The route for Day 21 (three weeks in!): Franz Joseph to Lake Paringa.
Distance 97km. Ascent 974m. No pies today.
I was woken from my slumber at some unearthly hour with the noise of my bike being interfered with. Leaping out of bed I discovered that it wasn't my bike at risk but my muesli bars. A large buck possum was in the process of breaking into my food bag. I removed the temptation and headed back to bed.
I contemplated waiting a day for the settled weather to arrive but I'm too impatient so decided to ride a shorter day to Lake Paringa, there is some great scenery after that. There are 3 saddles to climb over in the 23km to Fox Glacier township. As I start the first ascent I spy fresh snow on the nearby mountains, no wonder I can see my breath! The climbing keeps me warm but the 3 descents are freezing especially in the rain.
The trouble with wet weather is that the views are obscured and if it does clear, I have to stop, remove a glove then extract my phone from my framebag and its waterproof bag to get a shot. So I usually don't bother.
There is another cyclist in town heading the other way and he looks like a cold, drowned rat. Turns out he camped in town and hasn't biked anywhere today. It did rain hard last night. I know what I need to do to look after myself, so find the warmest cafe to drip dry in. I use the opportunity to contact the Lake Paringa Lodge owner. I think 'lodge' is a very generous term for a very basic backpackers. The place is in a serious state of decline and the owner lives in Hokitika.
"The room hasn't been cleaned and the last guy only stayed 1 night so it's up to you if you want to use his sheets."
"All good, I've got my own sleeping bag," I reply.
I enjoy riding up the bush lined track to get a view of Fox Glacier in light drizzle. While I did get a photo, the glacier is a bit indistinguishable from the cloud. I'm surprised that there are a number of walkers out despite the rain.
Across the flooded Fox River, I see the reason for the convoy of large dump trucks that keep passing me. In March 2019, a large flood opened up a landfill scattering waste down the river & onto the coastline. A wall has been constructed to stop further erosion and the waste is now being trucked 160km north, to a landfill in Hokitika to save it for further generations. I'm glad I won't be seeing those trucks again.
The following 70kms are uneventful and relatively flat for a change. I eventually reach the coast at Bruce Bay, where the sea is relatively flat for the West Coast.
Lake Paringa is a lovely lake and the lodge complex was set up to take advantage of the trout fishing. More recently it has been heavily infested with lake weed, which is being sprayed to control it starting on Monday. I spy a kotuku (native white heron) fishing.
There are a couple of fishermen in the backpackers taking shelter from sandflies; they can't even offer me a cuppa tea, as there is a powercut for line maintenance. They're heading off to another lake, chasing after the elusive rainbow trout that apparently, eluded them this morning. Tomorrow, if the sea allows them, they are offshore to chase hapuka (aka groper) a fish that lives at a reasonable depth.
Now the power is back on, the water can flow, so I head off to the shower. I own 2 pack towels, a small one and a smaller one. After some internal debate I brought the smaller of the 2. It measures 20cm x 70cm. Rather than dry the body, it evenly distributes the moisture so it can either evaporate or be absorbed by the clothes I hurriedly attire myself with. It must do some drying, as it becomes damp and needs to be dried before tomorrow. This last photo shows my towel drying below a wall ornament.It seems as if the showers have passed, so here's hoping for a fine day tomorrow.