Day 17: Murchison to Reefton

On the way to Reefton

The route for Day 17: Murchison to Reefton

Distance: 120km. Ascent: 1349m.

The Lazy Cow backpackers where I stayed is clearly feeling the lack of international travellers. Apart from the Japanese woman on a working holiday visa who runs the place there was one other person, another cyclist who had also come from Nelson but was heading over to ride a classic route nearby called The Old Ghost Road. The clean but gaudy accommodation costs $5 more than camping but provides so much more, such as a bed, towel and carpet.

Backpacker accommodation

I unleashed my stead at about 8am to head up the Matakitaki valley. The more fertile lower valley is in dairy farms running irrigation while the higher up farms are sheep & beef until thankfully I find myself in beech forest on a 4x4 track.

Maruia Saddle Route Sign

The river is a stunning blue and it alternates between being squeezed through rock gorges then into more open terraced sections. 

The stuunning river roaring through rock gorges

I start to climb 280m up to the Maruia Saddle. I can hear lots of buzzing on the sunny aspects and see lots of wasps who are eating the honey dew.  This honey is actually the waste (poo) produced by an aphid like creature living on beech trees and makes nice honey.

Beech forest track, where wasps eat honey dew and their poop makes nice honey.

I top out and top up with a banana before a long gravel downhill.  Before long I'm back to the main highway. Needing to apply sunscreen I stop by a road sign, prop my bike on it and am promptly investigated by dozens of bumble bees. While you can't see them in the photo, it was a bit unnerving, so I move to another sign. 

If you look carefully in the photo you can see I've gathered a bit of road dust. It mostly covers my legs and drink bottles so I think I'm currently getting enough roughage in my diet.

Springs Junction | Maruia Saddle Road

I meet Dallis again at the Cafe in Springs Junction, she's had a good run and like me needs to refuel. There is only one guy on the counter and someone in the kitchen and they're clearly stretched with a few disgruntled punters. It's nice to sit out of the sun and to rest, and no point complaining to someone under stress but working efficiently. The main road users today seem to be movanners and motor cyclists. We are by fair the grubbiest people around covered in dust & sweat. I've just done 50km on gravel and only 28km on tar.

I push on ahead of Dallis, as my climb rate is a little faster and there is an 8km grunt to Rahu Saddle. The West Coast beech forest is stunning with the back drop of mountains and a blue sky.

Some tarseal for a change along the West Coast

I arrive in Reefton, a mining town who's claim to fame is that they are the 5th town in the world to have reticulated electricity connected in 1888. (Fun, unchecked fact from Trevor).

The motor camp is full but I get the last bed in The Old Breadshop Backpackers. For $25 (cash) I get a double bed, towel, free laundry, kitchen and an eclectic bunch of people. From a couple walking the Te Araroa trail, a recently retired bloke from Bluff, to a mine worker who lives here for 7 days, then goes home for 7. 

Trevor, the owner and JP, invited us all to a showing of the Bee Gees movie, he also is the local projectionist. "You can have kids rates" he enthuses. 

Reefton Backpackers - a good place to stay with basic comforts

Watching the Beegees movie in the Reefton town hall, classic. I went with the 2 Te Araroa walkers but sat with a retired shearer (sheep) & his wife from rural North Canterbury - Movanners on permanent holiday & loving life. 

Trevor was in his element with a semi packed house of about 12 people. I scored a seat in front of a Warehouse fan, which moved the warm air around. I think the couple beside me dozed off, but I didn't mention it to Trevor. 

Reefton movie projected in the town hall

I'm into a routine now and am making a point to engage with people. When you make time for people and listen to their story, you start to value them as real people. Glenys has the line in her listening seminar that one of the greatest acts of love is to listen. 

I discovered that the 2 walkers had a significant safety issue while canoeing the Whanganui River. He is unsure if he should do anything and if so, what. As I listened through the drama, I was able to reassure him that it was a potentially life threatening situation and his concerns were valid & further action was needed to protect others from a potentially unsafe operator. Just a small example from my day.

So it is now off to sleep with the tunes from Saturday Night Fever echoing in my mind.