18-20/1/16. We continued down the Whanganui River Valley on Monday and it was just as wonderful as the previous day! Early on there were a few short hills and there was a biggie just before the end (which we had been warned about) but the sights made every metre climbed more than worth the effort.
On the way we passed through several ancient cities – Jerusalem (actually this was the previous day), London, Corinth and Athens – although it must be said they were much smaller than we imagined/remembered!
Fortunately the weather was not as warm as on Sunday with a few more clouds around. Indeed these built up as the day progressed and, by the time we reached the bottom of the big climb, they decided to spill their contents on two poor little cyclists complete with claps of thunder. It might sound miserable but we were actually in good spirits because we knew it was downhill/flat from there on and we had the promise of a night on a couch/lounge floor so we knew we would be dry! In fact the rain stopped at pretty much the same time as we reached the top.
The last stretch into Whanganui was along SH4 which was OK despite the occasional logging truck racing past to raise the heart rate a few beats. In town we located a supermarket to buy dinner (Lyneke had told us that this cooking a meal was the “payment” for our accommodation – a very reasonable proposition we thought, especially as an exchange of texts indicated that she had a good supply of ice cream for pudding!)
The only (very minor) downside to staying with Lyneke was that she lived up a hill! As it transpired, we managed to find the steep, narrow, busy route to her house but it was not a problem.
We had a lovely evening with Lyneke and another guest of hers, Pierre-Etienne from Nantes, who had sailed past us on the way into town. He had come from Raetihi, so he had done in one day what we had taken two days over! Our excuse is that he is much younger than us old crocks and, in addition, he has been more sensible about the load he was carrying – about 30 kg (incl. bike) v. our 40 or 50 kg. We really do need to review whether we need all our “stuff”!
Lyneke showed us an inspiring presentation of her 4 year cycle trip around the world with some wonderful photos on Africa and South America. Don’t count on us bring back any time soon!
Tuesday morning saw us heading into town to get Stephen’s back wheel inspected by the bike shop. Bad news! There was a small crack in the rim which was the cause of the distortion and it would take a couple of days to get the replacement rim and rebuild the wheel. Actually, the delay was not bad news as Whanganui seemed to be a really pleasant place to stay and the bike shop directed us to a backpackers hostel where we could pitch our tent and use the facilities of the hostel for a very reasonable £11 per night each.
We have now spent two days “wafting” around the town and can confirm that is really nice – a very good (free – but donations welcome) museum, a very impressive stadium (with some serious athletics training going on), a velodrome (which appeals to the keen cyclist in us), an observatory (with a telescope from 1864) and a generally relaxed and “nice” (in the best sense of the word) atmosphere.