9 straight days of riding seems almost incomprehensible for three part time riders north of 60 years, but we're getting pretty strong now and hopping on the bikes in the morning we no longer wince with pain. Maybe not so our butts, I don't think they will ever not be sore, but all other body parts are well conditioned now. Today we had 62km to ride, which seemed like a half day for us given the daily distances we had ridden to date, so we took our time getting going. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the local Pukeko Café and if you ever find yourself driving through Hari Hari travelling down the West Coast, stop in for breakfast or lunch and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and coffee.
It had rained heavily again in the night and the skies were dark but thankfully by the time we jumped on the bikes at 10.00am they had lightened appreciably and the temperature risen a couple of degrees. Our fervent hope was that we could at least get to the halfway mark at Whataroa for our lunch stop without getting rained on, which would at least mean we only had to potentially ride one leg in soaking gear. We were riding main highway all the way, which was flat heading out of town for 7km before morphing into a 2km steep climb with a 250m elevation. We no longer had any apprehension about making such climbs and we rode up it very strongly. From there it was pretty straight forward with moderate elevations mixed with generally flat terrain. We arrived at Whataroa stopping off at the local café for lunch (whitebait fritters in fresh bread – bloody delicious). The local motel (White Heron) owner's daughters came over to see us at the café. Having noticed our support vehicle messages “Riding from Picton to Bluff to raise $250,000 for NZ Hospices”, they had come across to make a donation… beautiful! The weather had settled and it was partly overcast and sunny when we left Whataroa for Franz Joseph 32km down the highway.
We made good time and passed through the first 10km mark in 25 minutes before we encountered a noticeable but none to challenging rise in the road. At 22km we stopped for a refuel and snapped a couple of pictures with Mt Cook in the background, the scenery was both breath taking and inspiring. We passed two beautiful lakes on the way and although we continued to steadily climb it was well within our new found physical abilities. We arrived in Franz Joseph at 2.45pm so taking into account breaks we had taken just 3 hours 40 minutes to complete the journey. Not bad considering the gradual climb and given we are riding within ourselves to ensure we make it all the way to Bluff. Our accommodation at Punga Grove Motel was just perfect and very comfortable (we've stayed in some fairly basic but clean accommodation on tour given the remoteness of some of our destinations) and after a quick check in we headed for the local hot pools for a much needed and beneficial soak. As I finish todays blog the clock has struck 6pm and we're heading out for dinner… very civilised timing for a change.