February 19, 2002- A Killer Hill

It has been a strange day, particularly weatherwise and probably my hardest ride.

It started out gray and raining, which was a drag, since I wanted to get on the road. The campground was okay, but rather boring, and I was out of food for dinner and there wasn't really a camp store. It was a rather depressing morning. By about 11am, the rain seemed to stop, so I packed up my stuff and got on the road.

About 2km down the road it started raining again, so I put on my rain jacket for the first time on the road. About 2km later it stopped. It was fairly rolling country so it was rather slow going, but nothing compared to what was to come. By the time I reached Waikouaiti, at only about 12km out, I was ready for a stop. I stopped for lunch of a egg and sausage quiche (very tasty) and a latte (in a bowl). I also wanted to stop to buy food since I wasn't sure if there would be any more stores before I got to the hostel in Seacliff, beyond Karitane. I wanted to get at least two days worth. When I left Waikouaiti, the sun had come out but so had the wind, a stiff southwesterly, which, of course, was dead to windward.

I headed off the main road towards Karitane, this was probably the most beautiful area that I've seen. The road ran along a salt marsh that was just teeming with birds. There were some white spoonbill type birds feeding in the shallows. It was one time that I wished that I had a zoom lens on the camera. Karitane overlooks a terrific looking bay and is surrounded by hills.

As I headed out of Karitane, the road when up hill, steeply and into the 30kt wind. I had to stop about 10 times before I got up the hill. About half way up, while I was standing there panting, a fellow pulled up in a pickup and asked if I'd like a lift up the hill. I asked him how much more there was. He said about 700 meters, so I demurred. I should have taken the offer. It turned out that he meant that particular hill. There were several more steep climbs after that.

I finally pulled into the Asylum Lodge hostel at Seacliff totally drained. I couldn't have pedaled another foot. It was only a 25km ride, but took three and a quarter hours. Just to make the strangeness of the day complete, it clouded up and started raining again shortly after I arrived. The sun returned after about a half hour.

The hostel is pretty nice, in a relatively new building on the grounds of what used to be New Zealand's largest asylum hospital. There is nothing left of the hospital except a few modern outbuildings, but the original hospital was once the largest public building in New Zealand. There are some pictures of it here. It looked like an enormous brick castle, complete with towers and turrets and all of the expected Victorian ornate trimmings. It was torn down in the fifties, since big brick buildings were considered earthquake hazards. What a loss.

Frank, who runs the hostel, is quite the collector. He has a collection of about 50 old cars (mostly 50's British models), but they are unrestored. He also collects architectural details. Several of the doors in the common rooms come from as Art Deco theater that was torn down in Dunedin.

As I have gotten further south, the accents have gotten a little stronger. There have been a couple of places that I've been where I have had to ask people to repeat things before I could understand them. There is a definite Scottish influence, particularly the use of the adjective "wee" for small, but it seems to be used as a general purpose add-in.

I will probably spend an extra day here to recover, unless there is a weather r