New Zealand Day 3: A master class in gravel

Start: Naseby
End: Kurow Holiday Park
Mileage: 56
Check out the rest of the trip here!

I got an early start on day 3 after a comfortable night sleep in Johnny’s bunkhouse. I knew I was already behind schedule, so I hoped to make up some serious ground. As soon as I rejoined the gravel roads, I realized that was unlikely to happen. The route was somewhat uphill towards Dansey’s Pass. The looser gravel and uphill grade; combined with my 75 lbs of bike, gear, and water; made progress slow. I realized how long my day was going to be as I hit the lower slopes of the climb.

The climb was steep and the day was very hot. At times it was all I could do to go about 3-4mph as my wheels would slip on the steeper grades where the gravel was loose. Every time a car came by – and I would like to emphasize the surprising number of cars that seemed to fly down the mountain – I had to dismount and pull over. The track was just too narrow for me to feel safe riding by. I would then have to push the bike until I hit a section that was “flat” enough for me to attempt restarting. By the time I had summited the first peak, it was nearly noon. I descended down to the saddle between the two climbs and sat down to have lunch. I cooked some couscous and vegetables to give me some power for the rest of the day. I had it down to a science at this point. Simmer the vegetables in some water. Add a bit more water and then cook a full pot of couscous. Eat half, and snap the lid shut to save the leftovers. They tend to keep for a couple days with no refrigeration. I realized that I was fairly low on water that was meant to last me most of the day. Luckily a farmer drove by on the way to his property. He topped me off and wished me good luck.

Some sheep along Dansey’s Pass

The second climb was shorter, but I was quite tired. Eventually I made it over the top and onto the descent. This was a lot of fun as I got my gravel on. I have to say, my Kona Sutra handled beautifully down the gravel switchbacks, even while fully loaded. Around 2 or 3 pm I passed the campground I was supposed to stay at the previous night. Holy smokes. Thank goodness Adrian found me when he did, or I might have been out there all night. The gravel turned into pavement on a hill that was quite literally too steep for gravel to stay on it. I crested this hill, THRILLED that I was out of the rocky stuff, only to realize I was now fighting strong, gusty headwinds. F*CK I yelled into the wind. I was already way behind schedule, and this was not helping. I fought the wind for another couple hours until I saw the most beautiful thing so far this trip. My turn off.

As soon as I made this left turn the wind was now off my right quarter. I went from fighting to go 7 mph on the flats, to about 15mph as I trended slightly uphill. I had hoped to push as hard as I could for as long as I could. Instead, a nasty looking line of clouds started to follow me with the wind. I saw a campground about 15 miles from the turn and decided to shelter there. I got a patch of grass next to another bike-packer! We both cooked in the little kitchen and chatted about our days. I went down to the local Speights pub to have a pint and shoot some pool with the locals. They were a…rowdy…bunch. I tucked myself in early to get ready for the next day. 95 miles with 2000 more feet of elevation gain than loss. It was time to get back on schedule.

Published by Dave and Meredith

Two endurance junkies turned adventure travelers. Come on a trip with us!

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