You alright?’ said Horse glancing over with calm concern.
I was ghostly and drawn from spending a good portion of the previous night throwing up. “Foul” I replied after a pause whilst packing. I felt spent, but we needed to get out of this place to Rays Junction which was way beyond the Clutha.
That same grey veil hung low from yesterday, still shrouding Rock and Pillar and the wind was rising – a head wind. We kept packing in silence and soon rolled down the vacant streets of Middlemarch – me with equally empty belly.
Just south of Sutton was the beginning of the climb up and out of the Strath Taieri plain. A climb that kept climbing through the tail of the Rock and Pillar range with Horse at point and me struggling someway behind. Up followed by down to Deep stream and up again to Clark’s Junction and beyond to the intersection of Black rock Road.
We stopped there listening to a whistling wind playing in the overhead. Clouds hurtling by like white water over of the rock and raw of south Central. We turned wheels right from the 87 and fell down towards Lee flat.
Lee flat was short lived, in fact anything flat was equally short lived as we slushed through coarse gravel piled in small valleys that lined the trail up and over the ridge. Revealing a roughly drawn tracing of a grey-olive landscape and cross hatch of passing squal. Then down to the shore of Lake Mahinerangi and into the ‘strange’.
The strange, the strange and the road ahead. A ribbon of grey gravel shadowed the shoreline to the south, except that shore had sunk! It was at least 10 metres lower than it should have been, leaving nothing but a festering muddy ring randomly scattered with forlorn motorboats stuck on their keels in the scum. On into the pong we went, past the ruff and scuffle of small cribs (small lake houses) made complete with confederate flags and encompassed by high corrugated iron fences.
One old crusty peered out, throwing us a glare between puffs on his stained rollie before turning back to clean his rod and reel. We rode past and we rode fast, silent and on to the Edgar Stark bridge.
“Christ, what was that about?” Said horse. ‘Spooky aye,’ I replied, as we both imagined shallow graves of nameless cyclists that never managed to cross through the ‘strange’. Safe across the bridge now we peered up the continuing gravel and claw that stretched up the ridge on our side of the lake. We hadn’t escaped yet as my empty belly let out a rumble. “Pardon me Horse.”
We reached the top and thought we’d made climbs end. We hadn’t. Not even close.
Down we went, then up. In what felt like a never ending swell of rolling grey green daub to the point where hope is a candle flicker in an impending storm.
We reached rock bottom at Bungtown, as I leaned forward on my bars and laughed out “Really, what callous fuckwit decided to call this place Bungtown?” as I gazed up with heavy eyes towards yet another pinch and gravel river. We were nowhere and it felt like it. Horse passed me a muesli bar to settle my grumble. – “Eat” and I did.
The grumble subsided so I dropped gears to claw my way back up, passing scrag of gnarly pine and tussock. An old Ford V8 roared past in a spit of gravel leaving me envious as I saw it sparkle high on the Waipori pass and freedom some time later. We broke through that saddle and then down, down, down. An endless down. A beautiful down, a down to Weatherston creek and the backroad to Lawrence.
We stopped in the cool drizzle and entered the first bakery we found. “Cheese rolls and a cup of tea please miss” I said.
“Make that two” followed Horse.
She paused scowling back at two damp, stinky and steaming men, and then punched hard at the till. We made good custom that day, ordering three double rounds of cheese rolls and tea.
God has a sense of humour
Now I won’t lie – I was spent and felt like quitting, but we hadn’t made Rays Junction yet. I’d fallen for the quiet valley charm of Lawrence and needed some coaxing from Horse to get back in the saddle. It was the westward Clutha gold trail for Beaumont and bridge and it wasn’t long before the heavens really opened. ‘God has a sense of humour’ I thought.
Every drop like an incoming scud, leaving crater and explosion of mist and trail mud. The type of trail rain that quickly gets to the point of the ridiculous and with it the humour to carry on. It became ‘insanely fun’ as we ripped down the trail to Beaumont and bridge. Then the one last climb, that one mean spirited pinch, like that one last poker hand between god and the devil that makes topography so unpredictable at times.
Horse got on point.
We eventually pulled up in a clearing sky to that old forlorn and preloved pub. That brick sanctuary and the only place still standing at Raes Junction. Oh what a story that place is…
Todays top track: Radiohead – Sceptre