Up at 0630, quickly dressed, then downstairs for a great continental breakfast, there were already a small group enjoying something to eat. I guess we hit the road around 0730, and on the way to Ikamatua, stopped to pay our respects at the Pike River memorial, a real thought provoking moment. The ride into Ikamatua was cruisy, arriving at the dairy to stock up on supplies and chat briefly to Thomas and Peter. We were soon on our way to the start of the long gravel climb to Waiuta. The approach was beautiful, riding winding narrow sealed roads, passing the quaint remote village of Blackwater. I really enjoyed the ascent to the Waiuta hut, a suitable gradient, good surface, and my legs were happy to keep churning. The Waiuta Hut marked the end of the easy riding, with the beginning of the Big River track. This was a very challenging track to ride on a singlespeed, at least the first half with muddy mulch sapping the power being laid down. There were some good rooty sections challenging my riding. The descending in the middle of the track was fun, but I was soon pushing up the steeper second climb. The final descent was super awesome, more flow, less soggy, and a MTBers delight. I rolled out at the Big River hut, greeted by Dave, having made much better progress than Stephen and I. After a short refuel, we continued the ride towards Reefton. I was surprised by more climbing, but I was eventually rewarded with some crazy bumpy 4x4 track downhill. I somehow kept the bike under control, but it was a real battle. I left D&S to fix another puncture, and set a good pace, but it was ultimately too much, puncturing my front tyre on something sharp. The sealant wouldn't seal the 5mm cut - did sealant ever live up to the promises of "sealing large holes"? - so I put in a tube, and just as I was finishing pumping, D&S rolled up. I was a bit bummed as the rough section was just finishing, ah well.
After some more downhill, we arrived in Reefton and enjoyed our first encounter with an open supermarket, a Four Square. I bought a pie, some sweets, a few bumper bars, two bananas, and a cookie time. The weather was truly superb, but it was likely to cause some pain out on the open road. Mercifully the climb out of Reefton heading toward Springs Junction was largely sheltered by the lush west coast forest canopy. I was also not ready for the climb up to Rahu Saddle, but the way down was pretty good. The piece between Reefton and Springs Junction was pretty tough, the legs and motivation lacking. Seeing D&S again at the service station was a welcome surprise. A water top up and some eats, and we headed off down the flat road toward Murchison. On a side road, we did encounter some more hills, coming down one, my unsecured feedbag hit its resonant frequency and ejected a bumper bar. Some more flat riding followed, Stephens tyre gave up again, I carried on (sorry Dave), and headed for the last difficulty of the day. Maruia Saddle Road turned out to be my favourite climb of the brevet, setting a good pace up the sweet gravel surface, buoyed no doubt by the "3km to summit" sign. The way down was a real joy, twilight encroaching, the sandy surface a welcome change from the gravel. Some more rolling climbs and another 20km of gravel, I arrived in Murchison. I quickly located the Kiwi Motor Camp, booked a room, and welcomed Dave and Stephen. They had some interesting discussions with the owner, for some reason wanting to double charge for a room. After a clean and some casual clothes, we wandered into town, it was good to stretch the legs away from the bike. Once again, Peter was spotted, eating at the only open restaurant. Double orders were made, and we feasted on some great food, although the steak was sold out.
All up, this was an enjoyable day, not too much flat stuff, some enjoyable single track, and some great climbs. We were also never short on resupply options, a nice change from the first few days.