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

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