Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 23: Blenheim to Ward(ish)

Distance: 55.9k
Distance so far: 1,432.7
Speed: 15.7k/h
Runkeeper log: 1

So, after my minor 300k side-trip to Nelson, today I finally started on the route south in earnest. Today's route was entirely along State Highway 1, taking me from Blenheim to Pedaller's Rest, just south of the tiny town of Ward.

I slept in a bit and got up at 7AM, and was packed and ready at about 20 past, taking a leisurely ride into central Blenheim to seek out a cafe for breakfast. I found one easily, and had a delicious meal of Pancakes and Bacon, and a good coffee, before getting on the road just before 8AM. The sun was peering through a gap in the clouds and casting highlights and shadows across the hills to the south in a most picturesque fashion - a lovely view to start the day with.

The weather today was overcast, but not nearly as cold as it was yesterday. There was more of a southerly wind, though, which continued to plague me throughout the day, providing me with a headwind much of the day. Unfortunately, this seems likely to be the start of a pattern for the next week or so...

The ride was initially fairly flat, but soon turned to hills, a sequence that repeated throughout the day - flat and hilly sections interleaved fairly consistently. This wasn't entirely unpleasant, as all the climbs were fairly steady and manageable, and the downhills added some speed and enjoyment to a day that otherwise contained a lot of slogging along against headwinds - though at times the wind died down enough on the flat for me to ride along at a reasonable speed.

I stopped for a rather disappointing coffee at Seddon. There were two choices for coffee, facing each other across the road, and I think I chose the wrong one, a teahouse that's been (marginally) updated to serve coffee. I attempted to enjoy their rather... novel... rendition of a latte, with limited success.

Just before I arrived in Seddon, I had my first significant mechanical mishap since I had all those problems with the front chainring, somewhere north of Auckland. The pedals momentarily jammed hard, then started working again, but seemingly with a lot more friction than normal. Pedalling still worked, but the chain ground quite perceptibly, and it only got worse if I put more pressure on it. I took the panniers off and examined the rear derailleur with a sinking feeling - since any mishap with it would almost certainly be beyond my ability to fix it on the road - but couldn't see anything wrong with it. I shelved it until after the coffee.

The problem was still there after the coffee, so I took the bags off again for another look. This time, I realised that the chain had come off the idler wheel, which sits just under the seat and provides a clear path for the chain from the front chainrings to the rear cluster. This was something of a relief, actually, since it's easily fixed. A metal bar normally prevents the chain from slipping off the idler, and this must have been what the chain momentarily jammed against. A minute's work with an allen key had the wheel loose enough to replace the chain, and I was back on the road.

The alternating hills and flats continued after Seddon, though with less climbing than before. Not long afterwards, I arrived in Ward, where I stopped for another break and another coffee - significantly better than the last one - before I set out on the last 9k to Pedaller's Rest.

One hill later, I arrived at Pedaller's Rest. This is a bunkhouse with all the usual facilities situated almost exactly halfway between Blenheim and Kaikoura, a stretch that's a bit too long for most people - myself included - to comfortably complete in a day. Once you factor in the hillier terrain on the first half of this ride, it's in pretty much the perfect position to stop for the night. The accommodations are a bit on the basic side, but the beds are soft and the hosts, Jim and Denise, are friendly and welcoming.

I'm the only person staying currently. It's not impossible someone else will turn up later this afternoon, but I suspect I will have the bunkhouse to myself tonight. Tomorrow, I'll ride the rest of the way to Kaikoura. The good news is that the forecast for tomorrow is northerlies - a tailwind! The bad news is that the forecast for the rest of the week is southerlies, and that includes my mammoth 120k day from Cheviot to Christchurch. I'm really, really hoping the forecast is wrong, because it's going to be a real slog if it's not.

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