Water water everywhere
If there is a day with an overriding theme that has to be today and the theme is water.
The weather forecast for today in Puketui (campsite) was for rain from 8:00. For that reason I set the alarm for 6:30 so that, I thought, I could get all the stuff away and indeed myself away before the rain. I guess I forgot to tell the rain gods. I was awaken at 6:20, not by the alarm but by the ticking of rain on the tent. This was rather disappointing, packing wet gear is bad but packing in the rain is worse. I laid there for 30 minutes and it seemed to reduce in intensity so I, quite literally, took the plunge.
All packed at lightening speed this was a good learning opportunity. One lesson that I will carry with me is that it’s a good idea to keep the packing bags in the tent with you so that you can put away the sleeping bag, the lining, and the pillow in the dry and comfort of the tent. I will also get dry bags for these items rather than using the bags that they came with.
I left the campsite at around 7:15 and was determined to find the unmapped passage that I knew must have existed at the bottom of the campsite road to get through to Puketui Rd, on the other side of the river. This cut would have saved me a round trip of approximately 10 miles so worth spending a bit of research time.
It turns out that the path existed but it was a walking path, it was in fact a network of walking paths leading to the old gold mine field and used for the exploration of caves and tunnels.
Of these the master path run along the river crossing a small tributary in a point that, on the map at the beginning of the path, appeared a lot like a bridge.
The path was mostly ok on the bicycle apart from a short stretch of 100 yards where the stones were just too big and I had to push the bike.
The scenery was beautiful and, wouldn’t you know, it had stopped raining. The vegetation was a bit overgrown but it was mainly made up of native plants. The number of small and tall ferns made me remember the lady that showed me around the campsite in Surat Bay in the Cattlins that was trying to convince me to go and see the ferns that were growing just behind the beach, naturally it was exciting for her to have ferns growing that far south but, I was coming from the extreme north where ferns almost grow like weeds.
All was going very well and I was starting to think that the tributary crossing was that little stream I passed on a wooden bridge a few minutes before when coming around a corner I was faced with the second water challenge of the day. It turns out that the tributary to cross was still in front of me, actually it was just there in front of me, it also turned out that there had bene a bridge at one point but it was now collapsed.
The passage was however possible, there were a set of stones that were spaced in a way to make little jumps possible between them. I assume it had been arranged like that by the good people of the Department of Conservation. They did not however foresee the need for a bicycle path.
Never mind, I dismantled the bags and in four trips I got the bicycle and the six add ons on the right side of the water and I was rewarded by discovering that the Puketui Rd was just a few yards away.
The road was gravel but after the amphibious experience that was nothing and in a bit less than 3 miles it actually merged onto the SH25 that I was going to follow for most of the rest of the day.
The next 4 miles were by all accounts the hardest of the day and indeed harder that I’ve encounter in a while. It was just steady 10% up and it kept going for almost 1000 feet.
I was blessed by the wind being mainly behind me on the way up, I cannot think what it would have been like with the wind in the face too.
As I got to the top though the wind changed and the much anticipated downhill turned into a bit of a slog. Riding into the wind means that you don’t go very fast downhill and in the bits of flat you really have to push.
I got to the bottom not at all refreshed and to top it all it started raining. I crossed the rail trail approach to Thames I had ridden last week and it came to me that must be my destiny always to get rained on in Thames. I saw a caffe and I stopped, I thought it was appropriate to regroup, have some food, post yesterday blog (no reception at the campsite) and decide what to do next.
The plan was to get to within 50 miles of Browns bay and therefore leave myself the options open for tomorrow on weather to go to Adam directly (bad weather) or take a sideway lounge to the west of Auckland and see the other coast.
Looking at the map however I decided that this idea was going to condemn me to either two very long stages in the rain or three stages including an awful lot of metropolitan Auckland, not exactly cycling heaven.
SO I hatched a new plan: 15 more miles today to a place called Miranda (more on this later), 46 comfortable miles tomorrow to the closest point to Auckland not in Auckland leaving me 35 miles to do on Wednesday.
While all this thinking and blogging was going on outside the heavens had opened and I counted myself lucky that I was there sipping a nice flat white rather then out snorkelling.
When the rain stopped I left and it was all going well for the first 5 miles, but then it started to drizzle, and then to rain and then the wind started to drive the raindrops into my face like sets of knifes. I saw a shelter and without thinking twice I got into it. Things got even worse and I waited twenty minutes there just to see the rain reduce a bit. I guess well call that water challenge number three.
When the rain stopped and the sky looked reasonably clear upwind I started again and I did not get rain anymore for the remaining 10 miles between me and the Miranda Campsite.
The clinching reason for staying in Miranda tonight is that the campsite sits on a thermal vent and has its own thermal mineral pool that is included with the stay. I had seen thermal pools advertised all over New Zealand and I have wondered often what it was like to go into one of them, well now I know.
Before I got to the pool though I had to pass the last water torture. the sun was shining all the way to the campsite and it was even shining when I got out of the check-in office, it however clouded rapidly while I was walking to my site in the camp and decided to start raining while I was putting up the tent. I did rush and I think I managed to get it all done without letting water in, I guess I’ll find oout tonight how good a job I’ve done.
After that I got my swimming trunk out and went to the hot pool. The water was 37.5º C and I just sat there inhaling the sulphur for a good hour. While I was in the water it rained twice but having most of your body in water just a bit warmer than body temperature meant that it could have snowed for all I cared.
Was it worth it? Hell yes, it’s nice and relaxing and I think I’ll sleep better tonight too. Two more day cycling and then a four day rest, by the time I rest I’ll be 150miles short of 5,000 miles on the clock not bad going for a pensioner.