February 12, 2002 - Summer Went Missing (again)

When I left Rakaia, I considered going west toward Methven, but the clouds had covered the mountains and it didn't seem worth the extra 100km trip for poor weather and no views, so I decided to continue down the main road south. I rode to Ashburton, the next big town, actually the distinct center, which is much bigger than Rakaia. With the southerlies returning and the dampness, my ride didn't start out too well.

My spirits picked up when I saw two mares with new foals right near the road. I stopped and went over to look. There was what looked to be a very young foal who was as interested in me as I was her. I tried to take some pictures, but every time I shifted position, the foal would turn its whole body to look right at me. So I have a head-on photo of a very skinny young horse.

A little further on I came across a herd of alpaca. I stopped to look at them and several were quite inquisitive, coming right up to the fence to take a look at me. They are handsome animals, coming in several colors, white, black, gray and several shades of brown. They seem more intelligent looking and acting than sheep.

It was a day for fauna, as I kept flushing rabbits who were grazing along the side of the road. My host today, Brent Duncan, informed me that they are considered introduced pests and hunted heavily, but there are still plenty. They get $2 a head for rabbit as pet food. Thumper isn't loved in New Zealand.

Some of the riding was a struggle today; it was the road surface. In places the gravel they use on the roads is so rough, that it is almost like riding on an unpaved road. There is so much rolling resistance that if I stop pedalling, it seems like the bike stops in about 3 bike lengths, and this is on a level road. The vibration from the road is so bad that a couple of kilometers of the stuff and my hands begin to get numb.

After arriving in Ashburton, which was about a 30km ride, I stopped in the town information center to find a place to stay. There was a bit to choose from, and I opted for a home stay, called Adventure Homestay, which was about 10km further south. It is a new house on 10 acres, owned by a fairly young couple, Brent Duncan and Kelley Mitchell. He is a fishing and hunting guide by avocation and a mechanical engineer in the local freezer plant by trade. Kelley raises Arabian horses, owns a cleaning service and is a veterinary nurse. Everyone that I've met seems to do several things.

The particulars:

On their ten acres, they have five acres of horse paddocks and a five acre trout pond (which also attracts ducks, which become dinner). Brent is evidently a very good fisherman. It is his passion. He won the Rakaia Salmon Fishing contest last yaer over 700 competitors. Brent says that Kelley is the better shot. She grew up in the middle of the Southland near Milford Sound, forty miles from the nearest road.

Their house is only about a year old, built by Brent. It is barn-style house of brick, with quite a bit of room. They have a couple of guest rooms available and seems pretty comfortable, just not quite as charming as the old convent. I may end up here a couple of days if it rains tonight and tomorrow. They only charge NZ$20 per night, which is less than some of the backpackers that I've stayed at and NZ$10 for dinner

They offered me lunch when I arrived. It was pasta with locally caught (by Brent) and smoked salmon and peas. Dinner was a venison stir-fry tonight (wild, not farm-raised I'm told). Both meals were tasty, but simply prepared home cooking.

They also have a dog, Fay. She is a two year old lab, super friendly, who bounded up when I arrived and sidled up for a scratch. Evidently a good duck hunter, she's just been bred to another good hunter, with working puppies in mind.

I've had the house to myself for most of the afternoon. Brent went fishing before working the evening shift at the freezer plant and Kelley went back to work. Brent's mother stopped in and said hello. She lives next door in a separate little building that she called a "granny flat". She moved here just recently. They found the building near Christchurch and moved it here. She evidently helps out in the cleaning business, as she came by to make some business calls.

As you can see, it was not a tremendously exciting day. I only rode about three hours as it was getting cooler and damper and there didn't seem to be another place to stop for another 30km and 40km+ seemed enough. It began raining soon after I arrived and it may continue tomorrow. If so, I may end up here another day.

Updated: 20 March 2002