To make up for the early rain-induced finish the previous day, Oliver and I managed to collect all the various clothes drying around the room and hit the road just after five o’clock. It was a cool morning rolling through the dark – Oliver seemed to take perverse pleasure in giving me updates on the low temperature from his GPS.
After an hour or so we were on the highway for a brief stretch, the day lightened and we turned off again and climbed through more native forest to Mariua Saddle. The two groups of riders that had stayed the night further down the road than us at Mariua caught us around here, annoyingly raving about the motel we didn’t stay in, and stuck in our general proximity to Murchison. Following the Matakitai River through more forest and then dairy farms, pleasingly we weren’t flattened by a milk tanker steaming through.
With a big refuel stop at the Murchison Four Square (nine-thirty is not too early for a big meat pie – not when you’ve already had a bacon and egg one for breakfast before five o’clock) we took our time repacking for the warming day and all the food we’d just bought – plenty of familiar faces rolled into town as we trundled out. Up the wonderfully named Mangles Valley, it was back on to gravel up a small saddle and dropping down to Lake Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park – where I took my only photos of the day.
Lake Rotoroa – I’ve finally seen it, it wasn’t very exciting.
We’d been warned about the Porika Rd climb that was our route away from the lake and back to State Highway 63 by other competitors and people on the street in Murchison who seemed to gleefully delight in our impending torment. It was a pretty hard slog – a shade under five kilometres, seventy minutes of mostly pushing up a 4WD track to climb five hundred metres. But we made it with a bit of work and a few stops to look at the views and were rewarded with what was probably the highlight of the day – another big downhill on reasonable rough track through forest to the road.
That I only got photos at one point of the day, probably reflects the fact that this was the least interesting of event for me. There was no singletrack and it just felt like miles for miles sake – I was getting to the stage of just wanting to finish, but there was still three hundred kilometres to go. Then we reached the Buller River and followed it downstream for a while. Unfortunately as the valley narrowed, the nice tailwind we’d had in the morning funneled ever stronger straight into our faces. Progress was so slow and tough (at times I looked down to see I was going a measly eight kilometres an hour – pedaling downhill!) it was ridiculous to the point of being funny.
Thankfully that only lasted half an hour and we turned to ride up the Hope River Valley a little, before branching off into rather boring forestry (plantation forestry = boring; native forest = beautiful and interesting) to Tadmor Saddle and dropping down to the hop growing area around Tadmor – an indication we were getting into Tasman and nearing Nelson. Oliver was struggling to stay awake on this section and I was a little worn out too – so when we came across a charming little campground in Tapawera (I’d never heard of it, either), it was pretty easy to call it a day. That left us with two hundred and forty kilometres to go – an easy day and a half to get back to Blenheim sometime after noon on the Saturday, which had been my vague goal the whole way around. When we found the campsite had a fully equipped kitchen we were strangely excited – we could cook for ourselves! A five hundred gram packet of pasta was finished there.