Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 16: The Flying Fox to Wanganui

Distance: 43.8k
Distance so far: 
Speed: 14.9k/h
Runkeeper log: 1

Supposedly, when you've exerted yourself, you don't really feel the impact in your muscles until two days afterwards, and that certainly seemed to be the case today, as my legs made me pay for the epic day from Turangi to Raetihi, making me glad that today was only a short one.

John, my host at The Flying Fox, made me a delicious and generously proportioned continental breakfast, with muesli, fresh Orange Juice, yoghurt, strawberries, fresh bread and more. I had to declare defeat after eating about two thirds of it, lest I be unable to get on the trike. A quick cableway journey had me back on the far bank and ready to go.

Getting up the driveway was the first challenge, since it's gravel and grass and at least a 20% slope. Riding up it was no good, as the rear wheel couldn't get enough traction, so I spent the first 10 minutes or so of my day pushing my bike up the hill.

Once I was on the road, though, the ride was lovely. For some reason I found myself thinking that if hobbits discovered concrete, this is the sort of road they'd build. It's a fairly narrow, unmarked country road, with no markings or signposts, winding its way along the ravine, gently undulating up and down with the countryside. In places, there's no sign of human agency other than the road itself; in other places it's paralleled by farm fences and tall trees shading the road.

The one significant climb of the day came at roughly the halfway mark, and was fairly steep, but an even pace soon had me at the top, despite my legs vociferously reminding me that they were sore from the last couple days' riding. An entire tour bus of people stopped at the top for the view waved at me as I embarked on the downhill side. The downhill ride was a little terrifying, in the vein of yesterday's downhill towards Pipiriki, with steep slopes, sharp unmarked bends, and the constant fear of an oncoming car; I probably spent about half my hard won potential energy heating up the brakepads, but made it to the bottom in one piece.

The remainder of the ride into Wanganui was a bit dull, but very flat, a pleasant change from hills and a good way to rest tired legs. I checked in at the charming Tamara Backpackers. A brief walk into town had me there in time to browse the weekend market, where I met Annette, John's wife, co-owner of the Flying Fox, and mayor of Wanganui. How she finds time to run a market stall on top of all that baffles me.

My hosts here at Tamara have presented me with a bit of a dilemma for tomorrow. The route from here to Wellington, they report, is both boring and dangerous - a reminder of the segment just north of Auckland - and they recommended in the strongest terms that I skip the ride and catch a bus instead, making the observation that doing so is a common choice for touring cyclists. They pointedly mentioned several memorials to unfortunate cyclists along State Highway 1.

Once again I find myself somewhat conflicted as to what to do. Wanganui to Wellington is 200 kilometers, a fair chunk of the north island, and I'd planned to do it over 3 days: Wanganui to Palmerston North, Palmerston North to Waikanae, and Waikanae to Wellington. Skipping it feels distinctly like cheating, even more so than the shorter segment I opted out of north of Auckland. On the other hand, getting killed by a reckless motorist on State Highway 1 is likely to put a rather significant crimp in my plans, and it doesn't seem like I'll be missing out on much in the way of scenery or attractions.

If I must get a bus, it'd be nice to bike at least some of the distance, but the area immediately north of Wellington is reportedly the most dangerous bit, while the area from here to Palmerston North is distinctly boring (though flat - and I love flat).

Whatever I decide, I'll need to make my mind up soon. Wanganui is a nice little town, but I don't really want to spend more than one night in it, with the rest of the country beckoning.

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