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.


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