Favourable winds!

NZ warm down – day 14

Mt Somers to Rakaia

87km, 450m ascent

Day14Map

Day14Elevation

After yesterday’s long, flat and very straight roads, I didn’t set out with high expectations for today’s route.  I was fully expecting more of the same and was just hoping for a tail wind!

The first 35km were exactly like yesterday, only slightly and continually uphill, slowing progress somewhat!  However, after an hour and half riding, the low morning cloud started to lift and revealed some of the nice mountains that I had been following.

Very soon after this I dropped into Rakaia Gorge, which was like an oasis in all the boring flat landscape!

Rakaia Gorge appears!
Rakaia Gorge

I didn’t even mind dropping the 200m to the bottom of the gorge, despite knowing that I was going to have to slog back out shortly later!  The views up and down the gorge were great from the roadside, but I decided to abandon the bike for a while and walk a path up one side of the gorge for a better look.

View down the gorge on my walk
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The bridge across Rakaia Gorge
Looking up Rakaia Gorge at the end of the walk

The gorge sides were lined with the NZ cabbage tree, which looks a bit like a palm tree, giving it a slightly tropical feel.

NZ cabbage trees!

However, the weather was not tropical – the wind was rapidly picking up and I was wondering if I would be able to get out of the gorge!  I had a big morning tea (extra biscuits) before setting off, but I still had to push up the gorge side.  The steepness and head wind were just too much!

Luckily almost as soon as I came out of the gorge, I changed direction to head towards Methven, giving me a massive tail wind!  I covered the 11km to the town in record time!

I treated myself to a cappuccino in Methven – not because I wanted one, but because I wanted the accompanying free wi-fi!  It was then a further 40km of flat, straight roads down to Rakaia town, but I didn’t mind – with the massive tail wind, it felt like I was riding an e-bike and I was around 30km/h most of the way!

Rakaia was little and well run down!  However it did have another one of the Kiwi-giants.  This time it’s the giant salmon!

Rakaia and its giant salmon

The town sits on SH1 and is just 50km or so from Christchurch, so you can imagine how busy NZ’s busiest highway is at this point.  Luckily today I didn’t have to ride any of it, but tomorrow my route takes me over the Rakaia’s other claim to fame – its long river bridge – NZ’s longest in fact (just over a mile) and all on the highway.  I had a quick look at it and it looked as bad as I was expecting – narrow, fast and busy.  I figured I’d worry about it tomorrow – but now I don’t have to!  When I checked in at the local campsite, the owner offered to drive me and my bike over the bridge in the morning and drop me off on the other side.  A great offer which I have gladly accepted!

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that I was speedily heading NE towards Christchurch, but today I have done a right turn and started heading SE, and you may be wondering why?!  Well at my current rate I would have arrived in Christchurch tomorrow and I don’t really need to be there until Sunday.  So I thought I would have one last hurrah and try and take in the Banks Peninsula and Akoroa, which a few people have recommended to me.  It’s an old volcano to the south of Christchurch and there is supposed to be a great ride around the old crater rim and down to Akoroa town.  From there I can pedal like fury along the Little River cycle trail, which takes you right into the centre of Christchurch.  It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed!

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