with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

Day 19 – Fired up

Mar 6, 2020

Ooh, it was cold last night…5c. When I got into my sleeping bag at the beginning of the night the new superdooper thermal liner was very cosy. But as the temperature dropped during the night I woke twice to put on more clothes yet still felt quite cold when I woke at 6.30am. The good news, tho, is I have my insulated jacket, made from merino wool, in reserve. With that I think I could just about cope down to 0c.

Today’s route was a treat – up the valley from Tapawera to the Tadmoor Saddle, a 400m climb over a gentle 30km on a good gravel road, a 20km descent on gravel and then Hwy 6, then a 15km climb on a tarmac back road to Lake Rotoroa. From there a rather gnarlier track rose sharply for 3km to the Braeburn Saddle from where the road descended slowly for 30km to Murchison, the first half on gravel which turned out to be deep and chunky and thus very hard work, in parts, followed by tarmac. It was a 98km day with 1,000m of climbing.

Shortly after I took the photo above, the paddocks got a little greener. Further on, I saw some very good looking cows wending their way back to their paddock from the milking shed. They were a little smaller, I thought, than many Kiwi cows. More notably they were in excellent condition, especially for this late in the season.

Seeing the shed just ahead, I couldn’t resist pulling in and looking for the farmer. I found him down in the pit putting the cups on the last of his herd.

I introduced myself, and said: “Look. I’m no expert, but it seems to me your cows are the best looking ones I’ve seen down the whole country.” I allowed as how the drought was tough on the rest but still, his cows had something special about them. They were a “fruit salad” of brown Swiss, Jerseys and Friesians, Ken said proudly. As I was leaving, his wife Glenys arrived on her quad bike…and we chatted about the weather, which was tricky but not as dry as elsewhere, she said, and the cows. “The girls have come through alright…the ratbags,” she said with great affection.

A few hours later I tucked into a late picnic lunch at Lake Rotoroa and took another of our “proof of progress” selfies.

I didn’t linger, tho, because of pesky sand flies and bees. Maybe the latter were attracted to my pohutukawa coloured shirt and thought it was Christmas blossom time all over again. I set off on the short sharp climb up to the Braeburn Saddle, made the harder by diversion of some blood from legs to digestion. But the descent down the other side was worth the pain, ignoring the loose gravel on the way.

Rolling into Murchison, I spotted a rare sight. A steam traction engine, all fired up, parked unattended in the Main Street. I took lots of photos then began asking questions of a bystander. It turned out Lesley was waiting for her husband to arrive with their vintage steam powered boat (on a trailer), and with Brent…the owner of the traction engine, who turned out to be the proprietor of the campsite I was heading to.

Soon the two steam heads arrived and I had a quick chat with Brent. The traction engine and boat were heading to Lake Rotiti for a vintage boat gathering. The traction engine was made in 1914 in Thetford in England, and imported into Dunedin that year. Brent has owned it for 23 years…and he too has a steam boat. Likewise, Lesley and her husband have two traction engines in addition to their steam boat.

With a few shovels of coal into the boiler, a quick oil up and a long toot on the whistle, the two steam heads headed off down the Main Street. And I headed to Brent’s campground, which is by far the best I’ve stayed in so far on the Tour.