I’m not sure when I started talking to the bike. I mean full-on conversations, rather than just the occasional ‘giddy-up’ on a particularly steep hill.
These are not out loud discussions, by the way. I’m not entirely nuts.
This seems to happen to a lot of long-range tourers. First you name the bike. Then its little creaks and foibles give it a personality. Then you start to think it’s your friend. Mainly because it doesn’t interrupt or run away when you’re boring it. Then you start to discuss things with it. I hope that we don’t get as far as the obvious next step, which I’m fairly sure is illegal in most places.
Anyway, The Beast was pretty convinced that it would snow today. It seems to have settled into the role of depicting the worst-case-scenario, and then gently suggesting that I might rather stay in bed rather than getting frozen / drowned / roasted / whatever else is bothering its paranoid little head. So today it was snow. I ignored its pathetic snivelling, because it’s nearly summer here, and snow would be ridiculous.
To be fair, The Beast did have a few legitimate reasons for concern. After being stranded in Rotorua for an extra day, I’d set off for Lake Taupo in sunshine, only to spend the rest of the day dodging showers again. Not too many of them, this time, though, and I made good time initially, despite several sausage roll stops and a long chat with Greg, who I met coming the other way. Greg is two-and-a-half years into a long and winding round-the-world excursion, and it was nice to chew the fat for a while. Little did I know that the minutes spent taking to him would cost me an hour hiding under a not especially waterproof tree a few miles out of Taupo, as the showers kicked back in with a vengeance in the afternoon. Still, once I was dry in town, I had to admit that they made a spectacular sight, scudding across the lake.
I’d earmarked yesterday (Wednesday) as a gentle one. Just a little trundle down the length of the lake to Turangi, before hitting the big hills today. And it was a pleasant lakeside ride. I finally met a pair of cyclists with a trailer who I’d seen from a distance five days before. They turned out to be a Spanish couple, and the trailer turned out to contain a suspiciously well-behaved toddler. It certainly put my load into perspective: the guy was riding a bike carrying the same amount of stuff as mine, and towing another 30kgs of trailer and small daughter too – can’t imagine what the hills must be like for him. Anyway, I made it to Turangi by three, and checked into a hostel. An hour later, this happened:
And it kept raining continuously until 0730 this morning, when The Beast and I were having our long discussion about snow. Because as the clouds started to rise a little, there was, maybe, a little smudge of white on the hilltops around town. I put it down to The Beast’s fevered imagination. Though it was chilly enough to warrant leg-coverings and full-fingered gloves. Never have I been happier to be carrying winter gear on this trip.
The climb up to the edge of Mounts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (the second is by far the more impressive mountain – see below – but the area’s famous for Tongariro; probably just because you can pronounce it) was a toughy, and the reward for reaching the top was a (literally and scientifically) gale-force headwind. Which was blasting a random selection of hail, sleet, rain or nothing at me, as well as reducing things to a crawl. Thankfully, I could see most of the showers coming, and I managed to stay reasonably dry until two miles from the end, when I was snuck up on by a mean black cloud, loaded with horizontal rain. Urgh!
So, was The Beast right about the snow? Not really; I was always below the snow-line. Was The Beast right about staying in bed rather than riding today? Well, that’s trickier. It wasn’t much fun in places, and I’m not over-enjoying the bitter cold while I’m outdoors (especially after so long in the sun in the US). But it’s all part of the fun. And I’m sitting here now, warm and dry, and expecting to over-rule The Beast again tomorrow and get back out on the road again.
Unless it really is snowing, mind you…