There is a classic episode of Fawlty Towers where a guest is complaining to Basil about the view out of her window. “What do you expect, it’s Torquay” explains Basil. We are having a bit of this problem at the moment. You see, we have recently had Glaciers, fjords and Azure coloured lakes reflecting snow capped mountains as we cycled down the West coast. We also had Highway 95 to Clifden, which became a contender for, favorite road in New Zealand. You can see the problem we are having with the East Coast, no act wants to follow a warm up act that is too good.
We had a day off in Gore, which was well needed, and then continued along Highway 1. Clinton is the next town that you pass through and obviously during the Clinton Presidency, highway signs pointing towards both towns, or pointing in opposite directions, had to be replaced frequently. The enterprising Kiwis have, as ever turned this into a positive. Highway 1 is now The presidential Highway here.
I only took four photos all day as we rode to Balclutha.The countryside is nice enough. Beautiful in a Torquay sort of way, but not stunning and it falls quite a way short of World Heritage status, it is just nice. Our ride was not helped by the popularity of Highway 1, even with quite a nice wide shoulder for us to ride on. We started waving to Tour Buses. It cheered up the silver haired occupants of the front dozen rows of seats and us as they waved back.
Into Milton, the road went up and down in a way that made the legs pump up with lactic acid and so we stopped at our new favorite fast food chain. Subway is the best deal in town for the ravenous touring cyclist, with an eye on their budget. New Zealand is an expensive place to eat and a budget crippling place to drink coffee or use the internet.
A check with our guide book offered a quiet back road along the coast.There was no mention of hills and not a single hint of gravel or unsealed surface. Now, having ridden this section, I am not sure the author has ever been on the road in his life. It went from surfaced to gravel in such a quiet and unfussy way that we did not pay attention to the change. There was a big hill coming up and our road looked like it went up it, but we have learned that most hills viewed from a distance look like 25% grades. Not a problem then.
We were in too far to turn back. Back home in Edinburgh we get the occasional free ticket to plays in the Festival or Fringe. You know within 5 minutes that you should get up and walk out, but no, you stay and hope it gets better and thus it is with hills and gravel. The guide also said nothing about it being unsigned and a bit of a maze. So we put on a few extra kilometers.
30k of gravel and hills and then, like Pope John Paul 2, I could have kissed the tarmac when it reappeared. Why tarmac was not one of the, A History of The World in a 100 Objects, the BBC did I will never know. It is fantastic stuff and you do miss it. We did enjoy our off road “RIPO” riding and what we came across, but we feared for our bikes, their heavy loads and their skinny tires.
We camped in Taieri Beach, which is to be recommended, and then went through Brighton along a stunning and quiet coastal road on our way to Dunedin. The way in for the touring cyclist is thankfully signed.It does however require you to cycle up what appear to be one way streets, in the wrong direction. Keep your nerve, it is better than Highway 1.
The Exped Down Mat 7 Short is like sleeping on clouds and we love ours. We did however have an appointment with Bivouac Outdoor in Dunedin, to replace a mat which will be our fourth replacement in well under a year. Top marks for Exped customer services it has to be said and Bivouac in Christchurch who organised this swap just after the Earth Quake. We now know that the mats do actually have down inside them as our tried to spew all of its out of he deflate valve. We still love them.
As we head out of Dunedin in the morning, we can only hope that our route guide does not take us up the worlds steepest street, which is here. We no longer trust it and are on our guard.