128km to ride – climbing 1,465 meters and 1,100 down
Today the weather was fine and not to cold. My biggest concern was my bike may not get through the next two days. When I am riding with Brett he doesn’t have to look behind to see if I am with him, my bike has been renamed Tick Tock, it clatters and clicks and rattles along.
Today we have to ride through the Gates of Haast which is quite steep, but the ride is pretty much an uphill gradient all day. The first 50km it was quite cool in temperature as we were going along the river with lots of overhanging trees.
When I got to the Gates of Haast I got up 400m of the 1km steep hill before getting off and walking, till it flattened out a bit. There was a “loss of brakes” run off with an uphill, but with the winding and steepness of the road I would suspect vehicles would go off the road before they got to this point, unless the breaks had only just failed. Part of the way up the hill I made the mistake of looking over the side – bad move it was really steep and the river was a very long way down.
Lunch was at 61km, when we got there the two TDA staff were in the van, which was unusual, normally they are sitting outside. The reason quickly became apparent: the local population of insects had also arrived for lunch. Luckily I had sprayed with Bush Man’s repellent before leaving camp this morning, but other riders got very badly bitten. After lunch it was about 2 km to the top of the hill, then some nice down hill.
At 81km we stopped and had a drink, 47km to go. I set off thinking “Ok another 3 hours to camp, that’s not bad” but actually it was endless. It was only 3 hours, but it was hilly, there was a head wind, and every corner you came around you could see another hill stretching away in the distance.
We were riding through some stunning beautiful scenery and I was not appreciating it at all. I ran out of water and ran out of any enthusiasm, after a number of hills I started muttering to myself about “f****in hills”.
I found at camp most riders had felt the same, that the day was hard and endless, which made me feel better. Riders who got to camp before us also ran out of water so the lunch truck went back to give water, neither Brett or I saw or heard it go past. I was just totally focused on pushing myself to keep on riding to camp.
Once I got to camp and was no longer focused on the the tarmac stretching endlessly into the distance, I noticed the stunning scenery. Lake Hawea is beautiful. The campgrounds were stunning, right by the lake with lots of trees and a great big open fire. We had a cabin so headed off to shower and change.
Today we had Jim from Timaru come to visit and stay for dinner. Jim has done a couple of TDA rides so was keen to catch up with Brett, Walli, Ray and Ursula. Jim bought a big box of cold beer which was appreciated by all the riders.
We also had Phil, Anne and Graham join us and stay the night here and a couple of nights in Queenstown. Phil is the rider who was injured in the South American ride (he came off his bike going down hill and had a bad head injury). Phil is making steady progress but has not been able to return to work (ICU nurse) and gets tired very easily. Anne and Graham are two of his good friends who are driving him to and from Christchurch to see everyone.
It was great to see Phil again. Brett and I had caught up with him in March in Christchurch where we had met Anne and Graham (we stayed at Anne’s house). Sue and Chris were on the South American trip so they were pleased to meet up with Phil again as well.
As it was the last night in camp TDA had put on some wine and cheese followed by another amazing meal by Yarnez.
Yarnez pulled out all the stops tonight: steak (all options from rare to well done) with burnase sauce (yellow stuff) plus asparagus, salad and then a baked Alaska! Unbelievable. (Editor’s note: I think Mum means béarnaise sauce )
After dinner we were handed out our trip riding tops for photos the next morning. It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the last riding day already.