I was well and truly beaten by the weather today. I fare welled Adi on the Vespa at about 10am and prepared for the ride across Lewis Pass to a spot of freedom camping at about the 130km mark. I thought that would give me a comfortable 170km to cover to get home the next day. At the back of my mind I thought that if conditions were not too bad I might even get to Murchison and that would give me an easy 100km ride on my last day.
However all those dreams were dashed as I approached the bottom of the Pass and experienced stronger and stronger head winds. Within 10kms of the base of the Pass winds were at gale force, I was in ultra-low gears climbing the rises and having trouble keeping the bike on the road. Thankfully traffic was low but still unpredictable. I also failed to mention the rain. Best described as driving and painful on my sun blistered lips.
I’ve cycle raced and toured this road a lot over the years and know that when conditions are like this on the East side of the Pass it means that you have heavy rain on the other side (usually with less wind). I’ve even cycled this Pass at 3am in the morning during long distance races and the same extreme wind just blows all night. I saw no let up today and a miserable afternoon awaiting if I managed to get over it against this wind. So I made the decision to turn tail and retreat. I turned around and rode back to a place called Hamner Springs at the foot of the Pass but further East retracing my steps by about 25kms. The tail wind was now so strong that I was travelling at 50km /hr without pedalling!
So here I am at Hamner Springs contemplating how to get over this range and back to Nelson.
|Plan B. 4 Wheel Drive Road Home. Heading for the Sausage.|
I’ve decided upon thinking hard on the issue to take the Rainbow 4 Wheel Drive alpine road tomorrow. This gravel road cuts directly towards Nelson and is basically 112kms of gravel with the occasional stream crossing. Once I come out the other end I’ll have just 80kms of mainly downhill riding to get home. Whether I can do all this tomorrow with a loaded touring bike is questionable but it is a shortcut be it a rough one. One thing for sure though is that I won’t have to put up with any trucks, campervans or other annoying petrol heads.
I hope that Adi got home safely on her Vespa. Conditions would have been extreme and I really feel sorry for her. Gale force wind and rain with leaky wet weather gear and being pushed off the road by selfish drivers would be both scary and really unpleasant. I’m hoping to get a text from her to say all is ok and she made it. She had to get home tonight to get to work tomorrow.
Off now to fry up my steak and throw down my premade pasta salad.
|Abandoned Nursing Home at Hamner Springs. Might Grab A Room.|
I recall that when I was 13yrs old my friends and I got caught out the same way having to freedom camp at the base of the pass and having scary lightning and thunder all night. I do recall that we made it the next day but it was certainly a night I will always remember. Adi and I also had lightning, thunder and rain last night. I hope tonight is calm and tomorrow calmer again.