Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 36: Reefton to Lake Brunner

April 7th 2014
Distance cycled: 80 km
Total distance to date: 2172 km

After a generous full English breakfast with tea outside Pru and Brendan's camper, I packed up and headed out. I didn't stop for pan for gold, which apparently is something people do at the Slab Hut Creek campsite. 

I got to stare at these cloud-shrouded hills most of the day:

After 16km, a quiet paved backroad took me away from the highway, allowing me to enjoy the beautiful sky:

After a few hours of pedaling through farmland, I came to the turnoff for the historic town of Blackball. It was 1.3 km away and up a hill. I very nearly didn't turn off, but the hill straight ahead was even bigger. So I turned off, and I'm glad I did. 

Blackball was a gold mining town, then a coal mining town, and now a historic place because the New Zealand Labour Party was founded here. I had a coffee at this hotel:

As the story goes, the hotel was originally opened as the Dominion, then changed to the Hilton. At some point, a fussy American tourist stayed there and found the experience to be less than what he expected from a Hilton hotel. Soon enough, the Hilton's lawyers were suing over the name. They settled out of court and the name was changed back to the Dominion. But then some ladies bought the place and named it the Formerly The Blackball Hilton. It was definitely a place full of character. I would have loved to stay there for a night. But I pressed on. Ten kilometers later I crossed the Grey River into the town of Stillwater. 

Stillwater had a pub that was closed, and the sky at this point was spitting out tiny droplets of rain. I sat in a bus shelter and ate a late picnic lunch, then continued on to finish the last 24km to Lake Brunner. 

The rain never got any better or worse, and it was too warm for the rain jacket, so I kept going without putting on rain gear. I'm a PNW girl after all! But the scenery continued to remind me that I was still in New Zealand. 

I also came across a few fences decorated with different things. This one is a stuffed animal fence:

Right next to it, a bra fence:

And then later, a sneaker fence! (Kiwis call them runners.)

Toothbrush fence is still the best fence, in my opinion. (This photo is from February when I was traveling with my sister.)

Anyway. I got into Moana and found the campsite down by the lake. It's an expensive campsite at $15 a person (not including showers, which are coin-op), but it's a nice one. I have a spot in a grove of trees that offers me protection from potential rain while giving me this fantastic view of Lake Brunner:

I talked to several other campers tonight, all of them quite friendly. They say the people are friendlier in the South Island anyway. One woman did say that the climb up to Arthur's Pass is going to be steep. She predicted I'll be walking my bike partway. We'll see about that!

Another camper told me I was very brave to be cycling alone. He asked if I'd heard about the two hitchhikers. Of course I had. Everyone I've talked to in the last few days has mentioned them. They were two young female tourists who were picked up somewhere in this region by a driver and subsequently attacked by him. They are both alive and in the hospital. The police caught the guy and found a corpse in the trunk of his car in Christchurch. I don't see much point in worrying about this kind of news. Crazies exist in every country and if you encounter a violent one, it's simply bad luck. Of course your chances are vastly decreased if you sit at home with a gun in your hands and lock all your doors and windows, but the chances of me doing that are slim. Anyway, that's my take on it. 


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