Riding from Mapua on the coast near Nelson we’ve now reached Westport which our guide referred to as ‘Worstport’. This description alone immediately attracted us and we’ve not been disappointed. The town however is quaintly delightful with old Art Deco municipal buildings and a small grid of streets next to the old railway sidings and river port.
It took two and half days to reach here, climbing for a day through the rolling hills of vineyards, hop fields and fruit farms near the coast before crossing Hope Saddle at 634m. We then steadily descended following the Buller River and gorges through mountainous and pristine country on a road that was the only evidence of human intervention. Beneath us the river roared following the recent heavy rains and the opposite bank looked inaccessible. Thickly covered in dense rain forest and low cloud cover it looked unfamiliar, unrecognisable, with the differing plants and trees making this all a new experience for us.
The riding again has been hard on the hills but spectacular. There are various psychological tricks we use to climb which can be for all day before we summit. Of course the road twists and turns with varying degrees of steepness but we use these differences to our mental advantage by sectioning up the road visibly in front of us, to break it into shorter pieces of effort. For example, climbing out of the saddle to the next curve in the road, peddling sitting down on a flatter section to the next crest, dropping to a higher gear on smoother tarmac, aiming to rest at the top of an incline, rewarding ourselves as we go with a sandwich or water stop. The tricks go on and on just to try and keep ourselves moving which we do.
It is amazing sometimes when a huge section of steep road appears ahead, how after a short while, it is miraculously surmounted. Somehow the riding can drift into automatic and the mind drifts as the body changes gears, riding position and cadence without any conscious thinking. It’s as if we’ve learnt these auto-responses and mind tricks after 7 months of riding and something about it has become innate or physically apart of us. We’re becoming inseparable from our bicycles.