Day 7: Geraldine to Tekapo - From Ship Cove to Milford Sound: the length of the South Island the hard way - CycleBlaze

March 12, 2023

Day 7: Geraldine to Tekapo

It's OK, stand down the search parties. 

Just when the ghost-writer thought she would have to take over the narrative and turn this blog into even more of a creative writing exercise, the little green dot was located some hundreds of kilometers from Geraldine, the location of his last report. So it seems we will be sticking to the facts, as extracted from the very tired subject of this journal. Ah well, my time will come. (Truth be told, the early starts, massive climbs and 12-hour days on the bike are taking their toll on Bruce. He can barely stay awake after showering and finding dinner. Thankfully, he has pre-booked accommodation - campground cabins, motels and country pubs - so hasn't had to search for a bed.)

Let's backtrack three days. We are in Geraldine, and it's another early start.

"I left very early and soon teamed up with Karen. We rode on through to Pleasant Point while the sky was overcast, with the sun trying to break through. After Pleasant Point, I teamed up with Greg (who I had assisted with directions on the Queen Charlotte Track) and Chris. 

Karen with big bikes near Pleasant Point
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"We rode the first daunting climb up Rockwood Road to be rewarded with clear skies and beautiful vistas looking to the valley leading to Fairlie. After a steep descent into the valley, we crossed it and started working up towards the Mackenzie Pass. That’s when the northwesterly wind hit, which was to hinder progress for the rest of the day. 

Above farmland near Fairlie
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Climb up Rockwood Road looking across valley to Mackenzie Pass
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"Leaving Greg and Chris was to prove a mistake. Eventually, I rode over the Pass, after working hard uphill into the wind. After the initial descent into the Mackenzie country the long, straight road downhill should have been a blessing but the wind meant I still had to pedal hard. 

"There is a huge variety of landscapes in the South Island. The vast expanse of the Mackenzie country with the Southern Alps as backdrop is still stunning, even if moving your bike forward is difficult."

First views across Mackenzie country
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To give Bruce a chance to catch his breath, I'll give some background on the countryside he is about to ride through.

The Mackenzie country, part of inland Canterbury, is the largest intermontane basin in New Zealand. That is, it's a semi-arid elevated plateau surrounded by mountains. And it's renowned for its hot summers and harsh, snowy winters.

It is named after one James Mackenzie, a would-be sheep farmer who apparently took  liberties with his means of acquiring stock. He was convicted of stealing 1,000 sheep despite proclaiming his innocence, yet managed to escape from captivity three times. An investigating magistrate, however, later found flaws in the police investigation and Mackenzie was pardoned, leaving immediately for Australia.

To mark his 'outlaw as folk hero' status, the little town of Fairlie is the site of a statue of Mackenzie and his dog, by  sculptor Sam Mahon.

Folk hero James Mackenzie and dog...pic credit: Mattinbgn; Permission granted to copy this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
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Here's Bruce to finish off.

"I did the final 30 km into Tekapo four or five km at a time with rests. Sunday night proved difficult to get a meal. Everywhere we go, hospitality venues are short-staffed and unable to open continuously, or have to stop serving meals because of a lack of staff. I took one of the few options left - a simple Chinese menu with just the amount of vegetables I like."

Well-deserved, I'd say!

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Today's ride: 124 km (77 miles)
Total: 814 km (505 miles)

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