure clean, sweet air. This country is still a safe place. Not once did I feel nervous or uncomfortable on my trip, or wish I had someone with me for safety. Not only that, on the West Coast the drivers were all, with the exception to prove the rule of the one bus driver in Hokatika, exceptionally courteous. Milk tankers and tractors, buses and campervans all gave me a wide birth when they could, and in return when they couldn’t, I pulled over. Which reminds me, I loved my lame rear view mirror mounted on my handlebar. It was fantastic. I could see traffic coming behind me and if there was a blind corner of traffic coming up I could move over. I know a lot of people think they are silly, but I would never do a tour without one now and I find myself glancing at my handlebars when I’m commuting and being disappointed that I have to twist round to see what’s coming up behind me.

So in summary I say, do a cycle tour. Get out and see the country. If you can handle your own company do it alone, otherwise take someone who you know well and can put up with your grumping/snoring/singing/madness. You don’t have to be super fit and strong to do it, I wasn’t when I left (I am very fit now though). If an overweight 35 year old can do it you can too. It doesn’t have to be 8 days, it doesn’t have to traverse great distances. Just a couple of days will give you the taste of the freedom that comes from carrying your accommodation with you and deciding when you stop and where you go. I’ve come back fit, strong and happy and rearing to get racing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tour in Pictures

Click the picture below to view a Picassa album of all my photos from the trip

Tour Day 8 – Finding limits and going past them

My last night of sleep on tour was a surreal one. My little A-frame house had no curtains across the high windows and the moonlight streamed in. I was woken by voices around 1am, a man and a woman who sounded drunk and upset. They were in the room behind me and the walls were paper thin so I could here every whisper as if they were in the same room as me. He tells her she’s safe here and urges her to go to sleep. It was weird and a bit creepy, but that’s what you get in backpackers.

The next morning I had a lovely huge cooked breakfast to make up for the lack of proper dinner last night. Around me many people were wandering about in lycra as a big group of cycle tourists on an organised tour sat down to eat. They left at the same time as me, them in their bus, me on my bike. Once upon a time I thought I’d like to do a supported tour, but this experience has completely changed that for me. I now know I’m very capable and can achieve anything I put my mind to, even if it is intimidating. With this thought in mind I resolved to get to Cromwell today, on this the last day of riding through the countryside alone. I felt positive and strong and donning arm warmers to ward off the high country morning chill I set off.

My legs definitely knew they’d had a big day yesterday, but they felt strong and soon I was whizzing along. The road along the edge of Lake Wanaka undulates a lot, up over high bluffs. The climbs aren’t large but there are many of them and it was difficult to find a nice rhythm as every time I’d get one going I’d crest the climb and be soaring down the other side. Luckily I had a hammering tailwind which sped me onwards. The lake looked beautiful in the rising sun and the countryside was a stark contrast to my previous 7 days of lush green forests and paddocks. It felt like home though and I was very, very happy. Unfortunately I was also very keen and pushed a bit harder than was really sensible as I wanted to make the 45km to Hawea by lunch.

Climbing up the road to where I crossed from Lake Wanaka to Lake Hawea I began passing a group of catered cycle tourists with their unladen light bikes and shiny lycra. I was filthy and weighed down by my 13kgs of gear on my lovely heavy Rocky Ell, but I was grinning as I spun up the hill. They all looked pained as they floated down the hill and a few complained of the wind as they went past. It made me think of the endless stream of motorists I’d seen during my trip, in particular those on my wet days. They all looked so unhappy in their vehicles, rushing to get to the next pretty place to stop for a quick look before hurrying on. True some looked happy and waved, but they were in a very small minority. Meanwhile I was constantly smiling, in the wind and the rain, grateful to be out in the beautiful land and taking in all nature had to offer me.

As I crested the hill I was hit by the hot Central sun and the most amazing smell of home. Sweet, ripe rosehips, on the hot air, with dirt and thyme, the smell welcomed me back into my land. I grinned as I raced down the road, happy in the sun and flying at 66kph, my bike feeling light and balanced as I soared through corners. Of course there were plenty more undulations before I got to Hawea and my legs were feeling pretty spent as I ground up the steep street leading to the middle of town and food. I grabbed a delicious Jimmies Pie and some fruit and junk food and sat down in the shade to refuel and rest. I knew I was tired, but I was still confident I could make the next 65ks to Cromwell. I rang my mum and told her I’d be in Cromwell by 4pm and set off.

Unfortunately I’d been a bit optimistic with my eating and resting and by Albert Town 5kms down the road I was sitting in the shade eating the last of my disgusting OSMs and having a bit more of a lie down. Luckily my last OSM was greatly improved by the bacon and cheese flavoured Shapes crumbs which had adhered to its entire surface. Take note Cookie Time, add some savoury to your OSMs and they will be much more delicious. Feeling fuller, but still tired I slogged along with a nasty cross wind buffeting me about. Finally I made it to the Wanaka to Cromwell road and the wind was once again behind me, but there were still undulations in front of me. A sign saying 7km to the Wanaka airport had me seriously considering calling my mum to come and get me, and I still had 45kms to go. I stopped for an ice cream at the Vintage Toy Museum (which was very cool and if I hadn’t been so tired and stinky I could have easily spent hours in there) and got back on the road.

By 2pm I’d made it to Lugget and rang mum again to warn her I’d be in Cromwell nearer 5pm at the slow pace I was travelling at. After Lugget the road flattened and begun to take a slight downward turn and I was soon speeding along at 25kph with the wind behind me. Phew I thought, I’ll make it after all. As I whizzed along the sun got hotter and hotter and I was later to learn that it was a 30 degree day that I was riding in. Things went great for the next 20 odd kilometres, a few rest breaks for fuel and shade and then at 3:30pm everything went pear shaped when the wind swung 180degrees and became a howling headwind, my worst nightmare. My spirits flagged under its unremitting pressure and I searched for a shady place to rest for a while. Finally I spotted some pine tree in the distance and made for them, flopping down amongst the Viper’s Blugoss, glad to be out of the sun. I felt pretty bad. My body was asking why I was doing this to it and I told it because I had to find out if I could. After 5 or 10 mins of reclining in the prickles I dragged myself up and jumped the fence. There were sprinklers on in the paddock and I was roasting. After sticking my head under the icey blasts and getting thoroughly soaked I felt much better and got back on the road.

The horrible, horrible road. I hated everything about this road, the chip was coarse and bumpy, the traffic was heavy and fast and didn’t move over at all for me, there was broken glass, there was no shade and no shelter from the wind. I just wanted it to be over. Around 4pm I made it to the 45th Parallel beside Lake Dunstan and stopped for a photo, but mainly for a rest. Back on the bike and I was running low on water. I continued on until a saw a vineyard driveway lined with willow trees. I pulled in and flopped down on the clay, eating some stale cookie and gulping down the last of my fluids. The owner of the driveway went past and smiled which was nice. I got back on the bike and the roofs of Cromwell were visible in the distant. Not far now. All I had to do was keep pedalling. I felt like I did the first time I did the Molesworth when everything hurt some much I had to keep making deals to keep going. No deals this time, just the mantra in my brain of pedal, pedal, pedal. Pedal, pedal, pedal. I didn’t look at my speedo, I couldn’t bear seeing how slow I was going. My bladder also kicked in with the complaining and 3kms out of Cromwell I gratefully stopped at Loburn beside the lake and used the public toilets to get some relief and to get some more water. I used the last of my Replace and then sat in the shade in the toilet block, sucking back my drink and thinking how sad it was I was sitting in a toilet block 3ks from my destination and not wanting to move.

I looked at my watch and saw that I could still get to Cromwell before 5pm and struggled back onto the bike and just pedalled. It was all I could do. Finally I was rounding the corner into Cromwell and for the first since the monstrosity was erected I was grateful to see the giant fruit. Mainly because sitting underneath them was my mum with her car. After much hugging and congratulating I loaded my bike on the back, threw my panniers on the back seat and collapsed into the passenger seat. I’d done it! Something that I didn’t think was possible for me a month ago. I’d ridden over 110kms in a day and been on the bike for over six and a half hours, and that was after doing a massive day previously. I have never felt so proud in my life, especially because I wasn’t the only one who didn’t think I could do it. It hurt, but I kept going. I wanted to stop at halfway it hurt so much, but I just kept going. I am stronger now than I’ve ever been before. And my reward for all this? My mum took me for a delicious real fruit ice cream (although she was worried I’d spoil my appetite for dinner, yeah right!) before driving back to Alex, a hot shower, a huge delicious roast meal and a big comfy bed. My journey over, I slept like a rock, a very happy rock.

Makarora to Cromwell – 114kms in 6hrs 36
Total journey 569kms in 34hr 01

Tour Day 7 – To cross the Southern Alps

Another great 11 hours sleep in the bag and another huge breakfast on the way. What a great morning. The sun was duelling with the thick clouds and when it did break through it was very very warm. I scoffed a good greasy spoon breakfast and to complete the feeling I had that I was in a UK cafe a larger than life English wideboy came to chat to me. Now don’t be confused by the term boy, this guy was probably in his late 50s, rather round, grey curly hair poking out from under a cheesecutter, shirt open to expose an horrific hairy chest with enormous gold chains fighting to tame the vegetation. He was like a walking caricature and he was lovely. He was truly amazed I was biking round by myself, said he’s chatted to a French girl who was doing the same sort of thing and thought we were crazy, but great. He had heaps of questions and was so intrigued he was even trying to drag his companions over to meet me, but they were bored and uninterested. He was impressed with my breakfast eating powers and suggested that porridge would also be a good start for the day, which I agreed with, until he suggested topping it with plenty of Irish Cream! I bade him a fond farewell as he drove off and I saddled up in a fantastic mood and looking forward to great challenge the day had in store for me. Almost 800m of climbing and 80ks till the next town, bring it on!

Today’s ride again managed to step up the beauty and magnificence of my riding environment to a whole new level of mind-blowing loveliness. With the heavy overnight rain the Haast river valley I was riding up was alive with hundreds of waterfalls, from the small happy road-side ones to the enormous roaring monsters high up in the mountains. It was so heavenly I couldn’t stop smiling and my face hurt. With so much water flowing down the mountainside there were many, many TransitNZ signs with often silly names for all the streams and creeks I was crossing. Then I came to a sign that read Imp Grotto. I thought that someone was getting very lyrical with their names and then I saw Imp Grotto. It was a deep cleft in the rock face and inside water poured down. The light hit the cleft at such an angle that the white water seemed to glow green. It was possibly the most beautiful thing I’d seen on the trip and that’s saying something. It was made all the more special by the fact that unless you were moving at bike pace you would never get to see it. I wanted to stop and photograph it, but it’s on a narrow corner and there’s no safe place to stand. I didn’t need reminding that this is the reason cycle touring is fantastic, well one of the reasons.

After a morning tea stop in the drizzle I made it to Pleasant Flat, which was aptly named and had a nice big lunch which I shared with the Brown Creepers and Chaffinches. Then it was onto Thunder Creek, at the base of the Haast Past. Even though the road had been gentle climbing I felt like it was actually going downhill and I’d made great time, with my legs feeling really strong. My plan for the day involved stopping at all the bush walks and enjoying this place as much as possible so I tied my bike to the information sign at Thunder Creek and headed into the bush. Only a minute later I popped out on the river bank to see a lovely waterfall. After a brief stop I was back on the bike and the climbing started.

Soon I was at the Gates of Haast, where the river tumbles violently through a deep and narrow gorge strewn with enormous boulders. The water roils like an angry, trapped beast, battering its way down the gorge with roars of defiance. It is a very cool place and apparently causes tourists to abandon their sense of reason. As I biked up towards the singlelane bridge, which had tight corners on the entrance and exit I came upon a man parked in my lane. Not off to one side of it, but in the middle of it, facing me, effectively blocking the bridge. What an idiot! I gave him the evil eye as I slowly rode straight towards him. When I got to the bridge and stopped for the obligatory “this is where the climb really starts” photo I looked back and saw he’d pulled off the road into parking spot, which had only been 5m from him the whole time. Duh!

From the Gates of Haast the road pitches up into a nice hard 10% gradient and for the first time on the whole trip I was really feeling the weight of my luggage. I had to work really hard for the next kilometre or so, egged on a group of young English lads who were stopped on the side of the road leaning on their, pretty much unladen, bikes. To be honest I would have stopped where they were if they hadn’t been there, but as is the way of the cyclist, I smiled, called out a few words back to them and continued on as if this climb wasn’t bloody hard work. My breath was steaming out of me in clouds before my eyes as I climbed through the damp forest, with the constant roar of the river to keep me company.

Sooner than I expected I reached Fantail falls, where the road and river both flatten briefly. They are lovely falls and I scoffed that staple of the New Zealand confectionary counter for generations, the K Bar, to up my sugar levels and keep me going. Here at Fantail Falls the rock stacking phenomena which seems to be becoming more and more prevalent throughout NZs lovely areas, was in great force. It’s like people see these amazing places and just have to leave their mark, I’ve begun to see these little cairns as eerie graffiti. They look like little burial mounds left by ghost folk who need to shape their world.

I continued up the road in the drizzle, passing some more road workers on the road who told me I was almost at the top. I didn’t really believe them because people who mainly drive have a very different concept of “nearly at the top” to people who get there under their own power. So I was amazed when a few minutes later I reached the Pass! I had thought I had about another half hour of climbing based on my assessment of how long it would take me to do this climb. I was extremely happy with this and cruised down the other side grinning like a fool.

Onto the next stop at the Blue Pools and a nice 30 minute walk through the bush to crystal clear deep pools that just cried out to be swum in, but it wasn’t warm enough for that sort of silliness. The serenity of the place was broken by two excitable middle-aged men who spotted some huge trout drifting in the pools and started yelling to each other “Do you see it?”, “There it is!”, “Look at the size of that one!” even though they were standing next to each other on the bridge. It was actually pretty cool. These guys were just like excited little boys and I love when people forget their inhibitions and let their joy take over. Their wives weren’t too happy about this and left and I ended up walking with them for a bit. They were also very interested in my trip and had lots of questions, like Was I scared? What was my bike called? Why do it? They were really nice and offered to take a photo of me, but I said I already had plenty of photos of my bike and that was my best side anyway.

The walk back up to the road revealed one last gem to me, with my fascination for birds. A pair of Rock Wren, which I’ve never seen before. They were absolutely adorable with their short little legs, squat bodies and beautiful bright plumage. They seemed so friendly and inquisitive and I fell in love with them. It was just the icing on an already amazing cake of a day! Along the road a bit more and I was in Makarora. Upon entering the visitor centre, which is the restaurant, shop, pub, accommodation and trip booking office, I was overwhelmed with the mouth watering smell of roast beef. Oooooh, just what I needed. I quickly booked a dorm room, which I once again had to myself, rushed up to my little A Frame house, had a nice long shower and headed back down to the bar, visions of meat swimming in gravy in my head. I was horrified to discover that no dinner was available until 7:30pm! It wasn’t even 5:30 yet and I was dying of starvation. The young English bartender asked if he could help me and I asked if it was possible to get some food earlier and he said no! Unable to remember my manners as my low blood sugar took over I asked him if (young children look away now) he was fucking kidding? I then explained that I’d just biked here from Haast and that I was extremely hungry and did he have some wedges or something like that I could order. I couldn’t believe it when he said no, just the sandwiches over there. My mind struggled to comprehend that I was in a restaurant and pub and couldn’t get a feed. I decided to have a cider to calm down and think about what I’d do for food. I knew I couldn’t wait till 7:30, I was struggling to stay awake as it was. The very nice and understanding barman went out the back and talked to the chef while I sat in the corner of the bar getting quickly drunk on my cider and writing. The chef came out and yelled out “Who was the woman who wanted some fries”. Without hesitation I called out me! And he told me that I couldn’t have the ones in his hand, but that he’d bring me some shortly. Saved! And they were very good and only $4. Woot.

Full of potatoey goodness and swaying slightly from my pint of cider I headed back up to my dorm and went to bed and was asleep just after 7! It had been a fantastic day, I'd crossed my first Alp and I was actually sad that tomorrow would be the last day. I decided that I wanted more riding and thought that I’d maybe go on to Cromwell, rather than stop in Wanaka, after all what’s another 50km?

Haast to Makarora - 80km in 5hr 14 (800m climbing)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tour Day 6 – Swamps and jungles, the first taste of sandflies

It seems that 7:30am is the perfect time to wake up when you go to bed at 8:30pm, that’s the time I was waking every day of the tour. I woke on day 6 to a bit of drizzle, with splashes of sun and felt fantastic, despite having an OSM for breakfast. On the road and the day just got more and more lovely, with mists drifting through the lush forests on either side of me. It was chillier again, but I warmed up quickly as I cruised along listening to the morning bird song and singing to myself. In no time at all I was at Lake Moeraki, which looked lovely under grey skies. Up in the forest above the lake a group of Kaka played in the trees and I felt very lucky to have seen this. A spot of food and I was on the road again with the rain started shortly after.

Who names a creek The Windbag?

Today’s rain was gentle and pleasant and as I started the climb up to Knight’s Point I was actually loving it. It was perfect climbing weather and my new found love of climbing was rewarded with some nice undulations leading up to the lookout at Knight’s Point. I took some photo’s, but was slightly concerned about the amount of water falling on my camera, as you can see. It was amusing watching the Japanese tourists from a big bus lining up for the loos and trying to shoo the sandflies away with their umbrellas. Snickering, I headed off and had a brief chat with an English cyclist a little further up the road. Then the sun came blazing out and I took off my jacket and replaced it with the orange vest of visibility and dorkiness and continued climbing. At one point I saw a flock of at least a hundred wood pigeons. Flying together like this they actually looked graceful in the air, rather than their usual unco drunken appearance. I must have been getting hungry because they looked a bit like pies on wings to me!

Zooming down the other side of the hill and I came to Ship Creek, which was where I had my first encounter with the dreaded sandfly menace. I’d done a bit of research into the best insect repellent to use of these monsters and had decided to go for the less carcinogenic and safe for clothes and plastics concoction of a 50-50 mixture of dettol and babyoil. I’ve used this before and it seemed fine. My first mistake was heading under a shelter to apply the mixture, instead of staying out in the breeze. Hundreds of the wee buggers instantly swarmed around me and as I put my helmet on a handy table heaps of them covered it, since it was still warm and fragrant. I liberally covered all my exposed skin with my mixture and while it didn’t actually repell the bitey beasts, it did stop them biting and I was happy with that.

I headed out on the first of two walks at Ship Creek, this one taking me along the dunes to a lovely wetland that runs along the beach. It was amazing walk through such diverse ecosystems in a 20 minutes. Wind-swept sand dunes overlooking the surging west coast sea, dense reed beds opening to still fresh water, and thick native forest full of bird song and wet, green life. Amazing.

Returning to the starting point of that walk I headed off in the other direction on the swamp walk up the river. There were lots of bellbirds around, their wonderful song adding to the magic of the place. I noticed that the boardwalk at the start of this track was sitting right on the water and could see why there were signs warning it was prone to flooding. I’ve never really been into a native swamp land before and this place was amazing. The river flowed slowly by to the left with shags keeping a sentinel watch over the banks, and to the right thick forest, with water everywhere. Stretches of water were covered by bright green plants which formed a rich, luxuriant looking carpet. Moss and lichens grew everywhere and water dripped constantly. Rounding a corner in the track I came to the mighty Kahikatea stand. These are the tallest trees in NZ and their habitat is vanishing as their swamp homes are drained. The biggest of the trees was truly magnificent, reaching to the heavens with its crooked fingers, an old man of over 500yrs age.

Returning along the track I soon discovered that flooding of the boardwalk entrance was not a rare occurrence and the boards were covered with half a foot of water. No wonder I had the track to myself. I quickly disrobed my feet and waded across. The water was cold and crystal clear and on the other side I pulled my socks back on, but not high enough (my second mistake)! I discovered on returning to my bike that I’d left the level of my left sock 5mm lower than when I applied the sandfly repellent. Well actually the sandflies discovered this first. I discovered a clutch of the little shits all crammed in that tiny space feeding on me. The mixture obviously worked for me because these were the only bites I got when wearing it. After dispensing with them I sat on the beach listening to the thunderous roar of the sea. It is always so angry on the west coast, just the way I like it. Huge waves smash down on the beach, sending spray high into the air, filling the breeze with salt. Unfortunately my stomach was telling me it was time to move on, so I headed off down the road.

Not far from Ship Creek I got to Haast Junction and rolled into the pub there for a huge burger and a beer. The pub was incredibly depressing, filled with extremely old people, munching their lunches. I sat in the corner fuelling up and writing, finding the whole atmosphere surreal. I was happy to get back on the road and get to Haast a few minutes down the road. I got myself a little tin cabin at the camping ground and head to the shop for supplies. Another pleasant evening was spent reading, eating and giggling at the wood pigeons that seemed to fall out of the bush behind my cabin on to the tin roof with an almighty clatter. Later the rain started up, drumming hard on my metal roof and I drifted off to sleep before it was dark.

Lake Paringa to Haast – 55km in 3hr 27

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tour Day 5 – I’m not water soluble

A band of marauding keas greeted me as I got dressed, five of them calling as they circled the town, like naughty school boys looking for mischief. Booking the room in the hostel was a great idea because I caught up on my lost sleep and felt fantastic. Another huge breakfast under the belt and I was off, trying to beat the forecast deluge of rain. It was another wonderful morning for riding, a bit chillier than any of the previous ones, but clear as a bell. Wisps of cloud clung to the valleys around me and the forest was right up to the edge of the road. Riding along I could look into its green depths and it was like looking into an impenetrable jungle, wild and untamed. The cloud soon rolled in and I donned my fluro vest as it was pretty gloomy and I was wearing a lovely green which matched the surroundings perfectly. A crystal clear stream ran beside the road and I crossed numerous gorgeous single lane bridges. The diversity and complexity of these bridges is amazing, it’s like the engineers who designed the roads and the bridges thought, “Hey, here’s our chance to try out all these fancy bridge designs we’ve been reading about!”

I stopped for a bite of morning tea off the beaten track and pushed into the bush. It was so gorgeous, verdent and sweet smelling, bursting with life, even in the decay of fallen trees. As I sat eating a delicious Summer Roll a South Island robin came and talked to me. With his silly long legs and tiny body he was adorable. (In case you hadn’t noticed earlier I’m a bit of a twitcher, or bird geek, so this trip was brilliant for me).

As I set off the drizzle started and something about it made me think this was going to go on a bit more than the previous little showers I’d experienced. Finally! I had the chance to try out my new Helter Skelter rain pants. Quickly removing my over shorts and stuffing them in my pannier and donning pants and rain coat I was ready for the West Coast rain. And it didn’t disappoint. After a few minutes the drizzle had turned into a shower and by the time I got to Bruce Bay further down the road it was pouring down. I loved it. My pants and jacket did their job and I was comfortable in the rain. I stopped at Bruce Bay to admire the beach art and scoff some sweet treats while tourists stayed bundled up in their campervans.

Unfortunately, further along the road I can across a couple of stretches of road works. The first was short and muddy and in a quick sprint it was over. The second was long and muddy, at least a kilometre of gravelly mud. I rolled up in time to see the lollypop man flick his sign from Go to Stop and didn’t relish the idea of waiting in the now very heavy and cold rain for 15 minutes while the traffic from the other end came through. Luckily the lovely man saw me, radioed through to the other end and flicked his sign to Go with a wave. I thanked him and sped off. It was nice having the whole road to myself, apart from the diggers, and rollers and bulldozers of course. These machines had very friendly drivers who all had a smile and a wave for me. Shoes and ankles covered in mud and gravel I made it to the other side after dodging uncounted potholes and commiserated with the lollypop man at this end about standing around in the rain. He offered his sympathies to me pedalling in this weather.

Not long after the road works I was whizzing over another one lane bridge when an old van pulled up behind me. I moved over as soon as I got off the bridge and off they went, only to stop 20m up the road. I cruised past slowly and the lovely Spanish (I think) boys inside offered me a lift. I thanked them, but said no, it was a lovely day for a bike ride, they probably thought I was mad. I wasn’t about to cheat just because the weather was appalling. With a friendly wave we parted and I started to notice that I was getting rather hungry. I could feel my body burning up fuel to try and stay warm and it was starting to falter. I saw a sign for a salmon farm with a cafe 5km up the road and decided that I’d be stopping there for lunch and a cuppa. By the time I got there I resembled a drowned rat and was very pleased to see that the walkway to the cafe was covered. I stowed my bike in a covered picnic area, then wrung out my socks and shook the gravel out of them. I jumped around a bit to shake off some of my excess water and to get warmer and headed inside for a pot of tea and a hot pie. Feeling slightly renewed I stowed an enormous piece of lollycake in my bag and got back on the wet road, with Paringa in my sights.

At the Lake Paringa motel I was disappointed to discover they no longer do meals, but I booked into a dorm room and spent the next 30mins in the shower thawing out. Hmmmmm hot showers are great! I then converted the bathroom into a drying room and spent a relaxing afternoon reading, writing and dozing. Not to mention eating of course. I also explored the lake edge in the rain which was very lovely. The rain was falling so hard that tiny droplets would bounce back up out of the lake and dance on the surface like tiny spheres of light. This made the whole lake seem alive.

Once my washing dried I crawled into bed, very happy to have the whole room to myself and fell asleep to the soothing hammer of the rain. I’m glad I got to experience a proper West Coast down-pour, my tour wouldn’t have been complete without it.

Fox Glacier to Lake Paringa – 71km in 3hrs 46

Tour Day 4 – They said it would be hard

A shocker of a night’s sleep, was only slightly redeemed by the morning view of the glacier from my tent. Once I started moving round I felt awful and it took me twice as long as normal to pack everything away. My whole body felt like it had been infused with lead, including my brain. I pootled slowly into town and headed straight for the Speights Landing Bar and ordered myself a Miner’s Breakfast which consisted of bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, tomato, and pancakes with maple syrup. While waiting for it to arrive I got out my elevation map of today’s ride and felt a sense of dread. Even before I left on the tour people have been telling me how difficult the ride from Franz to Fox would be, the steep steep roads and repeated hills. In Okarito a couple of people even thought I was crazy for trying to ride over these passes on a loaded bike. All of this was not confidence inspiring and with my sleep deprivation I was feeling pretty down.

After scoffing what was the best breakfast of the whole trip I got on the road. At least it was sunny. I spun along, trying to get my body to wake up and my legs to work properly. I was envisaging a 3 or 4 hour journey to cover 23kms to Fox. Soon the first hill reared up before me and I dropped down into an easy gear and before I knew it I was at the top and, even better, I was feeling fantastic. The road was gorgeous, forest on all side, with glimpses through to valleys and distant mountains. Bird song the whole way, tui’s flitting around from tree to tree, like they were encouraging me to keep going. I flew down the other side, grinning, using the whole lane, no brakes, feeling the adrenalin thump through me. I felt like a new me.

After crossing a river I was into the next climb and a stream of cycle tourists passed me. I actually slowed right down so they’d get ahead of me, I just didn’t feel like being sociable. I did say a cheery hi to them all, but apparently they were working too hard to reply. I found this amusing. I had all day, I wasn’t pushing myself too hard, I was basically la-ing along with plenty of breath for chatting to passing cyclist, tuis or telling myself about the stunning views. I don’t really understand the smash yourself mentality when you’re doing a cycle tour. Surely the point is to be able to take in all the amazing things around you?

I had a couple of rest stops on this climb, just a couple of minutes each, sitting in the sun, looking at the views. Again I was at the top before I expected it and this descent was fantastic, 3kms flew by in a couple of minutes and me face was frozen by the wind chill as I reached speeds of 60kph. Vooooom! Then I rounded a corner and saw the final and steepest climb. My initial thoughts were, surely not, that can’t be it! Unfortunately the photo doesn’t do this zigzag justice, I had to stop and regroup before slipping into grannies and starting the spin. Once on the slope it didn’t seem so bad, harder work than anything I done previously, but not that bad. The first zig was done and now the slightly steeper zag was disappearing under my wheels. It was definitely steep and this climb seemed to just keep going, so I stopped a few more times before reaching the top with a whoop of joy.

The descent into Fox was the fastest of the day and I was buzzing once I stopped in town. Fox is not like Franz Joseph. Franz is like Queenstown, glitzified for the tourists. Fox is like Alexandra or Cromwell, it makes a bit of an effort, but has a much more local down to earth feel. I ordered myself a pizza for lunch and decided I felt so good that I would continue on to Lake Paringa after visiting the glacier. Half a pizza stowed in my panniers I headed off up the valley and as I rode I felt worse and worse. The weather had changed from bright blue sky to gloomy damp clouds and I was getting cold. I finally made it to the car park and quickly donned my orange jacket. I immediately noticed the fantastic DoC warning signs which cheered me up greatly. (They inspired this poem.) I also noticed the “Don’t feed the k eas” sign and was worried about my bike and its luggage at I started the perilsome trek to the glacier. I say perilsome (which I don’t think is actually a word, but that’s never stopped me before), as the signs warned of falling rocks, not stopping, chances of flood and various other impending dooms. Of course that didn’t stop some of the tourists wandering away from the marked track to look for pebbles. *Shakes head*

I love Fox Glacier, with its amazing blue ice and contrasting grey striations. This vast volume of water has been locked up as ice for thousands of years and now great chunks of it come free. There is a gaping maw at the toe of the glacier, not threatening to devour those that come to see this beast, but devouring the glacier itself. Great cracks and fissures climb the walls, ready to shatter at any moment. The glacier seems almost fragile at the moment, its life blood flowing down the valley. However down the valley stands testament to its awesome power, a sheer rock face that was once the inside of a mountain. Scythed through, perfectly straight and cleanly cut by this retreating shaper of worlds. Hopefully this force of nature will advance again and not be lost to future generations. The cold air of this staggeringly large mass of ice was chilling me and I left.

My bike was unmolested by keas, happily, and I zoomed off down the hill, intent on returning to Fox and finding a bed as I was actually struggling to keep my eyes open, even on the bike. On the way out I spied an old suspension bridge across the river. It is well hidden in the bush now and not very well sign posted, so I suspect it doesn’t get many visitors. Like its partner at Franz I have fond memories of this bridge from my childhood and had fun revisiting those by bouncing across the bridge and swaying to and fro above the surging meltwater river.

Back in Fox I booked a room in a backpackers and after a long hot shower to warm up went straight to bed. I slept for 3 hours solid and woke up in time to grab some food from the shop round the corner before eating leftover pizza, watching a bit of TV and zonking out again. I was very tired, but it had been a great day. I’d climbed to Fox in under 2hrs, which was a great achievement and from here on the journey would only get more and more picturesque.

Franz Joseph to Fox Glacier – 36km in 2hr 54 (500m climbing)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tour day 3 – Mucking about in boats

Being in a tent I was up with the sun and took a trip to the old boathouse overlooking the lagoon for breakfast. Mist was drifting across the water and the air smelt sweet. It was going to be a lovely day. I took some arty photos and strugged through another OSM, then I went back to my campsite. After stringing up a washing line I grabbed some money and went and hired a kayak.

I spent a tiring, but wonderful 2 and a bit hours paddling round on the lagoon. I got up close to a couple of beautiful white herons, watched dotterel's diving for fish, saw schools of fish swim under my boat and drifted up stream through narrow river bends to secret places in the forest. It was amazing paddling on beautiful clear, but amber coloured water, seeing great fallen trees under the surface like monsters of the deep. Forest birds came down to chat and it was just magical. My arms hurt by the end of my trip, but I felt energised by the wonderful serenity of splashing around in this special place.

Driven by hunger I packed up my gear and got on the road for Franz Joseph, wishing I could stay in Okarito another day. I will definitely be back there with my lovely husband and together we'll go out at night and find wild kiwi and fully explore the lagoon. And we’ll bring plenty of food! The ride up out of Okarito seemed quicker and easier than the ride in, but that probably isn’t such a strange thing. It was yet another stunningly gorgeous day with perfect blue skies above the forests around me. I stopped briefly at Lake Matheson for a nibble and a photo. I struggled to my feet at the end of the wharf and then had to sit back down so a tourist could take a photo of me. I’m so interesting! Up round the corner and I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and they drew me on. Then tragedy.

As I rode up a small hill and round a corner I came across more road-kill, but this looked slightly different and on closer inspection I saw it was a kiwi. I almost cried at seeing it, my first wild kiwi, crushed on the road like that. Its graceful beak crushed into its side, its neck twisted round and its delicate brown feathers wafting in the breeze. It was heartbreaking and I wanted to stop and move it off the road, but it was far too dangerous so I rode on in sadness. The only thing that lifted my spirits was my first glimpse of the mighty Franz Joseph glacier up ahead. The mighty glacier is quite a sight, even from kilometres away.

I rolled into Franz mid-afternoon, a very hungry girl, but sorted myself out an extremely expensive tent site before heading into town for food. My luck was in when I found a bar that was doing a happy hour special of $20 for a pint and a big plate of spag bol. Just what the doctor ordered. I sat outside to wait for my meal and listened to the ever present buzz of helicopters coming and going from the glacier. Being thirsty I also got stuck into my beer and before I knew it I’d drunk half a pint on an empty stomach and when I rang my hubby I found it quite difficult to speak properly. We both found this rather hilarious. The spag bol was fantastic and once I’d wolfed it down I got back on my bike and headed up the road to see the glacier.

I’ll admit the reason I missed the sign leading to the foot of the glacier was that pint of beer, but I wasn’t too worried. I had a nice hour long walk in the bush, saw the glacier from a distance, talked to the birds, and discovered the old swing bridge from when I was a kid. Back then it didn’t have all the additional support and my mum wouldn’t let us cross it, so I finally got to cross this bridge, but it wasn’t as exciting as back then.

The ride back to town was fast and downhill and after stopping at the shop for second dinner I headed back to the camp ground, ate more, did more washing and was tucked up in bed late. Again sleeping on the ground was pretty painful for my poor shoulders and chest, and this was not helped by the morepork that took up residence in the tree I was camped under, or the crying baby in another tent. Sigh. The joys of tenting.

Okarito to Franz Joseph - 40km in 2hrs 15