Mount Potts, NZ to Mount Somers, NZ

28.6 mi / 9.3 mph / 888 ft. climbing
Home: Mount Somers Holiday Park

Our visit to Edoras seeped into Rett’s dreams, and even though we hadn’t talked about it, she had dreamt of the scene in “The Return of the King” where Aragorn and Legolas look out from Edoras at night (“the stars are veiled…”) It turns out the dream was nearly a foretelling, because when our alarm went off and we crawled out of the tent, we were greeted with the same pre-dawn mountain wall.
The mountains would have looked even more like the movie scene if the moon had been a bit more-full than this!

All of the thru-hikers who ordered dinner last night were like us, counting on the Lodge to provide breakfast. Somehow we were lucky enough to be the first who Jack asked for an order from, though ordering the “big breakfast” made our wait longer than others. This morning “the chef” (presumably the guy who designed the high-quality menu) was working instead of the new cook, but either way the timing meant that hiking to Edoras yesterday was the right call vs. waiting for this morning.

Edoras, at a slightly different angle and with different light than yesterday.

We would retrace our tire tracks from yesterday’s ride, and while the return was 80% downhill (after the big climb in the morning to cross back to the Ashburton valley), the wind was forecast to do a 180-degree transformation into a headwind around 11am-noon. Rett’s reasonable goal was to return to pavement by that point.

Raising cattle is more evidence that the nomadic horsemen of Rohan have been settling down.
We stayed at “Mount Potts Lodge”; I still don’t know what Mount Potts is, but maybe this?
The same “weeping wall” that provides the backdrop to Edoras, more visible now that the sun has risen!
The Potts River (which cuts through its own impressive gorge, behind, not shown!) flowing across its gravel bed to meet the Rangitata.

Since we were just reversing yesterday’s route (and skies were mostly-clear again), the photos are all basically exactly the same, except the reversal means that you get to see Rett’s face instead of her back while riding! In reality, I’ve developed a theory that when on 10%+ grades, pushing super-slow to stay behind Rett puts all the load on my lower back, whereas if I fully engage my glutes to use the “correct” muscles, I go “too fast” (Rett has lower gearing and a lighter load that allows her to go slower “correctly”). So I end up ahead of her on steep hills, which works out just fine since it makes a perfect vantage point for photos while I wait! Later, it was bad gravel during hill-climbs that would force her to walk, while for me walking uphill through loose gravel isn’t any easier than riding. Most of the time I don’t like leaving her rear unprotected, but on this nearly no-traffic road, that wasn’t an issue.

Rett climbing the 13% grade with Eowyn standing atop Edoras and waving goodbye.
It’s really nice that the transport agency paved the hill-climb, because it would have been a real nightmare (in either direction!) if it was still gravel. We noticed a similar thing (paving the steep bits) on some of the lead-in to the Molesworth Trail.
Mount D’Archiac is the unusual name of this pointy fellow that I’ve taken 100 pictures of.

Shortly after crossing back over the divide, we passed through Lake Clearwater, which was quite a surprise on our way through the first time. From the maps, I knew there was a lake up this way, and a campground on it, and some hiking trails, but I had no idea there was a whole damn town! It must be all weekend/holiday homes, but it’s a lot of them! Well over 100, laid out six block-long streets like a dense suburban development. It’s just very strange to see that level of civilization after miles of nothing (it might be even more houses than are in Mount Somers!), though it’s too artificial to have a store or anything like that.

Yep, got this photo yesterday too!

Unfortunately the wind jumped the gun and reversed itself earlier than the forecast said it would, so we needed to fight both gravel and wind for miles. And as usual it drove Rett to despair, with her doubting that even the return to pavement would help things. But of course “conditions now” are never “conditions as they will always be”, so while we weren’t exactly flying-without-effort down the paved gradual downhill (as we would have with a tailwind), it wasn’t so bad that we needed to pedal hard on the downhill to keep from being driven to a halt. Our average speed for the day of 9.3mph ended up being 0.1mph faster than the “uphill” route was. That’s not very impressive for a route with a 500-foot elevation difference between start and end (it probably would have been 3mph faster if the wind wasn’t a factor). But at least it was still faster!

On the DVD documentary about Edoras, Peter Jackson says they fell in love with the location as soon as they first helicoptered to it (oh sure, take the easy way!), and only later learned that “there are only like 5 days a year when you can film there”, since “200 days a year there are winds of like 100 mph tearing through the valley”. So all in all, we’ve had tremendous luck (and a bit of good planning/flexibility) with the winds in this region.

We returned to the Mount Somers Holiday Park, and were granted our same cute corner site. I don’t recall ever returning to a place just a day after leaving it, so that was an interesting feeling. The different people set up (more big RVs this time, and only one visible Sounds 2 Sounds rider (and 4 holed up in their own cabin)) gave an interesting lesson in how little it takes the vibe of a place to change from day to day. An excellent and comfortable little place to stay though, and somehow one of the cheapest holiday parks we’ve stayed at!


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