Day 9 – Rivers of Tar – Glenross Lodge to Napier

To my loving wife,

Today was a stinker. Unfeasibly hot. Disgorgingly hot. A non sequitur of mellifluous heat, if you’ll allow me the liberty.

My companion has become estranged from his faculties – he has lost many good litres in this sun and they have poached his mind of its substance.

Yesterday two of our adoring and most fetching fans furnished us with candies, upon which our young Benjamain Limpus has grown increasingly reliant. Lately the sugar dust from his crazed snackings has blended with the fine salt crust from his perspirations, giving him the disturbed look of some gaunt pantomime.

Oh but the countryside is magnificent! We have seen many falcon, many good and obedient huntaway and one deceased feline, whose rigor mortis had assumed the most jovial pose!

Today as the sun climbed the roads melted into thick tracks of glossy black tar. The heat was oppressive, and when our electronic equipment quit for the day we sought respite beneath a stately tree. We slept for one hour but upon waking we found it to be even hotter than before – thirty-six degrees at least by the local mercury.

We forged ahead – two brave boys – but it crippled us soon after. A kind proprietor took pity on us, roaming addled on his verge, and brought us into his air-conditioned premises and fed us cool drinking water. The man offered us a cool shower also but we knew better than to derobe near people with unaccounted sensibilities. We told the man of our day’s aim and he implored us to reconsider. He had seen us near our worst and feared that we were no longer sound of mind. Meanwhile, outside, the roads still bubbled with the thick and boiling hot muck.

We threw caution to the wind and set off again into the furnace. Boy, it was a fierce press! I lost track of how many bottles I poured in and around my person, but still my tongue parched and my mouth corners cracked for want of moisture.

I longed for many things on the long and hot road today, not the least of which being the well set Glenross lodgings of yesternight and the memories of a deep rest. But also I longed for the quiet roads and courtesy of the Route 52 that we left that morning. Trading the idyllic country boulevards for narrow and busy mainways was an unprecedented hardship.

But still we brave boys pushed through that heat, and notched up a final figure in excess of 220 km for our efforts. A good distance ventured and gained, and that ahead of schedule no less!

I must leave you now, my love. Young Benjamain has gotten into the cane sugars and has caused a mighty disrupt among the lodgers. I hope that this letter finds you safe and that the barley enclosed remains intact. With a guided hand and a sure eye, it should take well.

With love,

your husband,

Young Tom Plum.

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Kind proprietors in Waipukurau.

Kind proprietors in Waipukurau.

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Alfredton, I knew her well

Alfredton!
The sign declared
Had thirty mile legs
For travellers who were unprepared
Expecting country dregs

Five-foot five of healthy tan
And wholesome, heady loins
Attracting passing panel-vans
to make philanthropic noise

To those who want for greener fields
Or sultry city dames
Stick one in old Alfredton
And you’ll be glad you came

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On the eighth day, they rode a bunch. Wellington – Glenross

With your excellent eyes you’ll have noticed that Day 7 has been omitted. We took a rest day in Wellington and there isn’t much to say about it except that it was nice and we ate enough for around twelve boys.

We tootled off the next morning into the drizzle and a strong nor-west wind with Thomas Duppy and Geoffrey Notman, hugging the hills for warmth. We took a little detour to see Mike at Bike Hutt and update him as to our progress. He gave Geoffrey a coffee and Geoffrey enjoyed this.

Duppy retired for the day, citing that he was “as broke as s**t” and needed to work, so the remainder of our little group pushed through the rain for the Rimutaka rail trail. A gentle wee climb saw us to the summit for photos and a goodbye to Geoffrey before we plunged into the 600m long tunnel.

In our enthusiasm we decided to try and ride it without lights. I would compare this to trying to ride through space towards a distant star, except that there are invisible stone walls to crash into (which I did), an uneven ground surface, and Tom: somewhere. We emerged from our vivid hallucinations blinking and traumatised and begun our descent to the Wairarapa, Tom kicking out his feet like an old man as he skided away down the gravel track.

Pies in Featherston, Icecreams in Greytown, and a pair of babes in Carterton were all features of note. The babes even held a sign with our names on it, and a bag of candy for our constitutions. Thank you babes, we do it for you. We entered Masterton with our faculities intact and plotted our next move, which happened to be another 95km of Route 52…

Route 52, however, is quiet and beautiful, with smooth, rolling hills and excellent riding surface. Our moods ranged from upbeat to erratic based on the small candies I was developing a dependence on and I yammered non-stop for almost five hours. The views were long and peaceful and at 60kms we were treated to the sight of two small fallow deer by the road side who stopped and regarded us for a minute before hopping away into the bushes.

Eventually we ran into Tim, who was parked beside Glenross Lodge Backpackers, a side operation run by farmers Pauline and George just west of Pongaroa. Pauline had been impressed by what we were doing and as a result had offered us lodgings free-of-charge, as well as donating eggs and meat to the guts cause. We accepted gratefully and would like to recommend their place to anyone fortunate enough to be travelling along Route 52. While everybody we met in this region was friendly and helpful, Pauline and George really went the extra mile for us and their hostel is well equiped and cozy.

We capped off 190kms for the day and had taken a decent bite out of the North Island, putting us halfway along the LONZ route as a whole.

A beautiful sunset could only be matched by Tom’s radiance and we slept very heavily that night.

Yours

Ben Kidney

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Six days on the road: A Cautionary Tale – Kaikoura to Picton.

Tom and Ben woke to a lovely day. They stretched and applied a variety of creams. The weather forecast announced sun and southerly breezes. Tom and Ben ate some muesli and smiled at one another. Tom said Ben was his friend: “My frieeeend Bennnny.” Tim looked on, bemused.

It was 170km to the Picton, and Tom and Ben were feeling confident. They popped on to the road and cheered and whooped to the passerbys. They were celebrating, but nobody could tell what for. That didn’t matter, the sun was out! The wind at their personal butts!

Tim took photos of Tom and Ben as the road narrowed and the wind flipped. Things were taking a turn! Brimstone stung the nostrils, excreted from sunbaked seals. If the heat and sulphur indicated Hades it was surprisingly pleasant. Tom and Ben mulled over coffee and icecream in Kekerengu and decided that perhaps the sins were worth it.

Soon the road took our boys inland towards the vineyards of Blenheim. Heat and wind and grit swirled about unlegislated and sweat and sunscreen began to flow in greasy, fat drips. The sun was inescapable and water scarce, but Tom and Ben thrived on adversity. They pulled into Blenheim ahead of time, feeling robust and desiccated.

As two self-aware sponges our boys soaked up liquids in the cool of McDonald’s family restaurant. They looked handsome in their tight lycra, crash helmets and dirt coating, but no kisses were forthcoming. They decided that it was possible for a fellow to be too handsome, before moving on to more pressing business.

Blenheim was the hometown of Tom’s dear grandmother, prior to her passing only a few months earlier. Tom was overseas at the time and saw fit for Ben and himself to detour to her old home and surrounding hills as a touchstone to her legacy. Tom fed Ben snippets of his memories of his granny as the westerly winds baked the moisture from the earth. They pushed into the hills for an honorary loop of her suburb and put aside their perpetual silliness for a sombre moment.
They waved her goodbye and set off for the final push northwards.

And our boys pushed! Within the hour they arrived at the seaside and cooled off in the water of the sounds. The hot winds and blazing afternoon sun dried them as they waited for Tim and the ferry across the Strait, kindly provided to them by the Interislander, free of charge, as a contribution towards their charitable intentions.

The South Island had been licked. Five and a half days of riding, nearly a thousand kilometres, two sore botties, eight kilos of carbohydrates and more cream than you’d like to know about.

Two good boys.

From the desk of Ben Kidney.

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Day 5 – Waikari to Hanmer Springs; Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura

My handlebars are wrapped in a foam tape for grip and for comfort.

Where the wrapping finishes it is secured in place by some plain black insulation tape.

Recently I noticed that a small corner of the insulation tape has come away slightly. It is wrapped in a clockwise direction, finishing at the bottom of the handlebar right where I place my hands when my back is getting sore and I need to sit a little more upright. My thumb naturally rests on the corner that is coming away. I flick it gently every now and again to check if it’s still unstuck.

I suspect that some dust has gotten onto the corner, because when I push it down it only stays stuck for a little while. Eventually it comes back off again.

When we reached Hanmer today we found that the Rainbow Road was closed. Apparently there were slips all along and the Manager of the Rainbow Station said “NO MORE!”

This was inconvenient for us as we had turned inland some time ago and spent many good hours labouring away in the heat, sweating buckets to get there.

We didn’t have many other options but to turn back for the East Coast, to Kaikoura.

I tried peeling the insulation tape back a half turn to get some fresh purchase and stick that sucker down once and for all.

I got a good grip between my thumb and forefinger on the sharp edge where the tape had been cut by the scissors and it came away nicely. I felt the good strain as I pulled it up and off the bars, ready to bring it down tight and sticky. Things were looking up!

But when I pulled it back over its new spot and smoothed it down it twitched and started to come away again. I banged the heel of my palm on the handlebars in anger but this threw me off course and I almost crashed in the loose gravel on the verge of the road.

We decided to duck out of the sun in Hanmer and have some lunch to steady ourselves for our coastal rampage. We had done two and a half good hours riding that morning and we had more than four to come. We enjoyed a big ol’ feed of fish ‘n chips; a heavy dose of canola oil to lube the pistons. While we waited we browsed the local produce – to keep the blood up.

Before too long we were back at it again.

When I was trying to get the insulation tape to seat I noticed that it had grubbied up my thumb. It looked like an ink stain, spread across the edge where my thumb emerged from the glove, but it was more powdery. I wondered if I had got any of the powdery ink smudge on my face, and then I realised there was probably nobody around who cared. I rubbed the powdery ink smudge from my thumb onto my white handlebars and it turned into a streak. This seemed even worse to me so I rubbed it away with my index finger, and before you knew it I had two grubby fingers.

The second leg of our ride, back out to the coast, was a roaring affair. We had the wind again, and not even the 1200m of climbing that stood between us and Kaikoura’s lovely German bartenders could dampen our spirits. On the way we passed by Mt Lyford, a gigantic bald peak sitting boldly against a blue sky. Apparently there was a ski field on its flanks. If there was, I couldn’t see it. And if I could, it looked crap.

We also passed some poor soul with a heavily laden touring bike who had dismounted and begun to trudge his steed up a long steep climb into the wind. We offered consolatory smiles as we tore past him, lightly stocked and enjoying the fruits of a reasoned route choice. They probably didn’t help.

Tomorrow I will try peel back the tape and clean away the dust that I suspect has snuck in there. Even now I know that I will end up with glue on my finger, and I know that this will cause new problems, but it is something that I must do.

Faithfully,

Tom Tom Tom Tom Tom

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Journal Entry for the Fifth of January, of the year of Christ two thousand and thirteen.

It has been many months since we have seen another soul. My riding companion has lapsed into an almost constant state of debauchery, eating flies and exposing his entire rear to birds. It has become unpleasant.

I had twenty-three cashew nuts in this satchel yesterday, now there are twenty four. I know he is putting extra nuts in there when I am distracted, but am unsure as to his purpose. I will lay in wait and surprise him tomorrow, perhaps I will hit him with a fish.

As we head into the mountains I am reminded of the romantic notions of the outdoors: the fresh scents of lavender and summer flowers and freckle-cheeked, stout-of-flank country biddies ready to accompany a stranger to a nearby haystack at the tip of a helmet. Unfortunatly the truth is more severe, with the scents laced with sour meat and excrement smelling of the flatulence of a thousand good bottoms.

The miles are still of standard pacing and the sun still flecks the fields but our undercarriages are chafed and our minds are slipping. What will they make of us when we emerge on the other side, depraved and insatiable?

A question to ponder over Rainbow, until then.

Benjamin Kidney Esq.

P.S. Thanks to Joe and Emma of Cycleworkz Christchurch for servicing our bottom brackets for no more than a wink and a whistle.

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Day 3 – Oamaru to Ashburton

Today was a straight up slog.

The terrain between Oamaru and Ashburton is dead pan flat. We started the day with little wind, but before long a persistent headwind had developed.

With no hills to break it up, and no free kilometres to be enjoyed, it was down to just tapping away into the wind for as long as we could stomach it. We took turns on the front, we shuffled around in the saddle, we stood for short periods – it did little to assuage the dull, slow click of reluctant miles.

I can’t upload pictures at the moment, but if I could it would basically be 20 snaps of the same thing – fields, meadows, blue skies and paddocks.

We’d opted not to turn for the highlands as the weather was due to pack in, and pack in it did, but in doing so our necessary route was to endure the tedium of the long and busy main highway.

We spent another 8 hours riding today. We clocked a less than illustrious mileage; about 165 km. But we know that we rode solidly, or at least as solidly as that infernal headwind and our stale legs would allow.

And kilometres ridden can’t be taken away. So there’s always that.

We’ll be looking to crack into tomorrow’s ride a little earlier to avoid the wind for a bit longer. Hopefully it’s less relentless and we can sneak up the country a wee way.

But maybe it’ll be another battle. We’re okay with that, too.

Until then, we’re still alive. And it’s almost my bed time.

Our lodging tonight is worth a quick mention, though. If you’re ever in Ashburton and in need of a motel, look no further than the Commodore on East St. After shopping around, they’re the best value, and well appointed for the price. The proprietors are also downright pleasant. It’s nice.

Con amor,

Tom.

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