i can’t say that getting back onto my bike on the morning of day 2 was one of the better parts of the trip.  we did sleep well, in the ‘music cottage,’ and had a nice continental breakfast in our room, then pulled on our only slightly damp bike shorts, repacked our bag for transport (it would have cost the same to rent panniers as it did to have the bag transported for us — $10 per day — so not a difficult choice), and went out to face our saddles.  i had brought my own seat with me, and although i was initiallly a little sensitive about its grannyish width and depth, the guy who’d installed it for me at the start of the trail assured me that he’d seen far more ridiculous models.  in hindsight i think bringing it along was one of my best decisions; i was still plenty sore (even with the added padding of a thick fleece jacket i wore tied around my waist), but can only imagine how it would have been without.  the pebbles certainly said he regretted not bringing his.  so we perched gingerly for the first couple of km, then settled into the rhythm of the day and allowed ourselves to be distracted by the scenery.

the first stretch was reported to be one of the most picturesque along the trail, as we traversed the poolburn gorge.  it included lovely river valley vistas, high bridges and two deliciously dark tunnels.  we had plenty of company, seeming to have started around the same time as many other cyclists, but traffic thinned out as we took our time to admire the surroundings, spotting chuckling quail in the trailside scrub and tickling spiders out of their rocky funnel retreats.  the tops of the mountains were veiled in cloud when we set out, but gradually lifted through the morning and were clear by lunchtime.  before stopping, we cycled a long straight 12km through the bucolic ida valley, some of us privately hoping (fruitlessly) that the pre-lunch distance of 22.5km had been somewhat overestimated.  but we were among the first to arrive into oturehua, choosing to dine at hayes’ engineering, which, in addition to having lovely historic grounds, a museum, and a cafe with outdoor seating (and, more importantly, padded benches), was the first food opportunity we encountered.  after fortifying ourselves with a steaming bowl of sun-dried tomato pasta (me) and a hearty toasted sandwich (pebbles), we took ourselves on a tour of the machining sheds (originally powered by a windmill that drove a single central shaft to which all the machinery was connected; now driven by a water wheel but the same original drive shaft), gardens and homestead museum.  we took our time and ended up departing at the tail end of the lunch business, which left us pleasantly on our own for the rest of the day.

which was probably for the best, because the closest we came to toy-throwing was during the next leg, in which we climbed to the highest point on the trail, 618m above sea level.  while not as steep as the previous day’s climb (which is to say, not steep at all), the steady slight incline was still wearing over a distance of 8km, and there may or may not have been a few tense moments and bad words as we stopped in the shade of a pine tree about a kilometer from the summit.  luckily, when we did make it to the highest point marker, we were joined by an elderly couple coming in the opposite direction who had a good supply of chocolate that they cheerily shared in celebration. 

with the psychological boost of knowing the rest of the trail was downhill, we coasted for the next few km into wedderburn, famous for not much except being in a graham sydney painting, which i suppose still makes it more famous than most other points along the trail.  here we also had the chance to look around the conserved old station, the smallest size class of (once-)manned stations along the line.  it had most recently been manned by feathered tenants, but at least the ladies’ waiting room was a good step above the tin sheds elsewhere on the trail, and i actually quite liked the bank of old post-boxes that still remained in the station-master’s office.

we continued our cruisy downhill pace all afternoon, maintaining about 18km/hr except for one good section where we put in a turbo-boost to break 30km/hr, just because we could.  we came into ranfurly around 4.30pm, in time for naps before dinner (during which time all the shops in town closed, problematic because there was a water-boiling advisory posted due to recent flooding, and no jug provided in our room), then showered and went for a quick look around the art-deco-intensive  main streets (both of them). we discovered that our best food option was probably the pub next door to our hotel, we did have decent steaks, and then settled in to wait for the final world cup match, even managing to stay awake through to the victorious close, although not long past — despite the best efforts of celebrating patrons in the dining room below us.  with 98km on the odometers and the knowledge of another 60 (our longest day) to come in the morning, we were deeply unconscious within minutes.

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