“It rained and rained and rained
The average fall was well maintained;
And when the tracks were simply bogs
It started raining cats and dogs.
After a drought of half an hour
We had a most refreshing shower;
And then; most curious thing of all
A gentle rain began to fall
Next day but one was fairly dry
Save for one deluge from the sky,
Which wetted the party to the skin
And then at last – the rain set in.”
After our picture-perfect weather climbing over the Haast Pass yesterday, Mother Nature decided to throw us a curve ball. A cyclone is swirling around the south Pacific, with a high pressure ridge on the East coast. The result is essentially a squeegee wringing water out of the cyclone all along the Westlands area where we are located.
Day 6: Haast to Fox Glacier
Necessity being the Mother of invention, we’ve had to revise our plans. The weather forecast for day 6 called for strong rain developing later in the day, along with beastly winds, so we decided to skip several miles in the beginning of the ride. It turned out to be an excellent idea. We started from the ocean lookout, having skipped a couple of major hills and about 2 hours of riding. A monster day became much more manageable.
The lushness along the road is quite beautiful, with ferns and dense forest lining the road. Given the relative shortness of the day we weren’t forced to power through everything, and instead just kept up a modest, steady pace.
We had arranged to meet the van at the next beach location, quite a lovely spot. When we got there the group was feeling strong enough that we just carried on. Our bodies are all varying degrees of trashed, but at the same time we’re riding ourselves into shape. The strong rider varies from moment to moment, with each of us having good stretches and other moments where we could use a nap.
After arriving in the town of Fox Glacier we had hoped to take a helicopter ride up to the actual glacier. Unfortunately the copters were grounded, so I guess we’ll have to make a return trip for that experience. The rains showed up at dinner time, and got progressively stronger, making our decision to cut the ride short look wise in hindsight. We went to bed with the sound of increasing rain, not knowing what the next day would bring…
Day 7: Hokatika to Harahari
This section of New Zealand can receive over 300 inches of rain a year. It occasionally will receive a meter (39 inches) of rain in a day. This storm wasn’t that strong, but the national news weather forecast scale was red, the maximum setting. We took that seriously. Rain is forecast for the next several days.
Utterly torrential rain came pouring down during the night. Riding from Fox Glacier was simply not an option. The weather map showed drier conditions up the road in Hokatika, our destination 2 days hence. We decided to drive there, check out the weather, and decide on our plan.
Rain absolutely bucketed down during the morning drive, but Hokatika was dry when we got there. After a little retail therapy where I picked up a nice bike jersey and Agnes found a jade piece (Hokatika is the heart of the New Zealand jade industry) and a bit of lunch, we decided to try the trip in reverse. Rather than fight the 30 km/h headwinds we would have had, we now had a powerful ally in the wind.
We flew down the road, averaging 35 km/h for stretches and making epic time. After a short break in the town of Ross, where we met a local character who owned a bunch of motorcycles and drank beer for breakfast (and lectured Amy about smoking while sucking down another 24 oz beer) , we headed back out where we once again met up with the rain.
Our next stop was in a funky little restaurant / store place called Bushmans with a gigantic plastic sandfly mounted outside. Amy took a ton of pictures. Terry decided he’d had enough at that point and called it a day. He was soaked and developing hypothermia and made the sensible choice. Jos and I weren’t quite that bright so we carried on.
About 50 yards down the road the skied opened up again, and we got soaked the entire way back. Fortunately it was a pretty warm rain, and actually was fairly pleasant. We didn’t do any sightseeing though, cranking as fast as we could go. I hit 55 km/h on one rainy descent, probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but with Jos’s 28 mm tires the ride actually felt really steady, We got back to the hotel completely waterlogged, but with a good story to tell.
Day 8: Harihari to Franz Joseph Glacier
Ride day 8 brought more of the same. The skies were threatening once again, but we decided to continue heading south to Franz Joseph glacier. It was only 63 km away and the skies were threatening so we basically made the day into a hammer-fest. That was great for about 45 km, and then my legs turned to jello. Jos led me in the rest of the way.
We skipped the section between Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier, about 25 km of goat hills. Jos and I goofed on Terry and told him we should just continue on and ride this nasty bit. Needless to say, he wasn’t buying.
The town of Franz Joseph has some public toilets that are straight out of a science fiction movie. A robotic science fiction voice from 2001 a space odyssey says “ Welcome to Exeloo, please press button to close door. Your maximum use time is ten minutes.” , and then plays Star Trek music. Pretty entertaining.
We made a public display of ourselves changing out of wet riding gear in a park across the street from the restaurant where we went for lunch, and then drove back to Hokataki, where we finally have a rest day. We’ve ridden 6 days in a row, and 8 of the last 10, and are all ready for a nice day off.