Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Owaka, NZ: Tibialis Anterior Blues

Like a good girl, I listened to my mother, and I ate my vegetables.  I listened to the physiotherapist in Dunedin, and he said I strained my tibialis anterior, and I am ok to bike because that muscle is used for walking downhill, not pedaling.  But what I really should have listened to was my body, which said that pesky shin muscle is not quite healed yet.

After a couple of days of rest in Dunedin we continued on, doing a loop to the end of the Otago Peninsula and then exiting the city to the south.  Some 80 kilometers and some steep hills later the leg was hurting, so much it was painful just to touch it.  But we were camped in a park on the beach, and we had to find a place where we could settle in for some quality healing time.  A couple of short days later, we were in Kaitangana, a tiny former coal mining town.

Here it is way off the tourist path, but the campground was cheap and quiet.  We were the only guests.  Ralph, our host and a German immigrant, has invested a money and year and a half of time to upgrade this modest campground, but the tourists do not seem to stop there.  So he opened a pizza parlour next door.  We planned to stay only one night since we did not have enough food to last longer.  But Ralph gave us some bananas, and we had pizza and beer for dinner, so the leg got another day of rest.

Ralph and his sweet daughter, Monica.
We hopped 12 kilometers further to Balclutha, the largest town in the District,  and the leg still said REST.  So we lived there for four more days.  We amused ourselves by reading, icing my leg, reading, icing, reading....you get the idea. 
We waited out some rainy weather during our break in Balclutha

The lounge in the campground was like a living room, and we had it to ourselves during the day.

When the rain cleared, we visited the bridge over the Clutha River, a local landmark built in 1935.

In need of a change in surroundings we did another short hop to Owaka, just 30 kilometers down the road.  Here we stayed two more days in a hostel that offered camping.  We arrived early afternoon, and the place was deserted.  A sign at the office said to make ourselves at home -- someone will be there later take our money. 

We wandered the empty halls - the place was cavernous.  A former hospital, it was converted to dorm accommodations only two years ago.  The original coal furnace is still used for space and water heating, taking advantage of the local resource.  If I were that kind of person, I might even think the place could be haunted.

We set up our tent on the spacious lawn in the backyard of the former hospital.

There is still a definite hospital character to the place, but the floors have been stripped of their linoleum and beautifully finished by the hostel operators.

One thing we could not figure out was shy some doorknobs were mounted so low...

...and others so high!

The kitchen where meals for many people for a very long time were prepared.

The coal furnace -- black coal dust covered the floor and every surface, and emitted a distinct sulfur smell unfamiliar to us when it was fired up.
And if I were that kind of person, I might think that being in this place, where so many people in the past have been healed, helped me recover, too.  After a day here of rest and ice, my leg feels almost normal.  We stayed an extra day, just to make sure.  But I think my leg is telling me to get back in the saddle.

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