Day 11: Bannockburn to Mossburn - From Ship Cove to Milford Sound: the length of the South Island the hard way - CycleBlaze

March 16, 2023

Day 11: Bannockburn to Mossburn

While the intrepid cyclist continued his slog down the South Island today, facing old mate head wind and challenging high country crossings, his ghost-writer was on her own journey -by bus and plane - from the top of the island to Fiordland. It may not have been intrepid but there was no shortage of excitement en route, the 'highlight' being the Air New Zealand captain deciding, quite late in the piece it seemed, to abort the landing at Queenstown Airport due to strong cross-winds. Of course, we all applauded when he managed to put the jet onto the tarmac some 20 minutes later.  I just wished we didn't feel the need to...

Meantime, safely on terra firma, Bruce had another long day ahead of him when he woke early, still concerned about his big climb.

"I arranged to meet Robbie for a 6.30 am start to face the daunting task of climbing over 1000 m to Duffers Saddle. The rest breaks were worth it just so that you could turn around and admire the Dunstan landscape from an elevated position. 

Looking back towards Cromwell on the Nevis Road...Goodbye, central Otago, hello Southland!
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"I lost Robbie halfway up as he stayed to rest/talk with Margot. I had to walk two sections when the gradient was over 15%. Thankfully the road surface was much better than the Omarama climb, not sealed but smooth enough. I made it to the top quicker than anticipated. The goal was around 3 hours, but I achieved it in 2 hours 40 mins. Now for a long descent, carefully. . .. I was a little nervous about my brakes on the descent as the levers had a lot of free travel before engaging. 

It was a big climb...'Duffers Saddle Reaches1300m Elevation - Highest Public Road in NZ - Affected by Adverse Weather'
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First views of Nevis Valley
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Simple accommodation along the Nevis
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Looking back on the valley on the way to Nevis Saddle
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"The Nevis Valley is raw. No trees, but still actively farmed. You don’t connect to the national grid in this part of the world. There were at least 12 river crossings as we travelled down the valley, the occasional one rideable. From some distance away, you could see the Nevis Saddle, my next crossing. It was the only low(ish) point with towering landscape either side. 

"We were following the origins of the Nevis River through a valley. By now, the road was very rocky because clearly it became a river during heavy rainfall. All trampers and brevet riders know about false summits. Summit One was achieved then it was a short downhill and along a ridge with breathtaking views either side. Summit Two was followed by a very long descent, again making me slightly concerned about brakes. 

The road along the ridge before the big descent to Garston
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Looking down on the valley around Garston (notable for its trout fishing and ice skating, says Wikipedia)
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"Civilisation brought me to a fantastic coffee caravan at Garston. So, having done 75 km including over 2000 vertical metres of climbing,  I now had to front up to the 60 km to reach my accommodation in Mossburn. Caffeinated, on I went. Fortunately it was mostly (slightly) downhill for the next 45 km -and with a slight tail wind. This part of the route was on the Round the Mountains cycle trail, which had a great surface but thousands of farm gates to open and close. It seems that the nicer farmers were happy with cattle grates. There was another category of farmer that wanted a gate that was firmly shut with chain and hook. Even if there was no chance of stock getting onto the track. 

"A right-hand turn led me to cross the Oreti Bridge for the slightly uphill 15 km. A cycle trail alongside a highway is not very inspiring, especially after a long day in the saddle. But eventually it was over. I arrived after 6pm at the Railway Hotel in Mossburn. It’s over 50 years since a train was in Mossburn. But the photos on the wall showed what a considerable contribution the railways had made to this rural community. 

"The pleasant surprise was to find cousin Annette and husband John staying in the same hotel. [Ed: It's New Zealand. This is what happens...two degrees of separation and all that. There are two other people in this cohort of 400 riders who, it turns out, are friends of friends.]

"People in their group were agog at Annette giving this strange man a big hug when she saw me. There were a few stories to tell, so it was later than planned to bed."

So he's in bed in Mossburn, I'm tucked up in Queenstown, very happy to be on solid ground. You can see where this is going.

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Today's ride: 137 km (85 miles)
Total: 1,273 km (791 miles)

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