New Zealand 2014

Day 14

March 28

  One of our goals for this ride is to visit the four major passes on the South Island - Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Haas Pass, and Lindis Pass. Today we'll be riding out to go over Lewis Pass. Since I didn't see many 'breakfast' opportunities on our walk to supper last night, I hike down to an all night convenience store and pick up a couple of steak pies and some milk. It reminds me a bit of those lovely Mowbray pork pies that my riding friend Gareth introduced me to on one of my trips to the UK.  
  I make short work of the pies and milk as Alain is up and stirring about. We head into the morning traffic aiming for a more interesting destination.  
  This area of the South Island is a major wine producing region, as there are vineyards scattered throughout.  
  The mesh over the vines made me scratch my head a bit til I figured it out it was to keep the birds and other beasties away from the ripe grapes.  
  But soon enough we leave the vineyards and the lowlands for the lovely surrounding ridges and hills.  
  It is here that I finally figure out the strange 'terraces' on the hillsides. There are simple grazing tracks made over the years by the numerous sheep - sort of like the old cow paths back in the hills where I was born.  
  We will play tag with the clouds today with them sometimes below us like in this valley,  
  sometimes far above us and ...  
  sometimes almost upon us.  
  In some areas, the terrain is extremely rugged and almost straight up.  
  But the roads are delightful and twisty ...  
  twistier ....  
  and twistiest!  
  It's a beautiful day of sunshine, so these fluffy white clouds cause me no concern at all.  
  I have to admire the effort and energy spent to plant these trees with such precision. This would make an incredible entrance to a grand estate.  
  It's just a great day to kick back and enjoy the beautiful scenery as it unfolds before us.  
  Soon it's time for a break for the beasts as well as their riders.  
  The road up to Lewis Pass reminds me a lot of the roads near the Smoky Mountains back home.  
  The run from the west side is a series of sweepers - a real joy to ride.  
  The east side takes you down in to a valley that runs between the surrounding ridges.  
  It's a pretty good haul back to the motel from here, so we make this our turnaround point.  
  On the way back up and over, I snag the pass sign.  
  And since we are headed in the opposite direction, the road we just came over is just like a new road with lovely sweepers in the other direction.  
  I've got my radar detector up and working today and it stays pretty busy as there are lots of 'undercover' policemen afoot. New Zealand is not the place to speed as I am told their 'tolerance' is only 4 km (about 2.5 mph).  
  The long, scenic straits like these invite you 'exceed' the limit, but it is just not a wise thing to do if you prefer to hang on to your driver's license. I have the audible speed warning set on my GPS so that I don't have to keep focused on the dial.  
  I'm still fascinated by the unusual stands of trees that I see all over the country. I guess the careful planting of trees in formation must be a practiced and encouraged art.  
  Here the road sort of follows along with the river that runs through the valley.  
  Then the road and the river part company as we move further along.  
  Near Murchison, we pull into a rest area to take a break. There's a group of folks traveling by wagon taking a break there also. I grew up in walking horse and mule country, so I check out the condition of their animals.  
  They are well groomed and taken good care of. A feller can tell a lot about a man by the condition of his animals.  

One of them is a small Clydesdale, one of the best draft horses around. I strike up a conversation with the obvious leader of the group, an older man.

"You obviously take good care of your stock. That speaks very well of you" I tell him.

I also ask him about the absence of mules in New Zealand. With all of the hills and farms, I am really surprised that there are not many around.

He tells me "They just never caught on around here. People just prefer horses."

He knew about Columbia, the 'mule capital' of the world close to where I grew up. He also has a young man traveling with him from Wisconsin.

But time is passing us by, so we wish them well on their trip and we're back on the road.

  One of the really interesting things I will see again and again are what I call 'deer farms'. The put up high fences to contain them and raise them for meat just like farmers back home raise beef cattle.  
  But I have to be careful to keep my eyes on the road as you never know when a hairpin curve might just sneak up on you.  
  It's a great ride back as we return via the route that we came down. The roads are enjoyable and the views are magnificent.  
  And often we pass old abandoned home places that make you wonder what the story is behind them.  
  Soon we're back at motel and take a bit of a rest before be go out to explore our supper options. Since I've got the time and the motel has the facilities, I catch up on doing my laundry. It may not make me look any better but I'm sure it will make me smell a lot better.  
  It's back to the same area we were in last night, call Trafalgar Street, I guess named after the British one.  
  I get a little better view of the pretty bell tower now in the daylight.  
  After taking another walk around, we decide we'll just hit the same place we ate at last night - Mac's Restaurant. Alain orders up what looks like a killer hamburger and chips.  
  I go for the pork trimming and veggies and it is absolutely killer. The pork is moist and tender and the veggies are cooked just right.  
  So I feel obligated to show my appreciation and do the whole affair proper justice.  
  On the walk back, we notice a rare car on display in a hotel lobby so we stop and take a look. It's one of the early Volvo sports cars from the 1800 series.  
  With our idle curiosity satisfied, we head on back. It's been a great day of riding with a great friend and it does not take me long to find the place of sweet and pleasant dreams.