Friday, March 5, 2010

Tour – Day 1 Drama at the train station

I've heard or read somewhere that all good adventures start with a drama, although maybe that's just the romantic in me. My adventure started with a drama that could have stopped it before it even got started when there was a mess up with my ticket. Luckily a lovely ticket lady sorted me out and I was very relieved to have my bike safely stowed in the baggage car and me tucked away on the train in time for departure. I even got a window seat for this wonderful start to the journey.
Rolling through Cass on the Transalpine

Starting my tour on the train was both a practical and romantic idea. Practical because its easy to transport a heavily laden bike by train, and romantic because trains are creatures of myth and mystique. When you think of the great trains of the world, or of your fond memories of programmes like The Railway Children from when we were growing up, there was always an air of adventure about the train. And here in New Zealand trains are a rare breed so a ride on one is all the more special.

Rainbow valley

The journey over Arthur's Pass and onto Greymouth was great, with a wonderful commentary by the train manager who'd work on the railways his whole life and made no bones about making his opinions known on everything from privatisation to musicals. Just before arriving in the Pass we rolled past a valley that was filled with a rainbow and I was filled with happiness and I also realised that this means we're heading towards grey weather, and as I stepped out on the cold, damp platform at Arthur's Pass it is indeed a bit inclement. The journey to Greymouth is over soon and I'm getting my bike off the back of the train, eating a banana and hitting the road, full of emthusiasm.
Ominous Arthur's Pass

Soon the sun is out and I'm cruising along, revelling in the freedom. I stop briefly at Kumara Junction for a huge hunk of quiche and a drink and then I'm off to Hokatika. The traffic is not heavy and the milk trucks make plenty of room for me and I'm grinning. A people mover goes past me and pulls into a driveway up ahead. Two women get out and instead of going straight inside they wait till I go past them and cheer me on with calls of “go for it!” and “you're doing great”. It puts a smile on my face and I wonder if they wish they could have an adventure like this, or if I'd get the same cheers if I was with my husband or was a guy? I see some American cycle tourists coming the other way and they also offer their encouragement.

Driftwood on the beach at Hokatika

Soon I'm on the beach in Hokatika, eating a triple chocolate cookie in the sun and breathing in the salty west coast beach air. I had my only scary moment of the whole trip leaving Hokatika. Crossing the Hokatika river is a long two lane bridge with low sides. As I cycled along I realised that the guard rail was at just the right height to very effectively tip me over with my top heavy bike if I went into it. This freaked me out a bit as it was a rather substancial drop to the gravel riverbed. I moved slightly away from the rail and then a bus blasted past me at full speed, sending me wobbling towards to the rail. I remained in control, but my heart lept into my throat and I was very grateful to reach the otherside of the bridge unscathed.

Murphy and Rocky Ell take a rest on the beach - lazy!

Just after Hokatiki a “nice” strong headwind picked up and my pace slowed to a crawl, well what felt like a crawl. My legs weren't happy about the wind and Ross seemed to take forever to arrive. When it did I was relieved and splashed out $20 to stay in a cabin at the Historic Empire Hotel. After a long hot shower I had a massive feed of venison, chips and salad and a beer and was in bed asleep by 8:30pm, setting the precident for bedtime for the rest of the trip.

Very cool pub in Ross

Day 1 Greymouth to Ross 68kms in 4hr 12mins.

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