Mellowing Out in Milton

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01/03/08
Hello sports fans, and welcome back to another chapter in the ActiveSteve saga. Today’s story is a familiar one folks. I woke up, it was raining. I cycled, and it rained. I got to my hostel, and it’s raining. As such, I find myself with very little in the way of exciting stories to share with you at the moment. I assure you that this isn’t a result of my lack of desire to write a lovely story for you, but there simply wasn’t all that much going on with me. However, I have, as usual, prepared a map for you, detailing my comings and goings, and I’m still prepared to give you an account of my day if you’re willing to read it. The highlight of course was the fact that I finally was able to find an Internet connection and upload my latest few posts and maps. Sorry for the delay, but as it turns out, the world wide web hasn’t fully made its way to the Catlins Coast yet. Anywho, read on for more about my enjoyable day.

As I previously mentioned, Owaka is a one-horse town, so luckily, I didn’t have to go out and party on Friday night like I normally do down here. Hah! However, a few latecomers did arrive at the hostel to spoil the peace that Rainer and I (swiss cyclist) were enjoying. There were 5 people, all trying to find a place to have a fun weekend. As such, they were in a drinking mood, which didn’t mesh totally well with my early to bed philosophy of the day. Luckily, they were pretty nice, and I managed to turn in anyway, although I was woken up a few times first by snoring, and also by them hooting and hollering as they played card games. Oh well, such is life.

I decided as a result to sleep in a little bit, seeing as I was only biking 55km for the day, and it was supposed to be raining quite heavily when we first got up, and let up a little bit later in the day. Once up, I had my lovely breakfast of yogurt, cookies, granola bars, and a banana, before packing up in the rain and heading out. Of course, then I found out what happens when there isn’t rain around here, You get massive headwinds! Huzzah! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud for quite a while. The last few days of cycling just haven’t seemed to go my way at all. However, I’ll soldier on, as I always do, until I reach my new goal of getting to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo and Twizel (and seeing Mount Cook).

The wind did eventually die down a bit though. You know what that means though, don’t you? No? Heavy, Steve-soaking rains! My little Gore-Tex jacket is certainly getting a workout in the Catlins. It does keep the rain out, but on the flip side, literally, I’m still wet on the inside from sweat. But I digress. Who really cares about the degrees of wetness that I’m experiencing down here, right? After all, the wind chill is not -35 deg. C, so what do I have to complain about? On with the story.

Once again, there were a number of different walks and trails off the road, but once again, these were not right off the road, so I skipped the majority. However, I couldn’t help but check out the Rail Tunnel Trail. This was a little walk to a tunnel through a mountain hand-picked years ago when there was rail line in place to deliver goods around. I had to battle my fears, as it was a spooky day, and I was armed only with a little bike light to enter this dark abyss of a tube all by myself. I’m happy to report that I did make it all the way through however. and was rewarded with…. well, just the light at the other end, and another plaque showing the original route of the train. Still a worthwhile distraction. After all, it wasn’t raining in the tunnel.

After my little hike, it was a straight shot to the town of Balclutha, a crossroads between the main highway, which I would rejoin for the rest of the day, and the Southern Scenic Route. This was big enough to have a number of cafes and such, and I also found a place that had a reasonable Internet connection, allowing me to finally update you all with my past exploits. I stopped here for a little bit, enjoying a lunch of a Pizza Panini, with salads and spciy wedges. Yum! Gotta love the biker diet. While I was eating, Rainer also joined me, after having left Owaka a little later than me, but catching up. He only had a coffee, and was contemplating a few different cycling routes for later. In the end, we chose the exact same route, but didn’t cross paths again, as I did my Internet thing for a while. We re-joined at the Happy Inn Backpackers at about the same time.

Upon arrival at the hostel, we were met by Tony, a very friendly Swiss gent, who has also travelled the world by bike, who asked us if we were flexible for our sleeping arrangements. He didn’t think we’d want to share dorm beds with youngsters out for a good time all evening, so he offered us beds in the attic of the hostel. I think he sleeps up there as well, but I’m not sure yet. It turns out this is a great place, as the rain is right above our heads, making a pleasant pitter-patter on the roof. There’s also heaps of room and has a smell that reminds me of attics of ages gone by. I still have a proper bed up there, which is nice.

I took the time to do some bike maintenance again, as all this rain is wreaking a bit of havoc on all the equipment at the moment. My rear shifter housing seems to be on the fritz a bit. Every time I click the gear changing mechanism, it doesn’t spring back, I have to do it by hand. I tried taking it apart, but it was a little more complex than I anticipated, and I wasn’t able to properly fix it in the rain behind the hostel. Oh well, here’s hoping for better days. After cleaning up, I went to the grocery store for some supplies. I asked about any happenings in town, and was met with little laughs, and told there isn’t too much in Milton. Fair enough, quiet night it is. Back at the hostel, Tony gave me a survey to fill out that BBH does once a year, where you can comment on all the hostels you’ve been in. That took a while, as I couldn’t even remember all of them without checking my logs. He also kindly offered me a glass of red wine for being a cyclist. Yay wine! That’ll go well with the bottle of Porter I bought to enjoy later.

Well, that’s it for today kids. Tomorrow I’m off to the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin, home of the worlds steepest road, Baldwin Street, at 38 degrees. I’ll try cycling it, but doubt I’ll succeed. I thought there might be a place to crash, but I was unable to get a hold of the person I had contact information for. Not to worry, I’ve already booked into the Chalet backpackers, another place run by Swiss folks. There seem to be quite a few of those in NZ. Good on them, as they say. Have a great day, and I’ll talk to you all again once I have more exciting adventures. Cheers!

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