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February 18th 2010
Published: February 18th 2010
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With Judy, above Jacks PassWith Judy, above Jacks PassWith Judy, above Jacks Pass

Judy joined me for a long weekend at Hanmer Springs, before I set off on the Rainbow. We had a wonderful time catching up and going for a couple of walks - including this one into the hills above Jacks Pass.
It was a purple kind of dawn. The peaks stood out so sharply in the early light they looked as though they had been chiseled from the skyline. The valley was still in darkness, but as my first brew of the morning came to the boil, a hawk (or more properly an Australasian harrier) was trying to make breakfast out of a skylark and then a magpie. But the hawk’s usual aerial grace was missing. It was flying just over the trees outside the hut, but it was clumsy and struggling to stay airborne as it’s prey ducked and dived through the uppermost branches. It soon gave up and moved on, and I took my cup of tea back to my bunk.

No Bull, Thanks

I was in the DOC hut at Lake Sedgemere, roughly half way between Hanmer Springs and St Arnaud. I’d ended up here by accident. My intention had been to camp, but the obvious spots had drawbacks - a lack of water and a bull. It was amongst a herd of cows and their calves and had sniffed the air in a somewhat menacing manner as I cycled past. Whether it was my
Mist Clearing On Jacks PassMist Clearing On Jacks PassMist Clearing On Jacks Pass

Cycling out of Hanmer Springs, the first of two climbs on the Rainbow is here - Jacks Pass. It has a reputation with motorists as a rough stretch of road, but apart from a few corrugations it was fine.
smelly shirt or simply my presence I wasn’t sure, but I figured I’d sleep better with a fence or better still a wall, between him and me.
The hut was empty and it felt a luxury to nestle back into my sleeping bag and watch the day brighten.

Straight Into It

My first day on the Rainbow had started with a stiff climb up Jacks Pass, 500m in six kilometres. I’d paused for a breather part way up, but didn’t find the going too tough.

Pretty as a Picture But ….

After that the landscape had opened out, but I was just a little disappointed. My cycling guide books had promised more, but this reminded me of neighboring Molesworth. It had been stunning - but the guidebooks said the Rainbow was even better. However, Lake Tennyson was pretty, and I thought about pitching my tent. It was at an altitude of 1120m and there was absolutely no shelter if the weather turned bad. Reluctantly, I pedaled on and by day’s end found myself at Sedgemore.
By the time I cycled off the next morning, the sky was overcast
Lake TennysonLake TennysonLake Tennyson

Dammed behind glacial moraines, Lake Tennyson was a pretty spot and I would have liked to have camped here. But at 1120m above sea level, it was very exposed to the weather and there were no natural windbreaks.
with high cloud and it felt as though rain was on the way. At Coldwater Stream, I pulled off and talked to the only people I’d met so far - two campers in a four wheel drive. He’d caught a trout which they’d had for breakfast, but the sandflies were biting my bare legs and it wasn’t long before I was moving on.

Wild Terrain

Suddenly the scenery became more dramatic. I found myself cycling through a gorge with the Wairau River on my left and huge boulders and a shattered landscape all around me. The road is described as suitable for 4WD vehicles and mountain bikes only - and now I believed it. The road dropped down through fords, climbed steeply out of them and twisted and turned as it cut through scree slopes and steep cliffs. And everywhere was the river and giant power pylons, for like the Molesworth, this road was made to enable their construction.

“Don’t Forget to Pay"

The Rainbow Station is Crown land leased to Star Holdings and farmed. Those using the road must pay a toll - $5 for bicycles in an icecream container at a closed gate. A woman in a house nearby emerged to remind me. While I was at it, I used a handily placed bottle of disinfectant to spray my shoes against the spread of didymo - a microscopic alga that is threatening some of our rivers.

Heading for Shelter

With about 25 kilometres to go, the first light rain arrived. But I didn’t care. I was back on tar seal and closing on St Arnaud. And my day was made when I discovered the DOC campground here has hot showers - just what every mountain biker needs when he’s ridden the Rainbow.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Island SaddleIsland Saddle
Island Saddle

Confession Time: I walked the last 2-300 metres up Island Saddle. At 1,347m it is the highly publicly accesible road in New Zealand, and I found the bike losing traction in the heavy gravel. A lot of my effort was going into spinning the rear tyre, so I gave up and pushed it.
A Reminder To Pay Tolls At The Other End.A Reminder To Pay Tolls At The Other End.
A Reminder To Pay Tolls At The Other End.

Entering Rainbow Station, and a sign explained the toll was $5 for bicycles and $25 for vehicles. This is a 4WD road and it certainly gets rough in places.
DOC Quarters, Sedgemere LakesDOC Quarters, Sedgemere Lakes
DOC Quarters, Sedgemere Lakes

At first I thought these two buildings were musterers' quarters. The building on the right had a sign which said Sedgemere Chalet. The door to the porch was open, but everything else was securely locked.
Sedgemere SleepoutSedgemere Sleepout
Sedgemere Sleepout

This smaller building was called the Sedgemere Sleepout, and the door was unlocked.
Interior, Sedgemere SleepoutInterior, Sedgemere Sleepout
Interior, Sedgemere Sleepout

Inside were the usual signs of a DOC back country hut - a wood fire, a drying rack above it and on one wall, a visitors' book and notices about the dangers of using gas cookers in confined spaces etc.
Native GentianNative Gentian
Native Gentian

Or Gentianella corymbifera. They were past their best, but still put on a lovely display in places.
Ford With Low Water FlowFord With Low Water Flow
Ford With Low Water Flow

If it wasn't cattle stops, it was fords. While I'm never game to cycle straight over a cattle stop, I have no hesitation with a ford. The worst that can happen is wet shoes, and that's inevitable if you get off and walk.
Hell's GateHell's Gate
Hell's Gate

A broken landscape of shattered rock and scree slopes.

18th February 2010

Wow Dad - looking amazing, such cool landscape. Making me very jealous and feeling in need of a South Island tramp big time!!
18th February 2010

Keep up the good work "Feral". Although my impression of some one on a "Cycle Diaries " Che type journey would be of a beard, long hair, a cuban cigar and a beret. Love the blog and photos. Look forward to the next installment. I hope the "Beast" hasnt bucked you off on your southern leg. Choice. Tony B
19th February 2010

Cuban cigars...
Hi Tony, Thanks for the support. Look forward to catching up before too long. Very keen to hear how that new career move is going. Regards, FM.
21st February 2010

Fantastic update Mike, love the title "riding the rainbow" hmm very jimmy hendrix. You really are taking the back roads and putting the beast through its paces. I was wondering how you would get on in the Sth Island with the typical journey, down one side, over, and up the other. I guess Its a case of studying the map! (thats right!, theres this Colin Mccahon painting "six days in Nelson and Canterbury" apparently inspired as he passed through the landscape while cycling to and from different seasonal jobs down south.Kinda confirms that theory that you really do deeply connect with your surroundings when you go by bike. take care out there, love Mark
22nd February 2010

yer back
just logged back into the oddessey -------------- and will pursue the beast avidly. All well Chez Pahi - off tomorrow for a few days with my Hawke's Bay book people (Foootprints) at their "bach" on Lake Tarawera. Armed with snapper fillets from a fish with Gravy.. and may cast a troll for a Tarawera rainbow, or brown. stay cool - love the words. cheers P
25th February 2010

Can't see you as one of those lake fishing types. It's not the real thing is it? Thanks for the kind words. Cheers. Mike

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