GSB17 - Day 2 - Oturehua to Cromwell
The Great Southern Brevet 2017 - Day 2
Distance: 221 km
Metres climbed: 2,546
Ride time: 12:29
The aforementioned Biblical Rain of Day 1 was forecast to abate by about 04:00 - and sure enough, shortly after waking, the pounding of rain on corrugated iron was notably absent! Things were looking up, even though it was dark, wet, cold, and very early. Unfortunately, by the time we'd all thrown on our riding kit (still damp from the night before) and packed up camp, the rain had started again. Nothing major, but it was definitely there to stay.
We rolled out of our dry (but cold) fertiliser shed at about 05:30, and after a quick regrouping on the main street of Oturehua, were on the move, along the Otago Rail Trail. With lights, rain gear, and grimaces on, we plodded into the rain, along the reasonably boring rail trail. I can see the allure of these facilities for cycle tourists - they're away from traffic, generally very easy grades, and well maintained (even in the rain, there were few puddles). However, when you're in the business of getting from A to B (or O to C, for us today) the trails are a little on the tedious side. This morning, in the dim light, we didn't even have views to take in, as the low cloud and rain scuppered any hint of a vista.
After about 90 minutes, we reached Omakau - a sleepy little town, particularly sleepy at 07:00 on a dreary Sunday morning! The few shops were closed, and likely to remain so for the next few hours, however a keen eye among the group spotted someone loitering in the entrance to the Omakau Hotel. A traveling group of darts players were staying there, and had just moved downstairs for breakfast. After assembling outside, we moseyed in and were shown to an empty table for bottomless toast, toppings, cereal, and tea/coffee (filter coffee, but beggars can't be choosers). I scoped out a heater in the entrance, and after wringing out my gloves, installed them directly on top, to dry them out a little. The gloves, if completely dry, would only stay that way for a matter of minutes - but the comfort of starting back on course with dry, warm hands was well worth it.
After breakfast, we needed to fork out the $12 or so in the bar area. I walked through, and while waiting, decided to use the bathroom. See, I didn't have any personal need for the bathroom, but the heated hand-dryer mounted to the wall was the perfect thing to dry the top of my jacket out, and to *hopefully* get the waterproofing working a bit better - it'd become sodden en route to breakfast, making it nothing more than an additional wet layer, chilling me to the bone. A few minutes after my ingenious plan was set in motion, I was approached by an employee of the Hotel, enquiring as to my well-being. When I say that, I mean the woman found her way into the toilet, stared at me drying my jacket, and asked "Are you alright over there, sir?", which is akin to the more commonly used "U WOT M8".
Memes must not have reached the Otago High Country just yet, and I was spared the horror of being accosted by a doo-gooding mainlander in internet vernacular. Phew. I scurried out of the bathroom, apologetically, paid for my toast, and retrieved my toasty gloves to hit the road.
By the time I had my shit together, Cliff, Bryan and the others had made tracks up the road, towards Thomson Gorge. I rode along the false flat, slowly catching the foursome as my weary shanks protested - it was now a little after 08:15, and we'd made hardly any progress so far today.
The trip through Thomson Gorge wasn't too bad - weather aside. As we climbed, the rain became heavier and heavier, and the first sign of a decent breeze started to become more apparent. We'd had still conditions down in the Ida Valley that morning, but climbing over the range between there and Wanaka was a different story. Just before we dropped off the hills, the group was forced to walk/push a few hundred metres, as the Southerly was making the riding extremely difficult, blowing across the ridge and doing it's best to take us with it.
|Thomson Gorge track, into the wild weather|
During the ride through Thomson Gorge, there were a few points when the track was completely under water, with a little creative navigation required to pick it back up some time later.
While dropping down towards Bendigo, the extent of the weather we were experiencing became more obvious - the Pisa Range, directly across the valley from us, had a decent dusting of snow. The original course had us making a trip up there in short order, as soon as we'd left Wanaka. With our gear already wet, the prospect of a few hours above the snow line wasn't all that enthralling, and even without the course being officially redirected, talk had turned to making a detour via Arrowtown to avoid the worst of it.
After joining the highway for Wanaka, I performed my normal trick of slowly sliding off the back of the group. Over the years I've learned I'm best to cruise along at my own pace - which, strangely enough, ends up being about the same as those I'm riding with, on balance. I watched the guys hook the left turn, and roll across the Luggate Bridge, before a wee climb signaled our arrival onto the Wanaka Cycle Trail network we'd be on for the next 90 minutes or so - first, following the Albert Town - Luggate track, then the Outlet track along Beacon Point Road into Wanaka. It was awesome riding into Wanaka on my own, having a bit of time to take some photos and chat to few folks on the track, going about their business on relatively balmy Sunday. I recognised the spot we'd parked our road maggot back in December, which was a lovely reminder of my family back home in Wellington.
|Along the Wanaka Outlet track|
I circled the streets, trying to find my riding buddies, to no avail. I fired Cliff a text, and restocked at the New World. By the time we'd coordinated, the guys were almost done - I made my way towards they were holed up at, pausing only to throw an empty bottle at a group of rowdy youths, as if to illustrate my intolerance brought on by the early start, lack of food, and cold weather as the little shits continued to kick the cars parked on the street as they made their way towards Wanaka. Their demeanour changed somewhat when they arrived at said burger place, and noticed not one, but five bedraggled cyclists beside the front door, haha!
Mercifully, while in Wanaka, we received a message from Dave King, advising of a route change - instead of turning off at Cardrona and heading up the Snow Farm roads, we'd continue on up and over the Crown Range Road, down to Arrowtown, and out to Cromwell via the cycle trails and Kawarau Gorge.
I took off to the local sports shop to grab some fresh socks and another base layer, figuring we'd be in for some more gnarly weather over the coming days, and agreed to meet the dudes back out on the road. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way again, heading for Cardrona and the Crown Range. I've driven this road once - in the dark, while snowing - and didn't recall much, aside from it being similar to the Rimutakas, closer to Wellington. I phoned Cliff, and worked out they were about 10 minutes up the road from me. I plodded along, up the false flat of the Cardrona Valley, feeling much better for the fresh merino socks, long sleeved base layer, and food/caffeine in my system.
On reaching Cardrona, I saw my riding buddies outside the pub, saddling up - I was settled into a decent rhythm now, so didn't see a lot of point in stopping. I moseyed on, and within 10 minutes caught sight of a shadow on my wheel. I was happy staying up the front, and set a solid (for touring, at least!) pace to the top, with Cliff not too far back for company. For the first time in a while, I felt pretty good on the bike - in spite of my heavy legs, the cold conditions, and the lack of sleep!
A few happy snaps in the bag, and we were back playing catch up, heading for Tobins Track, which drops right into Arrowtown.
|All packed up on the Crown Range, typical weather making an appearance|
After a quick regroup at the bottom, we collectively decided with the uncertain weather forecast, to book a couple of rooms in Cromwell for the night - this would provide a great opportunity to clean our selves and our gear, and sleep in relative warmth and comfort. Although we all carried camping gear, doing it night out/night in/etc was a good compromise, I thought.
Once booked, we had another couple of hours to ride, to make our respective rooms for the night. Aside from the swarming rabbits along the Kawarau Gorge cycle trail, the remainder of the day was uneventful - we bumped into Dave King not far from Cromwell, and caught up on a bit of gossip from the rest of the field, before carrying on. I can't remember how much I spent at the BP Station - but I bought food for right then, food for dinner, Breakfast for the next morning, plus enough to get us through the Nevis to Garston the next day.
|Meaty cloud, signaling the impending gale winds|
By the time we had reached the hotel, the skies were clear, but the wind was getting up to Wellington levels. I was bunking down with Cliff for the night - we'd loosely agreed to keep each other company prior to the event, and it was working out pretty nicely. Neither of us had anything to prove, and were simply keen to get some solid days under our belts during the GSB - so far, so good! The evening was passed showering and cleaning, then eating, and rigging up a fan-powered drying system like a pair of regular MacGyvers.
Farting aside, we both slept well, and likely didn't cuddle up too much.