Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 4 - Kiwi Brevet - Blackball to Murchison

200kms, 7.30 to 11.50 pm
The Otututu River
Day 4. About 200kms. I'd finally eaten my way through the 6 cheese, salami and bean toastie pies I had made in Blenheim on friday night, so I would have to pay more attention to my diet. Matt and I decided we would head off a bit early from Blackball as there was no doubt Jonty and Alex would catch us, and poor Andy was still in his Hilton sick-bed. If we had known how long the day was going to be we would have risen even earlier. It was a beautiful morning on fast rolling west coast roads. We headed for Ikamatua and on route we rode past the Pike River turn off. At the Ikky store I got chatting to a local who knew my Nana and the infamous Aunty Murtle who passed away last year aged 105. I thought about hiding all the sour snakes in the shop to wind up Jonty but apparently he was into more healthier things when he made his purchases. I was more impressed with his diet than anyone else I came across the whole time. When we all caught up at the Brevet's end Andy told us a story of how, when he was doing his shop at Ikky, he was sitting outside refueling and he watched a train slow down and stop opposite the shop. The driver jumped out, brought a chocolate milk at the shop and hopped back into the cab and was on his way. 

Blackwater enroute to Waiuta
We cruised up the lovely quiet country roads into the old Ghost town of Waiuta were my mother went to school. Theres not much left these days so after a quick look at the accommodation which was all locked up we hit the Waiuta trail proper. Before long Matt and I came across Thomas who had discovered that his latest puncture was proving difficult to fix since his tool bag had sprung a leak and his tire levers were awol. Matt kept going and I lent Thomas mine until he had at least beaded the rim. While he worked on his wheel a Bellbird tweeted vociferously less than a metre from our heads. I have never been so close to one in the wild. 

Matt in the Waiuta
It was easy to see that a heap of work had been done on the Waiuta track. There were no more of the treacherous creek crossings that we had experienced last time, but unfortunately the track was wet, and once again our semi slick tires were as good as useless with a full load on. We rode and walked for several hours until eventually Alex, Jonty and then Thomas caught us near Big River. We decided to have a bit of lunch and Thomas pulled out a flask full of whiskey! Big River was a lot more fun and from memory there was a bit of competitive descending going on which resulted in another flat for Thomas. 

Before long we had exited the bush and hit the shops at Reefton for more pies, choc milks and supplies. Not sure why but we seemed to spend around 2 hours mucking about in Reefton.

Rare bush goblin
The Rahu saddle was the next stretch, but it took a little while for Thomas to find his legs. Eventually his legs and sense of humour returned and from that point on the day just got sillier and sillier. Sparking up the cleats on the descents was the new cool thing, after Jonty demoed brushing his teeth while riding. After descending the big hill into Springs Junction there was a strange encounter between Jonty and a very wolf-ish looking cat, which he proceeded to stroke - with a piece of cardboard, so he didn't get ring worm !

The next piece of road had us ending up on some tarseal where a new game started. The idea was to be the last person standing still wearing their sun glasses. We had already stopped to put on our lights so it was getting pretty silly. I can't remember who won in the end, I wasnt playing. 

Hoodlums on the road
It was a shame because when we hit the Maruia Saddle it was pitch black, apart from a near full moon, and the silly games continued,  with Thomas, whose legs had returned in full, attacking Jonty til the summit . I was riding sensibly with Alex who didn't actually have a proper head light with him. The last 30 kms into Murchison seemed to take for ever, with more little pinch climbs than any of us remembered, but the road surface was the best kind of gravel there is, as someone else suggested, like fine talcum powder. We rode for quite a while with our headlights off, under the light of the moon. It was pretty damn cool.
We hit Murch at 11.50 and I went about finding the Camping Ground we booked from Reefton. I went around to the office. Rang the number and listened as the phone went off in the house and I heard the guy stumble out of bed !  The keys were in the doors and the lights on. Excellent. 

We were very disappointed to find that we had to pay for a hot shower, but once again Thomas impressed with his ingenuity by putting hot water from the hand basin into his camelbak and inverting it for use as a camp shower. The last I saw of him that night he was walking around like a skinny sasquatch wearing a jersey upside down on his lower torso while his bike pants dried... hanging off his aero bars, over the heater in his cabin. Hmmmm. Luckily he had a cabin to himself.