On Monday we woke up to pouring rain, but we were dry in the Rawhiti Hostel in Geraldine and our clothes had dried overnight. The Norwegian weather forecasters (http://yr.no) were predicting a break in the weather. The original idea had been to cycle the 70-ish km from Geraldine to Fairlie, via Pleasant Point, but we knew it was only about 30 km to Pleasant Point, where there was a campsite & supermarket, so we planned to use the gap in the rain to at least make some progress. After breakfast we packed up our stuff, but it was still raining. Lots. A German couple who were cycling that we’d spoken to in Christchurch arrived at the hostel at about 10 am after cycling a few kilometres from where they’d spent the night. They booked a room for two nights. A Dutch couple who were on bikes, and had stayed at the Rawhiti Hostel on Sunday night, booked for an extra night. We sat in the living room wearing our cycling clothes watching the rain and praying for the predicted break in the weather. Why were we thinking of cycling?
By 11 am or so the rain had lessened, so we set off to Pleasant Point. And amazingly it was hardly raining. The first few kilometres were along the main road, before we turned off to follow the route recommended by the Pedallars’ Paradise guidebook (thanks Clare!), which was beautiful, although the roads wouldn’t have been out of place in Suffolk. We stopped to remove the waterproof and congratulate the Norwegian forecasters.
We found the campsite at Pleasant Point and despite having the option to stay in a wooden cabin we decided to camp because there was also a kitchen with sofas, table, fridge, oven, microwaves, hobs & washing machine, which would give us somewhere to hide from the rain. We spent Monday afternoon reading and getting tips about which roads to avoid and the lowdown on the campsites across South Island from a Kiwi who’s been everywhere.
We awoke on Tuesday to heavy rain, but by 8 am it had stopped. The Norwegian forecast from the previous day was for lots of rain, so despite the relative dryness we opted to stay at Pleasant Point. We walked into town to pay for our camping and visit the supermarket. By the time we’d done that it was again hosing down and there’s been no sign of a break in the weather. Even the 20m dash to our tent to retrieve some essential leaves us soaking. Philippa’s fingers have turned to prunes as it is so constantly damp. So the Norwegians were again correct, and staying put was the right decision.
All the locals keep telling us how grateful they are for the rain, which doesn’t help our mood. 2016 is an El Nino year, meaning this part of the world should be drier than normal, but that isn’t the case at the moment. It’s reported in the local newspaper that Christchurch gets on average 46 mm of rain in January, but this January there’s been 50 mm, and counting. So much for following the good weather for ten months; so far we’ve given up on one day of cycling due to gale force winds, got soaked on another day, shorten one day from 70 km down to 30 km and today we aren’t going anywhere due to the rain. We’ve already been forced to stay in a hostel for two extra nights, which means spending more money than we’d planned.
We’ve been discussing our options, including going straight up to North Island, performing sacrifices to the weather Gods, throwing the bikes away & hiring a car or going back to work. It’s a less than ideal start to a ten month trip and makes us both wonder what enjoyment there is to gain from such an experience. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to cycle the 80 km to Tekapo tomorrow (Wednesday).