Saturday, June 7, 2014

Into the Waitaki valley - NZ 2014 Part 3

After a restless sleep, I woke up at about 7am feeling like a piece of dessicated coconut, having inadvertently left the heater on all night.  As per usual Chris was up and about before me, and informed it was clear and blue outside.  We only had a short and straightforward day ahead of us today, so the decision was taken to go for a wander up the main street of Waimate for a leisurely breakfast.

Blue sky was a novelty after the last few days of wall-to-wall grey.

 I was relived that we didn't ride all the way from Timaru yesterday, and excited that we'd get the afternoon off after a short ride to Kurow.

Waimate was a pleasant and clean farming town, with a wide main street and historic buildings.  Despite being close to 9am, most food places were closed, and there seemed to be no bakery.  All we could manage was a lukewarm pie that had been in the warmer since time immemorial, washed down with an equally lukewarm and lacklustre coffee.  The good news was that the local radio DJ mentioned the weather outlook for the day was "NGR", which he *hilariously* clarified to mean "no gumboots required."  We left the cafe staff to their underwhelming fare and contrived AM radio banter, and stepped out into the warm sunshine on the main street.  After a quick resupply for fruit and road food at the local supermarket, we discovered that there seems to be some kind of competition among the local Waimate hairdressers to see who can come up with the best pun business name...

I couldn't determine who won the pun tournament - Shampers...


 ...or Scissorhands.  You be the judge.
 Cool junk hey...?

 Waimate: punctuation hell.

Many building on the main street had these grand old facades.

Sweet turn-ups!

All packed up and ready to leave.  As I mentioned the room was very basic, but for $25 I couldn't fault it.

 After packing up and chatting to a bloke who was walking around NZ, we rode back to the main street and turned towards Kurow, our destination for the day.  I couldn't find much information about the route ahead - I knew there were no town, and no shops.  As far as I could tell the northern side of the Waitaki Valley was rarely ridden by touring cyclists.  Within a few turns of the pedals we left Waimate behind, and rode immediately into a winding gorge.  The clouds closed in and the wind picked up, however I had trouble riding quickly.  My right knee suddenly became extremely sore when I hopped back on the bike, so I happily dawdled along through the rolling countryside knowing that even at a slow pace I'd only be on the bike for a few hours.

Riding out of Waimate.

 The township finishes suddenly, and within a couple of minutes of leaving the cabin we were back out in the countryside.

 Riding into Waimate Gorge.  I really had no idea what I expected to see today, so this was a pleasant scenic surprise.

 Emerging from the gorge, the road continued through rolling farmland.

At one point the road descended down to a creek.  Chris was a little way ahead of me so I grabbed the camera out to get a photo of his descending.  I didn't account for just how steep and long this hill was - by the time I snapped this photo I was doing about 70km/h.  It was a bit frightening going that fast one handed!

The Waihao Forks hotel - an unexpected pub out in the middle of nowhere.
After a while the sun came out.  I stopped to have some food and admire the super saturated colours all around.  Given we had a whole day to get to Kurow, we decided to stop every hour for a full sit down roadside snack to keep our energy levels high.

As I rode through the green farmland, I became fatigued but couldn't really figure out why.  I kept getting slower and slower, having change into lower and lower gears.  I thought I was having some kind of energy or power crisis, however stopping to rest and looking behind, I realised that we had climbed a long way up that morning.

 Reaching the summit before heading down to the Waitaki River.

A fast and fun descent through farmland continued for about 8km. It was nice to get so many "free" kilometres in on a short day.

Chris and I are pretty evenly matched in the cycling stakes, so we broke up the day by taking turns to lead while the other drafted on the long, flat road leading up the river to Kurow.  I'd lead for half an hour, Chris would lead for half an hour, then we'd stop for a roadside snack.  Of all the buddy systems I've tried cycle touring, this one worked the best to keep us fresh and moving forward.

One of many single lane bridges along the way.

Breakfast / lunch / dinner of champions.  I've lived on these things for days out on the road.

A familiar sight for any cycle tourer - sitting in the grass by the side of the road eating muesli bars.

 Kurow approaches, and the cloud starts to thicken and lower.  Fortunately by this point I estimated we were only a few kilometres out of town.

Chris hooks it as our energy picks up with the knowledge the day is nearly over.

Crossing over the Waitake River on the boundary of Canterbury and Otago, I came the closest I ever have to being cleaned up by a passing car.  To get into Kurow we needed to cross from one side of the valley to the other, across the Waitaki River.  The bridge was out for repairs, so a temporary deep gravel alternative route had been constructed into town.  The flagman waved us through, and as I got to the narrowest part of the deep gravel detour, walled in on both sides with temporary barricades, I spotted a Nissan X-trail faux-wheel-drive in my mirror.  I moved over to the left a bit, into very deep gravel.  The car passed within about 30cm of me - close, but I've had closer.  I concentrated on riding in a straight line through the gravel, lest I end up under the wheels.  What I hadn't bargained on was the fact that this particular moron happened to be towing one of those huge hire trailers, significantly wider than the wheel track of the car.  I was doing about 15km/h, X-trail dickhead was doing maybe 20, so it wasn't as if I was slowing him down considerably.  The end of the detour (and centre of Kurow) was maybe 50m away, so it wasn't as though he'd be stuck behind me for ages, but no - he was going by.  I braced myself for the inevitable shove from behind as the wheel arch hit my pannier - but it never came.  The trailer passed so close that the wheel arch of the trailer passed under the mirror on my bar end.  Chris was riding behind and was sure I was getting hit - there was maybe a centimetre or two in it.  At the Kurow junction a few metres later, X-trail man turned left, and I turned right to look at a roadside map.  I noticed X-trail man pulled up down the road, talking to a bunch of ~55 year old cyclists that must have been doing the Alps To Ocean trail.  He was clearly driving the support car for them.  So here we had a guy who clearly had some knowledge of touring cyclists, was about 100m from his destination, was going 5km/h faster than a cyclist, but was still so busy and important that nearly running another rider off the road was a logical course of action for him.  I briefly considered riding down there and giving him a bollocking - but then much like Queen Elsa from the smash hit motion picture movie film Frozen, I decided to let it go.  However the fact remains that X-trail man (and by association everyone he was "supporting") is a complete and utter fucking idiot of the highest order.  Comforted by the thought that this individual lived the hollow and unpleasant life of a career fuckwit and other must hate him as much as I did, I pedalled off towards the bucolic splendour of the Kurow Holiday park.

Our totally awesome cabin at the Kurow Holiday Park.  Highly recommended.

Chris eagerly embraced my post-ride tradition of eating an entire packet of jellies each day.

How a bin should look at the end of a successful day of cycle touring.  Liquid breakfasts, nut bars, ibuprofen and whisky.

My handlebar bag prepped for the following day - nut bars, sunscreen, electrolyte and chamois creme.

We got into Kurow at about 2pm, so we had time to get some chores done.  I laundered my clothes, cleaned and serviced my bike, then wandered uptown with Chris for an early dinner.  The small town had all the usual shops and services - we grabbed some road food and headed to the Waitatki Hotel for a well-earned beer.  All of the traditional pub food there looked awesome, and we were pretty hungry, so we ordered the unlikely combination of lasagna and mashed potato.  After a short while a small mountain of food arrived on a plate the size of a bicycle wheel, and I hungrily scoffed the whole thing.  It was the most I'd ever eaten in one sitting - I couldn't believe it.  Plus I was still hungry.  Chris also powered through his food mountain, expressing a similar sentiment that he'd never eaten so much in his life.  Even the barmaid was impressed with our ingestion efforts - and here was me thinking the surefire way to impress a barmaid was to sit at the bar all night and show her just how much you can drink.  The pub was warm and cozy, and we'd had a great day.  I felt like staying there for a while longer, however knowing we had a huge day planned for tomorrow we sensibly dragged ourselves away and walked back to the cabin for an early night.

Kurow holiday park overlooking the Waitaki River.

We were only a few metes into Otago, but already the scenery was unmistakable.

Metaphoto: taking a photo of taking a photo.

Low cloud over the Waitaki Hotel.  Best we go inside to stay warm.

$8 jug of Monteith's Black Beer.  I was so stoked, my favourite beer for sure.

The ride from Waimate to Kurow was cycle touring as it should be.  Not many people about, good weather, good company, lots of laughs, with a lot of hours to unwind at the end of the day.  Tomorrow was shaping up to be a massive day, over the famed Danseys Pass - a remote dirt pass with no services in the middle of nowhere.  I went off to bed early, knowing I had everything organised for the following day, refreshed and ready for any and all cycle touring challenges.


  1. "How a bin should look at the end of a successful day of cycle touring. Liquid breakfasts, nut bars, ibuprofen and whisky." - Cycle touring Quote of the Year!

    Great read Mr Velo Cetera.

  2. New bridges across the Waitaki were opened in April and June 2014, must have been very close to that time? They have separated cycle paths.

    1. Hi Patrick, this ride was in early April 2014, so I reckon they must have been pretty close to finishing when I was riding across there. It'll be great with a separated path, that was the closest I've ever come to being skittled! Cheers, Leon