Makarora - Haast: Humming and haaring to Haast...

Wednesday November 3, 2010, 79 km (49 miles) - Total so far: 611 km (379 miles)

Time: 5:36 Distance: 78.73 Average: 14.0 kph Max: 44.8 kph Altitude Gain: 645 m

Yesterday I arrived in Makarora exhausted and chilled after fighting strong headwinds along the shores of Lake Wanaka. Feeling very despondent I'd pretty much decided I would have to stay put if the wind was still blowing in the morning, and when I awoke to find it still shaking the trees and rattling the roof of my cabin, I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.

When I finally surfaced the wind seemed to have eased a little, so I wandered over to the café for breakfast and to ponder my next move, which was decided, effectively by the breakfast menu - should I have a full breakfast for the road, or something light. I chose the full breakfast, and was committed.

Just as I was about to set off, a little after 10 am, I sensed something was not right with the bike. After a quick check over I noticed a stone had become wedged between the back of the brake pad and the front fork leg, causing the brakes to drag. It was wedged in tight, and I had to prise it out with a screwdriver. Perhaps this contributed to my struggle yesterday, anyway I immediately began to feel more comfortable about my decision to go on.

On the road the wind didn't seem to bother me, and much of the route was sheltered by forest, with only occasional exposed sections. Before long I had entered the ancient beech forests and began climbing to Haast Pass. The main part of the climb was about 3 km and I trundled up it in low gear without any difficulty, and reaching the summit, took a short break to eat my carrot cake morning tea and don my cool weather gear for the descent.

Shortly after leaving the pass I met two tourists ascending the other side - they were walking, something that quite surprised me. I recognised one as a fellow I met briefly near Rakaia Gorge on my second day out - he had mentioned Arthur's Pass and the west coast then. The other was towing a child's trailer overstuffed with gear, and he told me it was his first touring experience. He looked very tired and I wondered if it would be his last.

With 63 km remaining to Haast, I didn't chat long. The descent seemed extremely steep and I took it cautiously, still not fully trusting the cantilever brakes, which just don't have the stopping power of v-brakes. After a photo stop at the Gates of Haast, I continued down and the road began to level off.

Choosing a likely looking rest stop to eat my sandwich, I soon had my first experience of the infamous NZ sandfly. Within moments of stopping they attacked my exposed legs, and I had to brush them away continuously while bolting down my sandwich.

That was to be my last stop, as the sandflies didn't bother me while on the move, so I just kept on moving along a rolling but predominately downhill landscape to Haast, arriving at 5pm, and in much better shape than yesterday, both physically and mentally.

Approaching Haast Pass..

Haast Pass - a wheel in Otago, and a wheel in Westland...

The gates of hell, if you are heading south - but I'm going the other way...

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