Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Moas and Rain on the Plain


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First View of the Southern Alps

As predicted the next morning brought my first rain. Nothing particularly heavy, just a continuous downpour all day. I can't remember much. The riding was flat, apart from the crossing of two gorges. On the second one I got off my bike and walked, only to be overtaken by a woman cyclist. Embarrassing. I do remember stopping at a pub at lunchtime and drying out. I also stayed in a pub that night. The 'Canterbury Arms' in Methven, which is a ski-resort in winter. It was a pretty dank and miserable day, though I did cheer myself up with a huge jug of beer, or two.

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The next day was also wet. I stopped for lunch at a road-side store with a sculpture of some Moas outside. Inside I met two young American cyclists, Tim and Mike, who were soaked! After a chat we decided to share a cabin at the camp-ground in Geraldine, and I would see them later. In fact I arrived hours before them and I was beginning to think they'd gone somewhere else. When they did arrive they told me they'd spent hours in a cafe drying out by a log fire. We spent the evening together in the cabin surrounded by all their wet gear drying out. My tent wasn't wet as I hadn't camped for the previous three nights. We went shopping in the small town, had an early supper, and an early night.

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In the morning we rode together to a town called Fairlie, along a road which was gradually rising. The sun came out and we had lunch outside a cafe. I bought another lock for my bike, as these lads had been telling me horror stories of bikes being stolen. We allowed ourselves a leisurely break of about two hours before starting out again. We knew we had a tough ride ahead of us as we had a pass to go over before riding down the other side into Tekapo. The road was still climbing gradually when we came to a small village before the pass. The lads decided to take a break here, but I continued on up the steep hill. It was tough and I was tired, and although I was determined to ride all the way, I must admit to pushing my bike the last half-a-mile to the summit. Tim and Mike claimed that they saw me walking, so I couldn't deny it!

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The view from the top of the pass was astounding. Spread out before me were the peaks of the Southern Alps, including Mt. Cook. I've been told that many native New Zealanders have never seen these peaks not shrouded in cloud. But on that day the weather on the western side of the pass was perfect. Clear and cloudless skies, and a huge horizon mesmerised me as I rode the long descent down to the shores of Lake Tekapo. This lake was the same milky green and turquoise colour as some of the rivers I'd seen earlier crossing the Canterbury Plains. It was explained to me that these colours were to do with various salts eroded by the glaciers in the mountains.

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Tekapo itself was a small town, and I waited in a small lakeside cafe, with an ice-cream, for Tim and Mike to arrive. I'd also visited the Tourist Office and arranged to be taken to the local airport for a scenic flight around the mountains. I just had time to set up my tent before a minibus came to pick me up.

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At the airport I joined six or seven other passengers in the Cessna and took off on my extravagant joy-ride. The photographs say it all! Afterwards I was given a lift back to the camp-site by a couple who'd also enjoyed the flight. I was to meet them again about a week later!

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Tim and Mike meanwhile had gone off fishing but returned later with nothing to show for it. Later that evening we cycled into the village and had a couple of pints and a game or two of pool. Unfortunately one of the local lads got a bit upset with Mikes winning streak so we left before anything happened and rode back to the camp-ground in the dark. Nobody had any lights!

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