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Daily Journal: South Island #1, New Zealand
Picton to Christchurch
(January 16 - February 19, 2008)
January 16 - 22 Picton - We found the town that was comfortable to work
in and worked on the next phase of our book, all really boring reading but
for me it is exciting to be moving along on the book and at this stage of
the game there are so many decisions to make. Self publishing a book is
really a logistical task and I have to be careful not to put the cart in
front of the horse so to speak. Like working on the book layout is not
practical before the edit of the book is finished. Well at least we
will not be off the bikes for two months.
The day we planned to leave a huge storm rolled in so we are delayed by a
January 23 Picton to Peloras Bridge 55 km - We took Queen
Charlottes Dr toward Havlock and it was a beautiful ride, a few minor hills
but the scenery was stunning, we meandered in and out of coves and bays.
Havlock was a nice little town, the green mussel capital of the world. We
rode on to Peloras Bridge and camped, the sand flies were brutal, little did
we know the worse was yet to come. One of the benefits of the North
Island was the lack of sand flies Yeah!!!
January 24 Peloras Bridge to Nelson 55 km - Ok the traffic has
increased on the road and the logging trucks are numerous. We had a
bit of climbing with two hills over 300 meters (1000 feet), we stopped at a
store in Hira about 14 km from Nelson and two cyclists arrived, Paul and
Marjo were from the Seattle area. We road together to Nelson and it
was really nice to ride with a women for a while, we chatted the whole ride
into Nelson. We called Patty and Dave, a couple from Prescott, but they were
not home, we had to decide whether to go to their house of find another
place to stay. In the end we decided to go to their house and it was a
steep climb at first and then it mellow out. When we arrived at the house no
one was home, Tim convinced me to stay and wait until they got home. I
probably would have left but the thought of coming back up that hill was not
appealing so we stayed.
January 25- 26 Nelson - It turns out that we had met Patty and
Dave, friends of Steve Becker, at my former bosses house, Bill Wellendorf.
It was funny to realize that we had met before. We talked about
Prescott a lot and I am amazed that I had forgotten some of the street
names, Yikes, I think I have been away for a long time. It was a real
shocker to find out that the area has grown from 75,000 people when we left
to now over 125,000 people boy are we in for a real shock when we get back.
Patty and I went to the Saturday market where I tried Mussel sausage,
it had a strong taste but I like mussels so I thought it was pretty good.
We had some great meals with Patty and Dave, fresh fish hmmm heaven.
Patty and Dave worked at a Bead gallery and when we stopped in to visit as
we were leaving I really wished I spent more time there, it was fascinating,
beads from all over the world.
We did manage to get a lot of work done while in Nelson, our book is
moving along and we have a couple projects in the works, if things work out
well look for some announcements in our next newsletter.
January 27 Nelson to Wakefield 35 km - We had a late start,
we were late in packing, stopped in at the bead factory, and stopped for
lunch in Nelson. It was well after 1 pm when we left and on our way
out of town we met a Canadian couple Jason and his wife and talked to them
for a long time, too bad we were not traveling in the same direction.
We took the bike path out of town and followed the railroad path to
Richmond, it was a little hard to find but after we were on the path it was
smooth sailing. We stopped at the Pack N Save in Richmond and we
loaded our bags with food, Ok I think I went a little overboard. I loaded
food in Tim's
front pannier, 3 carrots, 1 head of broccoli, 2 onions, 4 small zucchini, 5
tomatoes, 4 peaches, 2 plums, 2 peppers, 3 bananas, 4 apples. 3 bags
of coffee, 2 bags of muesli, pasta, pasta sauce, 2 cans of beans. whoa that
pannier was really heavy. I carried the avocados, kiwis and ramen
noodles, cookies, peanut butter and Nutella and the bread. We have a
long way until the next supermarket and the local dairy (stores) are always
expensive. When we finally left the store it was 4:30 in the
afternoon, a really late start. We rode to Wakefield and stayed at a
reserve called Edward Baigent Memorial Park it had free camping, it was
grassy and had at toilet a really nice area.
January 28 Wakefield to St. Arnaud 62 km - It was nice to get off
highway 6 and on to 63 the road to St Arnaud, the scenery was nice and it
was so quiet. We climbed to a top (735 meter 2,400 ft.) and it was
really slow goin with all the food we had. I swear I never get in
shape fast enough these days. We arrived in the town of St. Arnaud
with some time to look around and then we ended up at the DOC campground.
The camp site is nice with a great view of the lake but the sand flies are
thick and get thicker the closer to the lake you get. I picked up some
OFF for sand flies in Richmond and that stuff only works so and I never
really liked the smell either but when the sand flies start driving me
crazy, I use it. A couple of locals recommended taking vitamin B12 and this
helps with the reaction, I can verify that it works well, I have not gotten
the welts I use to get and last but not least when I am going out of my mind
with the itch I use Tiger Balm from Singapore and it calms the itch.
January 29 St. Arnaud - Ok yesterdays ride took it out of me
and I am having a hay fever attack again. The north and south island are so
different and when we crossed the cook Strait it was like starting spring
all over again. We took a few short walks around the area and did a
little birding but overall we rested. It was hard to sit and watch
people take off on these great treks but I knew if I did I wouldn't be able
to ride my bike for days. Besides there was no where to store the
We met mostly foreigners at this national park and one or two kiwis.
January 30 St. Arnaud to Buller Livery Inn 83 km We had a sunny
day for the ride and a tailwind too what more can you ask for. It is
days like this that remind me why we stay on the road. We were not
sure where we were going to camp so we picked up water in Murchison and rode
toward the Buller Gorge. Buller Gorge a scenic reserve and department of
conservation land so we knew we could find a place to camp. We were
hoping to make it to Lyell but found a nice grassy spot where we took a
break and were making plans to have dinner. We had our tarp laid out and I
was stretching while Tim was reading a book.
Then over the hill came a wagon being pulled by two Clydesdales at a
trotters pace. I thought that they were going to turn into the drive
way across the street but instead he guided the team next to us and stopped
in the shade. I said, "Pull up a chair" and Steven said, "Don't mind
if I do" and that is how we met Steven who lived down the road about three
kilometers. He invited me up to sit in the wagon that was built in the
early 1900s and I was in heaven. As I was sitting there talking to
Steven and Tim another cyclist road by and just looked at us, we waved but
he just kept on going. How in the world could he do that. If I
saw a couple of touring cyclists with a man with a white beard in a covered
wagon waving at me I would definitely stop.
Anyway Steven invited us to spend the night at his house. I would
say that Steven is a naturalist on the magnitude of Edward Abbey, some would
call him a hippy. The house did not have electricity, the lights were
powered by battery charge from a diesel generator, he grew his own
vegetables, had fruit trees, and about 20 horses. We had stepped back
in time, his house was the old Newton Livery Inn and he had lived there 33
years and was now living there with his daughter Rimu who is 11 years old.
We had dinner out by the fire of home grown potatoes, garlic and onions,
rice and home made sausages hmmm very tasty and organic too. Our
coffee was grinded by hand, dinner was cooked on a wood burning stove and
the hot water for the shower was heated by the stove as well. Yes I felt
like we had a glimpse of what it must have been like in the 1920s or 30s.
Rimu played the harpsichord for us.
January 31 Buller Livery Inn to Lower Buller Gorge camping 58 km
We could have stayed most of the day but Steven had things to do and we had
to keep moving while the weather is good. Not 20 minutes down the road
we met Isidro a Spaniard who is cycling the south island and we continued
down the road together.
February 1 Lower Buller Gorge to Punakaiki 66 km The sand flies
chased us out of camp early today and we were meandering down the west coast
of New Zealand before we knew it. We stopped in the tiny town of Charleston
for a snack and continued on to Punakaiki where we set up our tent at
Punakaiki beach camp. There were 4 other cyclists in camp as well.
February 2, 3 Punakaiki- It is a rainy day a good day to work since we have so many
things in the works I am glad to get some of it off our plate. We are
in the process of the final edits for our second book and working on two
other projects that are demanding our attention right now.
We realized that it was Sunday morning and not a good time to ride into
Greymouth because the stores would be closed. We are still traveling with
Isidro, he needs to visit a travel agent and we need to go to a bike shop
and buy a couple of tires. Tim's rear tire is worn down and my rear
tire needs replacing too. So we decided to stay here rather than in
Greymouth where it is more expensive.
February 4 Punakaiki to Greymouth (south beach) 49 km It was a
cloudy gray day but the scenery was stunning, the coast line is rocky and
the sea is turquoise. The temperature is perfect for riding and with Tim,
Isidro and I taking turns at the front we were in Greymouth by 12:30 pm.
We went grocery shopping first and then to the bike shop where we had a
choice of three different tires because our wheels were 26 inch. This
is the very reason we ride 26 inch, we also do dirt road too but the ease of
buying tires is a big factor. We met a German couple at the camp
ground and they also needed a tire but he needed 28 inch or I assume 700c
and he had to order his tire. He was riding back to town to see if the tire
was in when we left the campground. What a bummer.
This is what happens to a tire when the brake pad rubs on the tire, I had to buy
a new one in Greymouth.
It took us more than a hour to find an internet cafe that would allow us
to connect our laptop and it was at the strangest place, the railroad
station. They have wireless and it works well. We were about to finish
sending some important documents and our time ran out, you would think that
it would be easy to reconnect again but for some reason we could not get log
back in. It was quitting time too. To make a long story short, I
explained (as calmly as I could, I can get a bit hipper) the importance of
sending our email and the women working behind the counter went out of her
way to help us and it was after quitting time too. With the email sent
I could rest at ease. Unfortunately during all this we managed to
loose Isidro, bummer he was really fun to ride with.
February 5 Greymouth to Ross 62 km. After changing a couple
of tires we were on the road again. We had a great tailwind and was flying
along at 27 km an hour. It was great until we had to cross a bridge/
railroad bridge where the track went down the middle and we had to ride to
one side. It doesn't sound to bad but the bridge was an old wooden one and
there were gaps big enough to suck a tire in between the planks in some
places and the wind was hollowing from the side and cars were driving only a
few feet behind me. Yikes!! Lets just say I was hyperventilating a bit
by the time I got off that bridge. And par for the course we had to cross a
second bridge, only it wasn't so bad the second time. It seems that I
always have to confront my fears more than once on this trip, it a tunnel
freaks me out I have to ride through 3 of them, if a bridge freaks me out I
have to ride over 2 of them. I have always found the second one to be
easier than the first so it only goes to show that fear is in my mind and I
can make things worse than they really are.
This means the bridge has railroad tracks across it.
About a kilometer before Hokitika the wind did a 180 and it was now in
our face. While riding around Hokitika we found Isidro and we were
riding together again.. The next 30 kilometers to Ross the headwind
was fierce. When we arrived in Ross the old Hotel had camping for
$7.50 per person and we could not pass up a kitchen and a hot shower.
February 6 Ross to Little River 66 km Another beautiful day, sunny
and no wind. I was tired all day and when we hit the climb 10
kilometers past Hari Hari I was struggling. By the top of the climb I
was feeling better, the scenery is stunning and the Southern Alps to the
west are getting higher and we can see Mt. Cook or Mt. Tasman in the
distance. We stopped in Hari Hari for lunch and watched another
cyclist ride in the opposite direction. The books recommend riding
south to north because of the prevailing winds being from the southwest but
so far we have only had half a day of head winds. I think February may
be the best month to ride here because it is the driest month.
Tim and Cindie and their bikes, photo by Isidro.
We free camped near the little river, we had a beautiful view of the
river and were far enough away from the road to get away from the traffic
noise, although traffic is light here. The logging and milk trucks seemed to
disappear at Hokitika.
We all went to bed around sunset, about 9:30 pm and an hour and half
later, Isidro wakes us up. He said, "There is some animal out side my tent
and I don't know what it is.
February 7 Little River to Franz Joseph Glacier (town) 45 km We
rode to the glacier rather quickly, found a camp site and then walked up to
the glacier. I must be getting in shape because that would have wiped me out
in the past.
Franz Joseph Glacier.
We met the bike mechanic from Auckland and he told us about a new bike
shop in Auckland called bike central. bikecentral.co.nz It is suppose to be
a place where bike tourists can leave their bikes, take a shower, buy gear,
get mechanical stuff done.
February 8 Franz Joseph Glacier to Bruce Bay 72 km This morning I
discovered that I had left my water bottle at the glacier, oh I was really
sad about that, I have carried that water bottle since I bought it in China
over two years ago, well I guess it is about time for a new one. Still
it made me sad, and at the same time I realized how long I hold on to
things, a long time if I can.
Our original plan was to ride to Fox Glacier a short 26 km away but over
three long climbs, the third and final climb was steep at the beginning. Tim
is carrying a lot more weight then I am and he motored up the hill way ahead
of me, I just but my head down and grinded through the steep part. It
is really good to see that Tim is riding more like himself, strong and with
energy, now I can give him more of my weight :) actually he volunteered to
take more when I was slower on the climb, Thanks Tim.
By now we have seen many couples on the road and time and time again the
guy is out front by a kilometer and the girlfriend/partner/friend is behind
and struggling. It doesn't take much to even out the load and ride
together but for some reason it doesn't happen. I even saw a guy wait
up for his girl and as soon as she arrived he was pedaling again, hey ya
yahoo, she didn't even get a rest. Talk about taking the fun out of it.
It really makes me value Tim all the more, we work like a team, he carries
the weight, I draft, and I cook. We are both happy.
We (Tim, Isidro and I) yes, we are still riding with that crazy Spaniard,
arrived at Fox glacier and took a look at the weather forecast. The forecast
was sunny for Friday (today) and Saturday and rain on Sunday. We
decided to push on and get closer to Haast and ride there tomorrow. It
is a very remote stretch ahead with very small towns and lots of wilderness.
I must say the riding has been stunning, beautiful views of the southern
alps and we are riding through the national forests so there is no clear
cutting, something I find very ugly.
We rode to Bruce Bay, a beautiful spot on the ocean but the moment we
arrived we were attacked by sand flies, the worst ever, nothing like turning
a great place to mush. We were in our tent and sleeping as the sun
went down at 9:30 pm. We saw about 8 touring cyclists on the road
Two peas in a pod, Tim and Cindie.
February 9 Bruce Bay to Haast Township (town) 80 km It was a mad
dash to eat breakfast and get packed, the sand flies were eating us alive
even with bug repellent, aghhhh. The riding however was fantastic, we
are in a rain forest and I am glad the sun is out, even the culverts on the
side of the road are lined in moss. The different colors of green is
amazing. As long as we keep moving we enjoy the scenery, no stopping
is the rule.
We arrive in Haast at mid day and visit the Haast Visitor center where we
learned there is camping 3 km up the road. The center is full of info on the
area and had a lot of nice maps.
A stop at the grocery store before the motor camp and we were all happy
to eat ice cream. We set up out tent at the motor camp, $30 (24 US),
it was more than what was quoted in the campground book, this should be up
to date, all the others were.
I think this is a bit expensive to camp but we have no choice.
it is time to go back to the States, the US dollar has dropped more than 12% since we
arrived here in September and I fully expect it to drop some more. It
means a lot of freedom camping, which is pretty easy in New Zealand.
February 10 - 11 Haast Township We needed a few days off the bike
and the weather was bad as well. We have stayed in many campgrounds in our
travels and the owners of this one have been among the grumpiest. We
were sitting in the guest/kitchen area, it was pouring rain outside, I saw
the manager/owner walk over to two young girls and ask them if they were
staying another night. It was about 10:30 am, they said no we are
waiting for the bus. His reaction was something like this, everyone else has
left before 10 am and you should too, if you are not gone in 5 minutes I
will charge you for another night. The poor girl almost choked on her
breakfast. Grant it he was right but wow he really drilled the poor
things. I do believe dealing with tourists can be trying at times but
on the other hand some people are not cut out to deal with the public
either. At least 10 touring cyclists have passed through today, the most I
have ever seen in one place.
February 12 Haast Township to Pleasant Flat Campground 49 km It
was a stunning ride through the Haast River valley. My problems with my
sinuses (it may be an infection or allergies) have slowed me down today.
It was nice to take our time and stop at Roaring Billy falls and walk
around. We saw at least 4 touring cyclists today with all manner of
bags. One fella was riding a bike with his backpack on, ouch! he looked like
his upper arms were about to give out.
Traffic is light and the scenery beautiful.
At Pleasant Flat Isidro decided to ride to Makarora, on the other side of
the Haast Pass and 30 km away.
Pleasant Flat was so lovely we decided to stay the night.
This little bird came to visit our campsite.
February 13 Pleasant Flat Campground to Albert town Campground 96 km
Our plan was to ride to Boundary Creek, about 50 km away and spend the
night there. The next 14 km was up and to the Haast pass, the road was steep for the first two kilometers
starting at the Gates to Haast, boy did I suffer, my sinuses pounded but as
the grade of the road declined so did the heavy breathing, imagine that.
We were over the pass in no time and gliding down to Makarora where we had
lunch, the cafe was very expensive.
Coming into the valley I had a bit of Deju Vu, I had been here 14 years
earlier, the first time I was fishing and we (not me) caught some very large
trout in this river. I would have never guessed that I would have
returned on a bike. Wow. The area is stunning as ever.
We arrived at boundary creek at 1 pm and I was still wanting to ride. We
had a great tailwind, the wind was from the north and that always brings bad
weather. So after reading our bike book, I talked Tim into riding on.
The book was not as accurate as, we had thought, where it said it was flat it
was hilly, so we had two good climbs left, one at the neck between lake
Wanaka and Lake Hawea and the other further up the road to a lookout.
Needless to say it slowed us down but Oh the scenery is stunning. Glacial
lakes surrounded by mountain peaks.
We rode on until the Albert town campground, a cheaper option for
camping. We could have easily ridden into Wanaka but it was cheaper to
stay here and cook the remaining food we were carrying.
February 14 Albert town Campground to Wanaka 6 km We woke to two
little kittens in our camp, someone had dumped them off at the campground
the night before. How sad. Luckily for them a lady in a camper was
happy to feed them although she could not take them home. She said she
would call the council and get them to the spca. I can not understand
how someone could just dump a couple of kittens, how heartless can you be.
It was a quick ride into Wanaka even with the head wind. We went to the
campground and set up for a few days stay.
Tim and Isidro
February 15 - 19 Wanaka. Woke to see snow pretty low on the mountains,
hey isn't it summer time. The evening was cold, very cold.
Working away on the second book, the final push. People in the
campground look at us funny because we are on a computer, we really are not
like tourists like everyone else we are working tourists. We spent our time
in Wanaka hanging out in the library putting the final touches on our text.
It takes an incredible amount of discipline to work on a book and travel.
View from the park in Wanaka, it snowed last night and it is the middle of
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