Zen On Dirt

Solo Riding, missing tents, and broken GPSs

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Today was a funny day.

We knew from the get-go that a lot of things had to go right in order for everything to end up as it should. Though I guess if you’re into the philosophy that everything always ends up as it should, as I generally am, then regardless of what happened today, it would all be okay.

Kurt and Kait had camped outside of town to make a mad dash to the post office in Merchison in the morning. St Arnaud was too small for regular mail service, and the Merchison post office was said to close at 1pm on Saturday. On trail/track, it was 40 miles away. On the highway, it was 58km away. You do the conversion math, I’m sick of doing the math, take the distance, divide by 10, multiply by 6, add 20%. Then expect big hills.


Scott, who’s mid Baja 1000 tracking, and I stayed another night at the hostel, waking up early to work. It was probably around 10am that Scott mentioned that things weren’t going well enough in trackingland to justify doing a six hour hop over to Merch on trails. He was pondering hitchhiking.

I gave him until 11 to make a final decision. There was a fair amount of muttering from his corner of the room, some out-loud swearing, and a whole lot of hair twirling. Scott loves to twirl his hair when stressed or thinking hard.

So at 11:30, after getting our bikes released from the bike jail that they’d accidentally been locked in, I popped over to the store across the street, bought two meat pies and a bar of chocolate, and set off.

The first 9 miles was on the highway, into the wind. This highway, while normally quiet, has become the north-south route along the island for trucks since the main road is a disaster after the earth quake, so the ride was less pleasant that it could have been. But on a Saturday, it wasn’t bad. And there were a lot of sheep and cows to talk to.


Eventually, I turned off the highway, up Howard Valley and onto the Porika Track.


It, like everything else here, was steep, but I only had to resort to pushing at the very top. That’s a big success in my book.


Then a rowdy descent down to Lake Rotoroa, where the sand fly population wasn’t exaggerated.


I didn’t linger long before heading up Braeburn road, happily knocking out the 600 foot climb before starting down the other side.


Then I heard a clunk.

I figured it was a rock bouncing up against my frame.

30 seconds later, I looked down and saw that the GPS was gone. I swore. And turned around and started climbing back up the steep road. Which was when I saw the Big Red Truck coming down. It was the third car I’d seen since leaving the highway 3 hours earlier.

I feared the worst. And the worst apparently came true.

Not only had I managed to launch the GPS at the same time I was sharing the road with a single Big Red Truck, I’d managed to launch it straight into the wheel tracks.

My GPS was no more. And of course, I had no maps. But New Zealanders are the opposite of the Irish, everything is super well and accurately signed, so I didn’t panic too much. When I saw my first sign to Merchison a few miles down the road, I knew I was golden.

Rolling through town, it didn’t take long to find Scott, Kurt, and Kait sitting at a picnic table in shade.


Scott had just realized that he’d left the tent, which lives in a tiny seat bag, back in St Ardaud at the hostel. K&K said that there had been a lot of muttering when that realization hit. But, as luck would have it, the hostel host here (I’m getting pretty ready to camp some and Baja tracking to be over, but this hostel is super nice!) offered to loan Scott her car so that he could drive back and get the tent.

We watched him drive off on the left hand side of the road (after trying to get into the wrong side of the car) and hoped for the best. Meanwhile we puttered, bought some bus tickets for mid next week, and all in all, lounged around. Scott rolled back an hour later with the tent in hand, K&K rolled off into the bush to camp with much lighter loads after having made the post office, and I just watched it all and laughed.

Travel. It’s amazing. And everything turned out exactly how it should.


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