Fox Glacier - Whataroa: What a surprise...

Saturday November 6, 2010, 56 km (35 miles) - Total so far: 790 km (491 miles)

Time: 4:53 Distance: 55.59 km Average: 11.3 kph Max: 53.0 kph Altitude Gain: 724 m

Yesterday I was delighted to make up the day I had lost due to weather, so I left Fox Glacier in high spirits. It's not a particularly pleasant place - it exists solely to exploit tourists in a blatantly crass commercial sort of way. So I after breakfasted in a local café I stocked up with food and set out on what I expected to be a relatively easy day of only 80 odd kilometres. The guide mentions the crossing of three saddles in the 25 kilometres between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, but I didn't think they would be unduly difficult.

How wrong I was. The climbing started immediately from the centre of the settlement and continued unrelentingly for 5 kilometres, before plunging down and then starting upward all over again. I saw grades of 14% on my computer. My legs, still stiff from yesterdays long effort, didn't have a chance to warm up before the climbing started. The third saddle was easier, but all three were compressed into a distance of a little over 10 kilometres. It was a brutal start to the day, and seemed much harder than any of the passes I've crossed.

Reaching Franz Josef at midday, my legs were already feeling tired, and I considered stopping right there, as it was still another 60 kilometres to reach Hari Hari, my goal for the day. After a light lunch I decide to press on at least to Whataroa (pronounced Fataroa by the locals), where I arrived at 3:45pm, and declared stumps.

Trying to make up lost time has been counter-productive, I'm exhausting myself and it's taking the enjoyment out of riding - I barely have time to take in my surroundings. It seem likely I will just have to accept my itinerary was a little ambitious, and will have to be modified. I'll see how the next few days go, but I might have to let go of my plan to cross Arthur's Pass to end the tour.

I swear - Franz Josef glacier is just up there a bit...

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