R was waiting for me at the top of the Lindis Pass and said, ‘You know, that really was not hard at all.’ Had I any more strength in my heaving body, I would have punched him. I wouldn’t say it was the most difficult day of riding- I think that prize might go to one of those slogs over the Sierra Madres in Mexico or Guatemala- but it sure wasn’t easy. We spent the prior night at the free government DOC campground outside Omarama. There were no facilities aside from a portable toilet and sandflies, so it wasn’t the most invigorating start to the day. Nevertheless, the riding wasn’t notable until the climb to the pass began.
One of many natural resources of NZ
It’s all downhill from here
My approach to climbing up a mountain is to put on my iPod (books on tape work wonders here), fix my eyes on the white line and don’t stop until the top. Don’t picture me in a Rocky-style montage- it is not all music and sweat and glory. There is plenty of music and sweat, but the image of a pasty, spandex-clad woman puffing up a hill at a whopping 5km per hour will is not so much an inspiration as a cause for concern. So when I got to the top, well behind my partner, I felt abused and depleted- ‘Not so hard’ was not what was on my mind. Getting to the top of a hill like that doesn’t even feel like a triumph; it feels like getting out of a 4-hour exam or a day spent at the DMV: your vision is a little bit tunneled and so is your mind- the high and celebration come after a few hours of decompressing. So it is with big climbs. Reaching the top of the pass took close to 2 hours, but going down the other side was something like 20 minutes. I didn’t feel the full release of tension until we were closing in on our destination for the night, Tarras.
On the road to Cromwell
We had taken a rather lengthy siesta in the afternoon after coming down the pass and it was getting late in the day by the time we reached Tarras. Our guidebook listed the town as having one or two hotels, a campground, and a general store, but we only found a shut-down gas station that was perhaps supposed to be the store in question. We could have found a secluded place to freedom camp for the night, but we were critically low on water and wanted to pick up some extra food for dinner so we pressed on, hoping to find a shop and a place to camp along the way. 5 kilometers turned into 10 and next thing we knew, we seemed to be on our way to Cromwell, where we hadn’t planned on arriving until the next day. We were probably another 15km away from town when we had to make the decision to find a spot for the night or push on. We were tired and so ready to call it a day, but we needed to fill up our water bottles at least and, ideally, pick up some more food to augment the pasta we had. We finished the rest of the ride to Cromwell over rolling hills. It felt good to arrive ahead of schedule and the ride into town was very scenic, but we were absolutely beat. We had to do a little searching before we found an affordable campsite and the one we settled on was short on charm and long on permanent residents (it was more of a trailer park than a campsite- we set up our tent next to a mobile home with a large, non-portable satellite dish and a well-used parking spot on the grass for a vehicle that would not be street legal in the US). But the showers were hot and we slept like babies.
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