Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Three

Just before 5am I had had enough and got up. Darren followed soon after. I mixed up some complan to get me going and started packing. For some reason (probably severe tiredness) this was a slow process and Darren headed off before me. At about 5.45am, still pitch dark, I set off up towards Rahu saddle. I saw two taillights ahead. Couldnt be Darren or was it Darren and someone else? I slowly reeled them in – it was Phil and Ann. They told me that 5 minutes after I left the Mariua Motel the cyclist had rung up to cancel his booking. Oh well I was glad to have made it to Springs Junction – it was far further than I had dreamed I would get after one and a half days. Leaving them behind I climbed steadily to the top of the saddle. It was starting to rain. I stopped to put on my coat. The further down I went after the top the heavier the rain became until it was a proper West Coast drenching. I contemplated stopping to put on my rainpants I had taken just for this eventuality. Soon though it thankfully stopped and I rolled into Reefton. As I pulled in I saw a line of bikes outside a cafe. Time for breakfast. Looking in I found Darren, Tim Mulliner and the biggest surprise of all – Thomas Lindup.

We had heard that Thomas almost made it to St Arnaud on the first day – a prodigious feat that had left us in awe. It had obviously taken its toll though. I noticed the jar of peanut butter was gone. I ordered the huge 'workingmans breakfast' and the obligatory chocolate milk and scoffed it all down. The others headed of before me and I stopped of at the 4 square for supplies before being on my way.

We were now heading into Big River and Big River – Wiauta. I knew these would be by far the hardest sections of the whole Brevet. I was relying on my workingmans breakfast to get me through. It started with a good gravel road climb before turning into a scenic but rocky track. I was expecting to catch Darren as I knew this would not suit his skinny tyres. Rounding an early corner I spyed a rider ahead but it was not Darren it was Thomas. I caught up and we rode the many hours into Big River together. I enjoyed riding with him as I had ridden the vast majority of the Brevet on my own so far. He told me stories of his 24 hour world solo championship efforts battling legends like Tinker Juarez. It was fun. He would get away from me on the bumpy downhills – a combination of greater skills and the 29inch wheels on his beautiful Niner bike – but he seemed to slow afterwards to let me catch up. It was great to have company and good conversation.

Eventually we popped out by the Big River hut finally catching Darren impressed that he had stayed away so long. We had a bite to eat and I warned them of what was about to come. Thomas headed of ahead and Darren and I followed walking far more than riding. We passed Thomas a little further up as he had stopped for a snack. It was beautiful country for a walk. I was enjoying it immensely. After what seemed like a very long time we started heading down. I could ride more of it than Darren so we bid each other goodbye (for the time being). After struggling through some very dodgy stream crossings the track improved enough so that I could just about ride it all. Popping out into Waiuta a fast gravel road downhill followed to the main road and Ikamatua. I was glad to get through this section safely and decided to have a bit of a break buying and eating huge amounts of food at the shop.

It wasnt long before Darren joined me. He showed me his feet which were giving him grief. I had never seen anything like it – cracks all over the sole. He thought it was trench foot and lamented that it might force him to pull out. I hoped he could push through. Eventually I decided it was time to go with a very optimistic goal of making Arthurs pass in mind. As I was ready to set off Thomas, Simon and John rolled in appearing surprised to see me. I headed off first but it wasnt long before Darren passed me and pulled away rapidly out of sight. The tarseal and gravel road section to Jacksons was not going to be ideal for a singlespeed being long and flat. I would have to spin fast to make it in a reasonable time.

Passing Blackball without stopping then crossing the Grey river I turned off for yet another gravel road detour. I looked behind and saw a large peloton bearing down upon me. They caught me just before a rise. It consisted of Simon, John Tim, Thomas and Chris Tennant Brown who I had not seen until then. I realised he was the owner of the mysterious red tail light I had followed into Springs Junction. Simon told me he had my Eftpos card I had left in Ikamatua. I didnt even know it was missing. He gave it back and I thanked him profusely. What an idiot I was! I would have been without any money and would have had to do the rest of the Brevet on 2 OSM bars. They headed off into the distance ahead splintering into smaller groups as I watched.

The next long section into Jacksons was one of the worst of the Brevet for me. I was on my own again and it seemed to go on and on. My mood changed and it started to rain. I felt like I was going excruciatingly slow and I was getting sick of being spun out in a stupid low gear. I had had enough of this singlespeed thing – I wanted gears! Long wet empty gravel road stretches that all looked the same followed one after the other for hours on end. Mist hung around the brooding hills of the West Coast all around. I became convinced that my slow speed would mean that the rest of the Brevet field would catch me but looking back I saw noone. I expected to have a few down times in the Brevet and this was one of them.

My mood brightened as out of a single lonely looking house in the middle of nowhere a kid came hurtling out on a BMX. We raced each other wordlessly side by side down the road grinning like fools before he finally gave up and headed back. Wow – I needed that. Eventually I rolled into Jacksons in the dark and wet hoping desperately that it would still be open. It was with unbelievable relief and gratitude that I saw bikes lined up outside and John tell me that they had asked them to keep the kitchen open for me. The very friendly and accommodating barman cooked up a burger feast fit for a king and I ate heartily. Darren told me he had booked a backpackers for us two in Otira. The others were still heading for Arthurs pass but Otira was absolutely fine with me. They all left and once again I thanked the owner for keeping the pub open just for me and I went out into the dark and rain.
The Otira backpackers up the road was perfect. We had the whole space to ourselves, a hot shower and the owner had left us eggs, baked beans and mountains of toast bread for breakfast. We could ask for no more. Life was good again.

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