Whataroa - Ross: Looking for gold...

Sunday November 7, 2010

Time: 5:24 Distance: 77.34 km Average: 14.2 kph Max: 55.6 kph Altitude Gain: 672 m

Last night at the Whataroa Hotel, where the locals had gathered to watch New Zealand take on Australia in a four nations rugby league match, it was suggested that Ross would be a sensible goal for the next day, at roughly halfway to Greymouth. I didn't stick around to see the result of the match, but the Kangaroos won convincingly, adding to the Wallabies success of last week.

So after a breakfast of porridge and tea, I set out just before 9 am, on a lovely cool, calm morning. It was probably the clearest day I've had on this tour, and not far along the road I was rewarded with the best view of Aoraki/Mt Cook that I've seen - the one little patch of cloud remaining however still obscured the summit.

I'm travelling now through farmlands again, after the dense bush landscapes to the south the country is now dedicated to dairy farming and cows predominate.

Soon Mt Hercules loomed but except for the last 600 meters was a fairly easy grade and presented no great difficulty. Then it was an exhilarating downhill run all the way to Hari Hari, chased by a determined magpie.

I found Jan from Belgium at the café, enjoying a rest before tackling Mt Hercules heading south. I'd already encountered two tourists - a couple were descending the mount but didn't stop to talk. After a long stop chewing the fat with Jan I set out to finish the job, but just as I was about to leave, a young Irishman (Pat, as I recall) arrived, and soon after leaving I encountered a happy, bubbling kiwi girl, towing a Bob trailer behind her MTB. Five tourists in a day is the most I've encountered so far.

After passing the very scenic Lake Ianthe the road began a long stretch of wearying undulations, then rejoining the coast, passed by an area of major excavations which turned out to be a gold mine, and shortly after I arrived in Ross. I took a room in the motel and did my laundry, then went to a local café where Sunday roast was on offer and had a very comforting home-style meal and a couple of pints.

Since my decidedly unpleasant lunch stop at Pleasant Flat, descending Haast Pass, where I was attacked by swarms of sandflies, I've made sure to keep my legs and arms covered, but the bites I suffered are now itching unbearably, and it's difficult to resist the urge to scratch them. If you are coming this way, be sure to cover up, and bring insect repellent.

Edit: I discovered that Paraderm Plus cream, recommended by another cycle tourist for saddle sores, has an anesthetic property that stops the itching.

At last, a clear day. That's the summit of Mt Tasman at the back I think, and Mt Cook to the right, but obsured by the remmnants of the long white cloud...

With Jan from Belgium, at Hari Hari...

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