After a difficult start to North Island we were hopeful that Route 52 from Masterton to Napier would restore some peace in the world because we wouldn’t be on gravel cycle routes and fingers crossed the roads would be quiet. However, things didn’t seem to be getting off to a great start when it started raining whilst we were eating breakfast at the Masterton campsite. Fortunately, we’d already taken down the tent, and as we knew we didn’t have a long day up to Alfredton we faffed about until the rain had passed. The first stop was the supermarket because we knew it would be four days or so before we’d hit another major town.
Route 52 was originally a major road, but it got downgraded because of the lack of traffic, which isn’t surprising because there are no major towns along the route. Sorry, there are no towns along the route. This is all to the benefit of the cyclist. Cycling on South Island was all about stand out views of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, blue lakes or massive rivers. Route 52 does not have these stand out moments, but instead of riding single file we could ride next to each other and chat. Every car driver coming towards us waved (or rather raised a finger to acknowledge us; it was like being back in the Lakes). Every person who overtook gave us a huge amount of space. It was a joy to be on the road. The biggest traffic jam we came across was caused by sheep. The farmers are all busy shearing their flock, so we keep seeing naked sheep in the fields looking unimpressed.
Wednesday night was spent at the Alfredton Domain campsite. We weren’t sure if there was a campsite here as there was a lack of information, and what we found was pretty basic. There were a couple of toilets, a tap for drinking and washing and a field full of sheep and their poo. We carefully pitched our tent to avoid the poo, walked into Alfredton and discovered it consisted of a school, a community hall and a road junction. We returned, read our books (I managed to finish “The Luminaries”!) and were amazed at other tourists turning up to camp. How did they know about this place?
Wednesday night was horrible, with huge amounts of rain. Our Nordisk tent kept out the rain, but it was still pouring down at 8 am, but the forecast we’d seen was for things to clear up, so we hid in the tent. By 9 am or so things had cleared out, so we escaped the tent and by the time we’d eaten, faffed and packed up everything was dry. It was another shortish hop to Pongaroa, where we’d arranged to stay with a Warm Showers host on a sheep farm. We had a grey day, but things stayed dry. We had more empty roads, gradual climbs and lots of sheep. We were falling back in love with cycling.
We’re now sat in the garden of our Warm Showers host. Lynda isn’t here, but we saw her when we were having drinks in Pongaroa. James is busy shearing his flock. We found a lovely note with information about where to find our bedroom, the shower, the washing machine and the WiFi code. The hospitality and generosity is amazing. We’re really lucky. Tomorrow we head to a free campsite on a beach. Hopefully the grey clouds will have vanished and we’ll have more beautiful sunshine. We can’t wait.