Day 58: Palmerston North, NZ to Koromiko, NZ - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

October 23, 2014

Day 58: Palmerston North, NZ to Koromiko, NZ

We're awake and packed and headed for the train station in Andrew's van by 5:45, before the light of the morning has even had a chance to consider coming up over the horizon. Half an hour later the locomotive roars to life, the wheels start to let out loud metallic squeaks, and we're on our way to Wellington. At first we have a twinge of regret as we look out at the open country we're passing over. But soon after we roll through suburban-type cities of office buildings and big grocery stores and McDonalds's, all of which are connected by Highway 1, the loud and packed road that would have been the constant ungraceful companion on our two-day approach to the city.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The wind blows strong and cold the moment we step off the train. In an instant, all of the heat we've built up throughout the two hours we sat inside flies away down the length of the platform. It feels like we've been dropped into downtown Chicago in early November. We ride less than a mile through Wellington, dive into the first warm place we can find, and don't step back outside for the next three hours.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The wind never falters. From behind thick glass windows we watch workers walk to and from their offices dressed like it's American winter. They have to angle themselves into the wind, and even then it looks like they're trying to escape from a pool of something sticky into which they're in danger of drowning. Each person's hairstyle looks horrendous as it blows in three directions at the same time. And every man in a suit refuses to button up the front, which leads to the furious flapping of lapels and tails and causes their ties to fling up toward their ears before wrapping around behind their necks.

In the afternoon we ride to the terminal where we'll board a ferry for the three-and-a-half-hour crossing to New Zealand's South Island. In the three blocks it takes us to reach the front door we're nearly knocked off our bikes half a dozen times by gusts of wind reaching forty miles per hour. It's the kind of weather that in a place like Seattle or Portland most people would consider a storm, but in Wellington the sun shines, the hum and rumble of the city continue on, and no one says a word about any of it.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The ferry is a massive seagoing thing loaded with cars and camper vans and semi trucks that stretches more than 400 feet from one end to the other. It lists far to port as we make the right turn out of Wellington Harbor toward the Cook Strait. As the northern shore recedes from view the ship plows over the top of waves as tall as a house and then sinks softly into the trough on the other side before repeating the process a thousand times over. Whitecaps stretch without end to the line of the horizon.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

The truck driver that sits behind us in the eating area pairs sandals with shin-high wool socks and belches when he finishes his beer. He seems to know the four bros that sit nearby, the ones who all wear baseball hats, t-shirts, shorts, and arm tattoos like it's some kind of uniform, and who alternate between drinking, swearing at each other, burping, whistling at young women when they walk past, arm wrestling, and making sheep sounds and farting noises. We vote them as the ferry passengers most likely to beat up a homeless person, and also the ones most likely to end up sad and alone. Most everyone else reads or sleeps or stares ahead with a bored look on their face. I go between writing, reading, and walking the decks outside, where the wind blows with such force that running into it at full speed feels like something below half speed, as if there's an open parachute attached to my back.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The approach to Picton feels like it's been pulled from a movie. All of a sudden the pitch and roll of the open ocean disappears and hills containing every shade of green the world has ever known rise up like rows of fingers from water the color of turquoise. As the ferry heads through narrow channels the same thing keeps running through my head: I can't believe we're here. If this is what we can expect from the rest of the South Island we will have irretrievably lost our minds by the time we reach Christchurch seven weeks from now.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

When our tires roll onto land again they do so under warm and sunny skies with almost no wind. It's like the craziness of Wellington is a world away. That makes the five-mile ride to the night's campground nothing like the saga we thought it might be. As we look out and up at the trees that cover almost every inch of hillside around us, we talk about something else we learned from Andrew last night: pine trees aren't native to New Zealand; they were brought over from California. It's hard to explain how much of a letdown that is.

Heart 1 Comment 0

Following a long day of travel we lose our motivation to make a salad using the food we've been packing and unpacking into our panniers for the last two days, so instead we make do with chocolate bars and beer and nothing else. This might actually be for the best, because if the weather forecast turns out to be true, we'll be eating the rest of our food tomorrow while we're bunkered inside of the tent for the entire day. Despite the blue skies and calm winds that welcome nighttime, the coming day promises cold and wind and rain in huge amounts.

Today's ride: 6 miles (10 km)
Total: 1,990 miles (3,203 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0