March 7. Odo reading 48712
376 km yesterday - very close to the estimate. Other than being hot with the jeans, the Gore-Tex pants are way more comfortable than jeans to ride in - all I need are some suspenders to keep from frightening the ladies. After an excellent farm breakfast, we go off for a tour of the picking orchard - they're using a lot of specialized gear to keep the bruises down. These apples are to be shipped to Germany. Mrs. Sands allows as she has lots of German guests, but have no problems communicating.
We meet at the intersection of highways 61 and 6. Christian and the Austrians are last. We go through Richmond and Nelson, gas up, and then head east. Our route goes on Rt 6 to Havelock, and then goes on Queen Charlotte Drive, an older, secondary road. Christian says he's really looking forward to this road, as it's "really twisty". As compared to what, exactly?
The road out of Nelson soon turns into switchbacks, climbing the Whangamoa range (Hey, that's where the book "The Bone People" is placed). We pass a family on bikes - mom and daughter on a tandem bike, and dad with son in a carrier. The road turns very tightly - as we start up a hill, most of the group has just passed a white semi. I start planning my pass, but soon realize that this truck must be empty. He's going just slightly slower than I feel comfortable going on this road, and he's brushing the sides of the cut in the turns. In fact, I have to drop back, as he knocks a couple of brackets off the trailer. He's right behind Chris, and she's not able to pull away. Empty, and on a tight schedule.
As we go through the tight rights and lefts, into and out of the sun, I actually become disoriented. We crest Saddle Hill (the Saddle Hill saddle) and start down. Chris comes up behind a slow-moving tandem trailer rig, luckily on a straight. She passes the first truck, and I lean forward, wick it up, and blow past both trucks. The evil white truck is trapped, and we stretch out our lead on the descent. We come through Rai Valley, and I see the bikes of the Austrian Peg-Scraping Twins at a cafe. Chris slows down, but the evil white semi has appeared in my mirrors, plus since we are on a schedule to meet the ferry, I have schedule fever, and am not willing to stop moving. On the east side of Rai Valley, we stop for construction, and have to drive through freshly-laid wet gravel. Pas de fun. The rest of the group is stopped for coffee at Pelorus Bridge, so I stop for hot chocolate. I ask Christian "If the next road is more twisty, will I live?". He laughs.
We pass through Havelock, and turn onto Queen Charlotte Drive. And it is even more twisty. And beautiful. It overlooks Queen Charlotte Sound (go figure), and it's more forest-covered hills, shrouded by rain in the distance. Rain-shrouded. I struggle into my rain pants. After 30 km at 40kmh, we arrive in Picton. 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
We line up, and get on the ferry. We lash the bikes down as best we can. Ropes are provided, but not any knowledge of, say, knots. The local biker we got on with has brought his own straps. And there's a sign, an icon of "No Bikers With Skull And Crossbones On Their Jackets" that says "No Gang Colours". We spread about the ferry. I settle down with an L&P (pop), a chocolate bar, and a bag of chips. When I realize I have these, along with a computer, I say "Look, it's my day". I spend the 3-hour crossing (Three hour tour) doing updates for the previous couple of days.
We arrive in Wellington, and proceed to the Novotel. I dash out to a Dick Smith's (think Radio Shack), and get a proper NZ-US modem cable. I come back, and there's the sweet sound of modem connection. I get to upload the updates from the boat. Sorry it took so long, but I've been in the boonies, or too tired. In my email are missives from Kevin, of the Briar And Tyme, and Sophie of Sophies. I glad all are having fun following along, and I have no problem in praising the worthy. I have a shower (aaah) and supper. And, after supper, a dip in the pool. And then blessed sleep. Tomorrow is a rest day, so I can sleep in.