From Greymouth, I made it to the small town of Reefton, known as the ‘Town of light’ due to it being the first place in the southern hemisphere to have electricity for the general public to use, as well as being the first place in the world to have electric street lighting. This was all possible due to the gold rush in the area, which by all accounts is still going on. In the town’s small (and very cheap) hostel I met a truck driver from on of the active mines. He told me this immediately after I had been slating truck drivers attitude towards cyclists of course. All taken in good humour though. I also met an interesting American – a Vietnam war veteran who used to work for BP, flying round the world to oil production platforms, ‘problem solving’. From what I could work out, his role was to find the person who was the weak link in oil production output, fire them, and get the right person in there. He was pulled out of retirement to deal with the recent BP oil disaster in the gulf of Mexico. I strongly suspect he is a millionaire given his position in BP was right near the top, and here he was in an a tiny hostel, sharing a tiny dorm room with a sweaty Scottish cyclist and an English hitch hiker living porridge and blocks of cheese. Good fly fishing nearby apparently. The mind boggles.
The next day I got over the top of Lewis Pass, and stopped at a small DOC site just on the south side. Sandflies galore, so the German look socks/sandals combo was broken out, along with the Buff set to anti-fly balaclava mode. That night was a chilly one, testing my one season sleeping bag to the limit. I’ve noticed a turn in the weather – though the days are still fine, the mornings are bitterly cold. That next morning, I spent the first half hour of cycling with a down puffer jacket on.
As I made my way down from the Lewis Pass, numerous short steep uphill sections faced me, there to test me on what turned out to be my last ‘full’ day of cycle touring. It was really strange – knowing I was within 40km of the end (Hanmer Springs) played with my mind and I felt exhausted, knowing I was nearing the end. However 10km from Hanmer Springs, I felt the need to give everything I had. I’m sure some psychologist could explain that one.
Last night I spent several hours chatting to a German couple in their 60s over several glasses of wine who were (in their words) ‘skiing’ – apparently a Kiwi expression – Spending the Kids Inheritance on lots of holidays. Living in Berlin, and obviously having gone through the raise and fall of the Berlin wall, with family members on both sides, they had some fantastic stories to tell. Shamefully, all I remembered about the collapse of the Berlin involved David Hasselhoff singing some shocking song in 1989. Strangely enough, I read in the paper a few days ago that he was back there recently, trying to save the last remaining few sections of wall which developers are trying to build offices on.
So that’s almost it for the cycling – 10km down to the end of the road to catch a bus to Christchurch tomorrow and that’s me. Somehow, I have (without planning to) cycled all the main east-west passes on the South Island. That’s Takaka hill over to Golden Bay, Buller Gorge, Haast Pass, Crown Range between Queenstown & Wanaka and Lewis Pass No surprises I’m tired then!