Sunday, 15 March 2009

Day 622 - Dunedin

Before we departed Christchurch we visited the main art gallery, it seems we have art in common too. We split up and later Christine took me into the room that contained her favourite painting, I was able to select which one it was with out being told. Interestingly enough she was able to do the same to me when I took her into the room with my favourite painting. We also both agreed that some of the modern art was a pile of poo! If you are not an art buff you might find that last technical description a little difficult to understand.

We departed Christchurch in far less sunshine than we had the pleasure of whilst we were looking around the place, it could even be described as nippy. Actually it was a bit of a boring ride. We were on the main road heading south to Dunedin, it was farmland with little else to look at other than flock after flock of sheep, but don’t worry, I haven’t been here long enough to start fancying them yet. It was flat, or so flat, and busy, very busy. The traffic never really subsided the whole day. There were lots of pine trees, but they weren’t in forests, not even woods, they were all in lines to form a windbreak. Many of them were so well kept and pruned with crisp edges that Christine chipped in “They wouldn’t look out of place in an English garden”. We crossed bridges over rivers including the longest bridge in New Zealand at about 2km, but the amazing thing was that there was water flowing underneath, fast slowing water, in Australia they had just been bridges over dry river beds. We spent far too long sat down a lunch, as we chatted away time was once again slipping by unnoticed. With so much farmland it was going to prove challenging to find a spot to camp when we needed one. We filled up on food and water and started looking, the temperature was dropping. We found nothing suitable though along a gravel road the verges were beautifully maintained outside the farms, it might prove the only thing available, so as we saw a farmer entering a field we asked if we could camp outside of his farm “You could, but I can tell you a much better place. If you head towards those bales over there and take Paper Lane there will be nothing along that track. It is forecast to snow tomorrow mind”. So that is what we did, it was a bit exposed and more than a tad bumpy to lie on, but we settled in as the temperature was dropping further. We were soon to discover distinct advantages over camping in Australia, there are no flies and so far no ants, though sadly there are no fruit cakes either!

The morning was a clear one, no sign of that snow, but we could clearly see mountains in front of us, they hadn’t even been visible yesterday. I had bought some porridge the previous day, that went down oh so well on a cool morning, though Christine didn‘t like it, but it did give her something else to moan about for days on end. With the mountains to our right the riding was a little more interesting, though still no evidence of the road getting any quieter. We stopped at a supermarket to buy some lunch for the road and I had pointed out that any visit to a supermarket was taking far to long, “Ok, it will be quicker if I go around on my own, I can do it easily in 15 minutes” said Christine. “15 minutes! That’s an age, I will time you”, “Ok” she replied, “I will try and be back in `12 minutes”. I set the stopwatch, she was back in 3 minutes 26 seconds armed with lots of goodies including two 250g bars of chocolate…spot on. To save a little time we decided to have no longer than a one hour lunch break. It went so quick, I dread to think how long yesterday’s had been. The temperature had picked up nicely and during the morning we enjoyed the benefit of a slight tailwind, but once we set off again the wind was changing directions, what’s more it was picking up strength rapidly. We entered the large city of Timaru, time for the daily supermarket ritual, this one took a little longer, though it‘s obvious that food is much cheaper in NZ, especially the chocolate. When we came out we were amazed, it had completely clouded over, the temperature had plummeted, the wind was even stronger and to make matter worse it looked like rain. We set off into the biting wind, we were soon stopping for Christine to put an extra layer on. After a few hours in the wind we were tiring rapidly, once again things didn’t look good for camping, but another excursion down a side road brought us to a little used field with some bee hives in, there were also some very large pine trees, so we took refuge underneath them, it was lovely and sheltered, just a draught reaching us, but still the sound of the strong wind through the branches, we even had a shed for the bikes beside us. The dinner ritual hasn’t subsided, in fact they just seem to get better and better.

It was still very windy the following morning, cold too. We had a distinct lack of enthusiasm, I expect we would have stayed put if we had only had enough food to see us through the day. But it was worth moving a little just to see if we still had a nasty headwind. We were soon back at the main road and it was all too obvious that we still had that headwind, oh joy! Right from that start it was a slog. I stopped at a little village and waited for Christine, I got talking to a couple of Maoris’ that had stopped by at a little store. They assured me that this was unusual weather for this time of year, but that it was raining further south, but before they left that kindly gave us a bag of fruit, all eaten in the evening as a fruit salad with creamed rice. We decided to push on and just see what happened, it was cold. I was getting very cold, so we decided that I should press on and wait at the next village. By the time I got there I was uncomfortably cold, the wind was still strong and it was time for an extra layer of clothes. I went for the whole hog, out came shoes and socks, the first time I have worn shoes for over a year, leggings, thick jacket, a second shirt and even gloves. Once going again it felt so strange to have my feet enclosed, but at least I was beginning to feel a little warmer. I haven’t mentioned arguments or discussions lately have I? Actually Christine insists they are not arguments, it is just me being silly. I decided to bring up the topic of our chocolate eating habits, I guessed I would be touch on a delicate subject, I was right. Now, we always buy a bar each, big bars, 250g bars. Mine is always white chocolate, I am not that bothered about that milk chocolate stuff and what’s more, I love the white chocolate, I really savour it, generally eating it in the evening, never during the day. Christine tends to eat hers during the day. So what happens? Well, Christine will start on hers during the day, she chews it and it is gone before you can say “Cadburys”. She does offer me some, but I only take a little due to the reasons mentioned earlier. Come evening I open my beloved white chocolate, break a couple of pieces off and start to really savour it, but then I reach down for a third little square only to find an empty wrapper rusting in the wind. We “discussed” the situation “That’s complete rubbish” she said “Exactly, that is all I am left with” I replied. “I never eat your chocolate, I don’t even like white sodding chocolate” she told me. Well that only added insult to injury, she was eating all of my divine white chocolate and she then says she doesn’t even like it! I tried to get her to agree that we would buy our own chocolate and only eat our own chocolate, though she didn’t like the idea of that, I guess she thought she wouldn’t be able to eat mine then. Actually she did point out that up to that point she had bought all the chocolate for me anyway, hmm, a good point. Nothing really got resolved or agreed, I am just going to have to learn to eat it quicker. It started to rain, rain hard, as if the cold headwind wasn’t enough. We took shelter under the steps of a welding workshop, it rained even harder. I went inside “Is is alright if we go in that barn over there to shelter?”, “Yeah, you can help yourself, but if you go upstairs there are tables and chairs and you can help yourself to coffee if you like”. That went down oh so well. Once the rain eased we were back into the wind. I explained to Christine how she would find it much easier if she sheltered from the wind behind me, though she would have to keep close, hopefully this would make us a little faster. She stuck with me for a while, then I looked around to find she had dropped off, I would slow down, wait for her return, then pick up the speed again. The same thing kept happening, when she was behind me I went no faster than 13.5kph, normally only 12.5, when I had to wait for her I seemed to be cycling for an age at about 8kph, I found it very frustrating, I could get no rhythm and it was slow going and cold too, to be honest it was all a waste of time. I decided to do a little experiment, so having monitored the speeds for a few kilometres I let her go in front and see what happened, I actually expected her to go a little faster. I was shocked by what happened, the pace immediately picked up to a minimum of 15.5kph, it wasn’t even temporary, it went of for kilometres, and what ’s more she was singing and sounding totally happy. “Great” I thought, I get to shelter behind her from the wind AND we get to go faster. We weren’t going to make it to Oamaru by nightfall so we called in at a little store that stocked all but nothing, then crossed another wide river and went in search of somewhere to camp for the night. It didn’t take too long, down another gravel track, then across a stream into a small pine wood. There we had company from a little bird with a long tail, it was so tame/brave sitting on a branch just feet from us. I guess it was waiting to check the ground we had disturbed. During the evening I rationed Christine to a maximum of half of my white chocolate bar, though she still makes me feel guilty as my half last so much longer than hers. Why should I feel guilty anyway, she doesn’t even like the stuff!

We woke to the sound of wind, still, it wasn’t that bad, there was no decision to make though, we were just continuing and hopefully by afternoon it would have eased up. The first kilometres in Oamaru were on the flat with not as much wind as we expected, really easy. We were there by early morning, too early to be calling into a bar for a swift pint Jackie, especially as I didn’t read your note until we arrived in Dunedin, but thanks anyway. The daily ritual of the supermarket trip completed we were once again on our way, at last leaving the main road and heading down to the coastline, and very beautiful it was too, big surf to our left and snow covered rugged mountains to our right. We took a route that a local had directed us along, the road is closed to traffic as it is falling into the sea, so we battled against the wind in peace. The wind was picking up, it was giving us a real pounding, we needed lunch and there was no shelter anywhere. I stopped at the top of a hill and waited beside an open and empty garage for Christine to arrive. She had exactly the same idea as me, let’s head into the garage for a bit of shelter. We thought we had better ask at the house first, they didn’t mind at all, they even offered us tea and two minutes later they had persuaded us to go inside. We had a wonderful time there, they were dairy farmers so we learnt a little about farming here in New Zealand. Apparently they milk the cows for about 11 years, “What happens to them after that? Do they go for dog meat?” I asked, “No, they go to Mac Donalds” came the reply. An hour and a half flew by before we left, but before we went they gave us 3 enormous pork chops from the pigs that they keep there too. The wind was even worse when we left, it was howling a gale “If it’s too bad for you, you had better come back here for the night” they called out as we struggled down the driveway. Progress was now VERY slow, the wind so strong that at times I dare not even move my hand to change gear, I needed my hands firmly grasping the handlebar just to try and keep a straight line and to assist in giving me enough power just to keep the bike moving. We discussed what we should do, but as we tried to cycle beside each other we had to shout at the top of our voices to be heard. Big gusts would hit us that kept forcing us to stop, but we were heading for the main road so we decided to get there and hope there would be a little more shelter. There was a little more shelter, for about the first 2 kilometres, then we had a crosswind, that was even worse, we were now stopping even more often as the wind tried to force us off the road. Lorries came past, that was even worse, it was now down right dangerous. It was still very early, but we decided to throw the towel in, progress was so slow anyway, and it was just too dangerous. We were passing a bit of forest, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so we went off down a side road and called in at another house for some water. We were once again invited in “The house belongs to my sister, I am sure she would love you to stay the night, she will be back soon if you want to wait”. We didn’t want to be a burden on somebody we hadn’t even met, so after a chat and fully loaded with water and having turned down some massive wild mushrooms as we already had some for the evening meal we found a gate into the forest and went in deep enough to have really good shelter from the wind. Christine utilised the spare time by doing a bit more sewing for me, everything seems to be falling apart at the moment, she is doing a marvellous job. So a tough day ended, but at least it was much warmer, I had the sandals back on and the gloves were packed away again, but not so deep this time.

After a quiet night from the wind it was once again blowing by the time we left, we were about 90 kilometres from Dunedin and we really wanted to get there by the evening. After about 10k we reach Moeraki, home of a wonderful beach and a group of very unusual boulders on the beach, they are completely spherical and nobody really knows why. As we walked the 300m along the beach from the car park we were immediately surprised at just how few there were and how small they were too, “They are as bad in New Zealand as they are in Australia at talking up their sights” Christine complained. To be honest, when we actually got there we both thought they were pretty impressive. The road hugged the coastline, the scenery south of Oamaru had been a great improvement, though now the hills and mountains we only green the high mountains are out of sight, but this was more like the New Zealand we had expected to see. The problem with being by the sea was that the wind was hitting us full on, though not the gale we had experienced the previous day, we were once again reduced to a crawl, but at least there was something good to look at the whole time, that improved things no end. We lunched at Palmerston where despite an early start we had still only covered a measly 33km. We made the decision there that we weren’t going to make it to Dunedin, it was just too slow going. That took the pressure off a little, we could now just settle down and really enjoy the headwind in all its glory. We passed a couple of cyclists heading the other way, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. After a climb and descent we arrived at Waitati, filled up with water from the fire station, and started to look for a place to camp. The only spot we could find was a spot very close to the road on private land, though not used for anything. I hauled myself up a long steep gravel drive to try and gain permission, but there was nobody there. Christine had really had enough, she hates the slightest noise, so the fact that she was keen to camp right next to a gravel road was fare indication that she had done enough for one day. She revived quickly once we had set up camp and consumed the wonderful pork chops and stewed the apples we had picked from the trees during the day. With a bit of cream on top and cooked with sultanas they were just perfect.
We were now only about 25km from Dunedin, surely we would at last get there today, having spent two nights out longer than expected. Thursday’s bell ringing practice had long gone, but at least we would still be around on Sunday. But with only a few kilometres to go the wind had dropped completely, it was dead still as we climbed the long hill on the back road which gave marvellous views across the bay and of Port Chalmers, then later a glorious view before the long descent into Dunedin itself. Back on the flat we stopped of at Baldwin Street, claimed to be the steepest street in the world with a section in the middle of 1:2.83. The road was full of tourists, I rather fancied a go at cycling up it, not loaded of course, but with the thought of either making it or falling off in the process of trying, I decided not to have a go with so many people around. I find it a little unnerving when the front wheel lifts of the ground going up a 1:4, so I am sure I would feel as though I would go over backwards on this one. Just a little further along we turned off to go to a B&B, up another long, alarmingly steep hill. After the first shower in 5 days and a blast of real coffee we made our way into the centre. It’s a pleasant little city with strong Scottish connections, it sure felt cold enough! After a tour of the bike shops we called in at St Paul’s Cathedral….oh dear! Most of the church is oldish, but they ran out of money before it was completed, so they built a temporary altar area on it. Around 1970, they decided that they really ought to do something about it, so architects entered a competition and submitted their designs. Well what a disaster, the modern concrete structure smacks you in the face as soon as you walk in, it’s just terrible. We had an evening meal back at the B&B. Joyce, our landlady invited some of her friends around, they were lecturers at the university, one of them teaching Maori, so it was fascinating to learn a little of the language and the culture. Unlike the Aboriginals in Australia, the Maoris’ only have one language, and here you see signs in both Maori and English. We also discovered that tourists here are called "loopies". It originate from the fact that they do a loop of the South Island, but it now means that I am travelling with a loopy German loopy!

This morning we were up early, then cycled into the city centre on a crisp clear morning to ring at the most southerly set of church bells in the world. We were there bang on time, in fact we were the only once there, we were still the only ones there 15 minutes later, things weren’t looking good at all. It was soon confirmed that the ringing had been cancelled this morning as a few of the locals were away. It is safe to say that I wasn’t entirely pleased. We spent the rest of the day looking around town. We had lunch at a food court starting with Sushi, then I sent Christine off for some Chinese food, as much as you can fit on you plate for $9.50. I sent her as I would feel bad about putting too much on so wouldn’t make the most of it, I was proud of her, the plate was stacked high, it didn’t bother her at all, she thinks I am a wimp! We also checked out the museums and an art gallery. It’s now Sunday, it’s over a week since we had a decent argument, or at least a week since I was “being silly” about something, that is if you excluded the discussion on chocolate. Incidentally, that reminds me, we bought another couple of 250g bars of chocolate, this time Christine chose white chocolate. What’s that all about, I am really not happy about that, I think it’s a ploy to confuse me so that she can eat more of mine. I wouldn’t let her buy it until she admitted that she actually likes it….she did. The same problem is starting to happen with porridge, she doesn’t like it, tells me not to buy anymore, then by the end of the packet she tells me “We will have something different tomorrow, then we can go back to porridge again”. Women!


dad said...

Chocolate is the main cause of obesity in UK according to the latest from a Scottish (I think)MP. Does that mean we can expect a "Billy Bunter" to arrive home sometime next year?

jac said...

Your dad's right. A Scottish doctor is lobbying for chocolate to be taxed in Scotland. Which makes me glad I now live in England! Tax on chocolate indeed. Enjoy Dunedin!

Lorna said...

Women, indeed!! There's nothing wrong with a woman's logic. I think 'Men!' would be more appropriate. John - you've obviously been enjoying your own company for too long - let's hope Christine whips you into shape:-)

aoiffe said...

I startled the weary robotic shoppers in Wilkinson's today as I walked past a picture and yelped to no one in paticular 'hey that's that place in New Zealand'
For £25 I could have purchased almost the same shot as you have of the sherical stones - before today it might have been just any old beach, but there was no mistaking it.

Caff said...

Well there's a turn of events. You freezing cold. I'm loving it!! Guess what? It's getting lovely, warm and sunny here. Yesterday they say we were warmer than the usual hotspots of southern Europe. Just perfect for a round or two of golf, a cycle or walk in the country or a pint or two outside in some delightful spot soaking up the sunshine. No spiders, flies, crocs - or Christine's eating our chocolate! Perfection! :-)

John Harwood said...

Don't worry, no chance of me getting obese on chocolate, all I get to see is an empty wrapper! It's just happened again!

Maria said...

LOL - you and your precious chocolate!
WE are loving the UK and are heading into the Lakes District on Saturday - so I will think of you as we drive up and down the little lanes! Travel safely John.