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Mustering the Tandem Over the Rainbow
and along every corrugation of Molesworth

by Pamela Blalock and John Bayley

Just in case you were wondering, the Kennett Brothers are in large part responsible for us being in New Zealand. John ordered this book a few years ago, and the descriptions of the various rides inthe book had him positively salivating. So mom, this is who you can blame!

One of the epic rides covered the Rainbow and Molesworth roads. John had been talking about doing these roads since we got here. Molesworth is only open to the public for 6 weeks each year. Rainbow is open a bit longer, and it seems it's possible to get permission to ride a bike through at other times. When we asked at DOC about getting permission for Molesworth outside of the official times, they said no way. Of course our timing of this question was in the last week Molesworth was open. So we scrambled to get ready for a tour in a few days time.

We would need to camp at least one night on Molesworth, so we needed to carry tent and sleeping bags and cooking gear. And given the wide open empty space we were riding through we would need food and a fair amount of water. Finally the weather is quite changeable, and the Kennett book and DOC both said to be prepared for snow at any time of year, so we also carried cold weather gear. The challenge of camping on the tandem is that you have gear for two people, but the carrying capacity of one bike. With careful packing, we actually managed to find space for everything. We packed the tent, thermarests, and bike tools in a large racktop back. Sleeping bags and most clothing went in the rear panniers. Cooking gear, food, and rain jackets or other clothing needed on the bike was in the front panniers. We also had a bar bag for camera, maps, wallets and more food. Of course this was pretty heavy, so we again would not be setting any speed records on our tour.

Given our deadline to get through Molesworth before it closed on Sunday, we decided to drive up to St. Arnaud, and start from there. We'd go through Rainbow on the first day (120km), and spend the night in Hanmer Springs - heading in for both the hot springs and food. Then we'd ride through the restricted part of Molesworth to the campground on the far side on day 2, a distance of about 100km. Day 3 would get us to Blenheim in 120km, and then the fourth day, we would take a sealed road back to St. Arnaud for another 110km. All the other roads were metalled - kiwi for gravel. This is truly big sky country and big country too. Both roads pass through large cattle stations. Molesworth goes through New Zealand's largest farm (444,000 acres, 695 square miles, half a Rhode Island - take your choice of units). There aren't any coffee shops out there, or anything else aside from cows, killer hills and magnificent scenery. It's important to be prepared for anything.

While we carried camping gear for our night out on Molesworth, we actually made use of backpacker accomodation and restaurants in Hanmer Springs and Blenheim. We had long hard days and felt we deserved to have someone else cook!

I didn't push him off the bike, honest!

So here we are miles from civilization, and we run into 5 other touring cyclists! One was going the same way we were. Four were headed the opposite way. We had a grand time chatting away. One of them took a look at the tandem and was sure we'd half to walk. I'm proud to say we did not!

The climb up Island Saddle was certainly a challenge with all that gear, but we made it!

If we'd brought several days worth of food, we could have avoided the descent down Jack's Pass, and then back up it the next day, but the lure of the hot springs in Hanmer was too great!

Great angle on the picture - but don't believe what you read - Jollies is actually unsuitable for cars.

to Molesworth


Tramping with Susan