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Day 15 – Alone but not lonesome

Mar 4, 2020

Monday, March 2nd: Getting a good night’s sleep in rural New Zealand can be hard. Once again, I found I’d pitched my tent last night within earshot of a main road. Heavy truck traffic, complete with the thump-thump-thump of engine braking, continued til after 11pm and resumed around 4.30pm. 

And this was in an idyllic wooded camping ground in Eketahuna, a small town on the main road to Hawke’s Bay. Still, it was a lovely spot, and ear plugs muffled some of the noise. (I took the photo below yesterday before pitching my tent.)

The town’s larger than life in other respects too, such as its giant kiwi. This is another of our “proof of progress” selfies required by the Tour.

Today promised to be an easier one descending gently through the Wairarapa on back roads to Martinborough then on to Featherston. The former is the lively centre of the region and would have been a good place to stop for the night. But the latter got me 25km or so closer to Wellington.

I’m keen to get to Welly by early afternoon tomorrow because I’ve booked a bike service at iRide. After some 1,550km from the Cape I’ve almost worn out my new-at the-Cape brake pads on my disc brakes; and the rear tyre tread is about one-third worn so I’ll have the mechanic swap it for the new spare tyre I’m carrying so I’m in tip top shape for the South Island.

In the capital, I also need to upgrade my sleeping bag. It’s old, light and good only down to about 12c, even with some clothes on. Over lunch in Masterton today I phoned the Bivouac store in Wellington and talked about bags with James and will visit the store tomorrow. 

By the time I got to Featherston, I’d clocked up a 113km day over 5 and half hours of very pleasant riding.

The Featherston Motels and Camping establishment gave me a warm welcome. But the tent sites were right along the fence next to the main road. So I tucked myself away behind some motel units, next to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, I enjoyed the company of Pierre from France and Klaus from Germany, two other bikepackers travelling separately around the country. Neither is on the TA and both are planning some days off to look around Wellington.

Amazingly, I didn’t see a single TA rider all day, even when I stopped in the Martinborough town square in mid afternoon for a milkshake. Such are the extensive permutations of speed, distance and places to stop it’s no surprise hundreds of cyclists can disappear from my sight for a day in our long, large country.

I’m travelling alone but in the company of many others. Today I missed them. But I know I’ll see some more of them soon.

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