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a tent by lake Ianthe, a sensory experience

I do not like 3D films. Mark Komode, the film critic does not like 3D films either. He considers them a blurring of the boundary between a theme park ride and the true art of cinema. I do not like them because I can not see them. Nor can I do those Magic Eye 3D books that were all the rage a few years ago and featured Dolphins a great deal. I spent much of my young life with a patch over one eye to strengthen my bad, lazy eye. It helped not one bit and meant that I learned to read very late as the words were a grey blur. But those were the enlightened years of the 60’s.

3D is supposed to be about total immersion and yet I think for that, the best experience can be got lying on your back in a tent in the dark. Two days ago we were camped by lake Ianthe on the West coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The wind had dropped away completely and sounds were now amplified by the dark. Two small streams 1 o,clock and 9 o’clock birds, predators and prey. The sound of the lake now calm allowed me to place the jump of every fish – and big fish at that – 6 o’clock and 5. Then it started to rain hard. That is a sensory overload in a tent that can keep you awake, and it did.

leaving Greymouth,grey and raining

We are now riding in Scottish summer temperatures of 14 to 20 degrees accompanied quite often by rain. We are more used to this than the heat of a few weeks ago. It does not mean that it is great fun though. We left Greymouth, which I now know to be named because of its climate of grey overcast days, on just such a day. The sign says “Sunset View” in what must be an ironic way.
The wind was strong, unfriendly and in our faces. The trucks were fast, unfriendly and right by our sides. Highway 6 is the worst road we have been on for driving styles straight from the school of Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear. Three times in one day we have had to dive onto the grass. They simply hate to go over the middle line to give you any room. They also do that thing of passing you tight to your arm and then pulling out once they are in front just to prove they have no sense of speed or distance.

coastal defences

The day brightened, which was good for my mood. I was  not aware of how much preparation had gone into defence against an invasion here back in WW2. We have seen the concrete legacy all along the remote coasts, so that is a gap in my knowledge filled.

suburban architecture Hokitika

Hokitika and all along the coast here is built on the mining of coal and gold. Today though it is Jade that makes it a tourist honey pot and we liked it and its small house architecture and the blue sky.

Historic Empire Hotel, Ross

Interior of Historic Empire Hotel, Ross

We  ride south, our front wheels on the long shadow of our bikes for much of the day to a little village called Ross. This is where miners found the “Honorable Roddy”, a fist-sized 99 ounce nugget, the largest found in New Zealand. It was melted down to make cutlery for Buckingham Palace and I am sure they were proud. The Empire Hotel is another fantastic pub come living historical theme park.

Highway 6, going South

one of the many bridges

The road beyond Ross goes through the Totaro Forest which is as near to a temperate rain forest as makes no difference except perhaps in an exam. Tall trees and dense foliage are cut by the road and the verge needs constant mowing or the road would be gone.

Big Rig Home

The highlight of the day was a an hour in the company of Russel. Very proud owner of a timber cottage bolted and welded onto a big rig chassie. Two wives had not liked the lifestyle but the third does, so far.Married a month he is still on a honeymoon high that may last quite a while. The sign said “OPEN”, but it was unclear what for as Russel just wanted people to stop for a chat and perhaps offer work.

Russel at home

Lake Ianthe, and its DOC campsite was our stop at the end of the day. We are covering the ground with a lot less effort now than a few weeks ago. The lower temperatures help but I think we are getting stronger and hardened to the life.

towards the Smyth Range

Again it rained and we set off in wet weather gear. Ahead, the mountains of the Smyth Range are tree covered and hung in mist and cloud. As the day goes on we cover the K’s easily and Franz Josef glacier can be seen with new snow from the first fall of early winter. We go over many bridges ten times as wide as the small rivers they span at the moment. The waters are always a glacier green and blue.

Glacial waters

We arrive at the town of Franz Josef and are almost in tears. What a town of posers, rip off prices and a strong smell of CK one from a load of wannabee adventurers sitting around finding themselves whilst paying over the odds for the privilege of doing so. I hated the place and almost everyone in it, we fled back up the road to a Top Ten campsite. These are overpriced, but you get what you pay for rather than the dirty astro turf at the back of a hostel that we had been offered in Josef for $30!!!!! I have started to negotiate prices at Top Ten, pleading that we should have a discount for arriving by bike ( in the French way I point out). It works 75% of the time. A day off and 12 hours of sleep, we must be more worn out than we think.

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