Picton to Blairich

Day one

After weeks of stunning weather, I departed at seven into a creeping grey gloom of misty rain for an Interisland steamer to take me South.

It was time for my second cycle tour – the great Southern traverse from Picton to Bluff. Time to finish off what I had started 12 months earlier with another 18 days of gravel and road, but this time with Horse (Dean Ogilvie). I have an old timey companion.

It was 7.20am on my way around the waterfront to the terminal that I began to trail J’.


J’ was low riding on an old tourer, heavily bagged and cruisin’. There had to be a story behind those weathered wheels and there was, she was a single grandmother hailing from Quebec, Canada.

As we got to talking, she tied her long grey hair into a pony tail that trailed down her back, contrasting her brown weathered face and beaming smile.

J’s been living on the road for a few years, on a mission to travel the world, from Alaska and on south through the America’s before turning East. She’s here to do what I and the other intrepids were here to do, ride due south. With the exception that her ride won’t end in Bluff.


Boom and roar

Once docked, the stern cracked it’s expansive metallic boom through the cavernous interior of the steamer. J’ and I looking up through an ever widening crack above, as the gangway stiffened then lowered into the sou’ wester. She looked at me, beamed and cackled out loud. “I’ve been in worse” as I followed her across the divide and set foot in the south. We had arrived.

I caught up with Horse and after an obligatory pie, we waved off the Ogilvie’s and bent head down into the wind, direction south by south west. Making Blenheim in good time, then up through Taylor Pass for the first camp at Blairich on the Awatere River.

We had made it to the mouth of the Molesworth Muster. The night blew as we slumbered in the deep, ‘What way had J’ gone?’ I wondered, as I drifted off to the howl in the overhead.

Tomorrow we climb.

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