Monday, January 18, 2010

Lake Moeraki to Makarora -- 70 miles

After last night's post, I walked to Munro beach, about 45 minutes each way from the lodge. There I got my first real taste of the infamous NZ sand flies. They were biting like crazy at the beach. Nonetheless, I took off my shoes and went wading in the Tasman sea. It was delightful.

Today was our longest ride of the tour and had a large hill at the end, which I will describe shortly. The build up was worse than the reality.

It was overcast when we started, and stayed that way until after we climbed the hill over Haast Pass. The ride started out with three small climbs in the first six miles. We called them the three little sisters, not to be confused with the three big sisters that we climbed after leaving Franz Josef a few days ago. At the top of the first there is a view point at Knight's Point, overlooking the sea. Despite the overcast day, the view was worth a stop. Unfortunately, the sand flies thought so too. They were as bad as they had been at the beach. So it was a short picture stop.

We then had a long relatively flat stretch until our picnic lunch at Pleasant Flats. We had been forewarned that this was to be a picnic for the sand flies with us being the main course. We had ridden something over 40 miles by that point, so lunch seemed like a good idea. John loaned me a set of rain pants to keep the flies from my legs, and I spread insect repellant on my arms and neck. Strangely, the sand flies are only interested in people, not our food. After a hasty repast, which was quite tasty, it was back on the bike for the Haast Pass climb.

The tough part was the first 3 kilometers where the average grade (we were told) is 10%. Some pitches were considerably steeper. I saw readings of 15 and 16% on my GPS. After that it was about another 7 km of gradual easy climbing to an altitude of 562 meters (about 1700 feet). At the top, the sun became dominant and the descent was the best of the trip because it was fairly straight and I could really let the bike go.

At the bottom we came into the small village of Makarora. Our lodging is in a complex of A frame chalets. Our guides describe them as rustic, and I would not disagree. But they are certainly adequate, with good hot showers, plenty of beds (mine has a double and two twins) and all the amenities including the ubiquitous kettle for making instant tea or coffee. (Some of our lodgings have even provided French press coffee makers and the coffee to go with them.)

No picture today because of the usual computer issues. Only two more days of riding, and tomorrow is a relatively short one.

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