Hokitika to Franz Josef

Day nine

We were behind and needed to go large, so got underway early and made good to Ross, venison pie and coffee. We sat under a lazy sun, listening out for the echo of a long distant swill swish of great great grand pappy’s gold pan over the hill in Italian Gully before Horse beckoned me on. We turned our bikes south and freewheeled out of town.

I’ve been wanting to ride this part of the country for a few years now. The expansive corridor of plains, trapped on one side by mountains and the roaring Tasman sea on the other. This was the Harihari highway and the way to South Westland.

The posse

I stopped to take a look at the landing overlooking Lake Ianthe. When I turned back to the trail Horse was gone. He’d been replaced by someone else. It was Jake from New York.

Jake was two months into a long tour of his home state plus New Zealand, before a planned trip south to tackle Patagonia. He was bronzed from days on the road, all muscle and sinew and he needed to be. He was riding a Surly heavy bike, with four panniers plus pack, but even under such strain the man moved!

After sitting back supping on coffee at the Pukekura sandfly, Jake had seen Horse and I race through on the way south and had decided to chase us down.

After brief introductions I told him we needed to track down Horse, so off we rode to find him and with no need for a ramble where a kia ora’ would do, we three rode onward towards Harihari at pace. Me on point.

Flying over the Hendes Ferry bridge we spotted another wayward traveller, I yelled “hook on!”. He did and now we were four. We flew into Harihari, shiny machines and gleaming sweaty men bits, leaving nothing in our wake but a trail of testosterone. It was time for decent introductions, coffee and a bite.

Graham was from the UK, just out of London, freshly retired (although he didn’t look it) and one month into a cycle tour down under. He’d recently only just completed riding across the U.S.A. (east to west).

Everyone was keen to keep rolling onto Franz Josef. So we saddled up, swung legs over our respective broncos and slowly rode south down a windswept ‘Main Road’ Harihari like an old time posse searching for justice. A few side street onlookers looking on, especially one little girl outside a store, who was staring us down with a glare that was all quiet cuss and scorn, as she continued to hoe through her double of hokey pokey ice cream. We made our exit.

Horse set the pace, then swapping for Jake, then Graham, then… where was I? I was nowhere. I couldn’t keep up, but my new posse abided at a wallow from Horse to “wait” that could clearly be heard from Haast.

We pushed on regardless, swerving through a stiff sou’ wester, traffic and two Germans coming the other way. We made Franz Josef at pace and with at least an hour to spare!

There was nothing for it, we tethered our broncos, made camp and thanks to Mrs O’ we even wetted our parchedness on a few fine ales. It was a night under tall crags sharing even taller tales. Good times and great company. Thanks amigos, travel well wherever your trails wander.

Today’s top track – Feel it still by Portugal. The man

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