After having made it down the length of the West Coast without being rained on, we woke to rain. “That’s ok”, we thought, “it’s West Coast rain, and we’re going through the mountains to the East Coast today, so at least it won’t last all day.”
You may not have picked this up on this in our blog so far, but if there’s one thing we are good at (aside from choosing the best bikes), it is being optimistic.
So we put on our rain gear and got riding. It wasn’t that bad initially, just a slight drizzle, and the hungry sandflies helpfully prevented us from taking any breaks. I had visions of what hungry piranhas do to carcasses in the Amazon on nature documentaries. If sandflies had teeth, they’d be terrifying.
We arrived at the (inappropriately named) Pleasant Point late morning in increasingly heavy rain, and we congregated under a shelter out of the rain with about ten other cyclists. Daniel worked his usual magic with his coffee percolator, producing three cups of coffee.
Then it was on to riding up Haast Pass. At a rough estimate, based on my experience of riding a loaded Raleigh 20 up the pass, in the cold and the pelting rain, without a low enough gear to comfortably pedal, I’d estimate the road slope is about 45 degrees (although I might be wrong.)
Jeremy, who doesn’t like pedalling slowly, blasted up the hill, leaving me (and a number of other cyclists) in his wake.
We reached the top and officially moved on to the east side of the South Island, where, contrary to our earlier expectations, the rain didn’t miraculously stop. It got worse. And by the time we made it to Makarora at the 80km mark, we were thoroughly soaked and cold.
As we sat in the only cafe there, one of the staff brought over the landline phone, asking if we were Eric, Jeremy, and Daniel. Umm, weird, but yes. On the phone was Geoff, another cyclist who we’d started with back at Cape Reinga. He and his wife Maureen had finished the TA last week, and they’d been watching our tracker. They live in Hawea, so Geoff had called the cafe to get hold of us, to offer us dinner and a place to stay. What legends!
So we struggled the last 50km in the rain, knowing we had somewhere warm and dry to be. As a side note - Lake Hawea road builders - it’s a road beside a lake. Lakes are flat. Just build the road flat like the lake. There’s just no reason to send the road up and down every nearby hill you can find. The scenic views from high points are not worth it. Case in point:
We reached Hawea in the early evening, and Geoff and Maureen came and picked us up, then fed us and gave us beds in their lovely house. Thanks so much! At the end of a hard, hilly and wet day, again, the hospitality at the end of the day was an absolute highlight.
Total distance: 127 km
Total elevation gain: 851 m
Time on bike: 7 hours 27 minutes
Calories burnt: 4700
Maximum speed: 54.7 kph
% of day with rain: 100%