Finishing the job: Over the Pass to Kumara - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 18, 2022

Finishing the job: Over the Pass to Kumara

Temptation is a bummer. Do I have that second chocolate muffin? (Hello? Of course I do!) Do I take up the offer made at breakfast to shuttle through the worst of today's ride - the uphill to Arthur's Pass followed by a very steep descent?

No. We are here to ride and I am up for the challenge, with some misgivings. It's a good ride to Arthur's Pass village, undulating in an upwards direction. At the village, while others are clustered around the van sorting out clothing needs for a cold summit, I take the chance to start the steep uphill on my own. I'm in the breakaway! I reach the summit! I'm  crowned Queen of the Mountain! No, wait. . . But I do take a selfie, an up close and personal version of yesterday's. 

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The first kilometre or so of the descent is hair-raising.  It is straight down, no  curves, and no let-up from a 16% gradient. The uphill lane is full of trucks crawling up at not much more than walking pace (it's not unusual for these big beasts to stall on the corners as they head uphill further down the mountain). But I'm thankful there are no vehicles in my lane, when I snatch a look in my mirror, for the duration of my crawling descent. (Later, I realise this is because our traffic management guy is behind me with flashing lights and 'beware of cyclists' sign. Bless him!)

At some stage, I realise I can remove my iron grip on the brakes and relax just a little. And as we follow the Otira river down its gorge, I actually begin to enjoy myself. I've done it. I've descended one of the steepest mountain passes in New Zealand. (Isabella, if you're listening to this, know that Grandmas and Nanas can do anything!)

Picture opportunities are limited when you're gripping your brakes all day. Here's a shot from this morning's nature walk.
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Bill ShaneyfeltFly agaric are very pretty fungi, but toxic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_muscaria
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10 months ago
Robyn RichardsTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks, Bill. I found the discussion of its historical fly-killing properties interesting. Pic was taken on the margin of a patch of regenerating southern mountain beech.
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10 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Robyn RichardsI thought your photo was especially nice. The kind that I strive for but rarely if ever achieve.
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10 months ago

An hour further on, we arrive at Jacksons campsite for a picnic lunch and reviving coffee. 

The final leg continues along the main highway following  the Taramakau valley down. Our peleton of two has been joined by one of the staff as tail-end Charlie. We're on best behaviour, taking a turn each in front (normally I consider it Bruce's job to soak up the wind) and keeping up a good pace to the end, despite a brief deluge of rain - just to remind us we are on the Coast.

It's with a great sense of both achievement and relief that we roll into the little town of Kumara mid-afternoon. We are here for two nights, so it's good news to hear Bruce and I have a spacious miner's cottage to call home. Kumara came into existence to service the gold mining industry in the 1870s, reaching a population of 4,000. Its 50 pubs have dwindled to just one, the beautifully renovated Theatre Royal hotel. Our cottage is part of their accommodation empire.

There may not be gold in them thar hills now, but the town is riding the wave of a boom in cycling.  The West Coast Wilderness Trail passes through Kumara and there are cyclists everywhere. Pure gold.

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Today's ride: 86 km (53 miles)
Total: 309 km (192 miles)

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Dawn HunterHope Isabella reads this at some point! Just asking - what would be the average age of your group? Ratio of male to female - are there only two women in the group.
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10 months ago
Robyn RichardsTo Dawn HunterDawn, Andrew and Kimmi have been reading my journal aloud to her. Sweet!
Pretty much 50/50 gender split of the 32, though I think 7 women are Team Mac, the non-riders' group. Ave age probably late 50s. I'm definitely the 2nd oldest woman riding, and the oldest on a muscle (not e) bike.
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10 months ago
Carolyn van HoeveWhat a great accomplishment Robyn! I am in total admiration. We stayed in the Theatre Royal Hotel (gorgeous) in January after the accident on our slow car trip back to Auckland. I remember thinking I wouldn't be game to attempt cycling Arthurs Pass.
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10 months ago