A Difficult Day

Today seemed like one of the toughest we’ve had so far. We got to endure rain, depressing gray weather, cold winds, and lots of hills.

As we ate breakfast it started to rain. No worries, we just brewed an extra cup of coffee and chatted with some interesting New Zealanders while we waited and hoped for the rain to stop. It slowed down to a drizzle so we hurried outside to get everything packed up. After that was taken care of we hopped on our bikes and started off into the gray mist. Within five minutes we were climbing a never ending hill. It wasn’t too bad, though, we had just started out and had plenty of energy! At the top we stopped and did a short hike through coastal rainforest to see a beautiful three tiered waterfall.

The coastal rainforest really felt like a jungle, except it was cold:

One of the waterfall tiers:

After the waterfall hike we spent 30 kms and a few hours climbing up and down lots and lots of hills. The rain kept on coming – mist, drizzle, showers – the whole time. We stopped for a lunch break in the small town of Owaka. This was a very unusual lunch because we didn’t have peanut butter sandwiches! OMG! Instead we had muesli and yogurt purchased from the Owaka grocery store. Unfortunately we didn’t enjoy eating the muesli very much because as we ate we had to huddle on a picnic table in a parking lot, in the rain and wind, as our sweat dried to freezing ice droplets (almost). We ate as fast as humanly possible and then jumped back on our bikes to avoid hypothermia!

We spent a few more hours riding up and down some more “gently rolling and undulating hills”, as our guidebook calls them. Around 4pm we reached one of the larger towns in the South, Balclutha. We knew this was a large farming community and we could definitely tell as we rode into town. We passed several stockyards packed solidly full of sheep who were waiting in line to be slaughtered, processed, and the resulting sheep product loaded onto the waiting trains to be whisked away. It smelled a lot like dog food for a few miles and I admit I felt a little sorry for the sheep – they were so clueless!

We decided to continue on for another 22 kms past Balclutha to make it a little closer to our final destination – Dunedin – so that our ride tomorrow isn’t too tough. This had the unfortunate effect of making today’s ride very tough. At the end of Balclutha we started climbing up the very hilly highway along with millions of speeding cars and semi trucks. At the top of each hill you could see quite far into the distance – far enough to see the next two giant hills and their valleys you’d be climbing through. There was absolutely no flat ground anywhere. To top it all off, traffic was horrendously busy. We’ve gotten too used to the deserted highways and slow paced travelers over the past few weeks. Big trucks crammed with sheep, diary tankers, trucks hauling boats, and obnoxious speeding teenagers blew by us like we were standing still. In fact, we were basically standing still as our pace was slowed to a measly 5 km/hr on the steep hills.

A warning to watch out for high winds. This picture is not very beautiful, but neither was our day:

We finally reached the tiny town of Milton where we’d decided to stop for the night. We set up the tent in a frenzy because the rain was starting again. Ack! The rest of the evening was spent in the warm dry kitchen at the Holiday Park. Tomorrow is our last day of riding in New Zealand – neither of us can believe it!

Leave a Reply