Drowsed a bit this morning - still getting used to the magically disappearing air mattress. But, before long, the bike calls and I get camp put together. Talk to a number of people this morning, all of whom are very lively and interested in the trip, especially when they see pictures of the old Quinney's. Finally, I am back on the road.
I have noticed that I am a pretty goal-oriented guy. Yesterday, with just the promise of a long, slow upwards grade, I was kind of bored; but, today, I have a goal - to get to the top of Hope Saddle, which is at about 2000 feet of elevation. After crossing over this, it is an overall long downhill all the way to Murchison (my goal for tonight) and then Westport. The carrot is set, so the mule starts pedaling (sorry for that weird mental image).
The pre-Hope Saddle scenery. Shaping up to be a really nice day, or, as I call them, "days where I blister". Kidding, kidding - I put sunscreen on this morning.
After about 10 miles of slow uphills, the real climb starts. Cars weave around me as I move, turtle-like, up the increasingly steep hill over several kilometers. The really great news is that I had an epiphany this morning. While experimenting with ways to improve my knee pain, I realized that it did not hurt during steep climbs. Looking more at this, I realized that I angle my pelvis forward during steep climbs, which changes the angle of the IT band. Ergo little knee pain today as I simple rotate my pelvis when it starts to hurt. Bonus!
After a total of two hours of uphill pedaling, get to the last stretch of hill. They really try to hit you hard with the last bit by making it the steepest yet. My front wheel keeps coming off the ground, and I have to angle forward a LOT to keep it down, which (as noted above) is good for the knees.
Reach the saddle and stop for a picture.
The pit stains tell the story of the morning's exertion. Yummy.
This is exciting for me - the first snowy peak of the South Island. Glaciers come soon! At least if my bike can hold together long enough!
The ride down the other side of Hope Saddle is well worth the climb. Though the east side of this mountain range is mostly fields with a few smaller forests, the west side is pineriffic. I start dropping into a gorge, following the river. It is really beautiful.
A bike race was occurring on this stretch of road. I would like to say that the bike trailer and panniers were my handicap for being so damn good, but the tightly-packed groups of racers soon wiped this expression from my face as they blasted past. Ego officially knocked down a peg.
Try not to be shocked, but I have PB&J for lunch. It is pretty broiling at this point.
Despite being a further 50km from the saddle, it felt like no time getting to Murchison. The campground for the town turned out to be very nice, with extremely clean and new bathrooms (the halogen light over each individual shower along with the fan comes on when you step in the shower itself). Throw my tent down under the shade of the trees and look around.
The first thing I noticed was the abundance - no, the universality - of whitewater kayaks. Everyone had one, often more than one. After talking to a few people, it turns out that Murchison is the number one place in New Zealand to learn to kayak - it has class II and III water at this time of year, going to a max of class IV when it's really running. The river here is clear, wide, and deep. Along the campground, it is rapid-free, but there IS a rope swing and rocks to jump from. Lacking a kayak, I do the next best thing.
This is what happens when you have an eight-year-old take the picture. Actually, not too bad. Highlights the red neck very well.
I caught, like, three feet of air there. (Anyone catch the reference?)
Water was warm and cleaned the road grime nicely. For my Alaskan friends right now, this is what water looks like when it's not solid.
I end up heading into down, sitting at a cafe, and reading the weekend newspaper. People are very concerned about stabbings this year. There are no gun fatalities noted.
Sidenote: I tried some "Mexican chicken nachos" at the cafe. As opposed to those of you enjoying Superbowl Sunday, my nachos were more nacho-esque, reminding me in some ways but, in general, beating my tastebuds senseless with a random assortment of unrelated flavors. Based on this experience, I have constructed what I think is an accurate recipe for New Zealand Mexican nachos:
1. Buy some chips. Make sure they are flavored rather than plain to add to the taste sensation that you are constructing. Maybe this is the place for lamb-flavored chips?
2. Buy chicken and sear in a lemony sauce.
3. Oops - forgot tomatoes at the store. Let's put a mushroom in instead because this particular customer HATES THEM.
4. Dump the chips into a big plate. Add LOTS of whitish cheese. No, we don't know what "nacho cheese" is here. (This is actually good).
5. Melt the cheese, then cover liberally with the chicken, mushrooms, and maybe some more cheese. Top it with some sort of sauce that is almost, but not completely, unlike salsa (apologies to Douglas Adams). A modified form of Italian dressing will due, but add some sugar to it. Make sure there is no spiciness to it whatsoever - wouldn't want to burn any part of the tongue that might miss out on this circus of flavors.
6. Add a dollop of sour cream on the top. By "dollop", I mean "shovelful".
7. Serve with a smile - and a really expensive Coca-Cola.
All right, I am sure that not all New Zealand nachos are this bad. Nachos being nachos, I of course finished everything (except the mushrooms). Wish I had taken a picture.
Back to camp, and relax for a bit before hitting the hay. Today was only about 40 miles, tomorrow will be just a shade over 60 miles. The good news is that it is all a slow downhill. (As I am typing this the next day, I know this is a dirty, dirty lie told by my bicycling book, but you'll learn more tomorrow.)