Pongaroa was great and the people at the Pongaroa Inn served us the best food we could hope for. Such a remote little village with a great spirit. Having eaten well and rested the next days 92k should have been a breeze. So I have no idea why from pedal stroke one, my legs just would not do the business. The landscape was nice enough and the gradients kind to the cyclist on a bad day but I was not in the mood.
We knew that there was nowhere to get anything to eat or drink and we had plenty. But plenty on a good day is not enough for a bad day and my head started to spin. Rally cars started to pass us as they went from race stage to the next race stage. There off to the right was the next marshalling point and it would be unreasonable to run it without a hot dog van or something. We went down to see if we could buy something and were greeted with typical kindness and free food and drink.
Masterton was our destination for the day. We were so sad to turn away from Rout 52 in the last 6k into town. The 52 had been wonderful and had saved our nerves from Highway 2 without much of a detour.
Catching a train from Masterton to Wellington is of course cheating. Which is what we did. Highway 2 gets very tight and no one had a good word for what was ahead.
By total luck we connected with a ferry that was just leaving for the South Island. Never try to organise these things, it would just not work and you end up stressed out. By sheer good fortune the ferry was 20 minutes late and our lack of planning worked just fine.
“For the bicyclist arriving from Wellington by ferry after crossing Cook Strait, the approach to the South Island port of Picton is easily comparable with the fiords of Norway”. Is how our guide puts it, and it was perfect, too perfect, with blue sky taking away any drama. We tried to take some photos but it just did not look spectacular in the way it should have done. It needed mist and shafts of light and we had unbroken blue and deep green sea.
Picton was a let down. We camped cheaply, which usually cheers us up, but we had completed a part of the project and now had to start again and were low on energy and spirits.
We pedaled out of Picton in morning rain on a busy highway to Blenheim trying to find some rhythm and avoid the hills for a day. Twenty minutes in and the legs were moving with more freedom. By the time we were in Blenheim we had some form back. We had decided to buy an internet dongle thing by randomly asking the person next to us on the train to Wellington. By very good luck he worked in the business of dongles and we were clued up as we went into the Telecom shop to make a painless hi-tec purchase. Telecom is the answer in rural New Zealand with its better coverage, so that is a top tip.
The North Island and the people we met had been beyond our wildest expectations and we are now worried that we may be the first touring cyclists to prefer the north to the south island. Here we go and to start our trip we are just a couple of hundred k’s from a big earthquake that hit Christchurch as we cycled this morning. We should have noticed it but didn’t and are not sure you would on a bike.