Cape Palliser, NZ to Featherston, NZ

34.1 mi / 10.4 mph / 1244 ft. climbing
Home: Featherston Motel and Campground

Our second morning awaking at Putangirua Pinnacles was warmer than the first (53F), but the steady breeze flowing out of the canyon (the Breath of the Dead?!) made it feel colder than that. The overall forecast had the wind blowing perpendicular to the canyon, so it’s been interesting to learn how the local topography (or the curse of the dead!) can overrule wider weather patterns. Because once we exited the canyon, the wider forecast was confirmed, and also it was warm enough for us to be wearing shorts for the first time in days.

On our ride to the Pinnacles a couple days ago, we had been passed by dump trucks carrying giant rocks (and empties returning the other way). It had seemed odd to me that someone living way out here would need giant rocks delivered, until we got down to where storms had eroded the coast road; they were essentially trucking replacement land up and over the hill. Directly across from the campsite was a staging area on the beach where they had been dumping the rocks, and this morning we learned what it sounds like when several 5-foot-diameter rocks are dumped out of a truck (it’s loud).

We figured the double-trailer empties would be causing havoc behind us as we grinded up the steep hill, but thankfully the must have taken a break, and we only had a couple of cars go by. Because it was a beast of a climb, starting at a solid 11%, and then easing to a far-more-doable 7% for the second half. At least it got us to the top much faster than the opposite direction, and then the downhill today lasted a lot longer.

The view from near the top of the hill, with a sliver of now-distant Palliser Bay visible 500 feet below us.

We stopped again at the Pirinoa General Store (where they were still moving beer to the hall across the road!) and again got ourselves some 2nd-breakfast hand-pies. Soon after, we ended our backtracking, and branched off onto the direct route to Featherston, bypassing Martinborough this time. My question of whether the direct route between Wellington and Cape Palliser would have more or less traffic than the route through Martinborough was answered: less. We dropped close to the fairly-large (but shallow) Wairarapa Lake (for which this whole region is named), though we never saw it, and continued through pleasant farm country.

A simple-but-stylish middle-of-nowhere church.
A Holstein stalks her prey across the savannah…
Only six blog-worthy photos today (nearly a record-low) shows that this is as close to a “boring ride” as you can get in New Zealand.
The New Zealand farm version of the classic Greek comedy/tragedy masks.
A car had just flown down this gravel side-road, creating clouds of dust even bigger than these remnants; glad we aren’t riding down that road!

We arrived over-hungry into Featherston just before the 2pm check-in time to our motel, so did a quick stop at the grocery store in town, and then went to the motel office where a few days earlier we had attempted to pay to secure our reservation, but had found the place unmanned. Now, at proper check-in time, it was still unmanned. Dammit! There was a phone number posted to call, which would cost us US$0.20/minute, but that was the only option. At least a guy answered, he took our credit card info over the phone, and then gave us a code to the lockbox outside the room (and said the uniquely-Kiwi phrase “sweet as” about 100 times). Ok, good, crisis averted with a relatively-easy solution. The benefit for the poor customer service was a huge two-room suite with a kitchenette for less than US$100.

Unusually for a small town, there was an unhoused guy (with a blanket over his head and a big cart) loitering around, and he wandered over and asked if I knew where the laundry was. Um, no, first because I don’t, but mostly because I know this is just your way to worm into a conversation, since I saw you loitering around here three days ago when we stopped by, so I’m damn sure you know where the laundry is!

I rode out to a takeaway burger place for dinner (VixenBurger, highly-rated women-owned and playing an Amanda Palmer deep cut on their stereo), and had trouble turning out of the motel because a never-ending line of cars kept slowly trickling down the hill, with no gaps. It turns out our motel was on SH2, the major highway and only road from Wellington, that slows down to become Featherston’s Main Street. Despite the unusual convenience of the train line, apparently enough people still make the rush-hour commute in their cars!

We had booked a motel for the night mostly because 5 days ago all the weather models agreed that rain was coming. By now that seems to have evaporated, which seems to be happening much more frequently over the last month or so. I guess we shouldn’t complain though, less rain is selfishly always better for us.


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