Riding the Grumpy Road to Te Anau

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21/02/08
Hello folks, I’m happy to report that I’m safe and sound at Bob and Maxine’s Backpackers in Te Anau. Although there were no major mishaps to report on the way here, and even though most of the route was downhill, that’s not to say that the day wasn’t without its little challenges and frustrations. More specifically, I’d have to say that most of the day was full of challenges and frustrations. I’ve put a map together to show you where I was, but as you can see, there weren’t all that many pictures taken, for the simple fact that the road I was on was utter crap for what I was hauling. Check out the map, and read on for more details. I fear the story won’t be all that long, as it’ll be too painful to recall 🙂

For starters, I’m happy to report that my little experiment in setting the tent up without the fly was a winner. Although, I did have several dreams that it was pouring rain, causing me to wake up in a panic, and even get out of the tent to check things out, and make sure there weren’t rain clouds on the way. Happily, there weren’t. Also, when I got up the next morning, there was indeed no condensation to worry about. All I had to do was put the tent away, nice and dry. However, there was no lack of bloody sandflies waiting for me in the morning. In fact, there were literally hundreds buzzing just outside the mesh, hungrily awaiting my exit from the mesh fortress. I could tell I’d have to move quick to get packed up or risk losing a pint of precious blood. I did as much as I could from inside the tent, like eat, get dressed, etc.

When it finally came time to pack up, I had a plan formulated, and executed it as best as I could, and was relieved to be ready to go in fairly short order. Then I looked for my sunglasses. Hmmm, not on my head or with my helmet. How odd. Oh shit! I remember where they were. Still in the tent. I managed to fold them up with the tent. Sadly, that meant unpacking almost all my duffel bag again just to get them out. This time, the little buggers got to me. Damn. Curse my stupidity. But at least I would have protected eyes and wouldn’t have to squint. Yay me! On my way out of the park, which was several kilometers, I saw the other cyclists, and stopped to chat with them for a bit. I also found out that I actually could have paid my fees at the park entrance, rather than going all the way to the end. Damn. Oh well.

Just before getting back on the main gravel road, I slapped on some sunscreen. and the other folks passed by me. We played cat and mouse for quite a bit of the day, until we finally got back on pavement, at which point I was able to be more efficient. However, before that pavement, there were some issues to deal with. Mainly, the friggin road. I vow I will never ride another road like that with a two-wheeled trailer. In fact, after today, I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I won’t tour with a two-wheel trailer at all again. I think it’ll be a Bob Yak the next time.

So why am I so dis-illusioned? Well, it was 37km of pure misery for me. This road was no normal gravel road. The spot where cars drive was okay, because it was well worn and relatively flat. However, my little trailer has wheels that are too wide for that. The result? Well, on this road, it meant I was essentially dragging a damn boat anchor the entire way. Ever try biking through deep, fine gravel? Well that’s what it was like, and I wasn’t liking it one bit. I liked it even less when it caused me to wipe out a couple times. I even pitched a little fit at one point, kicking gravel and cursing. It wasn’t pretty. However, there was no other way out of it other than pedaling on, so I did that, and eventually made it to the main highway. Thank goodness.

From here, it was only about 35km to the hostel, and I really wanted to get there, as my level of angst was far too high for such a hot day once again. Luckily, I had extra water on board, and I used it to full advantage. I also stopped for a couple extra food breaks. Even though it took me longer than I would have liked, I finally made it to Te Anau. It was still only about 3pm, so I had time to get settled in and check the place out. However, I really didn’t do much other than check out the hostel, grab some food at a bar, and pick up food for my day trip tomorrow to Milford Sound.

I’ve gotta tell you, the hostel I’m staying at, Bob and Maxine’s, is awesome. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Bob, who is also an electrical engineer, but is now building his second house, after also having built the hostel we’re staying in. He also has a great workshop full of tools, so I actually took advantage of his offer for me to use things I might need. I cleaned my bike fully from top to bottom using brushes and a hose. I also greased a lot of the bolts, and tightened up the bolts. I also finally took the entire trailer apart to try and fix the axle on the bad wheel in a vise grip. I think I’ve improved things a bit finally, but only time will tell, right?

That’s about it for today, It’s after 9pm, and I have to get up nice and early to catch my bus to Milford sound, where I’ll be enjoying a nature cruise. Unfortunately, the weather has been changing here, and it looks as though we’ll be in for a spell of rain. However, that’s not all that surprising for Milford Sound, as they get rain something like 320 days of the year! Till then, take care, and I’ll tell you all about Fiordland tomorrow.

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