Zen On Dirt

Lazy Morning in Alexandra, and a search for a hut in the hills

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You know that feeling of waking up in a tent that you know is soaked and is going to have to be put away wet? We’re getting pretty used to that feeling around here, and it’s definitely not our favorite.

Sunny Nelson! they said after it rained on us for 5 days straight. Dry Alexandra! they said, and it rained on us solidly last night.

I’m not complaining. I just think that it’s funny how Kiwis understate everything, including the amount of rain they get.

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We didn’t particularly want to make breakfast in the wet, so we just pedaled to town, found ourselves a cafe close to the Spark internet booth, and ordered ourselves a flat white and a traditional Kiwi breakfast, which they nicely cut in half and put on separate plates for us so that we didn’t have to share.

Just as we were finishing up, a guy walks into the cafe.

‘You must be Scott and Eszter!’

We admitted to our identities.

It turned out to be Geof, who’d been following our trip on Instagram and had offered us a place to stay in Alexandra long before we even had a concept of where or what Alexandra was, so we’d both forgotten about the offer.

But based on our photos from the past few days, he knew that we were headed his way and had seen our bikes parked in front of the cafe.

We talked bikepacking for a while and got tons of valuable route information, including beta on a travelers and shepard’s hut where we happen to be staying tonight. We also talked Tour Divide, as Geoff had raced it in 2014, and is doing it on a tandem with his wife this summer. I’ll definitely be cheering for them.

He also pronounced Ollie Whalley’s name in the rhyming fashion (I think the last name is pronounced Whale-y, not Wally), and when we asked about it, he said, ‘I don’t know. But we taught him how to bikepack and that’s what we call him.’ He then proceeded to tell a hilarious story of Ollie’s first bikepacking trip with them involving lost wallets and other items. (Ollie won Tour Divide the same year I did (2012, dang, that was a while ago) and also set a men’s record with his ride.)

Anyhow, it was great to meet someone from there and talk bikes.

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We spent the rest of the morning doing town errands. Scott needed new running shoes. We needed to mail some stuff. We needed more food and coffee in our bellies. We needed chainlube. We needed to chat with the other bike tourist we met.

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It seriously smells like coffee.

So it was an early 2pm departure from Alexandra on the oldest NZ Cycle trail, the Central Otago Rail Trail.

It was delightful.

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We rolled it a whopping 30km to Omakau, stopping to read each of the interpretive educational signs. You can learn a lot about a place by taking your time.

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We paused for dinner at a cute little cafe, discussed Trump with the cashier at the 4 Square while getting groceries (also got a clarification of exactly what a ‘lollie’ was, it’s just a generic term for any candy that isn’t pure chocolate, that’s just ‘chocolate’) and rolled out of town after being assured by everyone that we’d have a headwind for the rest of the day.

It was mostly a cross/head wind, which is better than a headwind.

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10 km of flats got us to the base of the Dunsten Mountains, where we revived the tradition of listening to music on the last climb of the day.

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Between the music and the views, we were riding high on life, even though the road was steep as shit. We climbed a long ways.

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We finally rolled up to the cabin just shy of 9pm, which wasn’t really a concerning time at all considering you could ride till 11 without a light these days. It’s tiny, and stone, and has a straw floor. But based on how cold my fingers are getting typing this outside while watching the sunset, we’re going to be pretty glad to have four walls around us tonight.

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