After the 100km I put in yesterday I knew I could make it to Nelson for Christmas Eve. I had about 160km left and two days to do it, got it. I avoided the cold morning and got a late start which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as it was way too hot today for what I was doing.
I pedaled my way to St. Arnaud, 65km in, and was feeling pretty drained from the heat. I stopped to eat and get some ice cream, trying to decide if I'd continue on. It was already 5pm and I sort of wanted to just be done. Quitting here meant a 95km ride on Christmas Eve. The place I stopped had free wifi so I booked my hostel for Nelson since I knew for sure I'd be there. Decided if I was going to be on the other side of the world for the holidays I wanted to be packed in with a pile of others and not sleeping on the ground. Unfortunately though James' hostel was fully booked so I grabbed a bed at the YHA to make use of the cyclist discount.
I decide, reluctantly, that I'll keep riding. I didn't really intend to get far. Maybe 20km? Find somewhere soon to pitch my tent for free and call it quits.
After about 20km and spotting lots of good camp spots I decide now its okay to quit. I'm close enough that Christmas Eve won't be rough. But, of course, the next 30km are fenced farm lands as far as the eye can see. Definitely nowhere to camp.
The guide mentions a church camp with minimum suggested donation fee ahead, so I figure I'll be fine when I get there. Turns out they've converted it into an expensive motorcamp and I'm not paying $20 to put my tent somewhere at 8:45pm.
It's getting late but it also mentions a DoC camp not too much further. When I get there, right at the base of the Spooner mountain pass, I don't see one. I do see a giant recreation park. Given its 9:30pm and the sun is setting I'm willing to be a little gutsy. I pitch my tent in the back corner of the park, hidden by shadow and a few trees but definitely still in view from some parts of the highway.
Total distance for the day: 122km.
Other cyclists often remark on the fact that I carry a tarp. It's some cheap $4nzd green tarp I bought at the Warehouse (the NZ Walmart equivalent). To make packing easy I strap my tent on the top of the rear rack and just roll that bag up in my tarp. I mention this because tonight at some point I am awakened by what sounds like an animal screaming right next to my tent. I sit in silence, it screams again and I listen intently for any noise of it moving or destroying my tent. Nothing. I wake up in the morning and find a small turd sitting in the middle of the tarp that's draped over my bike laying next to my tent. Yet another night that I'm particularly glad I lug that tarp around.