Reefton to Maruia Springs: The east coast beckons...

Thursday November 11, 2010, 60 km (37 miles) - Total so far: 997 km (620 miles)

Time: 5:15 Distance: 60.08 km Average: 11.4 kph Max: 47.6 kph Altitude Gain: 788 m

Last night a menu board outside the local pub lured me in. The roast dinner came in three sizes, and I asked for the large size. The barman strongly advised me that I wouldn't be able to eat it all - he obviously hadn't encountered a hungry cyclist before, but I took his advice and ordered a smaller portion. It was just as well - I was presented with a platter piled high with roast lamb and vegies which washed down by a couple of pints, filled my rumbling belly nicely.

After a week of fine weather, it was cloudy this morning. Rain has been forecast, but the locals assured me it wouldn't be raining 'where you're going'. My goal is Maruia Springs, just 5 kilometres from the crest of Lewis Pass crossing back to the east coast. The locals also assured me that '3 good shots' were required for the successful crossing of the Rahu Saddle. The staff at the bakery obliged, providing a huge bowl of coffee with 4 shots in it. Oddly, when you order a cappuccino here, they ask if you want chocolate sprinkles or cinnamon. Really, whoever heard of a cappuccino laced with cinnamon.

I left Reefton in good time once again, heading for the saddle some 30 kilometres away. The route followed the Inangahua River through a narrow gorge which soon opened up into a pleasant valley dotted with dairy farms, and in several places defiled by the scars of mining activity, some old, some recent.

At the head of the valley the route entered the beech forest and began ascending to the saddle in earnest. It was a frustrating, up and down kind of approach, and seemed to take forever to finally crest the almost imperceptible saddle. Even the marker was kinda insignificant and easy to miss, and I was lucky to spot it.

The descent to Springs Junction was short and rapid. Why is it that I sometimes cannot tell that the grade is rising, and the downs seem horribly steep? I struggle with my perception of grades at times.

With only 15 kilometres to Maruia Springs I didn't hurry over lunch, and spent a little time chatting with some camper vanners before setting out just after 2 pm. With the breeze blowing briskly on my back, I hardly noticed the uphill, even though my destination is only 5 kilometres from the pass, and I arrived just before 4 pm to discover that the only accommodation offered is spa resort rooms and they are expensive.

Take note if you are coming this way and looking for budget accommodation - there is no backpacker or camping in operation here.

The Rahu Saddle is up there somewhere...

Oh yeah, there it is, nearly missed it...

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