Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From the Mountains to the Beach

Brrrr....it was cooollllddd this morning! I even used my thermal liner in my sleeping bag. Also, it was raining...so much for a dry tent! Raetihi is at an elevation of 520 meters.

Since there was no chance of my shorts and towel getting dry on the bike, I popped them, and Leandra's too, in the dryer ($1 for 25 mins.). It took two cycles, but everything was dry. It was nice to not have anything hanging off the bike.

After breakfast, the rain had pretty much stopped, but it was still cloudy and cold. I wore my long pants and a long sleeve wool shirt. We got on the road at almost 9:00. According to the map book, we had a mostly downhill ride for the day into Wanganui. That would make sense because Wanganui is on the coast. This would be our first time on the west coast of New Zealand.

About 10 km into the day the rain returned in earnest. I was ahead of Leandra. I pulled off and pulled out my raingear before the rain got too heavy. I decided to try wearing the Da Brim instead of the helmet cover.

Remember the map said it was mostly downhill? Yeah, I suppose, overall, that was true but, there were some doozy hills to go up too! In all fairness to the map book, the actual route map did show a few bold uphill arrows. There is nothing finer than climbing in the raingear sauna! You begin to wonder if you are just as wet as with no raingear!

We stopped to see Raukawa Falls. A couple pulled up in a campervan. Turns out they were from Seattle (that's the second time I've met Seattle people!). The Falls were pretty, but the water wasn't as pretty as Huka Falls.

At this point it had not been raining for long enough for the jacket and pants to dry enough to put them away. Raingear stowed, we took off again. Less than a km down the road it started to rain again. First it was pretty light. Then...not so light. Out came the raingear. Aaannndd, a nice long uphill!

The scenery was pretty, even in the rain. It kind of looked like photos I've seen of the Great Smoky Mountains. Today there were definitely more sheep than cows. But, also the occasional horses, goats and even a pig!

About 1:30 we were starting to get hungry. We found a place to pull off so we could pull out bagels, pb and honey. Once again, my little camp stool came in handy! The rain had mostly stopped, which was much nicer for lunch. I took my rain pants off, but not the jacket. By the way, the Da Brim was doing a nice job of mostly keeping the rain off my glasses. It would, however, be nice if there was a rain cover attachment to keep all the rain out of the helmet. I will make that design suggestion to the company when I get home.

After a few more ups and downs, it started to rain again. Rain pants back on! Just in time for a long steep up to Bennyfield Hill (280 meters). I know we were overall losing elevation, but it seemed the other way around. I'm sure that's because the downhills go by so fast and the uphills...well...they don't.

Finally we crested the top of the last up and it was downhill, then flat into Wanganui. And, the sun came out! I went from full raingear with long pants and long sleeve shirt underneath to shorts, short sleeve shirt and sun sleeves! What a day!

Just outside of the "Welcome to Wanganui" sign, we saw the same guy we had seen at the Arapuni Dam. His name was Brian. Since we had no idea where the bus station was in Wanganui, Brian got out his map of the city and we had a look. It didn't show the location, but it was helpful to get an idea of where it might be (somewhere near the city center). Also verified where the Castlecliff Seaside Holiday Park was (our camping destination).

We came in along the Whanganui River. Side note: Notice the difference in spelling? Wanganui vs. Whanganui? Both are correct. Whanganui is the Maori spelling. Apparently, there was a referendum to change the spelling to include the "h". The problem is that it also changes the pronunciation from "Wong-a-new-ee" to "Fong-a-new-ee". Some signs include the "h" and some don't. Quite confusing actually!

Anyway, we crossed the river on the City Bridge to get to the City Center. We stopped at a park to use the restroom and a guy asked us if we were hungry. There was some kind of event that was just ending. We said no, but asked if he knew where the Intercity Bus station was. He gave us directions which we followed pretty well to the station.

Since we hadn't seen any camping places on our way or near the station, we continued on to our planned stay in Castlecliff. We didn't really know which way to go, but I figured, since it was on the coast, and I could see the river on my left, we just needed to continue west. Soon we came to a round-a-bout with a sign pointing to Castlecliff. Also there was a McDonalds so we stopped to use the wifi. It was 6:00 so we ate dinner too. Unfortunately as has been the case about half the time, the wifi wouldn't connect. We keep saying we should check first and buy food only if the wifi is working, but we keep forgetting to do that. I have eaten more McDonalds food on this trip than I have in the last 5 years or so!

We finally found the Holiday Park after riding through the industrial area of Castlecliff (more a suburb of Wanganui). It was about 6.5 km from the bus station. It was not right on the beach, but just a couple of blocks away.

When we arrived at 7:15 the guy in the office (who I joked about whether my name was Welch or, the Maori spelling, Whelch) said the sunset would be about 7:45. We went to our site, set up the tents (without the rainfly) dropped everything else off the bikes and rode down to the beach to watch the sunset on the West Coast of New Zealand. The beach was a black sand beach. I walked out to a large piece of driftwood to try to get some good photos. There were a few clouds off the coast, but still, it was a pretty sunset.

Then, it was back to set up the rest of camp, shower and hit the sack. While we were watching the sunset at the beach, my tent rolled to a few sites down from our site. Imagine my brief shock returning to our campsite and not seeing my tent!

Our bus in the morning to Wellington was at 8:25. I set the alarm for 5:30. We planned to just get up, get packed and ride to the bus without breakfast until we got to the station. It took about 1/2 hour to ride back to the station and a little over 1/2 hour to pack everything up for the bus. Just as we were eating our breakfast of pitas with peanutbutter and honey the bus pulled up. The driver loaded our stuff first. We finished our breakfast then got on the bus. The bus was not very crowded so we each got our own two seats.

We are now stopped in Palmerston North. We will get into Wellington at about 12:15. Hopefully, I'll be able to publish this post and the previous posts.

And, here's some more photos!

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