I'm often shocked by how out in the middle of nowhere I get here. I left Balclutha on a back roads route that the Paradise books show, but don't talk about. Not sure what the roads were I showed the book to a local and got pointed in the right direction. About 20km in I feel strangely alone. I've seen maybe one car and nothing else. Pushed through southern Otago plains and a neat forest road for about 60km and make it to a tiny town with a pub that you can camp behind. I get a beer and try to figure out if I'm still riding today or not. The entire road here was lined on both sides with barbed wire fences or thick bush so this is really my first chance to stop and rest since I started.
Bar tender tells me of a gravel road that avoids the steep hills before the next town. My legs like the sound of this. “It's a really short ride”, she says.
10k pass, no signs of this ending soon. There are cows all over the road that I'm shouting at to move and occasionally chasing down the road. At some point it becomes a cycling/walking path instead of a road. I thought she said short? 20k and the trail hits a paved road, yay I'm done! Maybe 100 feet later the road turns back to dirt and I see my trap go off the side. It's obvious nobody has been on this recently. Tree debris and fallen limbs are obstacles. Eventually I hit an intersection that just goes off into the grass for someone's sheep field. Not far past that, maybe 7km from the short paved segment, an enormous tree blocks the path and there is no way short of climbing over barbed wire fence to continue. As a last ditch effort I mingle with some sheep and walk my bike through the field I passed hoping to find a way out that way. I head for the gate and there's the main road, now paved, that ends up taking me into Millers Flats, the town I decided to pitch my tent in.