As we sat drinking our tea on Sunday morning, looking at the route ahead (Rakaia Gorge to Geraldine) a few things were obvious; 1) we had a short steep climb of 200m straight out of the campsite; 2) after the climb it would essentially all be downhill (again, a very gentle 0.5% gradient, but going down this time); 3) there was a 20km dead straight road in the second half of the ride, between Mayfield and Arundel. We figured the long straight road would be toughest part of the ride. Nope – not at all.
We packed up and were on the road before 10am and quite literally went straight up. I got myself into a rhythm and seemed to manage OK. It was warm ish (not too hot, not too cold) and although it was still pretty grey it wasn’t raining. I never really felt like the hard earned slog upwards yesterday was ever repaid with long periods of just sitting on the bike letting it go slowly downhill, mostly I think because we had a slight head/side wind that created enough resistance that required us to keep pedalling.
At around 25km we spotted an unexpected café in Stavely; it seemed rude not to stop, and stop we did for some tea and coffee. We read about the winds in the local paper (and also about a science teacher shortage). It was a lovely little spot and we got chatting to a few locals who encouraged us on our way. We made decent enough progress and it didn’t seem that long until we were almost 50km into the ride in Mayfield and we decided to sit on a grass verge and tuck into lunch.
This road was to be the start of the 20km dead straight venture, and we decided to break it up by each taking turns on the front for 5km at a time. Easy. And to be honest it was. It certainly wasn’t the mental drain I thought it would be. It drizzled a bit at times, but every time we stopped to put on our waterproofs, the rain stopped.
As we neared Arundel the rain really started. Not one of those rain storms you can shelter from and they pass in 5 mins, but that horrid “get everywhere” rain that persists all day and looks innocent enough when you are stationary, but once you start moving into it, it feels like it is lashing down. We got absolutely soaked. The only positive was that I had so much water streaming down my face I didn’t need to reach for my drink bottle, I had my own personal water fountain!
We counted down miserable wet km after miserable wet km. As we eventually arrived into Geraldine, where we were supposed to be camping for the night, we darted into another café to consider our options. We were both soaked through. We were also carrying still damp laundry we had done yesterday in our panniers. The weather forecast was for continuous rain over night, tomorrow (Monday) and into Tuesday. It was about 12 degrees and what with being wet, we were both cold. If we camped we would have no way to dry anything off at all and probably wouldn’t get warm for a few hours (days?).
We contacted a local warmshower host, who was unfortunately out of town. And so we decided to try the local backpackers hostel, the Rawhiti House. They welcomed us and our dripping bikes in. There were another two touring bikes already here also driven off the road by the rain. So to date on our 3 days of trying to cycle camp our way around New Zealand, the weather has got the better of us twice already.