Day 62: Nelson, NZ - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

October 27, 2014

Day 62: Nelson, NZ

For the first time in longer than we can remember we wake up in the tent in a place that isn't cold, which means we don't have the immediate desire to make a groaning sound and then bury our heads deep in the sleeping bag for another two hours. Instead we sit in the dining room with everyone we met the night before while reading the newspaper, studying possible routes around the South Island, and initiating a low-level freakout about the terrible weather that waits for us in the direction we're heading.

Grant, Alison, Vivien, and George.
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Even though the sun shines down on Nelson, the same won't be true in the week ahead on the West Coast. Within the next few days, winds between thirty and fifty miles per hour will sweep across the coast, bringing with them huge amounts of rain and exactly zero sunshine to help balance out the cold of the early spring. The thought of cranking over mountains and through narrow gorges in the icy blast of a gale with rain flying at such an angle that it speeds straight into our eyeballs and soaks us from head to toe within half an hour is enough to make us want to book a one-way flight to the hottest and driest place in Australia that we can find.

We mentioned in passing my love of Cadbury Fingers the night before. When Vivien returned from the grocery store, we found two of these waiting for us. It's the best gift we could have received.
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But there's so much more of New Zealand to experience that this isn't an option. To try and figure out what to do instead, we head to a Starbucks and spend hours doing research and pretending to rock out to the awful, passionless jazz music that pumps out of the tiny speakers mounted in the corners of the ceiling. Our browsers fill with tabs containing half a dozen Google Maps routes, weather forecasts, forum postings, and bicycle touring journal pages, every one of which we open with the hope that it will have answers to all of our questions. Yet for all of the effort and the scrunched faces and the frustrated sighing we come away with no more of a plan than when we first walked in the door.

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When the baristas start to stack the tables and chairs, we make our exit and ride a few miles away toward the home of Joanne and Pete, who are the second set of folks that reached out to us through our journal and offered us a place to stay for the night in Nelson. But to get there we have to earn it. As soon as we leave downtown we run into the steepest hills we've yet ridden on this trip, which run somewhere between sixteen and twenty percent. When we reach to the driveway, which we later find out runs at twenty-seven percent, we hop off the bikes and start pushing with every ounce of strength we have left, and even then we only just make it.

At the top we meet Joanne and Pete, their daughter Genevieve, and a three-year-old Persian cat named Bella. They offer us beer and cider and snacks, and together we spread out huge maps on their dining room table and over a period of several hours learn about where they'd recommend traveling as cyclists, including a lot of back roads and rail trails that we otherwise would have missed entirely. After considering both their advice and the heavy rain and winds that are forecast to batter the West Coast and its surrounding areas on Friday and Saturday, we decide to head north tomorrow and spend a couple of days cycling in the Tasman Bay area. It's a way to wait out the awfulness without coming to a full stop.

Homemade candy, courtesy of Genevieve.
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Planning with great detail.
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Later we play tennis with Genevieve, who is in the New Zealand equivalent of eighth grade, and who in addition to tennis also competes in both cricket and swimming ("If you can call it a sport," she says). Over a beautifully prepared dinner, as we watch the weather roll in from across the bay in the distance, we learn that most schools in this country require students to wear uniforms, and a fair number of them are still separated by gender. We also look at pictures and hear stories about the family's cycling trips in Italy and France in Europe, which makes us dream about doing the same some day. And then there are the shocked looks that appear across their faces when we tell them that we eat crumpets without toasting them. We always thought this was abnormal and now we have confirmation. It's an evening filled with laughter, forehand winners down the baseline, a smoosh-faced cat stretching out in front of the fireplace for hours, and so, so, so much food. It's also a huge departure from the kind of tent living and one-pot cooking that we've become used to, and tonight it's all so wonderful.

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For the win!
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Despite the fact that we only rode three miles today, by the time we end up in our bedroom some time after 10:00 we find ourselves exhausted from the marathon of researching, eating, and socializing that continued more or less non-stop from the moment we woke up. With the lights of Nelson twinkling in the valley below, a comfortable bed to sink down into, and the pale greenish light of glow-in-the-dark stars looking down from the ceiling above us, we fall to sleep at once with smiles still spread across our faces.

Today's ride: 3 miles (5 km)
Total: 2,096 miles (3,373 km)

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