After not being able to sleep thanks to a noisy fridge in the room, I eventually got to sleep at 1am and did not enjoy James waking me up at 7:30 to tell me it was raining.
The plan for today was to get the boat across the lake at 12, then a mammoth crossing around the mountain to Mossburn before they close. Thankfully the super kind people at the Mossburn Hotel had allowed us to preorder dinner so that was one less thing to worry about.
We wonder down into town to find somewhere for a coffee out of the rain. We pick one place down by the dock, the serving staff comes out and barks at us that we can’t leave our bikes under the umbrella (completely out of the way of everything) so we leave and find another cafe, which turns out to be the best idea as they have super yum sausage and bean-sausage rolls and coffee. We sit out under the umbrella trying to find accommodation in Steward Island which is the plan for after we get to Bluff. Nah. Naddah except for $800 a night places. Bugger.
Eventually it’s time to get on the boat. The TSS Earnslaw, an old steam boat that ferries rich passengers on a cruise across the lake, and also dirty wet bike packers too.
We get on the boat and the heat is insane. It’s… dare I say it… all steamy. We find a seat next to a window for some fresh air and chill.
This woman then comes along and shuts the window because she doesn’t want it open. Nah babes, not how this works. So James opens the window next to it, more behind our head instead of to the side.
The boat starts to fill up, at one point 2 adults walk in with, no joke, 10 children trailing behind. WHYYYYYYYY. It gets louder and louder and more sproglets running around. It’s so busy we joke that it’s like a scene from Titanic.
Turns out it was a lady’s 90th birthday and she had 42 members from the same family together and they just so happened to sit next to us. Yay.
We see the other side, the faaaaaancy restaurant they’re all going to, and everyone prepares to get off the boat. Obviously all pushing and shoving, because how else do you get off a boat (anyone whose ever got off Condor Jersey – Saint Malo will know the struggle!)
I spy through the port hole a doggo who looks just like my mums pupper back home just with smaller ears.
As we get off the boat another cyclist is waiting to get on. Making casual conversation I ask where he’s come from and how his ride was. He says there’s two river crossings and it’s very wet. Lovely. James recognises him as a guy we met when we went on an adventure over to Nelson in January 2020, small world!
We head for the nearest tree to hide under as it’s still pouring with rain. I had a shirt on over my merino tshirt and under my rain coat to try and keep warm as the temperature at this point is only 10 degrees. Brrrrr.
After waiting for our computers to sync up and display the route, we get going. Helpfully it was all sign posted and there is only one gravel road in and out so we shouldn’t get lost!
Through many gates and cattle grids, up and down little hills we plod on. 6km in my “waterproof” jacket has already failed and I’m soaked through to the core. Lavely. Its a miserable ride, cold, wet, grey, and muddy. We get to a downhill section and it’s less fun than the uphill because it’s so cold. We track along next to the river, and come across some cows roaming around. They’re BIIIIIG ass things so instead of spooking them and having a couple of hundred KG of angry bull running at us we sort of call out first so they see us and trot to one side so we can cycle through.
We get to the first river crossing. How we usually address these is, shoes and socks off then dry your feet at the other side with the ankle part of your socks. As we’re soaked already, this isn’t going to work today. I go with the ‘just walk through and fuck it’ technique whereas James goes for the ‘cycle through and try to keep feet as dry as possible’.
Needless to say his plan failed miserably, he got completely soaked (as the water was up to shin height) and very grumpy. Admittedly his toes go numb when they get wet so he had reason to get grumpy. We hid in a little shelter so I could take my shirt off and just go with merino top and rain jacket to try and regulate my temperature a bit better as I was frozen to the bone at this point. Not that great for 20km into a 104km day.
We wiggle through the valley and make it to the one climb of the day, which kept on going and going and going and going.
We make it to the top and we hear a ute coming up behind us. We joke to each other and debate how much we’d have to pay the person to take us to the end. Turns out the car wasn’t playing the same game and just zoomed past.
We stop at the top for James to try and message our friend Nigel who is supposed to be meeting us somewhere along this route, but of course there’s no signal. We are in the arse end of nowhere between some huge mountains, which we can’t see as it’s so foggy!
Getting started again is cooooooold. As we’re both so wet, we are so cold. At one point I have to just keep counting to 4 to keep my mind off how cold I really am. We make good progress though, and fly down doing 36k we pass loooooads of cows. James has mastered the ‘eeeeeyyyyyyy-up’ to warn them we were coming and they just watch us cycle past. I’m sure they thought ‘what are these morons up to’. Stupid humans.
We get to another hut and have a sandwich as quickly as possible, do some star jumps to keep warm and set off again. This time up a hill, never have I been so grateful for an uphill rather than a down, purely to keep us warm. We get to the second river crossing, we can see due to all the rain the river is flooded wider than usual. It looks deep, and is flowing really fast. Shit.
We go for the shoes on just walk through it. We walk downstream where the river is wider but looks more shallow. It’s still flowing really fast though and as we wade through the force of the current can be felt trying to pull the bikes away. We get half way and land on a rock bank in the middle, then all the way across. Shoes off to flick out all the little stones that are in there, and carry on, cold once more.
It’s a long old slog, but we make it to a sign that says 60km to go. Grim. I pull out the emergency chocolate that a colleague gave me as I was leaving work on Christmas Eve, desperate times mean desperate measures.
Finally. We get ‘off’ the gravel road onto a more gravelly road, but it’s wider, so there are 3 tracks where cars drive up and down. This makes it easier to cycle and a whole lot less bumpy.
The gravel road then turns off onto the bike path again. Sadly it went through about 100m shared with a farm. Said farm had covered it in cow shit. Never have I been covered in so much cow shit in all my life, and I was brought up on a farm and fall over a LOT. It was everywhere. Up my jacket, shoes, even on my glasses. My bike was also covered, the rear bag, my front bag, even steggy had cow shit on him!
We thought we were meeting Nigel at a point but when we got there he wasn’t there. We continue on as he knows the route we’ll be taking. The gravel was really smooth and felt fast, it felt good to be making progress. It had even stopped raining and was just spitting. We get to one part and the track had been washed away!
Nigel calls and we realise he’s still in front of us so we crack on to find him. He’s waiting with coffee and a coke for us as he’s a gem!
We get going as he, helpfully, has parked where we are staying, and chat along and catch up with him as we ride the final 15km to the end. It’s nice to chat to someone who isn’t just us two! Nigel knows all about the tour and features in the Tour Aotearoa days 1 and 2 blog way back in March and we even met him on the plane up! Sadly he had to pull out after just a week due to issues with his foot, but, plans to take part again one day!
As we roll into Mossburn, there’s some bikes painted onto bales which is pretty cool. I don’t think much happens in this town except for when the Tour rolls into town each year!
After a quick google we get to the Railway Hotel where we are staying. Thankfully dinner has been preordered already and they show us around. As we’re the only people staying tonight, they upgraded our room, showed us where the laundry was, where we can keep our bikes, where the -free- breakfast was in the morning! Winner winner!
We have a lovely dinner and before we know it, it’s 9pm, way past our bedtime and I still have to do laundry to get rid of cow shit smell!
The adventure continues…