Zen On Dirt

Tailwinds and Lollipops

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It was a cold night last night. Cold to the point of painful toes. In hindsight, probably should have crowded into the A-frame bivy hut, but then we wouldn’t have had our lovely fire. We also probably wouldn’t have heard the cheeky Kea circling overhead, calling out, ‘Watch out, we may eat the rubber off your seats and tires if we feel like it.’ They didn’t, but the calls were disconcerting.

I had to keep reminding myself that at least they were’t grizzly bears. I like New Zealand that way.

We packed up our stuff, bid the hut sleeper goodbye. He had walked up from Borland Lodge down the road and was planning on walking all the way to Doubtful Sound and back, basically doing our route on foot, and twice. That’s a lot of walking on roads.

A bag of assorted ‘lollies’ will cost you $2 in Manapouri. Some were great, some were meh, and the ones that looked like fried eggs tasted like plastic.

The climb up to Borland Saddle was welcome in terms of getting body temperature up. Mornings that I start cold are always better when they start with uphill. It was a gray and dreary (that second one is an official weather term here) morning, and the forecast had called for rain in the afternoon, continuing overnight.

We made the decision to push for a town instead of staying another night in a hut. The lack of a functioning stove definitely played into that decision. But which town? Once we got out to the highway, Manapouri and Te Anau were 30-50km to the north. Tuatapere was 50km to the south. Do we head back north and try to find a weather window for Milford Sound, or do we go south and see more country and spend a few nights on the Humpridge and Southern Coast Tracks?


We tentatively decided south and proceeded to bomb down the road which lost nearly 3,000 feet over the course of many kms. It was absolutely frigid. Even with all of my riding clothes on (riding clothes exclude my base layers and Melenzana dress/hoodie).

When we got down into the valley and felt the gale force winds coming from the north, we knew that a) we’d made the right decision to go south and b) even if we’d decided to go north two hours prior, plans were going to change right then.

We covered the 49km to town in a matter of a couple hours and very little pedaling, sitting up as straight as possible to maximize the wind assistance. When we met three other cyclotourists going north, we could only offer our condolences. They were working for their distance today. We’ve all been there…it sucks.


We rolled along excitedly. What could have been a pretty massive highway slog ended up being a celebration of tail winds and empty roads. Apparently we’re getting to the even more deserted part of New Zealand.

New Zealand’s longest wooden suspension bridge. Now outdated and out of use.

Once in town, we debated our options for combat camping (I hate combat camping near town, I never sleep well, even if it is legal) and settled into a holiday park/cafe/yoga studio/organic farm/bar/backpackers/motel property for the night.

Our type of place. Bunch of hippies.

We wandered into the Humpridge Track office, learned that much like the Old Ghost Road, this track was built nearly entirely with volunteer power, in this case provided by retired people in the area. The huts are privately run and more expensive that the standard DoC issue ones, but they give you pillows and feed you breakfast and coffee in the morning. From the sound of it, they’re having a hard time getting the numbers on the track that they’d hoped for, mostly because of the fact that we’re definitely far of the basic tourist route that most people take. And that they’re not a designated Great Walk, which many people treat like bucket list items and don’t want to do anything other than.

Instead of quantity, they’re going for quality and pushing the guided walks. Yet, they’re still willing to work with people like us who want to do it on the less expensive side of life.

Anyhow, we’ve paid more for a motel in Babb, MT, than a night at what promised to be a beautiful alpine wilderness lodge.

We gathered our food supplies for the following days, played on the Internet (ie got caught up on blog posts, somewhat), and then went to bed in broad daylight. 11pm still isn’t dark yet. I love the novelty of it…but I don’t know if I could do an entire summer like this.


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