Bike Odyssey
New Zealand 2002

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Journal for 11-Feb-2002 : Hokitika
Date: 11/02/2002 (Location=Hokitika, Dist=102km, Total=292km)
It started drizzling at 5pm yesterday, and it rained soliday all night. I know because I was awake for most of it, worrying about the descent down Arthur's Pass.

It was still raining as we plodded up the remained of the hill, though the lastof the forrests, above the tree line through fields of tussoc grass towards the pass. The pass itself was a fairly non descript affair, which is fortuante as our camera was too cold to take any snaps. Clouds, rain and spray came spewing up the western valley into our faces. Did I mention there was a 40 knot headwind?

After a few relatively calm downs the signs decleared "Steep Descent - 16% - 2km". These signs wern't kidding. Easing off the brakes (easing off, not releasing them entirely) for eye blink saw the bike's pick up 20 clicks of speed. I'd managed to bring my bike under control (of the "flatter" viaduct) when I saw a truck comming towards me in the opposite lane - being overtaken by another truck in my lane. For some time a slow speed collission beconed, as I desperately clutched at my brakes my bike gradua
lly slowed, as the oncomming trucks inched up the ridiculously steep climb. It was hard enough riding down this hill, and if I hadn't seen someone else meticulously grinding their micro gears to take their bike and their luggage up this pass, I would not have believed it possible.

This road was built in under a year in 1865 in response to the west coast gold rush. The Arthurs Pass road has been rebuilt twice (in 1905 and again in 2000 - thank heavens) since it was constructed in 1865 during the west coast gold rushes. The road was pushed through in under a year, and despite the rebuilds, the alignment is pretty much the same. It shows!

Once past the steep bits the riding was intensly fun, in spite of the intermittent rain. The air in the Taramakau River valley was warm, humid, and possitively balmy. However, every few hundred metres a torrent of fresh water blasted out of the vally walls, under the road and into the river. Passing one felt like taking a shot cut through a freezer, as we were hit by a refreshing blast of frigid air.

The fabulous riding continued as we past loverly rainforrests and river views featuring lots of white water, gravel and functioning power poles. It's amaizing how much more beautiful it all looks when you're riding downhill!!

We turned onto the coast road at a roundabout, one with the imaginative addition of an operatingg rail line chopping right through the centre. The crossing of the Arahura River also required us to contend with a lengthy single lane, long plank bridge with rail lines (and trains) running down the centre.

Made it to Hokitika (which reads like the name of a Sushi Bar) for a much needed veg out.

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