Ahead by a Century

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03/02/08
Hello everyone out there! SuperSickSteve here reporting again, this time from his sick bed. Yup, I’m still going downhill. Today, I’ve had a nice little fever and aching joints and running nose and plugged throat all day! It’s really fantastic! Not! In spite of this, I managed to post my longest day yet, clocking over 105km on the bike to get to Whataroa, where I’m reporting to you live from a caravan, or RV if you will. Yup, for 23.50 (I got a deal) I have a little aluminum box all to myself for the night. Two beds, a toaster, a water pot, and electricity. Sadly, no Internet. However, given the on and off pouring rain and the cold temps outside, I’d say I’m doing all right despite the fact that I’m in a little tiny village along the glacier highway. Today was a good riding day for the first 75 or so km, then it got really tough for me. Not just because of Mount Hercules, but due to a group of cycle tourists known as Pedaltours. Read on for more, and check out the map.

Waking this morning, I kept hitting snooze over and over again. I felt 100% horrible, and really didn’t want to get up. I was looking for some excuse to stay in bed, but eventually got up anyway. I peeked out the window and saw it was overcast. That settled it, I’d have to go, because it was prime weather for putting in a good run. I got ready in double time, and was on the road at 8:05am. My head felt as foggy as the skies overhead, but my legs seem to know just what to do anyway. Round and round they went, clicking off kilometer after kilometer. The weather co-operated for its part, keeping me cool and free from killer sun. I said a quiet thanks, and kept going. My plan was to stop as often as necessary to keep up the steam, eating and drinking lots. First stop was Ross, a gold mining town 30km away. Pulling into town, it was chaos. Cyclists everywhere! There was a group of 5 ‘real’ cycle tourers heading the other way, and a van full of ‘tourist’ cycle tourers getting set for a day of biking. I ducked into the cafe to pick through what was left of their pies, and found a steak and cheese, and had a brownie to go with it. Yum.

I was in no mood to chat too much with anyone, so I only answered questions sparingly while I munched on my food. As quick as I could, I left town again, aware that the ‘tourists’ would be on my tail soon. I assumed they’d catch up, pass, and that would be that. After all, they had real road bikes, with no weight whatsoever, and were starting fresh. Well, on a hill further along, they finally caught up, and one guy said “That’s it, you’ll get stronger.” It kinda burned me, and I retorted ” I’ve been at this two months, I’m already strong”. With them in front now, I grabbed the draft, and cycled myself and my 70lbs of gear in time with them. I had virtually no trouble keeping up. In fact, on the next few hills, I ditched a few of their group, and stayed with the stronger riders. Eventually, the guy sort of looked back surprised and said “Okay, I take it back, right now, it looks like you have the strength of ten men”. I was vindicated. However, I didn’t drop off, and stayed with them for a long time.

About 20km into their day, they stopped for a break, and by break I mean their support vehicle filled up their water bottles and gave them snacks, etc. etc. Nice. I fished out a peanut butter sandwich and topped off my bottle with some spare Powerade I had with me and I took off ahead of them. It was the last I’d see of them for a loooong time. So, it would appear that I’ve had the first inkling of the power that I’m starting to develop from all these hills. And this was on a really bad, sick, long day mind you!!! At about the 70km mark, two of them caught back up to me. They were the ‘seasoned’ riders. They said they cut their break short to chase me down. Now I know I’m sounding smug here, but on such a crap day, it was nice to feel powerful. They were actually pretty nice guys, and I drafted off them for another while, chatting about riding and touring. They talked about their luxury accoms and great meals, etc. Of course, they are paying somewhere around 350NZD per day! On the steep hills? They get driven up if they want! I was talking about some of my rides in the north Island, and they were surprised, saying they got carsick just driving the roads. Ha ha ha.

By this point, my tank was starting to dry up, and I had to stop for my lunch and a well-deserved hour off. I wished them the best, and slowed a bit as I got to Hari Hari. I went to a cafe for lunch, where I pretty much collapsed over my chicken burger and wedges. I was sort of out of my body for a bit, and laid down on a bench for 20 minutes to recoup. I drank a pile of water, and didn’t leave until I felt better again. After all, I had another 30km to go, including Mount Hercules as I alluded to. In actuality, the hill wasn’t that bad, but coupled with my state, my speed was hurting now. The pedaltours bus passed me at one point, laden with about half of their riders skipping the climb. After all, they were riding almost 120km today. Double ha. No gear, all the support they need, and they still cheat. Oh well, I guess if you only have 10 days that’s one way to do it.

I realize I’m not saying much about the scenery, but there’s a pretty good reason. With the clouds and rain and fog, there really wasn’t much to see other than the trees to either side, and the distant, shrouded mountains. I get the feeling that the view would have been pretty good, but I may never know. There were some pretty cool river crossings, and I could feel the presence of the Southern Alps on my left, but I’ll have to wait another day to finally see them. At supper, I went to a bar and checked out the news and weather, and it looks like I’ll be getting some perfect weather for my ice-climbing adventure in another day. Reading the paper, I also happened across an article talking about Saudi women gathering signatures for a petition that seeks to give them the right to drive, and they are apparently hoping the Sultan will issue a royal decree by year’s end. I couldn’t help but wonder if my sister’s name was on that petition. Was it sis? If not, you’d best get on that 🙂

Okay, I’m tired and dizzy now, so it’s off to bed for me in my mobile home. I feel like white trash. Sweet. Tomorrow is a big day, as it’s double glacier day. I’m 32km away from Franz Josef glacier, where I plan to spend a few hours in the mid-day exploring. The, it’s another 23km to get to Fox glacier, where I’m going to stay for probably 3 days. Franz Josef is by far the more popular one, but that’s all the more reason to stay at Fox instead. Less crowds, smaller groups (I’m in a group of only 4), and great views of Mt. Cook apparently. I have another day to get better before the ice climbing, so I plan to go easy tomorrow. There’s only 55km total, but rather large climbs to tackle, so it’ll not be easy by any means. Hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll check back in another day.

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