3 April, 2010

On the way to Molesworth Road

The decent into Hanmer Springs

View from Pukaki Canal

Mt Cook

Three weeks have passed since completing the tour. I have filtered through the thousand plus photos that were taken along the way, the bike has been rebuilt, a few maps were drawn up for the route section (but they still need a bit of tweaking!), and I’ve even made a start on the book. So in short, I have had time to reflect on the events.

It was a great little tour, highlights include riding over the rough gravelly road to Molesworth Station and Hanmer Springs. Also riding alongside the Tekapo and Pukaki Canal was an unique experience, never before have I seen such a backdrop for a day on the bike. The Queen Charlotte Drive is another one to mention, as well as the Otago Central Rail Trail and the Catlins.

There were highlights everyday. Some were easy to spot; sunset on Mt Cook is one that springs to mind. While others were subtle, like feeding the rather curious robins.

Fond memories could even be found amongst the bad experiences. Finding out that I had a broken toe was not good news at the time but it healed without hindering my daily progress, and battling with a head wind from Dunedin to Manapouri was hard work, but made you grateful for the day it pushed you along.

If I had the chance to do it again I would definitely give myself an extra month to allow for other activities like walking on the many tracks that are inaccessible by bike. To get the most out of New Zealand you really do need to pack the tramping shoes.

The extra month would also allow for a few detours. The road to Karamea and the Rainbow Trail sound like they should not be missed. Having extra time would also mean that you could miss out the over rated Trans Alpine Railway, and ride over Arthur’s Pass and through Castle Hill Basin instead.

I would also do it off season, maybe April/May, to avoid the feeling that I was participating in mass tourism. On a bad day the sheer number of camper vans and the sight of grumpy tourists can leave a sour taste.

One of three!

As for the bike, it was brilliant. It was stable off road and also in the wake of trucks. The tires would be the only thing that I would change, they were great on road, but were slightly too narrow off road. I found the side walls to be too weak, as you can see from the photo above they received three cuts like this one, and that’s with only 3500Km on the clock.

When it came to flying back to the UK I narrowly avoided a $1000 excess baggage charge. It was only after showing proof that I came via LA that I avoided this charge. So if you want piece of mind, don’t fly via Hong Kong. One day I hope to return to New Zealand to do another tour, but I think it won’t be for at least 10 years – basically the time it’ll take me to recover from the 29 hours sat on a plane!

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for following me. I would especially like to thank my sister and her husband for allowing me to use their apartment as “Operation HQ” for the start and finish. Thank you and Hei konā rā!

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Picton & Wellington (day 42)

11 March, 2010

Began the day with a walk up to the waterfalls at Peloris, there were two, one with water trickling over moss, and the other gushing over rocks. I packed the tent but did not feel like breakfast so stopped at Havelock for a coffee, before riding the Queen Charlotte Drive, which turned out to be yet another highlight of the trip. It was a great ride along the twisty road into Picton before taking the ferry back to Wellington, where this journey ends.

Thanks for following, please visit again in a few weeks time – it’ll give me a bit of time to create a map of the route!

Distance today: 56.99Km
Total Distance: 3151.1Km
(3272.4Km recorded on bike computer!)

Peloris Bridge (day 41)

10 March, 2010

By the time I left Nelson it was 1:30pm, updating the blog took slightly longer than planned and I bumped into a chap from France who I met at the tent site yesterday.

On the road out of town I got talking to a local duathlete who was out training, she had a pair of trainers strapped to her back and was riding to Cable Bay about 10K up the road to do some running.

There were three main climbs to Peloris Bridge, Gentle Annie Saddle, Whangamoa Saddle, and Rai Saddle. From Rai Saddle it was down hill nearly all of the way. The day ended with a swim in the refreshingly cool river*, wish more days were like this!

*Apologies to the couple who were expecting the water to be warm when they jumped in, maybe next time you should test the water before asking a stranger!

Distance today: 61.98Km
Distance so far: 3094.11Km

Nelson (day 40)

9 March, 2010

Today was a fairly relaxing day. I’m winding down the cycling and treating the final few days as a way to “cool down” and unwind the muscles – I also have a cunning plan to save some energy for the final day.

The route into Nelson was straight forward, the cycle route along Highway 6 made it pleasant, but I think I spent nearly an hour getting lost in Nelson city center, trying to find a decent tent site – the first one was obviously on the make and tried to squeeze me onto a patch of earth slightly larger than a cat litter tray, the second, at Maitai Valley Motorcamp had over 100 acres to spare, so that’s where I stayed.

Distance today: 58.35Km
Distance so far: 3032.13Km

Motueka (day 39)

8 March, 2010

Had a relaxing ride today along the Motueka River, took a turning off at Woodstock to follow it on the quieter road parallel to the Motueka Valley Highway and went in to Motueka via Brooklyn, an orchard farming area.

(note: apologies for the many question marks, I’ll add the names in later when the map finally dries out – it’s still wet from my the day I rode over Haast Pass!)

Distance today: 55.90Km
Distance so far: 2973.78Km

Tapawera (day 38)

7 March, 2010

As I ate breakfast I was spotted by James who I had met in Cromwell three weeks ago, and was also traveling around the south island by bicycle. Today is full of moments like these, I also met a Canadian couple who had met Eddo a few days after we parted company. But to top it off at the end of the day I spoke to a couple from the UK who said that they were from Jersey. So I mentioned a good friends name and to my surprise they recognized it straight away – as it goes, Fiona took their wedding photos many years ago!

Distance today: 83.23Km
Distance so far: 2917.88Km

Murchison (day 37)

6 March, 2010

I rarely sleep well when I’m unable to have a shower, last night was no exception, you feel really miserable and clammy, and when you get on the road you lack energy and will power. The first few hills were really difficult!

About 10K down the road I made the almost pointless detour to Cape Foulwind, where seals and penguins were supposed to live.

As I sat on the beach the red beaked gulls screamed at me for food (they weren’t getting anything!). Then a German photographer called Patrick asked to take some photos of my bike, and we got chatting about where there were good places to find wildlife, so I mentioned a few places and a few notes were made – I think he was also disappointed with Cape Foulwind too!

Time was ticking, and by the time I had decided not to continue up to Karamea (which was a shame as I had heard great things about the place) it was 3pm. As I left Westport I spotted a sign saying that there was no fuel for 91K to Murchison, which was where I was aiming for – so it was going to be a late one!

About 80K’s of the ride was through the splendid Buller Gorge, where the Buller River meanders its way down into Westport and the Tasmin Sea. I was warned by a truck driver that it would be dangerous, but had no problems what so ever. There were a few single file lanes but traffic was regulated by lights.

On the way to Murchison I passed by the longest swing bridge in NZ, sadly it was closed, but maybe it was a good thing as I’m not too keen when it comes to heights!

Distance today: 142.3Km
Distance so far: 2834.65Km