Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rest day in Dunedin

Lots more to say here. I'll fill it in later. Suffice it to say I met another solo female cyclist named Kyla and we stayed at the house of an awesome guy named Tod and went nighttime bike raving and dumpster diving and thrift shopping and it was AWESOME. 

Day 49: Dunback, back to Dunback, Dunedin

I awoke from a night of fitful sleep after dreaming about working at the grocery store again and seeing old Seattle friends. My back ached; I hasn't been able to find a comfortable position all night. I made oatmeal and coffee with the last of my water.

My improvised campsite was just slightly south of Dunback, probably 1 or 2 kilometers. It only took me 12 minutes to get there so it can't have been very far. The highway was quiet and the weather calm and chilly but sunny. 

The first thing you see as you arrive in Dunback is a historic hotel and pub. I needed to use the toilet, fill up my water bottles and (ideally) drink a coffee as well. The hotel wasn't open though, and there was no sign of life as I peered in the windows. So the best I could do was get the water bottles filled from the garden hose. I was just about to leave again when a man came out and asked if I needed help.

"I was just looking for coffee," came the sad reply.

"Let me get my wife," he said. 

Despite my protestations, he went and got his wife, who promptly invited me in for a cup of instant coffee. She treated me to a rundown of the history of the area, complete with photos she had on her smartphone. So in the end I got what I came for and a history lesson to boot. It was clear why Rob had fetched his wife - she was the talkative one and clearly enjoyed having someone listen to her. It had been the same with Kay and Doug, except he was the talkative one in that couple. Nearly an hour later, I thanked Liz and Rob and set on my way.

Liz had told me to cycle to Hyde via Macraes Flat, which had been my plan. There was a historic mine there and the scenery was meant to be fantastic. Yet when I got to the turnoff, I was faced with an impossibly steep, long hill. I started in on it but realized I would not be able to do it. So I turned back, took a few photos of the surrounding hills, and bombed back down the hill to the highway, which I planned to take around to Ranfurly and join the rail trail from there. 

Another few kilometers down the highway, my back tire went flat. I stopped to fix it and realized that the tire itself had a gaping hole. I could fix the tube but it wouldn't hold. I needed a new tire and I was in the middle of nowhere, with no idea where the nearest bike shop was.

I fixed the flat in hopes of riding back to Liz and Rob in Dunback. The tire blew again just a little ways out of town, so I walked the last kilometer. There was no sign of life at the hotel (maybe they saw me coming and hid?) so I positioned myself outside and stuck out my thumb. 

It was my first time hitchhiking. The tide of passing traffic was quite low and those vehicles that did pass would not have had capacity for my bike as well as myself. After 20 unsuccessful minutes I was considering alternative options. Right then a red pickup pulled over. The solo lady driver offered to take me to Palmerston, although she told me there was no bike shop there. Happy with that, I loaded my bike into the bed and climbed into the cab. 

We drove to her mother and father-in-laws' house in town, since they were also avid cyclists. But alas, they had no spare tires that would fit my bike. Everyone came up with several options - friends who worked in towns with bike shops, or who were in Dunedin for the day and could pick up a tire on the way home. The mother-in-law even offered to have me stay the night. But in the end, I opted to go to the petrol station on the highway to see if I could hitch a ride into Dunedin. 

At the petrol station, another man who worked for an engineering firm said his coworker was into cycling and might be able to help me. We threw the bike in his company pickup and went to the shop. The guy, Colin, took a look and couldn't offer any help, but they said I could ride into Dunedin with their other coworkers at the end of the work day. I accepted this offer. It was 2pm, so I walked back to the town center to find lunch and kill a few hours until departure time. I also contacted a Warm Showers host in Dunedin who said he could have me over in May, and asked if he could host me tonight instead. He said yes and that I should have my neon clothing ready because we would be attending a bike rave tonight. I wasn't sure what that meant but I was willing to find out.

After a wander about Palmerston and some time using the wifi at the library, I walked back to the engineering building. Peter was the driver and the two passengers insisted I take the front seat. Peter was very amicable and nice to talk to. He is a keen motorcyclist, is from Dunedin and has a wife and two grown boys. He dropped me off right at my host's front door.

Tod, my WS host, was a super-rad dude. He grew up in Dunedin and is now a student there. He was hosting another cyclist named Kyla, who I had been in contact with ever since I contacted yet another WS host in Balclutha and he wrote back to tell me there was another girl with my name staying with him. I had messaged her when I got to Palmerston and she said it would be totally cool for me to come over because Tod was a laid-back guy. Turns out she was right! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 48: Kakanui to Dunback

April 21st 2014
Distance cycled: 64 km
Total distance to date: 2920 km

It's Monday but it's still Easter weekend so lots of shops are closed. Cafés are supposed to be closed too, but most cafe owners know that's ludicrous since people on holiday like to have their coffee and a meal now and again. So they stay open, risking a $1000 fine if caught. The cafe I stopped at for lunch had lots of customers, and many more arrived after i did.

I had a nice fish and chips and a coffee before setting on my way. I needed the extra caloric reinforcement because much of the cycling today was done on the dreaded SH1. And though it was certainly a scenic ride - most of it along the ocean front - it was hard to enjoy it due to the barrage of traffic and the occasional narrowing of the road.

However, taking SH1 did allow me to get to see a famous natural attraction: the Moeraki Boulders.

These crazy things have been there for 55 million years!

Once I got nearly to Palmerston, a number of backroad alternatives presented themselves. I knew nothing about them but gladly took them just to get off SH1. The road I took was gravelly and hilly, but not too bad. It emboldened me to take another one out of Palmerston. More gravel and steeper hills. I was ready to ride the paved road again. My map said I was close; just a few more corners to round. This I did and came straight into this:

Giant tree roadblock on the bridge! There was no way I could get around it. The river was too deep and swift to ford. Either I would climb over, or go back the way I came to Palmerston and take the highway. 

I didn't like the idea of doubling back. Too demoralizing. The highway was right there!! I climbed over, testing the roots and branches for stability. To my surprise, climbing over was possible. I would have to take each pannier over individually, then the bike. I unloaded the bike and started the slow laborious process. 

An English couple arrived to take pictures of the bridge. They asked if I needed help or a ride back to Palmerston. I declined both but the guy insisted on at least helping with the lifting. Eventually we settled on having him lift the bike up to me and I would carry it the rest of the way.

Another couple on the other side offered their help, too. They weren't as insistent though, and took my "No thanks" at face value. I loaded up my bike again and set forth on the highway. 

Due to the lost daylight, I had to camp at an unofficial campsite just a few kilometers down the road. Really it was just a roadside picnic area. It worked for me though. It was next to yet another bridge that couldn't deal with the high river, and water was pouring over it. The grass was quite muddy and a nearby sign warned of flooding. A bit of rain in the night gave me a fright - what if the river swelled up again and claimed my tent? - but the night passed without incident. 

Day 47: Windsor to Kakanui

April 20th 2014
Distance cycled: 35 km
Total distance to date: 2856 km

I cut today's ride off after only 35km. It was Easter Sunday, after all. I decided I deserved a half day. There were a few factors involved in my decision. One is that I hadn't slept very well because of the techno party going on practically outside my window. The second was my desire to check out Oamaru, requiring a few hours of prime midday riding time. And the third was the lack of campsites further down the road. Plus, I was just tired and wanted some down time off the bike to read and laze about in the sun. 

I left Kay and Doug's at around 11 after tinkering with my bike a bit. Just down the street was a place called God's Old House, which I thought was a funny name - did God sell the place and retire to heaven? - but Kay had explained that it was a B&B in a converted church. 

The ride into town was sunny and went downhill through farmland. On Kay's advice I ignored the trail signs and stuck to the main road. This turned out to be a good choice since it kept me on the pavement and the trail met back up with the road later anyway.

Oamaru is a coastal town with its fair share of tourist attractions. There are two penguin colonies here and the town center has a Victorian quarter. They bill themselves as being the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. You can even ride a penny farthing if you want, which is one of those old-fashioned bicycles with a big front wheel and a tiny back one. 

I think steampunk is kind of stupid but in glad there's a gathering place for people who enjoy it. They apparently hold a big steampunk festival here every year.

I went down to the waterfront and didn't see any penguins, but did see a big steampunk-themed playground. 

The farmer's market was on and all the little crafts shops were open, so I took a stroll around and enjoyed the atmosphere. 

After doing my rounds, which included buying more fudge than I should have (which regrettably wasn't as good as it looked), I headed south on Beach Road.

This road was partially closed, as I discovered further on. In this picture you can see the road is severely washed out:

A big fence blocked access and had a sign warning all to keep out, including pedestrians and cyclists. When I arrived, a man and his grandson were busy hoisting their bikes up and over the tall fence. Now THIS is the brand of punk I can get behind. I thought about joining them, but I didn't want to unload/lift/reload my bike. So I went around and followed another road to Kakanui, where I registered at the campsite and spent a leisurely afternoon and evening reading in the sun, talking a few beach walks, and cooking myself some delicious macaroni and cheese. It rained a little in the night but mostly all you could hear were the waves of the South Pacific Ocean crashing on the shore. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 46: Lake Aviemore to Windsor

April 19th 2014
Distance cycled: 58 km
Total distance to date: 2821 km

Today was one of the best days on the whole cycle tour. I feel like I keep saying that. I guess I just have some really good days. 

This morning, I awoke to a perfectly still, dry day. Though it was still overcast, I was perfectly happy. There would be no rain gear and no battling of headwind like yesterday as I rode into Kurow. 

I awoke early as all the fishermen and ladies were getting ready to hit the water. The couple whose site I had shared were really nice and offered me hot water and asked how I'd slept. Then they too hopped in their car to take their boat to the lake. It was a nice way to start the day, I thought to myself as I cooked my oatmeal. The remainder of the ride around the lake was really pretty too, and even included some sunshine!

Eight kilometers outside of Kurow, I met another cyclist, a young guy named Andy from Switzerland. We traded tips and knowledge since both of us were going where the other had just been. I recommended the Wrinkly Rams and the route around the lake. I just wish I'd also recommended the farmstay. But Andy's been tenting even in the rain, so I doubt he'd be interested in staying at a backpackers. He's an old hand at cycle touring, having been all over Asia and Europe with his trusty steed. Next year, he and his girlfriend are planning to take on South America by bike. 

In Kurow, I stopped in at the lovely Valley Cafe and Bakery for a delicious piece of chicken and broccoli pie and a flat white. The barista was a bald stocky guy with a goatee. Not your stereotypical barista look - more like a professional wrestler look - but he was massively friendly. Turns out he'd lived in Vancouver for a while.

The ride to the next town of Duntroon was only 23km and flew by so fast that it felt like less. On the way a rental car honked at me as it flew by. They gave me a really wide berth and a wave out the window so I assumed it was a friendly "yeaaaa girl" honk. Further down the road I saw a sign for some Maori rock drawings. There was also a picnic table with 4 people eating and watching me come up the road. I turned off and was just looking at the sign posted at the trailhead when a guy came up to me and asked if I wanted a sandwich. 

I looked up and realized he'd come from the picnic table. He quickly explained he and his partner had just finished a 10-month cycle tour and that they knew I'd be hungry because cycle tourists are always hungry. So since he didn't seem like a crazy murderer bent on poisoning me with a sandwich, I accepted his offer and came and sat with him and his friends. 

Landon and his partner (whose name I've forgotten) were from Auckland, as were their other (non-cyclist) travel companions, Kate and Jessie. They'd all come down for Easter weekend for a road trip around the South Island. And yes, they were the ones who had honked at me as they passed! I was interested to hear about Landon and his partner's cycle trip, which started in London and went all across Europe, and to learn that they had lived in Seattle for 2 months in spring of 2012! Although work had stationed them in Bellevue, their favorite neighborhood for going out was - where else? - Ballard. 

After Landon and crew made their way down the road, I started off after them and realized that Duntroon was just another kilometer or so down the road. Ha! So I made another stop for a coffee at the Flying Pig Cafe. I had to decide if I would go over Dansey's Pass or head to Oamaru on the coast. Landon had voted in favor of the pass. But at the cafe, the two ladies running the place said it was closed due to yesterday's rain. So it was decided then: I was going to Oamaru. It would be another 53km, which my book said would take 4 hours minimum. However, it was already 2:30 and there was no place to camp on the way. So either I'd be freedom camping or I'd have to cycle in the dark for part of the way. 

I decided not to worry about it and just ride. The day had just gotten warm and sunny enough to ride in shorts and a jersey again - the first time since before Arthur's Pass. Why should I have to worry about anything?

Just as I was getting ready to leave the cafe, Landon rushed in. I was confused to see him again. "What happened?" I said. Landon explained that Dansey's Pass is indeed closed. "We didn't want you to get all the way up there and have to come back," he said. They had come back specifically to find me and warn me to not attempt to cross the pass! So sweet!!

Here's a shot of Duntroon. You can see their church which dates back to their Scottish roots, and the puddles indicative of yesterday's rain:

And here's photos from the sunny ride past some geological formations called the Elephant Rocks:

Yesterday's rain was much worse here than it was back where I was, thus the closing of the pass. Lots of flooding too. Here you can see a bridge that was washed out that I had to cross today:

The ride continued on through farmland and eventually came to a turn-off. The paved road continued with a sign saying "Oamaru - 30km" but the official trail led straight on up a dirt road. I was tempted to stay on the paved road but I turned off to follow the trail. Although the route was hilly and the surface was harder to bike on, the views at the top were worth it. 

As I rode along, admiring the views, I can across a woman out for a jog. We started chatting and within a minute I was invited to be a guest for the night at her house in Windsor! It was a good thing, too, because it was already after 5 and about to get dark. Kay gave me directions to get to the house, and to "tell Doug I told you you could stay".

I got to the house, a pretty red and white farmhouse, and Doug was out in the yard building a shed. When I told him why I was there, he smiled and said, "Yeah, that sounds like Kay."

Kay and Doug fed me dinner and then took me for a midnight walk down the street to their neighbor's property, where he is throwing his annual Eastertime hippie electro party called the Autumn Arena. We walked in past a slew of campervans and suddenly it was just like being at a European music festival, only it's the middle of nowhere on the South Island of New Zealand. Dreadlocks and glitter and fire-twirling and back rubs and funky costumes abounded, not to mention beer, clouds of pot smoke and a bonfire. We only stayed for ten minutes but it was enough to remind me of how much I miss the dance parties in Berlin. As I write this, it is 2am and I can still hear the music blasting from the party. What a strange and wonderful way to end a fantastic day full of good weather, great riding and amazingly kind strangers.

Day 45: Omarama to Lake Aviemore

April 18th 2014
Distance cycled: 61 km
Total distance to date: 2763 km

Today I biked the 9km out to Omarama pretty fast after saying farewell to the farmstead backpackers. 

It's the Easter holiday so there are people everywhere. It's annoying. Almost annoying enough to convince me to brave the Omarama Saddle, 80kms of wilderness over the mountains. But with the rain and the Grade 5 classification of the trail, I didn't feel like slogging through it. Plus I wanted to see more of the Alps2Ocean trail. So after a stopover in Omarama at a cafe called the Wrinkly Rams, I kept going east. 

The trail followed Lake Benmore on a sandy path. It was a pretty ride. 

The trail led back to the highway, over a long 140m climb and into a town called Otematata. But it branched off again to wind around Lake Aviemore before it actually made it into the town. Since I didn't get a coffee break and it was 2pm, I decided to stop at a picnic area and make myself some instant coffee and eat my lunch. The rain had stopped so I hauled out my campstove and set to work. 

Directly after my break, another big climb awaited me up to the dam, along with another shower of rain. Soaking and panting, I arrived at the top to this view:

Even with the cloud cover, it was stunning. Or perhaps because of it. With all this mist everywhere, it's easy to see why they shot Lord of the Rings here.

A swift downhill led me to the lake, which was equally beautiful. The rain mercifully decided to stop for the day at this point.


It was already 3:30 and as I passed campsite after campsite, it occurred to me that I should choose one to stay at. Even though my goal for the day had been the next town of Kurow, 15km away, I realized staying at this pretty place would be cheaper and more pleasant, unless the rain set in again. Thankfully, it didn't. All I had to contend with was the howling wind, but thanks to a fellow camper at the camp I settled at, it wasn't too bad. This guy had a season pass and had all his stuff set up alongside his brother's camp. But his brother wasn't coming tonight, so he offered me a sheltered spot in his brother's camp. These people, like many of the folks at this camp, were here to fish. They had an RV, a motorboat, even a little kitchen area in a separate tent. You could tell this had long ceased to be a hobby for these people. It was officially a lifestyle.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 44: Lake Tekapo to Omarama

April 17th 2014
Distance cycled: 70 km
Total distance to date: 2702 km

Much to my amazement, I actually woke at 7 this morning. I beat the rush of other backpackers to the kitchen and made myself some oatmeal and a few crumpets (with butter from a single-serve packet I picked up at the bakery in Fairlie. What a luxury!). Many of the other backpackers were part of a bus tour called the Kiwi Experience, meaning they had to be out the door by 9:30. It was a flurry of activity as everyone rushed to eat their breakfast, strip their beds, and get on the bus. I calmly packed up my bike and headed in the opposite direction towards Lake Pukaki and Twizel. 

On my way out the door, I bid farewell to Lake Tekapo. It was too cold to linger for very long. 

Mt. Cook is supposed to be visible from Lake Pukaki. And the road that runs along the canal is supposed to be fabulous for cycling. However, the canal road was closed and the weather was crap. So just imagine a giant mountain in this picture where all those clouds are:

I have to say, Lake Pukaki was pretty awesome even with the cloud cover. Look at the color of that lake!!

There was an info center at the lake, at which I spent half an hour warming up and eating my lunch. I thought about buying one of the two products on offer - coffee or alpine farmed salmon - but decided against both. I decided I would stop for coffee in Twizel. I set off on a portion of the Alps2Ocean trail that took me through the Pukaki Flats on a very rocky bike trail. 

Ten kilometers later, I was in Twizel. It was 2pm. Among the many bakeries and cafés I found one with free wifi. Excellent. I resurfaced around 4pm after checking email, Facebook, sending Warm Showers requests and researching my route and places to stay

Shortly before going to the cafe I had met another touring cyclist, Peter from Bautzen, Germany. He said he was staying at a backpackers south of Twizel on the way to Omarama. My plan had been to find a place in Twizel for the night but after last night's crowded hostel, I thought staying somewhere more rural might be more to my liking. I decided to call and see if they had dorm space for one more. They did.

At around 4:30, after picking up ingredients for dinner at the local shop, I headed out again in the light rain. The highway was pretty flat and I only had 20km to go. The shoulder was there but quite narrow. Still, it was an enjoyable bit of road riding, and when a guy in a van slowed down and offered me a lift, I politely declined. I was having too much fun!

After about an hour of uninterrupted riding, I showed up at this farmhouse that looked nothing like a backpackers. But it is. It is amazing. It looks like a family house, complete with nice china and family photos about the place, but is totally designed to accommodate guests. There's all sorts of people staying here. A Belgian family with two sons, aged 3 and 6. A German expat from Hechingen with his 11-year old son. A Kiwi guy originally from the area down to visit family. A Canadian hippie couple living in Christchurch. And of course Peter is here. It's been quite a nice evening talking to everyone and enjoying their company.

We're about 10km outside of Omarama. Tomorrow I'll ride into town and decide how I go from there. My book describes a really adventeruous route that will get me through to the Otago Central Rail Trail. I think I'll go east first and then come down near the coast, but if I get a wild hair, I might decide to take the adventeruous route.  

Day 43: Fairlie to Lake Tekapo

April 16th 2014
Distance cycled: 44 km
Total distance to date: 2632 km

As I fell asleep last night, the rain had just started falling gently on my tent. This morning at 7:30 when I woke up, it was still going. Cooking breakfast was not in the cards. I packed everything up under the protection of my rainfly, until there was nothing left to do but get out of the tent and pack it up, too. 

I biked to the town bakery and ate a creamy chicken pie for breakfast. Then I went to a cafe that had free wifi and ordered coffee. Even though I'd only biked 5 blocks from my improvised campsite into town, I had collected quite a bit of moisture. I hoped that the rain would die down and I could continue my journey. Sadly, this was not to be. I stalled as long as I could, ordering a second coffee and, since I had internet access, booking more travel (see you in June, Berlin!). But when noon rolled around, it was time get serious about going. Off into the rain I went, shortly after 1pm. 

Because of the late start, I only got as far as Lake Tekapo, 44km away. But I did climb 500 vertical meters so I'd say I earned a hot shower. And a warm place to stay, since after biking in the rain and the cold, I did not fancy another stay in my tent, especially since it was still wet from the previous night.

I only stopped twice: once at Burke's Pass township, where I had another coffee, ate a snack lunch and talked to the lady working at a cute souvenir shop with a vintage 50's theme and lots of stuff I wanted to buy. The other time I stopped was at a rest area when I realized I couldn't feel my toes and needed to take off my shoes to warm them up again. The rain only stopped once: while I was in the gift shop. Figures! But it wasn't as heavy as it had been in the morning. By 5:30pm, I'd arrived at the backpackers in Tekapo.

The backpackers here is expensive, noisy, and crowded. But the girls in my (tiny) 4-bed dorm room are nice, and so are the people I chatted with in the kitchen. And it's a warm, clean place with a roof over my head and a place to  dry my tent! However, I already miss the solitude to which I've grown so accustomed. 

Due to the weather, I took no photos today. You could barely see the hills for all the clouds and rain in the way. But what you could see was really beautiful. Lake Tekapo is pretty and I'll have to snaps a few pics of it tomorrow. Tonight, I'm just going to curl up in bed, do a bit of writing, and try to get to sleep even with the hustle and bustle of the hostel buzzing around me.  

Day 42: Geraldine to Fairlie

April 15th 2014
Distance cycled: 80 km
Total distance to date: 2588 km

This morning's checkout was at ten, and from the time I got up at 7, I made sure to have the tent in a dry place on the kitchen deck for as long as possible. It still wasn't totally dry when I left, but that's what happens when a tent spends all night being misted on. 

I had a choice to make: take the scenic route, or shave off 34km by going directly to Fairlie on Highway 79. Ultimately I decided on the longer route. While I think it was the better choice, I don't think traffic was much lighter (since only one-third of this route was on a quiet backroad; the rest was on Highway 8) and it's frustrating to see my lack of progress when I look at the map. 

Anyway, the rain continued on and off for the duration of the morning. About 30km outside of Geraldine at a place called Pleasant Point (it was indeed a very pleasant place), the sun actually came out and I felt warmth again. The rain then stopped for the rest of the day, allowing for some nice photo ops. 

The light was especially good as I made my way into Fairlie. 

Those last 10km into Fairlie were the highlight of my day. I had just turned on my iPod to motivate me through the home stretch, and it surprised me with a few Wagner pieces. It was kind of exhilarating to listen to Ride of the Valkeries as I blasted along into town. 

Fairlie is an adorable small town. It also only had one place to camp, which was exorbitantly expensive. I chose instead to bike around a bit along the side roads to look for an unofficial camping spot. Time was of the essence, as the sun would soon set and I needed to have something worked out before then. However, I kept getting distracted by the beautiful sky: 

I settled on a patch of grass behind an old house that had a sign on the door indicating it belonged to the town theater troupe. The spot overlooked the rugby field, which I wrongly assumed would not be used after sundown. But after I had climbed into my tent for the night, a bunch of pickup trucks came rumbling into the carpark. Then I heard shouting voices, which at first startled me. But it was just some local guys playing a game of after-work rugby. Or teens having practice, I'm not sure which. All I know is that they either did not notice me or they chose to ignore me, which was good. I went to sleep as I listened to the rain, which had just resumed again. 

Day 41: Rakaia Gorge to Geraldine

April 14th 2014
Distance cycled: 82 km
Total distance to date: 2508 km

Last night was cold! No frost but I definitely had to go to bed with lots of clothing on - including that fleece I found on the way out of Christchurch. Glad I took it with me! 

The view from the Rakaia Gorge campsite is quite nice:

Unfortunately, camping in a gorge means that your first order of the day is to climb a really steep hill up out of it. Man, was it steep! And with no warm-up. But the first 400m or so was the steepest. After that the grade became more manageable.

The rest of the day was pretty tame. A few raindrops here and there, but mostly quiet backroads through farmland. Traffic picked up leading into Geraldine. I was looking for a wifi spot on my way into town so I could check Warm Showers. Luckily, there was a farm stand/cafe on the highway that had it. I needed to buy some fruit and veggies anyway, so I made my purchase and received a wifi code. My host had cancelled on me so I was going to need to find a place to stay. I used the wifi to find the cheapest campground, which I had actually already passed about 3kms back. I doubled back and for $15 became a guest of Grumpy's Retreat for the night. I was greeted by Grumpy himself - he actually had a name tag to this effect. 

The place was directly on the highway so I expected some traffic noise, but actually the place was relatively quiet. I spent a good chunk of time reading my book in the kitchen, where I also cooked an enormous dinner of roasted veggies, rice and peanut curry. (It's almost sickening to think about the quantities of food I'm able to consume on this cycle tour.) The kitchen was warm, spacious, well-equipped and spotless, which is why I was surprised I had it mostly to myself the entire evening. The night was a little rainy, but thankfully not as cold as the previous night.