Off the beaten track 27th – 28th February Blog 148

We are away early and say ciao to Murray and Alison we will return in a few days, we have left some excess stuff with them to lighten our load. The sun is out it is a glorious day and the Molesworth is a fantastic track very reminisant of Mongolia in parts just on a smaller scale. It’s a huge valley with dusty looking mountains in the distance and a crystal clear river in the bottom. The gravel is good allowing us to keep up quite a reasonable average speed and we arrive at Molesworth Cob cottage at lunchtime this is on the valley floor and has large grassy areas for camping and picnics. Riding across the grass we find a good lunch spot by the river and make our sarnies, in the distance we hear the unmistakable rumble of motorcycles and two bikers ride through the valley, they stop and walk over to investigate our strange beast close up having seen it before in Stratford. It turns out they are brothers and are doing the same as us which is riding up the Molesworth and then another off road track called Rainbow station we bid each other safe journey. Kev and I walk up the hill to the lookout over the new homestead before continuing on our way, we drop the bike just a few hundred metres down the road, the gravel has been good until now and we have become a bit complacement. Just as we round an uphill corner there are two large potholes, when we hit the first hole Kev didn’t have enough momentum, he managed to hang on to it after the first one but got a bit of a wobble on and hit the second one and bang down we go. We are not hurt and nothing is broken but we are in a bad spot on a blind bend and the wrong side of the road and the bike has fallen downhill on it’s side so we quickly remove the down side pannier. On the inside face of each pannier we have a warning triangle which we made using reflective orange tape, it is the first time we have needed to use them. I run up the hill and place the pannier with the triangle side showing on the verge edge to warn of danger. Oncoming traffic sorted I return to help Kev right the bike using our leverage bars then after reattaching everything we are back on our way. The rest of the route is a good challange with some deeper gravel and undulating terrain.. The scenery is spectacular large gorges with clear rivers and mountain vistas. We arrive at Acheron house an old cottage and camp ground our intention was to stop at Lake Tennyson campsite but Kev is too tired to make that tonight., We could stop in Hamner Springs the nearest town which is only 27km away but we have been warned it is touristy and expensive. This is a lovely spot so we pitch up here, the sandflies are a pest and we have to bodge a fuse on our extension lead before we can blow the airbed up but these are minor niggles. After dinner we walk up the hill and watch the sunset over the valley which is spectacular.
Unfortunately we get a really rotten nights sleep as the airbed has resumed it’s on off leak and goes down every two hours, we still think it is the valve not sealing properly. added to this the sandflies are bad this morning so it is not a great start as we still have to detour down the pass into Hamner Springs to get fuel. Hamner Springs turns out to be a very pleasant ski town full of expensive looking houses and very touristy so we just fuel up and ride back up the pass to resume our onward journey. The road is much the same as Molesworth up to lake Tennyson where we have a late lunch although a beautiful spot the wind is bitter so we are glad we camped where we did. I consult the map we were given at the campsite and it shows from now on in Rainbow station is desginated a four wheel drive only track so we decide to put the outriggers on.
As we leave the lake shore and head off, the road literally ramps up a gear with loose deep gravel and parts where it has fallen away into the river bed but the scenery is breath taking, steep valley gorges pine forests and snow on distant hills, the outriggers do their job well and keep us on the road through all the many stream crossings and land slips. We have a ball and stop for so many photos before arriving at the toll station 4pm ish to pay our NZ$15 charge (worth every cent),  we chat to the guy for a while and he recomends a place to stop to view a good swing bridge across the gorge. He explains it’s the sort of thing that you normally have to hike for miles to see but this one is right by the road if you know where to stop. It is a one person at a time suspension bridge and looks precarious enough that I leave my crash helmet on and go first,  Kev wants to video me but I think just getting across will be a challenge enough, my heart is beating loudly as I reach the other side it did sway a lot in the middle. We climb the massive rock the other side for a vantage point looking down over the bridge and I photo Kev going back over which I realise I now have to do too as it’s the only route back other than swimming. It doesn’t seem half as bad going back I must be getting used to going out of my comfort zone.
We have nearly finished this marvelous ride and approach the last river crossing (six mile creek), it doesn’t look that bad so I get off to film Kev coming across and he bundles into it..
This becomes a costly misjudgement, there are some quite large rocks under the water which brings the bike to an abrupt halt, trying to ride out results in the back wheel just digging in and pushing the stones away and sinking into the silty bottom. Very quickly the exhaust are completely underwater and the bike sounds like an outboard. We would pull it out with the winch but there is nothing in the direction we need to go to attach to, even with our extension rope. We try to ride through soaking me in the process as I try to push from behind. We are not in a dangerous position in the river just awkward as there are no trees to winch to and we only saw two cars the whole day so waiting for help is not an option, added to this the sandflies are the worse we have encountered so far which stops us from initaly standing back and thinking through our prediciment properly. We shed all unecessary weight removing the panniers and transfering them to the rivers edge by now our feet are soaked the water having gone over the top of our boots. Kev has another go at trying to ride out the exhausts are underwater and he is worried that we may draw water back in to the engine if we don’t get her out soon, the wheel appears to turn I certainly get a spray of water which means I am now drenched we continue on in this fashion until we are about half way across I spied some old metal struts concreted in that the winch rope might reach, Kev stops to investigate and locates one roughly in a good spot just a bit more brute force is needed before the winch rope plus a 30 metre length of rope will reach it.
Kev goes to winch us out and we discover a deeper problem in our haste we have been burning out our clutch, allerted by the smell he looks down to see black smoke pouring out of the clutch housing. We eventually drag her out of the river with the winch and bolt and strap everything back on but we have a hill to climb and the clutch is slipping like mad…..(for the non mechanical out there we can ride on the flat ok  but under load eg hills we are losing drive).
I consult the map again we don’t really want to spend another night on the flat airbed! by luck the pass to return to Blenheim is along the valley floor and looking at the contours flat we set off for Murray’s it is about 6pm.
We are still not on the main road and have a number of creeks yet to cross we are almost thwarted by one hill as Kev struggles to keep the momentum going, by the time we get Blenheim it is already past 9pm arriving exhausted at Murray’s I have a bowl of porridge and we both have a shower before collapsing into bed.
It’s been a fantastic couple of days and we have seen some amazing country that most tourists never witness, it’s a shame it ended like it did as up to that point we were doing really well. What did we learn from it? Buy another 30m of rope !

  1. #1 by Lyn&Arthur on April 20, 2011 - 5:15 pm

    Quite a tricky time for you & the Guzz!! we dropped our Honda in Spain a few years ago got off route onto a very small track winding down steep hill, drop one side & what tarmac there was fast vanishing, fortunately there wer two others with us, but still had to take off panniers etc inorder to pick bike up & get it back up the hill, bit scary!! Just had a great long W/E in North & mid Wales with the Somerset section of VMCC,great weather nice smooth empty roads (except when Dave took us on the tiny mountain roads) fantastic views of the mountains, only one prob: had to take the 450 BM as Velo chuccked one too many toys out! Try and avoid river crossings for a while too costly!
    Take care both Love M&D

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