Two Degrees of Separation, Before Riding to Okarito

Before heading out that morning, I hit the internet kiosk at the backpacker place next to our motel. It was a fun atmosphere. Had to check on the food company deal in the UK, but it was when I received the email from my dad the confirmed the world really is very, very small. When Catherine and I were talking earlier in the trip I had mentioned my father’s from Ireland. The usual, “What part?” question came up and I gave my usual reply, “This very obscure town in the west called Ballahaderreen.” She answered, “I don’t know many Irish people, but I think the one woman I know pretty well is from there.” We keep talking and establish that this woman’s father’s name was Victor Moran. So I had sent Dad an email asking if he knew him. Turns out he was his dentist until my Dad left in the late 50s to come to the States. If my old boss, Jeff, ever reads this, he won’t be at all surprised. Seems to happen to me all the time.

Anyway – the day was cold and overcast again, but there was no rain. So we all bundled up and headed out of Franz Josef for a nice ride to the town of Okarita, which is on the coast. Just outside of town, Malcolm was stopped with his camera out. If you looked back, you could get a pretty clear view of the glacier coming down between the mountains. The whole glacier thing is just very cool, but you’ve read enough about that already. We kept riding…past a reindeer farm. So strange to see groups of those guys looking out at you from behind fences. The riding was nice…streams and more lakes alongside almost the whole way, including Mapourika and Wahapo. I think this is where, if I hadn’t mentioned it already, we were all starting to get a bit jaded about the scenery and deepening that yet another mountain, yet another lake attitude. By the end of the trip, lakes, waterfalls, snow capped peaks around the next corner were just expected.

We had to turn off the main road to go to Okarito. Long downhill, which always scares me because it means you have to go up again. There was this river flowing alongside for a long time, then we made a hairpin turn over a bridge that led up a hill. At least it was one that I could get up. After that I rode for awhile – lots of campers coming by – through the woods. Then you came to this estuary leading out to the ocean. Looked like you could do some nice kayaking through there. Kept riding and eventually came to town. Booming metropolis – even had an airstrip with this sign warning me I might get hit by a plane landing or taking off as I rode across to see the beach and more of the wild Tasman Sea. Beach was that dark grey sand again. There were some cool looking houses perched off the hills up the beach – pretty isolated. Since it was pretty windy, I turned back to the campground where we were meeting up for coffee…I mean morning tea.

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