Sleep is important before a big climb. Sleeping next to the babbling river at the Danseys Pass Holiday Park was interrupted by the scurrying of a hedgehog who tried to get into our tent. I am pretty sure he was after the chocolate. We planned on leaving camp early to beat the heat of the day – but ended up leaving at our usual time – it doesn’t seem to matter what time we wake up- we always roll out of camp somewhere between 9 and 10am.
The road quickly turned to gravel and the grade increased within meters of leaving the Holiday Park. Our first stop was 14km up the road at the Danseys Pass Lavender Farm- where they sell everything lavender – including ice cream! Don’t knock it until you tried it- the ice cream was O for awesome – rich and yummy – the perfect treat after a steep hot 14 km gravelly ride.
From the lavender shop the road continued to undulate with an upward trend until about 5 km from the top when it just turned up, steep. Up. On Gravel. Loose Gravel. And it was hot. We engaged our smallest gears and started the grind to the top. We stopped often to refresh with water and to say hello to the sheep and cows that stared at us as if we were crazy. We ran into a British couple, Luke and Flora, coming down the other way – who informed us that we were cycling the hard way up the pass, and into a head wind with loose gravel. They said the other side was a much easier climb, with less gravel and a tail wind. Thanks for that 🙂 They had just left Ranfurly, and the Warm Showers hosts to which we were headed. Always nice to hear good words about your upcoming lodging options.
The top of the pass reminded me of the final push when climbing South Sisters in Oregon. You can see the path winding up and around the mountain. You know it is right there – but it is so steep and loose, three steps forward, one back. With the head wind blowing hard, the slope turning steeper yet and the gravel even looser, we were forced to push our bikes for a few meters until we could get started again. Jay rode most of the way to the top – while I pushed a bit at the same speed as he was riding. It felt good to use “different” muscles (that was a joke!).
Unlike South Sister, where the top is the end of the road – the top of the volcano, Danseys Pass gently rolled over the hill as if it were just another tussock to climb. Like South Sister, the views of the valley below were spectacular.
After a short, windy stop at the top, we started our descent, which was uninspiring and well, not fair. If you are going to put all of that effort into a climb you at least want a fun, fast decent to rave about. The road down from Danseys pass is far less steep, as Luke informed us, and we had a head wind. Back to pedaling down hill. Not fair.
We made it to the Danseys Pass Coach Inn, a pub in the middle of nowhere with a Department of Conservation (DOC) campground just beyond. We somehow were lead to believe that it was an easy 15 km to Naseby and then 5 km from there to Ranfurly. We were wrong. First, from the Coach Inn, we dropped into a sheep farming valley with more undulating hills. Then, we had to climb out of the valley, gaining over a 100 m above the Coach Inn – all in a head wind. We finally made it to Naseby and were informed by a local walking club that we actually had 14 km still to go – “ up that hill” – luckily, once you gained the ridge line, it was all downhill into Ranfurly.
It was a long day to be sure and we arrived in Ranfurly later than planned. Anne and Ewan were just leaving for their evening walk when we arrived – so they left us in the very capable hands of the kids (Lucy, Simon and Matthew) until they returned. We set up our tent, made our dinner and settled in for a wonderful night with our amazing hosts. In fact, we ended up staying two nights as the next day was pissing with rain. Anne and Ewan were fantastic hosts and we hope to cross paths with this wonderful family in the future. Thanks for a great stay!