Day 8 – Ohakune to Hunterville

today 98 km, total 577 km
Interesting that I wrote yesterday that today would be shorter.  As if!  It was a long, hard day riding on gravel for much of it through unbelievably beautiful sheep-grazing land along the Turakina River.  The net elevation was a loss as I descended from the mountains toward the plains, but a few ups were significant nonetheless!
I left Ohakune in the rain and, while packing up, ripped one of the compression stuff sacks I’ve been using to hold both tent and sleeping back. It was a frustrating start to the morning since already I was having to hide under an awning to get out of the rain and try to keep things dry.  I did manage to keep all but the tent fly dry enough to pack and put the fly on top of the trailer to dry throughout the day.  The loss of the compression sack changes my packing regime quite a bit.  I’ve still got things in a good tight configuration now, but without that bag it’s more difficult to organize.  Oh well…
I’m pleased to report that my slicks were fine on the gravel – all 50 km or so – and the spokes I had to replace at Tokaanu have shown no signs of weakening (or any other spokes for that matter).  Also, the saddle sore is finally under control and today I could focus on completely punishing my legs and general condition rather than just the tiny bit touching the saddle!  A band aid and two days of doubled-up shorts seems to have done the trick!
Handling the loaded trailer proved to be challenging in a few places.  The road at the start was pretty rough and soft from the rain.  This meant grunting up hills in a few places and a little fishtailing while braking.  I got the hang of it pretty soon though.
Once I got into the off-pavement groove it was smooth riding and outrageous views!  The hills are super green, I heard birds and sheep every time I stopped, and the sun peaked in and out of clouds all day.  All in all it was pretty much perfect conditions!
Toward the lower part of the valley, the road had been re-gravelled more recently (and is traveled more often) so there were quite a few spots where it was a layer of pea gravel on top of a packed surface.  I almost ate ot once going around a curve when the trailer slid out a bit – ended up being a three-tire power turn! – but I got it back under control.  Right about the time I was starting to really tire of the gravel it ended and I was on the pavement again!
The last bit of pavement lasted for about 30 or 35 km into Hunterville with some pretty substantial climbs!  I was so focused on making it through the gravel and was so relieved once I did that I hadn’t considered the terrain back on the pavement.  So…I totally cracked!  It is currently 6:55pm and I am struggling to keep my eyes open!  I’ve had an ice cream, a coffee, a cake, and fish and chips here and now I’m in a very bare room behind the Station Hotel pub and hoping to stay awake at least a few more hours to avoid getting up at 4am tomorrow.
I’m really glad I rode the way I did though (thanks again Brian!) and I look forward to a (really this time!) shorter hop over to the train tomorrow and then it’s off to Wellington!

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