Of Atoms and Hills

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28/01/08
Well, what a fine day to you all! At this very moment, I find myself at the end of a long day in the saddle, with a sore butt for reasons I’ll reveal in just a moment. I’m listening to some great tunes on a record player of all things, in a farmhouse on a 400 Hectare farm of sheeps, goats, pigs, and cows! I’m hoping to buy some fresh sausages in a little bit if the hostel owners ever show up! Yup, the sign said make yourself at home, so I have. I had a nice shower, and found the record collection. Matt and Rob would be most impressed. I’ve got limitless choices of classic rock and a good record player for the evening. The view is pretty awesome too. So far, I have the whole place to myself. Not bad for 20NZD. Of course, I’m really in the middle of nowhere, and the place is called the Hu-Ha Bikepackers, so you know it caters to cyclists, which is a nice change. It’s in a good location for bikers, as to get here was a full day’s ride, but there’s nowhere else really close, so it’s an ideal cyclists stop, but not for car travelers. Anyway, read on for today’s tale, and check out the map.

Hmm, I just noticed they have a guitar here as well, so there’s a good chance that later on I’ll sit out on the porch looking over the land around here and strum a little bit. For now, this just seems like a little slice of paradise to me. Thank goodness, as today was pretty exhausting. It was a really hot and sunny day, and I think I may have dehydrated myself a bit. I’m drinking like a madman right now so that I won’t cause too much damage tomorrow. If you look at my map, you’ll see the climbing was ‘only’ 1353 meters, but in the heat, and the fact that they were straight climbs, it was pretty tiring work. I get the feeling that kayaking for the full day yesterday may also have had a slightly detrimental effect on my day as well. Well, regardless, I got through it, and am still smiling. In fact, I feel pretty great about the whole day looking back on it.

I started by getting up and ready to be on the road by around 8am. Of course, I had to make a stop on the way out of town, as I didn’t have any food with me for breakfast, so I stopped at a bakery for a bacon and egg pie, along with a fesh blueberry muffin. Yummy! I really appreciate all the bakeries and cafes that they have all over New Zealand. I’ll miss them once I’m back in Canadia. Yes, Canadia, I’ve heard it called that more than once around here. Anyway, once I was sort of fuelled up, I hit the road. the first long bit was actually quite flat, so it was good pedaling. However, I got a little worried when a gas station said it was the last fuel for 200km, and then I saw a dairy say last dairy for 100km! Needless to say, just to be safe I stopped in the dairy and got some lunch stuff, as well as some Powerade, just in case. Turns out there were a few more food options, but it was good to be ready in case I was low on energy.

Another interesting stop on my ride I almost missed. I was chugging along, and for some reason focusing on the views to the left. All of a sudden, I glanced right and noticed a large memorial to Sir Ernest Rutherford of Nelson! Yup, it was his birthplace, right there by the side of the highway. I hit the brakes, and crossed the highway to have a better look. It was a really well-done memorial, with a sort of atom-like structure where you ascend up semi-circular walkways as you learn about various stages of Rutherford’s life. At the center, or apex, there was a statue of young Rutherford. A lot of the panels also had buttons that if you pressed, there would be spoken stuff from various parts of his life. Quite interesting, and I spent longer there than I would have if it was just a plaque or something. Further down the road were also signs to different schools Rutherford went to. I only cruised by his primary school. So there you have it, in case you didn’t know it Ernest Rutherford was a Kiwi, and was knighted.

After this nice distraction, it was back to the task at hand. I’m really starting to dislike the word saddle now for a couple reasons. One, and the most obvious one, is that I spend a lot of my time on one, and in spite of it fitting me quite well, it is still a chore day in and day out when I’m on it. The second reason is that a lot of mountain passes are not at summits, but rather are called saddles on account of how you cross mountains. Today had two such saddles, the second one being the Hope Saddle, at 634m. Sure, may not sound like a lot, but you try biking up that with 65 lbs or so of gear! It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but any ill thoughts I had vanished when I finally got to the top, and proceeded to the Hope Observation Point, another steep uphill gravel bit that took me to a car park, and led to a little walkway.

That walkway took me to Hope Summit, and to some amazing views along with it! I had my first view of the Southern Alps from up there. And since it was a sunny clear day, I had a pretty good sight of some of the nearer peaks of said Alps. I had to linger just a bit longer up there and take it all in. I got that feeling of understanding why I was doing this after all up there! Again, I had the place to myself, so it was easy to take it in. It’s amazing how many people just whiz right by places like this on the roadside. I’m certainly glad I took the time and effort to go to the very top. After all, I knew the rest of my ride would be downhill to the hostel, which was only a few km away. However, I knew it was unlikely that I’d bike back up that hill after passing it.

Oh, so why did I say I have a sore butt? Well, that one’s an easy one. Upon returning from my summit walk, I headed over to my bike, where I noticed several Yellowjackets buzzing around. Well, no big deal, as I’ve seen plenty of bees, wasps and hornets on my journey thus far. I hopped back on the saddle, and started pedaling away. OW! What was that? I felt a burning sensation in my left cheek. Apparenly, I had pretty much sat on one of the little buggers, and he didn’t much like it, and retaliated with a nasty sting. I’m not sure what he did, but even two hours after the fact, my butt still hurts in a big way. I don’t know if the stinger is lodged in there or something, but I’ve been unable to do anything to relieve the pain. Methinks it might be a rough day sitting on that all day tomorrow. Oh well, I guess those are the hazards I have to put up with, right?

Well, I think I’ll have to sign off with that. It’s still a beautiful day outside, and I should probably look at taking advantage of it! The owners finally came, and I procured a couple sausages for two bucks to go with my supper. Fresh from the farm. They have quite a few animals here on their farm, so these are from their own creatures. Cool, eh? I was also told about a couple nice walks on the property that I’ll probably check out after supper and while the sun sets. Jo told me about a trail that ends at a marker point, and essentially gives you some 360 degree views. What could be better to end my day, eh? Well, a beer would be nice, but you can’t have it all. So, off I go to cook and explore. Apparently, I’m the only one booked in tonight so she said she hoped I didn’t mind entertaining myself for the night. Guess I’ll be spinning tunes all night for myself. Sweet!

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