February 6, 2002 - Riding into a Gale of Wind

Well, the rain stopped and I was committed to leave (since you have to let them know the night before so that they can tell the next bus how many can stay) and the southerly wind was back. The weather report said 40kph, gusting to 100kph. Since I was planning to travel only 20km to Oaro, I headed out into the wind.

It was fairly tough going in places, but there were not too many hills, certainly no big ones. The views were spectacular. There was a tremendous surf all along the coast, which is mostly rocky. The hills come right down to the water (I actually went through a couple of short tunnels where the hills were so steep that they came right to the water. There were places where the gusts were bad and I was in my second lowest gear on the flats with the salt spray in my face (the glasses needed a good cleaning when I stopped. There were also stretches where the hills blocked the wind a bit and I could make fair progress.

There were places where I'd be riding along well above the water, with no guard rail, and could look down and see it crashing against the rocks and seawall below. There was one spot where I came down from a rise to a low point and looked to my left and up at the waves. I stopped and took a picture of that one. For some reason someone had built dozens of tall cairns on the rocky beach at that point. They were originally built by some Easter holidaymakers who couldn't get out fishing. Many have eveidently been knocked down, but new ones get rebuilt as sort of folk art. The folks at the place I'm staying had photos of some quite elaborate creations.

There were also more seals. What I was describing as sea lions are actually fur seals. The first one I came across was actually sitting almost on the road shoulder. I stopped and took a picture of it. There were more later, including one who actually climbed over a guard rail onto the shoulder about 10 yards ahead of me and one who was asleep on its back against the guardrail not more that 3 feet from me when I passed. It didn't even budge.

Even though it was windy, it was worth the short ride, but I doubt that I could have done another 35km up into the hills in this wind.

Oaro is a little settlement of about sixty houses, right on the coast, part of the Kaikoura disrtict. About half of the houses are holiday homes. I'm staying farm homestay (B&B) called Waitane Homestay. It is a little more expensive than my usual stays at NZ$40 plus $15 if I want dinner (there isn't much else around), but it has a much higher quality amenities as well, like lots of towels and blankets and a sunny comfortable room. My hosts are Kathleen & Peter King.

The Particulars:

Kathleen is your classic grey-haired grandmotherly type, probably late 60's. She and her husband have 48 acres here where they raise a few cattle for market a few sheep for meat and grow fruit trees. They have citrus fruits and Feijoas, a Brazilian fruit that looks sort of like a smooth avocado. She sells them to a small market chain and at market in Kaikoura, as well as making it into jams and preserves. She also makes great cookies, as were just served for afternoon tea.

Peter just came in as I was writing this. He seems to be in his seventies and was up in Kaikoura today raising money for the local ambulance at a Waitangi Day tournament. He runs a sausage stand (with beer & wine) for the local Lions club at the tournament. Not a good day for golf (or sausages & beer) with the wind.

They used to have a larger hill farm just up the road, raising sheep, but since Peter had both hips replaced, the hills seemed have gotten steeper, so they moved into a smaller place. That they already owned and are semi-retired (if you call raising sheep for lambs, cattle for market, having about 60 fruit trees and a B&B retired).

Oaro seems to be a point which is wide enough to allow a siding for the train so that the north and southbound trains can pass each other. Twice since I've been here, I've seen a southbound train pull into the siding to wait for the northbound train to pass. They seem to run a fair number of freight trains up and down the coast.

I walked down to the shore to look at the waves and saw that, although the road goes into the hills at this point, the train line goes right along the coast clinging to the side of the hills that go right down into the water. It must be a spectacular route.

I also walked over the railroad bridge (which has a walkway on one side) that crosses the local Oaro river right along the beach. The river ends at a bar, with a small channel through the bar. As I was on the bridge watching the birds on the beach that I had just walked over, when a big roller came in and washed over the bar across the beach I'd walked on and about a 100 yards up the river. I walked back along the tracks.

One the things I noticed again while riding along today was the noise from the hillsides. I also heard it on the trip to Kaikoura. They have a cicada (I saw one on a light pole today) that is very noisy. There are these heavily wooded patches of hillside, where thay are so loud that the noise drowns out the wind and the surf. There must be millions all scraping away.

It has been raining on and off all afternoon. I'm glad it didn't happen on the road. I hope that it will end and the wind will blow itself out, since I will be tackling those hills tomorrow.

Updated: 20 March 2002