February 8, 2002 - It Seems To Be Winter

It was very cold today. Cold enough to see my breath; I looked like a steam engine climbing out of Cheviot. I didn't really warm up until I got to Waipara. It was cool and damp when I left Cheviot this morning and it seemed to get cooler as I went up hill. The route was one where the road climbed for about 30km and then went basically downhill for another 30km. Fortunately, there was only one short steep section, but it was tough going because I couldn't get warm. I was sweating, but since it was so damp, it wasn't evaporating and soaked through my long cycling top and made things even chillier. The only thing that warmed me up were the big double-trailer stock trucks full of sheep passing by. They'd leave about a five second tunnel of warmth as they passed. They were a bit aromatic, though.

On my way up I saw a herd of deer in a paddock by the road. As I passed by, slowly, it was rather funny. First one deer noticed me and popped its head up, then the whole thing rippled back through the herd as each deer noticed the next and popped up from grazing to stare at me--sort of like reverse dominoes.

I also stopped to watch a farmer and his pack of sheepdogs working a large flock of sheep down a paddock and into a pen by a barn. It was really impressive. Working dogs at work are really something to watch. I don't think that I ever seen them working a real flock, just demonstrations, like the one we saw in Australia, or trials. The farmer was working five dogs, the hound-like barkers, who just encircled the sheep and brought back the outliers, whenever one escaped.

I also stopped by another field of deer, not with any intention, just to rest, and they did the same thing as the cattle yesterday--they all came over to the fence to look at me. They were on the other side of the road, but I took a picture anyway.

When I got to Greta Valley, which, in spite of the name, is nearly to the top of the long climb, I was able to stop at a tea room (called "The Snack'n'Chat") to warm up and dry off a little. While I was snacking on my tea and a hot pie, I was chatting with the folks at the next table who were visiting from England. It turned out that the man was an avid cyclist and had just bought a BOB trailer like mine, but hadn't used it yet (they were not cycle touring here). He was quite interested in my experience so far, as he was planning on a 2,200 mile cycle tour completely around Great Britain with it, next summer. Better him than me.

After I left, having warmed up a little, there was still a couple of more kilometers of climbing (I'd thought that Greta Valley was at the top!), but I knew that I was finally at the top when this long vista opened up as I came over the crest. I hadn't seen anything like it before. Everything was downhill from here. While it was still cloudy, the view was probably 50 miles. I could see mountains way off to the southwest with snow on them (They seemed the only thing in sunlight, since they were bright). I was a great view as I stood there catching my breath.

As I said, it was all downhill from there. I think that I started with at least five kilometers of coasting down a moderate grade and, since there wasn't much wind, I was able to pedal at 30kph in my high chain ring at times in the flat parts. It got warmer as I came down and by the time I got to Waipara, the sun finally came out, for the first time since I left the Pedallers Rest, which was almost five days ago. I hope the weather is turning around. Next thing you know, I'll be complaining that it is too hot.

Tonight, I'm staying at a rather unique backpacker hostel and caravan park called the Waipara Sleepers, which is made up of a collection of old Train Guards' Vans (the NZ railroad equivalent of cabooses) that have been converted into four berth cabins. The one that I'm in has two rooms, a sitting room at the rear, that was originally the train guards room, and a larger room forward, which was originally for light freight, like the mail, which has two set of bunks fitted. It seems pretty comfortable, but they need a table in the sitting room. I'm here alone and since it's now 9:30pm, I assume that it will stay that way.

Last night turned out less comfortable that I expected, Kay and Bryan were quite nice, but the odor of cigarette smoke, spoiled it. They didn't smoke in my presence, but it was present enough that it was not comfortable. As I mentioned when I called, when I opened my trailer bag this afternoon it smelled and I had to wash everything that I had out last night, since they had absorbed the odor. Ugh!

It seems that everyday I see something, out of the ordinary, that I just have to stop for. Today it was a tiny train station. I was riding along and there was this little building, about 4'x6' that looked just like a train station, right next to the tracks. It had a name board on it; Tormore, I think it was called. There wasn't a settlement there, as far as I could tell. So I stopped to take a look. I went over to it and the door was open. Inside there was a telephone with instructions saying to pick up the phone and when it is answered state your location and the service desired. I wondered if I picked it up and asked to be taken to Christchurch, the next train through would stop.

Aside from the cold, it was actually a pretty ride, It wasn't too steep on the way up so I was able to spend more time looking at the scenery than struggling up the road. I don't know if I'm getting stronger, although it doesn't feel like it in the mornings, but I've been able to put together back to back 50km+ days. (Of course it could just be that the routes are easier). I, once again, met some interesting people and saw another 500,000 or so sheep.

Anecdotal Observation--When you are riding on an otherwise empty road and there is a car coming towards you and another coming up from behind you, they will always pass each other right where you are.

Updated: 20 March 2002