March 6. Odo reading 48336
248 km yesterday. More today. Low clouds and mist in the morning - I put on my rain pants. Well, after some hesitation. Even Chris and Jim put on rain gear. David leads us off - he has worked hard to get Christian to let him bike, too. Christian gets supplies for today's picnic. David leads us off on Rt 6 towards Punakaiki. Well, actually, he leads us on Rt 7 towards Nelson, but recovers before even a kilometer has passed. We get sorted out, and headed right. After 10 minutes or so, we ride into a rain shower - my pants have paid off! They are dry and comfy. At the briefing, Renee had kept patting them, because she had only see me ride in jeans, previously. The rain turns to drizzle, and then to low cloud. This is a rain forest - the humidity is very high. Fog shrouds the green mountains, and obscures the breakers coming in from the Tasman Sea.
The walk around the pancake rocks is great, and the tide is coming in, so the blowholes are working as well. It's a clear picture of erosion, and the power of the sea. As we're walking, the sun starts to peek through, and the fact that I'm wearing jeans and black Gore-Tex pants is abundantly clear. Renee comments that "after the first liter of sweat is in your boots, you won't sweat any more". Lovely. Holger gets a funny feeling in his bottom - the screws have come loose from the latch on the seat. David totters off with the seat, and returns a few seconds later with the latch screwed down.
We head north-east again, and stop at Cape Foulwind (Pull my finger!). We've been in sun and shower on and off - and hey! Guess what? My gloves are not Gore-Tex, as I had thought. (Editors Note: That's right. And he didn't ask for Gore-Tex when he bought them, so whose fault is that?) My hands are a bit wet, and some moisture has come through the glove cuffs, and down my jacket sleeves. Joy. At the cape, we walk around to see the fur seal colony, while Christian lays out lunch. We start our lunch in the drizzle, and it gradually clears. Two wika, a bird that looks a lot like a Kiwi with a chicken in the woodpile, come by to see if we have leftovers. When we do, about twenty gulls descend, screeching wildly. As the sun comes out, we are ready to roll. The asphalt steams gently. When someone comments that it's too bad the sun wasn't out for the picnic, a tour bus driver observes that the sandflys would have eaten us alive. Off we scamper.
We run back into, through and out of the rain, as we proceeded east into the Buller Gorge. Christian has said it's "twisty", which means a snake would get tied in knots. In some places, the Kiwi's didn't want to blast the road two lanes into the mountain, so the road narrows with the pithy warning "One Lane", and there's a mirror so you can see if traffic is approaching around the corner from the other direction. Yikes! We stop for a photo-op, and to let the less confident catch up. It's a beautiful road through tree-covered mountains, following the river. Occasional sun-showers appear, but I'm dry in my rain gear. When the sun comes out, I start to get hot at the gas stops.
We stop in Lyle, at the swing bridge bungee jump. The sandflys are everywhere - this is the first building in NZ I've seen with screen doors - hey; there's a business opportunity. They have another Flying Fox here (we'd call it a zipline), but unlike the one at the Pipeline, I'm under the weight limit. So, I pay my $22, and get to ride like "Supraman" (everyone avoids lawsuits if possible). Yeee-ha! Next stop is for gas in Murcheson. We are now slightly behind schedule, as we are supposed to be at the homestay farms (about 130km away) by 5:00 - and it's 4:30 now.
I'm gosh-darned hot in the sun now, and remove the Gore-Tex pants. My jeans steam gently in the sun (well, not really, but, you know. Artistic license.). We head over fairly straight and open roads, and then head into an uphill set of switchbacks to the Hope Saddle. When we crest the top and start down, I am very surprised to find that none of the corners are marked, and none have speed suggestions. Since I'm following Holger, he gets to discover all this first, luckily.
On the east side of the saddle, the roads are straightish and open, and we crank it up. We split off from Chris and Jim, and Renee and Junger, and head north on Rt 61. At Dovedale, Christian leaves us for his farmstay, and we head into the countryside. We get slightly lost, and ask a group of young, blonde, blue-eyed, sun-bronzed horse-back riders (yum!) for directions. They send us down a gravel road, but when it comes back out from the vineyards, Ulrich gets his bearings and we're soon where we need to be.
We're welcomed into the home of Graeme and Lavona Sands, at Mahana Homestay. The Sands have an apple orchard, some kune-kune pigs (brought by the Maori) and some black sheep (as pets). After a shower (I now know that the shower after driving for the day is the ultimate in sybaritic luxury) we have crackers and cheese, and beer (for the Germans) and blackcurrant and apple juice (for me). We have a chat with the two other guests at the homestay, (and I've forgotten their names - sorry.) a British retired doctor and his wife. They too, are driving around, but they're in a car, a snazzy red Holden. We then are escorted into the adjacent orchard, and get to hand-feed the black lambs some bread. We return to a huge dinner - lamb, potatoes, kumaru (native sweet potato), cauliflower and broccoli, and new carrots and string beans. It is delicious. For desert there's home-made pavlova (imagine a meringue pie) and chocolate mint mousse. We retire to the den, but after the long day and great dinner I can barely stay awake. I retire to my (huge) room, and (huge) bed, and fall asleep to the music of the crickets.