Thursday, March 11, 2010

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

1 comment:

CrazyChris said...

You're a bloody inspiration!