Hanmer Springs to Reefton

Day five

It rained in the night. Not heavy, just a gentle quiet rain that collected in the overhead bough and landing with a thud onto the fly of my small tent below.

When I finally crawled out I saw cloud hanging low over the valley, shrouding the hills and the Saint James above – our intended route.

The thought of clambering a heavy bike back up over Jolly’s pass to the Clarence in the rain wasn’t very appealing, so in brief discussion and with a ‘yip’ from Horse we agreed to follow the main road to Springs Junction. We got going, rolling south to Waiau ferry bridge then right onto the Number 7 Lewis Pass Road.

We were surrounded by misty haze in what should have been an uneventful ride up to the Hope bridge… but it wasn’t. Firstly there was navigating a jack-knifed truck and trailer that had badly miscalculated a turn and after being waved on by the cops there was that ominous… pffft pffft pffft, pffft, pffft sound. ‘Bugger’.

I’d received a small cut to my rear tubeless tire. I tried to ride it out, praying to the self sealing gods, but to no avail. My patience tried, within an hour I just swapped it out with a good spare tube. We were back on the road and soon crossing the Hope.

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Pie

Horse uttered it first… just as we crossed the bridge he said my one word nemesis: “Pie”. My view of the tarmac was immediately replaced with a vision of my fingerless mitt cradling a steaming steak and cheese.

Doomed.

A gentle ride up to the pass was doomed. We became men possessed and like donkey’s with frustratingly close carrots we stepped up the pace in search of pie. But we had a way to go and the mist was pealing away to reveal an expansive high country sky and summer sun that arrived with a crackle of tar under tread.

Our addiction became all apparition. We imagined Boyle village bustling with dairy’s, truck stops and pie carts, so we burst through the scrub on the side road only to find a youth camp, with a bunch of clappy happy teenagers dancing, wooping and generally fizzing at the bung!

Robbed, we remained pieless. With few options we broke out the muesli bars, refuelled and got back on the road. Crawling north was the next best option… that was the gas station at Springs Junction.

For those that know the road up from Boyles, understand it as a slow climb through the sticky tar. Where you need rhythm or a spinning cadence to get up the 300 odd metres to the top of the Lewis. For me, I need to repeat a chant like a military jody. “Two fat pies and bottle of beer, two fat pies and bottle of beer, two fat pies and bottle of beer”… repeated silently over and over in my head as I spun my legs forward.

It worked. It wasn’t long before we were standing side by side silently looking up the valley towards the Ada, our planned original exit onto the Lewis. We hit the top of the pass, then descended at speed to Speargrass flat and onward to the gas station at Springs Junction.

One benefit of the Kaikōura earthquake, was the traffic reroute. The Springs Junction gas station has been superseded by a cafe with a menu longer than the wire elements on an old pie warmer. With options I tucked into two foot long hotdogs, followed up with ice cream and coffee.

The gold rush to Reefton

As I ate I said to Horse “How about we crack onto Reefton?”. I caught him mid bite, there was a brief pause, he replied “Ok” and gawarfed back into his late lunch.

I nodded and smirked. ‘I guess that means we’re going’.

Saddling up as other diners looked on. Panniers and gear bags leaving dusty clouds drifting in the air over the outside tables, we turned left and began the climb up the Rahu saddle – 260m above.

“Two fat pies and bottle of beer, two fat pies and bottle of beer, two fat pies and bottle of beer…” we made the saddle and began a most sublime downhill.

Late yellow sun playing hide and seek deep within the black beech forest lining the Inangahua all the way to the valley floor. A final turn at Blacks point past the old cable way to the power station and into a quiet old gold town of Reefton.

We made camp in the twilight, in a place of my ancestry. As I pitched my tent I thought of my great great grandfather and having breakfast at the Broadway tearooms & bakery in the morning. I said aloud… I wonder if they have pie?

Horse smiled.

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