Pigs, Red Deer, Race Horses and a Hell of a Flock of Sheep

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IMG_0595IMG_3569Feb 23

Our ride to Okahune started in mist and rain and didn’t let up until we approached the end of the day. It was cool as we went up in elevation. We should have been looking at snow covered mountains all day but the clouds hung low over us and we couldn’t see much above a 50 foot ceiling. Most of the riders are from warm weather climates but yours truly felt comfortable in just his cycling jersey while Bridget, Quentin and Horst were cold even with cycling jackets or vest on. As usual, we were first to lunch and our great volunteer, Roger, had a brew going on the kettle as well as a great lunch laid out for us. After our initial climbs we had reached a long plateau which led to easy riding. The day ended with a nice descent and the rain let up. All was well again for all and the rain of the day soon forgotten.

We early birds found it difficult to find anything open in town with food available. Most of the restaurants opened later so we ended up in a small shop with only two people working – neither of whom were too excited to approach the counter to see what we wanted. The kitchen served both the shop we had settled into and a takeout shop in the adjoining shop just next door. I finally waiked over to the other shop and finally one of the employees acknowledged me, taking my order. Whew, we were hungry and wanting a drink, so accepted that this type of behavior was to be tolerated. I was just taking a cold drink out of the cooler when one of the women hollered to put it back – it was only for takeout. OK.

Kind of an odd town for an outdoorsy tourist town. There is a ski hill just above town and good fishing and other sports nearby. We headed back to our back packer accommodations, got showers, and chilled out. Later, Sam stopped by to see if I was interested in heading back to town for dinner. Much better luck this time. We had a great meal with seafood, chicken and venison. A man at the next table was married to a woman from Minnesota and also had gone to school in North Carolina where Sam is from. He lives on the Bay of Plenty which we had ridden along just a couple of days before and is an engineer on a building project here in this town. It was a nice chat with him and a good conversation with Sam as well. Sam is a manager in a software firm and is able to work out of a home office. In his forties, he has a bundle of energy, runs everything from 10K races to marathons, and rode the Cairo to Capetown cycle ride in 2011. The weather had partially cleared so we were able to see one of the snow capped mountains that had evaded us all day as we hiked on back to our home for the night. Also stopped to pet the horse that Lee had befriended. It was a pleasant end to a day that had challenged some.

The following days ride was the best of the trip so far. Scott and Lee joined Bridget and I as we got an early start. Peter had a flat in camp so missed his usual first out position. The route took us along the Whanganui River on a very small paved road which wound wonderfully down the river valley through beautiful forests interrupted only by occasional small pastureland. More down than up, it seemed effortless. We encountered almost no traffic but were surprised by a group of Red Deer stags with tall racks of horns early on. It was fun to see wild animals in a land which had no mammals or marsupials other than the seals and walruses of the sea when the Maori people arrived 900 years ago. Flightless birds, reptiles and songbirds did abound then. Soon we passed a herd of cattle which I got to run along beside us – Lee also encouraged them behind me. It’s fun to ply Rawhide with these domesticated animals. Just before we got to the lunch truck we found a mass of sheep being pushed forward by a herder on a four wheeler with help from his three sheep dogs. A narrow bridge just ahead caused a bottle neck. The sheep seemed as one writhing unit flowing through the opening and on up the roadway ahead. We watched in wonder then all grabbed for our cameras to catch this amazing sight. The dogs worked the animals into an enclosure just past our awaiting vehicle with Roger and our table of sliced sandwich materials. Roger had seemed surrounded by the white wooly mass. It was great. Sometime after we left our lunch stop a neighboring pig came to visit but we weren’t aware of this part of the entertainment until later that evening. We did pass three magnificent race horses just a few K further on – beautiful animals. Scott and Lee had fallen back but Bridget and I were joined by Horst and Quentin for a nice photo at an overlook of the river valley below. We then pedaled into our nights accommodations in Whanganui. A barbecue was organized after our usual beer and wine club revue of the day. It was a wonderful day.

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