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Hanmer Springs

by Pamela Blalock and John Bayley

We left the lovely sunny west coast and headed east. We'd heard the hot pools at Hanmer Springs were well worth a visit, so we planned to stop there for a couple of days. We'd also read about some pretty cool riding in the area, and thought it might be worth investigating. There are two epic adventure rides that finish up in Hanmer Springs, The Molesworth Muster and The Rainbow Rage. Both of these rides go on gravel roads that cross through private land which is only open to the public for a short window in the summer. Neither road was open yet, but we could do a nice loop out of Hanmer Springs on the non-restricted parts, that would take in Jack's Pass (the finish of the Rainbow Rage) and Jollie's Pass (the finish for the Molesworth Muster). But our first order of business was a visit to the Hot Pools. The thermal springs are natural, but the pool complex is ... well a pool complex, with several different large chlorinated pools at different temperatures (37C-40C), as well as several smaller sulphur pools at even warmers temps (42-43C). These are shallow pools - for sitting and relaxing - not swimming. But there is a heated swimming pool as well, complete with a giant waterslide.

Quite the contrast from the warm sunny weather we had on the west coast, it was cold and rainy when we arrived. It was actually quite nice for sitting in a hot pool though. We thoroughly enjoyed relaxing for a while. We needed to take it easy to get ready for our adventure the next day. Our planned loop wasn't terribly long, but did involve a long (6km) hard climb right out the door up to Jack's pass, about 600 metres above us. We brought warm clothes and some snacks from a local bakery with us. Did I mention it snowed overnight? It was just a dusting, but it was pretty chilly on top. We climbed in shorts and jerseys, but added arm and knee warmers, gloves and vests once on top. We joked about having a snowball fight. We met a carload of Australians who had never seen snow, and were thrilled to see this much - it is almost summer here afterall.

We descended about 150 metres, to follow The Clarence River valley for a while, before tacking the second climb up Jollies Pass. Now I hadn't looked at the description too closely and didn't realise that our road back to town was Unsuitable for Cars. When will I learn to take that guide book from John and read it? Well, it couldn't be that bad, and besides we have these lovely new fat tires on the tandem, so we should have no problem with it. After a few pictures we started up and discovered that the road looked a bit more like a shallow river bed in places. We rode through most if it, only having to walk through a couple of really deep bits once or twice. Good thing it's almost summer here.

We did make eventually make it to the top, but of course you must realise that was the easy part. We now had a nice long steep descent with more of the same - rutted, occasionally flooded, loose and rocky... We stopped at a nice spot a bit over the top for our snack - some muffins we'd bought in town. The descent was a challenge, but it did get easier as we got lower, and eventually even turned into a sealed road. We passed by lots of walking and mountain bike trails as we got closer to town. We decided after having a coffee, to head back out for a walk on one of the many signposted trails in town and another visit to the hot pools. It was much warmer than the previous day, so I convinced John to give the slides a try. It took a lot of persuasion, but we really had a blast. There were two slides - one of which was faster and bumpier than the other. We climbed a big flight of stairs, and then sat down - legs first, elbows tucked - and entered one of two long twisting tubes. I got tossed around quite a bit, and didn't learn to tuck my elbows in until halfway down! But it was a blast. We went many times, trading tubes, and trying different techniques for getting tossed about more or less. I definitely recommend giving it a try!

The next day we did a short hike before heading into Christchurch to visit the kitties and make arrangements for bailing them out, uh I mean picking them up. At this point, they had served their time, and were free to go, but we'd arranged to board them there a few extra days until we got the house. We'd been trying to figure out how not to traumatise them too much with the long drive, when Lindsay (who ran the facility) suggested flying them to Nelson. It was not expensive for a domestic flight - and would make things easier for us, and I think them - much less time in the carriers, and we could get things set up at the house for them. So we decided to sign them up for frequent flier miles!

This actually helped solve a bit of the space problem as well. We needed to turn our little station wagon back in in Christchurch. I'd thought I would easily be able to rent a van one way to take all the stuff we had stored in Christchurch back with us. But U-haul and their like haven't hot New Zealand yet. It took quite a bit of calling around, but I did eventually find a large passenger van that I could drop off in Nelson. With seats folded we were able to get our two bike boxes, 2 large duffles, 1 box of miscellaneous stuff, 2 s&s cases, the tandem, all our panniers and backpacks, and an incredible amount of stuff we had acquired in the last month.

Fortunately I'd had 3 weeks of driving the automatic transmission station wagon to get used to driving on the left. The van was manual. So now I had to drive a great big van on the wrong side of the road with the shift lever on the wrong side of the steering wheel, and the wipers and turn signal on opposite sides as well! Have I mentioned the lack of motorways here. I had to drive this over the great twisty mountainous roads that we love cycling on, but would prefer not to drive for 8 hours on. We rode the tandem out near the airport to pick the van up Sunday morning, and then headed over to Yvonne's to get all our stored stuff, then back to the hostel to get the rest of our gear, and finally made out way west and north. We stopped in Murchison for the night. We could go all the way to Nelson, but since we couldn't get in the house until midday Monday, there wasn't too much point in rushing things. And I got one of those great coffees. We have realised that while sometimes it may be 100 km between points of civilisation, when you do find one, you will also find an espresso machine. And everyone knows how to use them. Cappuccino is good and inexpensive here. But it is really really good in Murchison at the Rivers Cafe!






The Wet Coast