New Zealand bikepacking days 3 & 4: sweaty business

Day Three: Wedderburn to Cattle Creek (137.8km, 1926m elev.)

I had been dragging anchor and struggling with a cold during our hike and the last two days of our cycle touring. Pushing myself too hard in the hot sun had driven me to exhaustion and heat stroke the day before, so Seb was kind enough to let me decide the pace and call it quits at anytime. I was determined to keep going and knew I was on the ‘getting better’ side of the cold, just needed to take things down a notch.

The day started with a cruise through Naseby Forest. With the long ride ahead we were not as enthused about finding the Great Southern Brevet singletrack as we thought we might have been. We rolled into Naseby town to find a very informative welcome sign. So, worry-free, we headed out to find Damsey’s pass.

Tussock grass was about the only vegetation as we climbed higher and higher. A great climb and jaw-dropping views from the top.

Damseys PassIt was getting hot again, average temperature for this day was 31 degrees. The climbs were getting very sweaty.

After some very nice downhill we cruised along into Duntroon where we stocked up on water, ice, iced chocolates, sandwiches and cookies. We had so many good cookies in NZ. And carrot cake. Amazing carrot cake! Ride to eat, isn’t that what they say?

The next stretch through to Kurow was possibly the most demoralising bit of bitumen I have ever ridden on a mountain bike. It was hot, damn freaking hot. We emptied litres of water on our heads and buried ourselves in the riding – not a word was spoken between us for that 20km. We arrived in Kurow and went straight to the shop for more water and icecreams. It was getting towards afternoon and we had to think about our plans.

looking satisfied

looking satisfied

We had thought that today we might get to Lake Tekapo and tomorrow we would smash out the flat ride to Christchurch. Unfortunately for us there was another large pass between us an Lake Tekapo and nobody could really guarantee us any water along the way. I was very worried about riding in more swealtering heat all afternoon and not being able to freely gulp at my water. We decided we’d get the map out at the cafe over coffee.

As it turned out, the owner of the cafe had a property up the Hakataramea Valley where we were headed. He suggested starting out that afternoon and staying at an old abandoned school along the way (Cattle Creek), that way we could tackle the pass in the cool morning and be at Lake Tekapo for brunch. Glorious!

feeling like a sheep who wished it was shearing time. wool was too hot!!

feeling like a sheep who wished it was shearing time. wool was too hot!!

We crossed the border from Otago to Canterbury regions and began up the valley. It was truly disgustingly hot (did I mention HOTTTTTTTTT) in that valley and I was dying in my icebreaker jersey. I think about 90% of the time I had it pulled up around my ears for some ventilation!

Cattle Creek was very abandoned little town: a school, a town hall and one other building with not a soul in sight. We set up camp around the back of the school near the playground and had a delightful swim in the creek. For dinner we shared a pack of pre-cooked rice and a can of shredded chicken in mayonnaise. Yep, it was a interesting and gross as it sounds. Night brought a cool breeze and made sleeping easy.

Day Four: Cattle Creek to Lake Tekapo (72km 970m elev.)

In the breaking dawn light we set off early from our school hideaway at Cattle Creek. We were faced with a short ride up the continuation of the Hakataramea Valley before starting the Hakataramea Pass climb.

Sheep ran along next to us as we made our way past the final farm and began our ascent. It wasn’t actually a huge climb but the weather was heating up by 7am and we were glad to get to the top. We were treated to views of the vast open basin leading to Lake Tekapo with Mount Cook National Park in the background. Dripping with sweat and again with my icebreaker jersey pulled up around my ears, it was odd to look out across at Mt Cook, majestic and covered in snow.

The best way to start the day

The best way to start the day

The next  downhill whizzed us down to the basin where we were spat out into the middle of this big, dry open space.  We rode until we met Haldon Road and turned right, heading towards the (8) highway to Lake Tekapo.

At that turn, the wind hit us. At first we thought it was just a gust and it would disappear. But 15 minutes later and we were crawling along at 8km/h being battered by a direct headwind that must have been 30km/hr or more. An hour later and we were still battling it out against the wind. I was trying with all my might not to fall apart. Tears were coming but I couldn’t let some nasty wind do this to me. It was terrible. We were no longer riding together, Seb was far off in the distance. I was doing less than 8km/hr now. An eerie misty was pouring over the mountains from Fairlie, like the apocalypse was coming.

so pretty and we got to enjoy it at snail pace!

Tailwind to Tekapo!

Eventually, we turned left onto the highway, greeted by a 30km/hr tailwind. After that we didn’t really pedal until we got to Tekapo! We had a huge breakfast and a swim in the vivid blue and freezing glacial lake.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

I made the call here. I couldn’t face 200km tomorrow across flat boring plains to Christchurch. I didn’t see the point. We spent a lovely afternoon sightseeing around Tekapo and lying on the grass between food runs to the supermarket and nearby cafe. We ended up catching a bus to Christchurch that night, leaving us plenty of time to find new bike boxes, pack our bikes and leave the country!

A whirlwind journey full of adventure, emotions and scenery. Utterly exhausted after all that hiking and biking we nearly needed a holiday to recover from our ‘holiday’. My left hand ended up developing very bad nerve damage in the ulnar nerve and I was forced to take a month off the bike directly after our trip. I am in the process of rethinking rigid forks, or at least my bike setup needs modification.

If I feel enthusiastic I might try do one final post with a gear rundown and hopefully some GPS files. We’ll see, sounds ambitious 🙂

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