On the Road of Power

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07/03/08
Of all the possible hardships that a cyclist faces while on the road, I have to say unequivocally that the most damning thing for me is wind. There is nothing quite as frustrating as a constant force pressing against you as you try to make forward progress. It is even more frustrating when that forward progress is in an uphill trajectory. So begins and ends the entire story of my day. It was probably the hardest emotionally of almost all my days on the bicycle. I only covered 63km in the same rough time that it took me to cover 93km yesterday! Boy, am I glad that I decided to add an extra 25km onto my ride yesterday, rather than trying to slog it out today. I don’t think I would have made it. I really can’t put the extent of my frustration into any words or pictures, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one people! Anyway, read on and check out the accompanying map for my ride from Kurow to a Merino Sheep and Cattle farm 9km north of Omarama.

Okay, so we’ve already established that today was a windy one. So what else is there of note that I can share with all of you, without getting too annoyed by typing too much? You see, after a day like today, I’m always a bit grumpy, and don’t feel like talking too much to people, or even writing my blog post. However, it can be therapeutic, and I hate putting it off, so here goes nothing.

Last night was pretty choice for me at the Kurow Holiday park bunkhouse. I was the only one there. I had a whole room to myself, and had a reasonable night’s sleep. Of course, I awoke to the sound of wind whipping around outside my window, and I just knew it would be coming towards me most of the day, so it was important to get going. I packed up as quick as I could, but by the time I had eaten and dropped off my key, it was already 9am. Oh well, I was only going about 63km. Originally, I had visions of skipping past my booked lodging and going all the way to Twizel. Obviously that didn’t happen.

The wind started right away, and for that reason I kept my jacket on, and had gloves on as well. I took more short breaks than I normally do throughout the day, just to try and find a wind-break anywhere that I could. The road that I took (the only one available) took me along several man made lakes that came about as a result of hydro-electric dam projects. All told, I rolled passed three different dams. The Waitaki Dam, the Aviemore Dam, and the Benmore Dam, which is the largest earth dam in New Zealand, and second only to Manapouri in generating capacity. Fun, eh?

The offshoot of these various dams is that there are a number of little towns all along the road, remnants of when the workers’ camps were put up. At the height of each of these projects, there would be towns of a couple thousand close to each one, offering all the things that workers and their families would need. A lot of them have now been reduced to roadside towns with populations of under 200, but a couple still retain populations of over 1000, which in this neck of the woods is substantial. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of the dams offering tours, so short of snapping a couple shots of them, I wasn’t able to stop in and visit.

The one nice stop I made was in the town of Ometata, which is the town leftover from the biggest dam project. There was a little cafe, and I called in for a delicious toasted sandwich and carrot cake. There was lots of dam memorabilia, including a commemorative book with lots of pictures of the construction of the dam. It was very impressive to say the least. I tell you, a lot of the places I’ve rolled past where there is a history of things like gold mining, dam construction, or kauri gum digging should cause us to take pause and appreciate what we have. These people lived impressively difficult lives toiling away to make what they could to get by. That’s not even mentioning all the pioneers who created all the rich farmland. There are some crazy stories there too. So, with that said, who am I to complain about a little wind? I’m such a wimp now that I think about it…..

Ahh, perspective is such a wonderful thing isn’t it? I already feel better, and ready to face another day after that little side thought. But I digress. Eventually, after the rolling uphill ride, I rolled into the town of Omarama, another crossroad town with not much, but they had a grocery store where I picked up food for the night and brochures on how to get to Mt. Cook. I had some planning to do later. I was now only about 10km from my stopping place. Sweet. Of course, at my speed, that meant almost another hour though, didn’t it? Luckily, the road took me about 75 degrees to the right, so the wind became side-long instead of headlong. Not terrible. Omarama had another attraction too. Gliding. Apparently they have some of the best gliding in New Zealand, no doubt due to these wonderful winds that are nearly constant and predictable. They also have good sunsets apparently, and I’m hoping to catch one later tonight if I’m lucky with the clouds.

By the way, I was sort of expecting these winds, as all my books warned me about them, not to mention that a spot I’m heading to tomorrow clocked NZ’s highest wind speeds at 250km/hr. Let’s hope I don’t encounter that tomorrow. So what is my plan? Well, I’m rolling the wind dice and pressing on tomorrow all the way to Lake Tekapo, where you get amazing Mt Cook and alp views. I’m booked in a backpackers located right on the lake, which has some great sights apparently, and several people had told me to go to Lake Tekapo. I’ve also booked a shuttle bus for the next day to take me to Aoraki, where I’ll spend the night at the YHA there, and spend two days doing day hikes in the shadows of the Big One. Mueller Hut, Kea Point, the Hooker Glacier… hoping to see it all. It’ll be nice to hike instead of pedal for a couple days. Then, it’ll be back to Tekapo for the night, before continuing my journey to Christchuch. I think I’ll arrive there on the 14th or so. Guess that means I might be there for St. Patrick’s Day!

That’s about it for my ramblings for the night. I think I’ll go unwind in the living room with the other guests, and see if there’s anything good on TV or if someone feels like watching a movie. I’ll probably also stuff my face a little more to get my strength up for tomorrows ride. I’m doing over 80km I think, and if the wind is bad, it could take a long time. Wish me luck.

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