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I left Geraldine this morning and headed to Timaru. I originally thought that I might stay in Geraldine an extra day, since it seemed a nice place. The Olde Presbytery was more like a B&B without breakfast (just a B) than a backpacker hostel. The accommodations were simple, but comfortable, and Fay the hostess was pleasant. Her husband, Peter, on the other hand, was a bit intrusive. (This made the place a C-).
It is interesting, but about half of the small places that I've stayed in were with people who have lived in the area most, if not all, of their lives and half have been transplants from the North Island. The natives, by far, have been the warmest. And the stays that I've had at out-of-town locations, better than in-town.
So far, Kathleen & Peter King, who had the homestay and mini-farm in Oaro, have been the nicest. The Rudds, who operated the Pedallers Rest on their farm were also quite nice, but I didn't spend much time with them since the hostel bulding was separate from their house. Pete, at Clifford Bay was interesting, but an old bachelor farmer. The Cutforths at St. Ita's were very nice, and although they had recently moved there, Miriam was from the area. Brent and Kelley were also nice, but much younger than I.
Actually, the only ones that have been disappointing have been the stay in Cheviot, where they smoked, and last night.
It was cold and gray again today. By the time I got from Geraldine to the main highway, it also started raining. I was afraid that it would continue since at that point the roads were wet. Fortunately, it stopped very shortly after I got onto the highway. The ride itself was pretty uneventful from there. Just the usual fields and sheep.
I did stop by a flock of sheep for a drink stop. The reaction of sheep is strange. If I am moving by, even very slowly, they seem to pay no attention, but as soon as I stop, they all get up and start moving away. I also saw a big flock of birds, too far away to identify, that were riding a thermal out in the distance. You could see them spiralling up like a big column. The only other encounter of interest was as I passed some cattle. I mooed at them and a bull, who I hadn't noticed, put his head up and gave me this grim stare until I passed by (probably for longer than that, but I didn't look back).
I got to Timaru at about noontime. I am off the plains. There were a series of small hills into the town and the town itself is quite hilly, sort of like a miniature Auckland. It is a small city of about 30,000 and is the second largest fishing port in New Zealand. It also has a lot of shipping. The two hostels in town looked pretty grim, so I am staying an a homestay in a nice neighborhood about a kilometer or two from the center--up hill of course.
It is owned by Nessie and Len Jones, who are an older couple. They have a rather interesting house with lots of rooms and lots of interior details. They have been here 38 years and Nessie said that the house was half as big when they bought it. They raised five children and Len is a builder, so it kept getting bigger. Since their children have all moved out (one lives in Merrimack, MA), they have taken in homestay guests. Like the one near Ashburton, they don't advertise, but are listed at the local tourist information center. So it is another nice find.
They are quite nice. I had hardly walked in the door when Nessie offered lunch. She said that she only had bread and cheese, if that was okay. It turned out to be fresh french bread, two cheeses and a selection of vegetables and relishes to go on the bread. I have a bright twin room with a view out to the harbor as well.
Speaking of nice finds--as I was coming into Timaru, braking while coming down hill, I noticed that my headset bearing seemed loose. After finding a place to stay, I went in search of a bike shop, since they have a couple here and I don't have a wrench big enough to adjust the headset. When I went into the shop (Howes Cycles, 127 Church Street) and explained my problem, the fellow there stopped what he was doing and adjusted the headset and wouldn't even think of charging for the service. Steve's Kiwi of the day!
I'm hoping to go on to Waimate tomorrow, but I have been feeling a bit poorly this afternoon. I hope that I've recovered in the morning. Only 200km to Dunedin--but it gets hillier again from here.