In the previous instalment of Frank Burn's End-to-End of New Zealand feature Frank had reached the southernmost point of North Island and was preparing to jump on a ferry to South Island. In this post Frank tells us a little about his journey from Picton to the top of Mt Cook and explains how he was faced with winds so strong that he was brought to a halt on a number of occasions.
"Crossing from Wellington to Picton on the ferry was a stomach-churning experience. This small boat was subjected to a 6-7 metre swell, and most of the passengers were retching all over the place. But not me! (Maybe cyclists are more immune, being used to constant motion on the bike.....).
At Picton, I was picked up by Ros and John Stace in their speedboat and whisked off up the Marlborough Sounds to their holiday home, a big wooden cabin with stunning views over Waterfall Sound. Ros is National President of Save the Children NZ, and wanted to help me on my travels.
I noticed an immediate change in climate on South Island. Though the sun shone continuously, there was a definite cooling breeze, but not always in my favour. When it was in my favour, I took full advantage by riding a long day (one day over 100 miles). When it was against me, it was a serious issue, especially climbing the 35 mile valley to the village of Mt Cook. It was so strong that it brought me to a complete halt several times. And when you have to pedal hard just to get downhill, you know you are in serious trouble.
Coupled with that was the issue of replenishing supplies of water and food. South Island is much less populated than North Island, and you can go long distances without passing anything that looks like civilisation. Today, for example, I decided to climb up to the base of Mt Cook (the highest mountain in NZ). My progress was seriously delayed by the wind, but I also went more than 55 miles across mid-alpine wilderness without being able to refill my water bottles. These calculations have to be worked out beforehand, and not left to chance.
Yesterday I found myself climbing Burke's Pass (709 metres/2200ft) in sweltering heat of over 30 degrees C. The 90km route should have been no more than a 'normal day at the office' in terms of length, but I arrived at Lake Tekapo completely exhausted and dehydrated, and then stupidly tried to re-hydrate by drinking a large bottle of Kiwi beer, and replaced lost salts by eating a big bag of crisps. A pleasant short-term solution, perhaps, but not the real answer.
I am writing this from an Alpine Club bunkhouse, surrounded by people shod in crampons and wielding ice-axes.....so I'm in good company! These people do some very serious things up and down glaciers, and this is the land of glaciers. The scenery is awe-inspiring, on a scale that we can't imagine in the UK. Tomorrow, with any luck, the NW wind that impeded my climb up the valley will assist my progress back down the same road. Like the Alpe d'Huez in France, there is only one road in and out of Mt Cook village.
Stay tuned.....and see you up the road!
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