The wind came in from the south west with a rush at 4am before settling in for the day, and it was going to be a day. Horse and I were to begin our accent into Molesworth, so after a double dose of daring doo (porridge) we were ready.
One of the big differences between planning the North verses the South was water. With less general stores on the road, we will need to be far more reliant on what we can harvest on route. This means packing a water filter and bladder, and more water means more weight. But with little option, I carved back on some luxuries and strapped up. I’m pleased I did, I think for Horse extra water was a godsend.
The first hour out of Blairich is pretty. Sealed road with vineyard covered terraces on either side and the beginning of an endless roadside river of purple lupins flowing off into the distance. If there is one thing I will always remember from Molesworth it is the Lupins.
After an hour we exchanged seal for gravel and the elevation grew. We dug in and drove on up, the elevation exposing the jagged vistas ahead that was the Inland Kaikoura’s – Mt Monroe, Camden and Tapuae-o-Uenuku.
We were making good time and distance considering the conditions, but the wind was starting to take its toll on the soul. Before long Horse started reciting a karakia (prayer), and me, well I was more sentimental, thinking it was one of gales relatives pleased to see me on wheels again.
Upward we rode, the high barren tumble of rock and scree giving way to the twisting river of gravel that was our path, but path it was and past it will be.
The way of the camel
I was keeping an eye on Horse, he was drinking a lot of fluids and whatever was going in, wasn’t noticeably coming out. We were both baffled. It was a hot windy day and we were assuming it had to be evaporation, so he kept the electrolytes up and by the end of the day he’d consumed seven litres of fluids.
I know who I want to ride with in the Sahara now. Perhaps camel is a more fitting moniker.
Crossing the first saddle
We pulled up short of Upcot Saddle somewhat knackered and somewhat in awe of the sight ahead. It was getting after two in the afternoon and the gravel road just went vertical. It climbed about 240m in little under a 1.2 km and all of that into that solid headwind.
Refuelled, we clawed our way up with wild eddies of dust spiralling and swirling downwards to greet us in a blasting dusty haze of half light. We made the top, two dust covered men on a dust covered road.
We drove down the storm side of the saddle, peddling frantically into a headwind to the base of the initial valley to a small bridge crossing the headwaters of the Lee brook.
We were spent, pushed our Surly’s into the bracken and thorn, and made camp for the night.
As the night drew in cool and calm we sheltered in the valley, ready for whatever tomorrow would be.
We didn’t get to Molesworth, but we got closer.
Today’s top track: Diamonds on my windshield – Tom Waits