In an effort to finish this write up, I will attempt to truncate the waffle and include the highlights of each day as well as the low-lights of course.
The day started with an amazing cooked breakfast, the size of which I have rarely encountered. This was thanks to Peter who'd been here during the previous brevet and was subjected to the same treatment. The people at the Springfield Hotel would have to be the standout locals for me, opening the kitchen the previous night, and offering to cook breakfast in the morning. It was a late start this morning, riding out into drizzly rain onto flat tar-seal, I left the others behind as I knew they'd catch me on the road. After a bit of boring seal, the undulations began, soon delivering me at the foot of the Porters Pass. I had no idea how long the climb was, not helped by the poor visibility. It did allow me to focus on the milestones we could see, the next corner at best, and while it was a grind, I quite enjoyed it. Near the top I spotted Nathan resting by the way side, so I stopped for a chat. This killed the leg motivation, and the final meters were despatched by foot. The summit of the pass was a welcome transition to some fine weather and a straight line descent to the valley floor. The views along the follow stretch were pretty nice, I love the mountains and seeing them from two wheels was a real treat. At some point I commented on Nathan's gore-tex pants, and how he must be pretty warm. The though hadn't crossed his mind, but he soon concluded it was indeed cooking hot and stopped to remove them. As they say, it's not all about the legs you have, underhand tactics play a role ;) . The sight of Lake Pearson was special, nestled in the alps. The start of Stephen's tyre troubles began just before Arthurs Pass, initially the latex sealed the hole, but there was a nasty looking bump on the carcass of the tyre, Dave speculated something had cut some of the threads, causing the bulge. Air was added and fingers crossed. Arthurs Pass village provided great food in the form of pies and coffee, plus the regulation cookie time biscuits and bumper bars, thinking back, this was my first exposure to those, a real ace in the hole for a long distance biker. The Keas provided entertainment and frustration as we focussed on keeping them away from the bikes. They are supposed to be clever, but why they insist on eating rubber is a question better left to Stephen Fry.
After a short climb out of Arthurs Pass village to the summit, we took some photos of the stunning Otira gorge with the masterpiece of engineering - a downhill viaduct with a bend in it - designed for riding down at speeds worthy of a good set of brake rotors. We challenged our brakes down this descent, Stephen cooking his silly rotors, almost requiring some foot to tyre action. Dave and I pulled up at the following lookout, Stephen struggling to make the turn. Try as I did, I couldn't get my 180mm Avid BB7 brakes to fade, rather comforting on some unfamiliar terrain. At the bottom of this pass, Stephen's tyre again went flaccid, this time requiring the remedial action of an inner tube and a tyre boot. This held up well, not requiring any more attention for the rest of the day. We pitted at Jacksons and sculled an L&P, applied another layer of sunscreen. I forgot to mention, but on the way through Molesworth, I neglected to put sunscreen on my lower legs, resulting in some solid burn to my right calf, and a perma-sock-line.
Dave and David watching Stephen fix another puncture on SH73 after descending from Arthurs Pass :(
The rest of the day was spent cruising along deserted back country polished metal roads bearing no resemblance to the unpleasant corrugations of the previous day. Dave was obviously bored of riding with singlespeeders managing no more than 25km/h, so he put his head down and disappeared into the distance. It was fun trying to figure out how many people were ahead of us by counting the tyre tracks in some of the dustier pieces. There were some more grunty climbs, but on the whole it was an easy ride, the last 10km in the twilight of the day. Seeing the Blackball turn off was a real motivator, Stephen taking the cue to attack and I dutifully attacked back, resulting in two minor explosions soon after. We rolled past some interesting homes, one particularly red neck with a Confederate flag, cars in various states of disrepair, and guys sporting mullets. The hotel Formerly The Blackball Hilton welcomed us with a pint of Miners Dark, a superb filet steak, with an accompaniment of sausage and chips. I initially enjoyed the company of Dave, Stephen, Nathan and Thomas, the group continued to expand, Peter soon arriving, followed some time later by the Revolution boys. It was an enjoyable evening, although I unfortunately missed the pajama party. I ducked into my bed early and had a great sleep. This place is a very worthwhile visit if you're heading up the coast, especially if you add in a bunch of decidedly eccentric people into the mix. There was the chef, the local (totally inebriated), the publicans, and the bikers.