I cycled over one of the bigger rucks when I eventually left Murchison in drizzle and for the first but not the last time of this ride, cycled over the mountains that form the backbone of New Zealand’s South Island, the Southern Alps. The “ruck” was the 864m Lewis Pass. The cycle over the pass was surprisingly easy but I didn’t count on the gale force winds on the other side that forced me to walk for 10 miles on a long, empty stretch of road. Even when I was walking the wind was forcing me and the bike into the verge. I was not a happy chappy that day.
But sunshine and smiles returned as I found the only bit of the South Island that has been ironed and with a favourable tail wind, flew south across the Canterbury Plains. The plains, formed by moraine gravel deposits from glaciers during the last ice ages, stretch from the east coast south of Christchurch to the sudden uprising of the Southern Alps, big lumps of mountains covered with grey scree and streaks of late snow. I cycled south on the quiet back roads that meander through small farming communities and the patchwork quilt of their surrounding fields. I loved the little villages along here which, unlike back home, have managed to maintain their network of quaint country stores with neatly stacked shelves and polished wooden floors. Many of them now double as cafes to service the more modern market. In this slice of heaven it was too easy to forget that just 30 miles away was the city of Christchurch whose historic centre is still closed to the public after February’s devastating earthquake. Where I might have expected to find holidaymakers in the campgrounds, instead I found people displaced from the earthquake zone and waiting to go home … if they still have a home.
There’s no more easy cycling now as the plains end and the road climbs up into the high country, so I’m taking a rest day in the town of Geraldine which is as sweet as it sounds. I’ve got some chores to do as well … none of which is ironing!
More photos on Flickr.
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