Zen On Dirt

Rest, recoup, point at maps – then go ride

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I feel like that regardless of the length of time you have for “vacation” in a place, there’s always a sense of urgency to do as much as possible. And maybe if you’re really only in a place for a week, you can pull off a frantic schedule of doing as much as possible. I’ve witness some pretty insane Moab-riding weeks that cram in an enormous amount of pedaling.

But with two months here, we can’t go full steam every day. Maybe we could, but I don’t think that that would be fun.

Days of rest, or at least semi-rest, do the body and soul a whole lot of good.

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Lakeside mobile office in sight of the Spark internet kiosk

Our original plan of meeting up with my brother after getting off the Kepler had fallen through due to his camper van breaking down and being in the shop during his days off. The weather forecast looked like shit anyhow, so we weren’t too disappointed, but we did need to come up with an alternate plan.

So we did what we always do here when we don’t know what to do: We go to the local Department of Conservation Office and start pointing at their giant maps.

We settled on a general plan that would take us southward but give us options to escape eastward if something more promising came up, i.e. the van got fixed and Andras had days off early in the week.

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All we had to do that day was ride down to Manapouri, 19km of highway (a bit more with the bikepath) down the river. From there, we’d have tramping options and access to a ride that we’ve heard about from three different people.

We opted to get a few things from the grocery store in Te Anau, more as road snacks than anything significant, and headed down the river on the bikepath.

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The path was beautiful, and the freedom camping looked amazing, but unfortunately, this area has put a blanket ban on any sort of freedom camping with the threat of a $500 fine if caught. We’ve since learned that a lot of the country has been clamping down on freedom camping since the World Cup in 2012 when the country encouraged everyone to get a van and camp anywhere. Places got trashed, locals got pissed, bye-bye freedom camping.

This forced us to opt for the holiday park in Manapouri. Sure, we could probably squirrel ourselves off into the woods, but I think there’s something to respecting the wishes of a local community when you’re a visitor. Back at “home”, I feel a little better about bending and breaking rules that I view as stupid.

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Before getting to town, we did roll down to a beach where we’d spied a bit of DoC land on the map. A quick examination of the bush level of the beach revealed that there would be no access to the spot…the bush is thick here.

We did get to play around in the sand, collect some rocks (this is a horrid habit I have while bike touring), and eat a sandwich while listening to the waves roll in.

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Then on to Manipouri proper, where we discovered that the “store” really wasn’t a whole lot better than an American gas station. Not particularly ideal for a launch pad for an overnight tramp and then an two-night bikepack…but we’ll make do. We always do.

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