Blog // Tales from the trail
- Total distance - 78 km
- Total distance on dirt ~ 20 km
- Time taken ~ 8 hours
- No. Road Cyclists - 3 (+1 holding a baby!)
- Hills - 1 saddle
- Ibuprofen tablets- 2
- Lost items - 2
- Found again items - 1
Feeling somewhat rested after our weather inspired bonus rest day, we packed up early with the aim of a solid day's cycling to Murchison. Cruising out of Tapawera however I had a glimpsing recollection that during our post-haste pack up, I didn't recall seeing our green sharp-knife - Corallie had no recollection whatsoever, although she didn't think she'd seen it in the kitchen when we left - and after a brief (and a little bit 'sharp') discussion on the merits of an organised packing system, we decided the probability of it being in the bags 'somewhere' outweighed the probability (and effort) of turning back 3 km to double-check, even with the risk of not being able to slice the tomatoes for our picnic lunch looming!
On the plus side, we had found the cross-country route we were looking for (Gordon, as well as personally showing us the back route into Nelson a few days before, had informed us of a few other 'short-cuts'); avoiding many kilometers of the main road courtesy of a couple of local cyclists who pointed us in the general direction of the hill we needed to conquer that morning.
It was a slow and steady but beautifully peaceful climb over a mixture of tarred and dirt road. We reached the top earlier than our lunchtime target, but we were now out in the open and feeling the heat, particularly whilst surveying the area which looked like the victim of a sizable fire in recent years, with new saplings only just starting to burst out of the charred and dusty landscape.
Cruising down the hills we met up again with the main road and found a suitable picnic spot in the ruins of an old rail bridge on the now-abandoned rail link between Nelson and Gowanbridge (which, was at one stage, planned to go all the way to the West Coast). After 79 years of both passenger and freight transport, it was closed, despite emotional protests in 1955; retired school teacher Ruth Allan Page organised an infamous sit-in at 'Kiwi' Station (or rather on the tracks outside the station) which lasted 10 days and following several failed attempts by the demolition gangs to pass, 9 ladies were arrested and the railway was finally decommissioned. An interesting exhibition, including photographs from the protests, has since been installed in the broom-cupboard-sized Kiwi Station in the town of Tapawera from were we had just ridden.
Taking a break from the bikes, we took a stroll up the route of the old track and into one of the tunnels through the hills to take a brief rest-bite from the heat - and also to postpone the short climb we could see out of the valley, waiting and ready to greet us after our lunch stop - enjoying freshly sliced tomato open-sandwiches thanks to a relocated knife!
Back on the bikes we had the all too familiar afternoon experience; we found the wind had picked up and was blowing in our faces again and whilst the route was mostly downhill, given the sun and the wind it turned into quite a slog. To compound matters my knee was starting to play up; during our cycling so far we found twinges and aches in various places were not at all uncommon, particularly after stops, however usually these would pass or perhaps migrate to a different part of your body as readily as they appeared. This time, despite taking the additional measure of getting off and stretching, it didn't want to seem to go away. Thus feeling very sorry for myself I towed in behind Corallie to at least get some shelter from the wind.
Both beginning to tire (we could tell this because a cyclist towing a cart of stuff and with a baby on his knee had just overtaken us!), we took a tactical stop about 15 km outside of Murchison for ice-cream and fizzy drinks and to pop a couple of ibuprofen to keep me going. Somehow in the process I managed to leave my sunglasses in the toilets of the small-cafe and on attempts to seek them out once I realised they were nowhere to be seen - this was rapidly becoming the terrible, worst most horrible day ever!
By late afternoon however, counting down the last couple of kilometres, we made Murchison and rolled into a most pleasant campsite on the banks of the Buller River, which was also rather full-looking thanks to a country music festival being held there the following day.
Glad to be off a bike I volunteered to unload the bikes and put up the tent (and lie down in it) whilst Corallie got back on her bike and cycled into town for supplies. On Corallie's return we donned our swimmers and took an icy plunge into the river - a refreshing end to a long, hot day! Me trying to find a balance between ice-cold knee pain relief and leg cramps, whilst Corallie was so proud of her swing entry (into the deepest, darkest, coldest part of the river) she was goading fellow campers as to the 'official' route into the river.
Back in the kitchen, a yummy dinner of pasta and pesto was rustled up, while we listened to the ladies on tour chatting excitedly about the festival; what time they were on stage, what time the BBQ started and most importantly what time they had to be up to get their deck chairs set-up in the best viewing spot for the weekend. Sounded like this was an event we couldn't afford to miss out on!
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