Nelson to St Arnaud - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 15, 2022

Nelson to St Arnaud

This is my excited face; riding buddy, not so sure
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Dawn HunterLove this! Anticipation of what’s to come.
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8 months ago

Today is a test. Have I trained enough? Do my legs have the staying power for the climbs? I've  always been a fair weather, flat-earth cyclist, turning my nose up at any invitation to climb hills. So there has been a considerable mindshift at work to get me here.

Another glorious morning presents itself to our keen band of cyclists at the 9am departure. We self-select into packs and I mentally farewell most of the group. However, the tail end turns out to be a pleasant place to be, both mentally and physically.

We leave Nelson via the Great Taste Trail, one we have ridden a number of times, most recently with a puppy on board (in this CycleBlaze journal ). We have to navigate our way out of town first, via busy roundabouts and through the industrial port zone. It's a relief  to get onto the trail, and to ride in a smaller bunch than yesterday. We follow the coast until Richmond then head inland via Brightwater and Wakefield. It's disappointing to cycle right past a very appealing café but edifying to learn a little more about Lord Rutherford, the homegrown physicist.

Communing with the young Ernie
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At Wakefield though, there turns out to be another café frequented by cyclists. Oh, pink and navy jerseys...OUR speedsters! We park our bikes and selves in their spots as they race off into the distance, to do whatever whippets do. A coffee and muffin later, we are ready too. Here, we leave the trail and head up the picturesquely named 88 Valley Road. (I know this well, having taken a wrong turning this way when looking for the official trail on said previous trip.)

Riding conditions are idyllic: sunshine, no wind, manageable hills . . .too good to last.  Bruce punctures (his third in a month after uttering the dreaded words, "I never get punctures". Don't say it, Bruce, just don't! )

I'll add this bucolic image while things are still going well: a hilltop farm that caught my eye
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I plug on, to get some elevation while I can at my pace. After turning onto Stock Road, the first big hill rears up in front of me. I'm slow (that's granny gear for you) but determined . . . and reach the summit before Bruce. Win! We carry on to yet another road with its very own hill named after it. (Looking at you, Kerr Hill Road.)

I'm somewhat exaggerating the impact of these hills, to be honest . This is proving to be a magical ride - in fact, I would highly recommend it as a touring route from Nelson.

We discussed cycling with this stop-go person. She prefers downhill mountain biking. Fair enough.
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Kerr Hill Road is also our lunch venue, though by the time we roll in, it is closer to afternoon smoko time. The support crew had visited a bakery in Wakefield while we were coffeeing, and had come away with a mountain of baked goods. Filled rolls, carrot cake, apple turnover, does this sound like a kiwi bakery to you? Yes, indeed. Carb central. We snack and chat but time is ticking on... and there are still 30km to cover.

Fortunately, we meet most of these fully loaded beasts going the other way, taking their loads of radiata pine to Nelson port.
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Now we are heading for Tophouse, the highest point of today's ride.  The original Tophouse Accommodation House, just off the main road, was built in the 1880s, to service travellers from Nelson to Christchurch.

It was the scene of a grisly multiple murder in 1894, when a foolish young man fell for a governess who fancied someone else. The murder scene involved whiskey, an innocent bystander, cut telegraph wires and Bateman's self-inflicted death. 

All this history passes me by as I ride past, too intent on finding a suitable stopping place to take a photo to mark our slow but successful ascent to the road's highest point.  But too late. I catch up to Bruce at the intersection with the St Arnaud road to learn that our destination is just eight downhill kilometres away. And what an exhilarating experience the descent is. In no time at all, we swoop down to the alpine  village and find ourselves amongst the luggage in the courtyard of our lodge. High five! 

Now that's a smile! Job done.
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Today's ride: 93 km (58 miles)
Total: 118 km (73 miles)

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