Good lord it feels like a thousand millions since I posted the luggage list. I am writing from Paroa a small in-between settlement just before the city of Greymouth on the west coast.
The amount of tourists in country is astounding. Most cars I see on the road are not local. Endless camper vans, rolling houses, wheeled cabin type home rollers. I have a joke to myself that unless the vehicle has a rustic home made trailer on the back for hauling equipment or a boat trailing behind, there’s a ferner in the there. So many folks travel in this country and seldom meet Kiwi’s. They get on the track to see the sites and thusly the people they meet are the other site seers from the elsewhere. Lots of Germans. I am very grateful to be meeting kiwis. Gold miners to hunters to nurses to school teachers to social workers to farmers to bankers to butlers to burglars to barons to barristers to baristas and beyond. They have been consistently and astoundingly generous and hospitable. Often, before having met a host, they will email me where to find my room in their house and how to make myself at home. They invite me to arrive sometimes days before they will be back home! Nobody locks anything. I leave my stuff, my bike, my life lying around and don’t worry about it. It’s refreshing to remove all those fears from the equation.
Before getting to the west coast south islanders kept warning me of the sand flies. The sand fly warning was so ominous I was prepared to get to the coast and take one deep breath at the Tasman Sea before being completely enveloped in a black death cloud of flesh eating bug beasts. Turns out they do like to nip and occasionally have a decent meal at the expense of your ankles, but for the most part they are not bad at all. I think it’s a myth west coasters spread so as to keep people at bay. The beauty is so stupid here. Ya know how you might loose some brain cells watching The Real Housewives Of Cleveland or a Republican debate? Well I think this kind of beauty might have a similar effect. It’s just too much. It smacks you in the face and picks your pockets and trims your toe nails! It’s a beauty capable of impossible magic and intimidating mamothness. I think the locals who live here tell others that the sand flies are unbearable to keep the tourist population down to eighty thousand instead of ten million. Only forty thousand people actually live on the west coast. A majority of the folks I’ve met work in one way or another in the tourist industry. Not all but a majority. 53%.
I had my most trying day so far riding from Haast to Fox Glacier. 120 kilometers over 12 hours, 7 in the rain, 3 over a mountain, 2 in the dark. It was a long day and 40 more kilometers then my biggest day yet. One of the differences between a Cyclist and a guy who buys a bike is a cyclist knows where he is going and what the terrain will be like on the way. I am always surprised. This has its yays and nays. One excellent thing is I’m not looking at maps and folding them and unfolding them and experiencing the landscape in 2 dimensions and watching a GPS thing telling me how fast I am and what the wind pressure to moisture index is in relation to my body mass divided by my muscle elasticity. If I want to know how fast I’m going I look at the tree I’m about to pass and I notice the amount of time between the tree being in front of me and me being in front of the tree. If I want to know the terrain I ask a local “hey mate whats the road like up ahead?” If they say “oh no worries. Totally flat, good as gold mate, bob’s your uncle!” Then I know to expect lots of hills. If they sort of giggle and say “oh yip there’s gonna be a few hills up that way” then I know to expect at least one mountain if not a range. Before that big ride on that big day I really thought 90k was my limit. I’m starting to see that my real limit is always just 20 more k. You get to the point and realize well …. I can go a little further ….. just to that post ….. ok that tree …….. ok might as well get to that town. It has been very liberating to realize how malleable my limit is. I haven’t found it yet, but I’d like to. Just to see. I’ll let you know when I get there.
I passed a cow in a field. It was bloated and on its side. She could not get up. I’d seen this happen once before in Vermont and the cow didn’t make it. If they can’t stand up the gas can bloat them to death. I biked till I found some locals. They called the farmer with that paddock and they saved the cow. Got her up on her feet and she farted her way to freedom …. well at least until they decide to kill her, but I’m sure she is living longer then she would have had Hero Gid (that’s what they call me now), the great saver of cows, not pedaled along.
Had two days without shows when I was by Fox and Franz Glacier. A new friend “Sally from the Valley – the hot pools Queen” pointed me towards Welcome Flat Hut, a small cabin 8 hours into the bush of the rainforest. I walked in on barrowed sneakers full of wholes and a size too small. My cargo situation has only allowed for me to bring Biking shoes and sandals. I was grateful for the borrowed shoes as crappy as they were. Spent 2 days soaking in the green mud natural hot pools below cliffs and mountains and waterfalls. It was a very healing two days. Befriended the lovely caretaker of the hut Selda and in the evening we ate and sat by the fireplace talking about this and thats and the what-nots. When walking out I decided to see how fast I could get back to the road so I jogged out and it took me just under four hours. Eight hours in and four hours out. That made me feel like a man, but the next day I could barely walk and that made me feel like an idiot.
Signing off from the land of the long white cloud with goodness and excitement for the next show, next ride, next host, next vista, next challenge, next lunch …. here’s to nextness!