February 23, 2002 - Into The Southland

What a strange day. It started with the fire alarm going off in the hotel just after I finished my shower. Being that it was a pretty funky old place with no staff on the premises, I jumped into my clothes, grabbed my backpack (containing passport, camera and computer) and left the building.

Fortunately, there wasn't a fire, but just a fault in the alarm system. The day was sunny and clear and I took the whole experience as an omen and hightailed it out of Dunedin after breakfast. Meteorology in New Zealand is a very inexact science. It was supposed to be cloudy with showers.

There doesn't seem to be a way out of the city without climbing big hills. The first one was the killer (why is it always the first one). It was on a four lane highway with lots of smoking traffic. I finally gave up about halfway up and walked it. I was panting so hard and the air was so bad that I couldn't breathe. At the top, it became stranger as the highway turned into a motorway (bicycles excluded) and I had to take a skinny little walk and bike path down to the bottom.

The road that I could take then wound back and forth along the motorway through the suburbs of Dunedin. It may be a small city, but has a lot of 'burbs over the hill. The route was hard to follow since it went from road to road. It would be like having to go through Dorchester and Quincy, etc. because you can't go on the expressway, only with lots of hills.

I finally got almost to Mosgiel, about 15km from Dunedin and the road went right up a short gentle rise to the motorway or left up a really steep hill. I noticed a sign just beyond the motorway entrance that the road narrowed in 500 meters. I guessed that it ended at Mosgiel--so I took the motorway. I didn't have that hill in me and it would have been twice as long.

It gets better. About 5km beyond Mosgiel, my chain broke again. Fixing it involves taking the bag out of the trailer, disconnecting the trailer, taking the bags off the bike, removing the rear wheel, fishing out my heavy-duty tool bag out of the trailer bag, fixing the link, cleaning all the black grease off my hands and then reversing the process. At least it was a rest.

At that point, the southerlies came back, so now I was, once again, going to windward. At least I didn't have to buck the wind and the hills. The road became more gently rolling after Mosgiel. I stopped by a field just before Lake Waihola to take a picture of an interesting array of hay bales. They bale them into cylinders and then cover the bales in blue shrinkwrap. I think that this allows them to store the bales outside, since I've seen stacks of them elsewhere. Just the random arrangement of them, sitting on end, strewn across the field was interesting.

At that point, I noticed a trio of cormorants in the water below me. I thought this rather unusual, since I was about 10km inland. They were in what must have been an irrigation canal, since it was at least thirty feet wide and followed the road for about 5K. As I rode along, I kept stopping because it was full of birdlife. There was a pair of black swans, with cygnets. I tried to take a picture, but they ducked into a stand of trees before I got a chance to take it. I also saw a bird that looked a lot like a blue heron, but with a white head and the feathers were shaped differently. Lots of ducks, too. I stopped for lunch in Waihola at a tearoom called The Black Swan, so they must have several around there.

I pushed on from Waihola to Milton, where I'm spending the night at the Happy Inn Backpackers. It is owned by a Swiss fellow named Toni. He bought an small ex-church and its church hall. He has converted the hall into a very nice hostel and is working on converting the brick church building into a home. It is a pretty small hostel with only 12 dorm beds an a double room, but it is well done and has a nice kitchen.

Toni is pretty interesting as well. He settled down in NZ anout six years ago after bicycling about halfway around the world. He has gone from Vancouver to Guatemala in the Western Hemisphere and cycled from Switzerland to India and then from Thailand down through Indonesia, down the east coast of Australia and then east to west across the Nullabor desert. He finally came to New Zealand and cycled around both islands and decided to stop, Makes my trip seem pretty tame.

Only 158 kilometers to Invercargill.

Updated: 06 April 2002