To Ross - New Zealand 1991 - CycleBlaze

December 22, 1991

To Ross

It is hard for me to believe this evening that we were in Fox Glacier this morning - we covered so much territory that it feels like yesterday that we left.  

The skies over Fox were more promising this morning.  Still grey, but thin and broken up by small splotches of light blue.  The road to Franz Joseph is quite demanding  it begins climbing immediately and persists, quite steeply in places, for 5k to the summit of Cook Saddle.  Good views of the Cook River valley to our rear and a long, steep, very switchbackish plummet were our reward for this tough climb.  Then, immediately a second climb, nearly as tough as the first; a second descent; and then a final 2k climb followed by a long drop to Franz Josef.

Franz Josef is another tourst town at the base of another long glacier originating on the shoulders of Mount Cook.  It has a character quite similar to Fox as well.  Both have large concentrations of trampers, bikers and motorcyclists as well as motortourists.  Both support helicopter and bus tours of the glaciers.  They feel like one of the 'in' spots of the world backpacker/tramper cirguit, and the population has quite an international feel.  We had breakfast in a cafe managed by a pair of Vietnamese: tea, sausage, eggs, toast; yum.  After eating we dutifully wrote out 7 postcards to friends back home.  It feels odd to be writing to folks when you may see them before the card arrives (we've heard that 2-3 weeks is the normal delivery time).  Afterwards we raided the stores and stocked up for our planned 50k ride to Hari Hari.

After a brief but heavy shower in Frans Josef, the day became much more pleasant for cycling.  By its end skies were almost uniformly clear over the coastal lowlands, with a brisk southwest wind.  It causeed us to revise our plans and continue on to Ross, the next town to the north.  The entire ride was lovely.  With few exceptions (especially climbing over the shoulder of Mount Hercules), the route was fairly level - traversing a half dozen broad river basins, with farm country interspersed with 'scenic preserves' - stretches of uncleared native bush.  The day had a number of memorable moments:

- an enjoyable lunch break on the bank ofteh broad, swift-running, slate-grey Whataroa River.

- A stop for ice cream in Hari Hari.  While we ate outside the store, an elderly woman from the store visited us to ask us if we had dropped some cash inside.  After trying to recount the day's purchases we concluded that we might be short, but by no more than $10.  She produced a 5 and then also gave each of us a sandwich for the road (I suppose as a reward for our apparent honesty).

- A brief stop to observe a giant Makai tree.  It was truly an impressive specimen - huge, knobby trunk; branches stretching far out into the sky; totally buried under a heavy blanket of parasitic growth.

Cattle drive
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The Cook River Valley, from Cook's Saddle
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Some variety from the sheep
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Tree fern forest
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Lunch stop, the Whataroa River
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Normal-sized cyclist meets giant Makai tree
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Makai tree
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Today's ride: 91 miles (146 km)
Total: 479 miles (771 km)

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