Fjords, Diversions and Kiwi Hospitality

In my previous post I discussed how dangerous running on the main roads in NZ is, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I tried to find smaller roads wherever possible. Sadly, these are few and far between, usually only serving to carry people East/West and to and from the highway and smaller towns.

Often the roads become tracks and what may appear as a bridge on a map is in actual fact just a fjord. These may perhaps be passable in summer but with winter floodwaters a constant while I was in NZ these fjords were out of the question.

This fjord appeared after several kilometres of running along ‘Willow Bridge Road’. I had thought the bridge on the map and the name of the road were a fair bet that one could expect to find a bridge…no such luck!

About 1.4 miles were wasted that day as I had to back track and return to the highway for a short stint before heading inland again.  My plan was to stock up on lots of food to carry in the stroller and link together a veritable web of intersecting tiny lanes which avoided the highway. In so doing I avoided most towns as well but running on the highway was so scary I’d rather complete isolation for days at a time!

Less than 10km into this plan and I had to cross fjords that weren’t even shown on the map. Wet feet in winter are not fun! I found an outdoor sporting goods shop and decided the owner might be able to help me with the decision of linking the lanes or facing the highway.

He confirmed my suspicions – I would have over 30-40 fjords to cross in just two days. As there’d been a lot of rain recently all the fjords were ‘up’ so it was out of the question., I wouldn’t be able to run more than a mile and a half before taking socks ‘n shoes off, pushing through, donning the socks and shoes and then trying to warm my feet up and continue. That’s annoying, but possible. What isn’t possible is to warm your feet up before the next fjord that happens to be less than 10-20 minutes run further down the road. And then to repeat all day, your feet would drop off!

I wasn’t about to do a Cliffy and start running in gum boots.

It was here I bought the air horn before returning to the highway. I wasn’t planning on staying on the highway for long, just far enough to reach the Geraldine turn off and then take the Rakia gorge route inland. I absolutely had to avoid the Rakaia bridge near Ashburton –  the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s open to pedestrians and cyclists but it has no shoulder or footpath, and has traffic flowing in both directions at motorway speeds. It’s like a ‘cattle press’ for cyclist designed, to force them off the roads!

My luck improved, crossing the river inland at the gorge was a stunning location, albeit in gale force winds and freezing cold. The winds were so strong I had to remove my banners from the stroller to avoid them being torn as they flapped incessantly. I also had to don my Xtremities wind blocking balaclava gloves and wind proof trousers and jacket in order to stop shivering!

It was only a few km down the road when Mick and his son Alistair surprised me with a hot chocolate and a warm pie! They had found me via my tracker, which broadcasts live while I’m running. They were driving back from Christchurch airport to Ashburton and had taken the inland road to intercept me and bring some warmth on a cold day! It was really very kind. My luck continued that day when I reached Coalgate Tavern that night and the landlord gave me dinner and a bed for the night on the house. Things like this really boost your morale and I was very grateful.