New Zealand Wrapup

Tuesday, May 5th to Wednesday, May 14th

 King and a hobbit house. 

  My turn to pose. 

 Everyone should be so lucky as to live in a country like New Zealand. The air and water are clean, the people friendly, it’s safe, the food is healthy and the scenery is stunning. There’s little visible corruption, crime or poverty. We were surprised at how well travelled and educated people in even the smallest of towns were and how often people told us they had visited Hong Kong. It also doesn’t hurt that everywhere you go the coffee and cakes are excellent. 

Redwood walk in Rotorua

 We spent our final week in New Zealand visiting friends in Rotorua, making the Hobbiton pilgramage, and boxing the bikes in Auckland for our flight back to Hong Kong. Since it wasn’t by bicycle I’ll spare the day-by-day account of things and just show a few of the better photos and a quick wrap up of the trip. 

Hobbiton

 Km ridden: 2400

days cycled: 42

days hiked: 6

days in NZ: 78

average km per day cycle: 57 km

Longest day: 94 km from Invercargil to Tuatepe.

Rest days: Too many to count. Mostly due to bad weather.

Rotorua 

  Rotorua

 Most scenic days:

– Te-Anau to Queenstown via Mavora Lakes.

– The back roads around St. Arnaud.

– The Eastern Cape.

– Wanaka to Makarora.

Cost per day: including insurance, phones, souveniers, bike stuff, transport, etc.. about $90 USD each. Since we didn’t camp much partly because we were lazy and our tent was a bit small, and since we stopped at every cafe that we rode by for coffee and cake, our costs were pretty high. On the plus side we slept well and warm and dry most every night and were very well fed. And we got some cool souvenirs. New Zealand wasn’t a budget travel destination for us.

And finally, the best carrot cakes (you won’t go wrong at any of these cafes):

– Ida Valley Kitchen in Oturehua on the Otago Rail Trail.

– Provisions Cafe in Arrowtown.

– Up The Garden Path in Motueka.

– The Townhouse in Westport.

– Relish Cafe in Wanaka.

– Batch Cafe in Invercargil.

– PR’s Cafe in Westport.

– Melrose House Cafe in Nelson (best presentation and poshest setting)

– Arrowtown Bakery and Cafe. Least expensive 🙂
OTCC (other than carrot cakes)

– Sea salt caramel cheesecake at Fidel’s Cafe on Cuba Street in Wellington.

– Salted caramel cheesecake at USSCo Bar and Bistro in Gisborne.

– Lemon and yogurt cake at Zest Cafe in Gisborne.

– Ruby butterscotch cake at Capers Epicurean in Rotorua!!

Favorite Restaurants:

– Provisions Cafe in Arrowtown.

– USSCo Bar and Bistro in Gisborne.

– Batch Cafe in Invercargil.

Things we miss already:

– The clean air.

– Small towns and rural life.

– Our frequent food and coffee breaks.

Advice for cyclists:

– The main roads have little to no shoulder and are dangerous for cyclists. Wear a bright yellow vest and strap reflectors on your rear panniers. We stuck to small back roads and cycling trails and mostly avoided the busier roads.

– Internet connections mostly suck. They are slow and seldom free. The connections in the poorest of SE Asian countries are better and cheaper.   

– The weather can be extreme. We took a lot of rest days due to the rain.

At the Ends of the Earth on the East Cape.  The North Island.  Gisborne to Opotiki (and beyond)

At a cafe one morning, a bemused young English guy behind the counter was making the small children of the owner repeat the word “eggs.”  They would say “iiggs” and then he would laugh and say no, no, you can’t have any until you say it properly.  They would laugh and shout out “iiggs, we want iigs!” and he would say no, no, you have to say it correctly this time, as they giggled more.   

If you want to know whether someone is from New Zealand, ask him or her to pronounce the word “egg.”  Or ask them to read the following: “Where were we?  Oh, yes, the Nepalese rescue effort on Everest went well.”  After that you will know. In New Zealand, the E in egg is pronounced like the American pronunciation of the first E in egret. It will come out sounding something like “Whiire wiire we?  Oh yiis, the Niipalese riiscue iifort on iiviirist wiint wiill.”

Or if someone says “sweet as, bro.”  This doesn’t mean that your butt is fetching.  What it does mean, I haven’t a clue.  It could be a term of endearment? Or “cool, dude?”  Or I really don’t know. Perhaps someone could explain this to me. 

Monday, April 27th.  Wellington (The Capitol)

Today it was stormy weather.  In Hong Kong it would have been a typhoon day but in Wellington everyone seemed to go about their business as if not noticing the gale force winds. They were strong enough to blow one around the sidewalk and cycling would have been prety much impossible.  It was perfect weather to stay inside and watch a movie.  A Russian movie called Leviathon to be exact, that matched the clouds outside. It was beautifully grim and desolate and drunken and portrayed every part of Russian society as being depressed, corrupt and morally bankrupt. The church, law, courts, government, men, women, even the children.  King blamed me for choosing the film.  It’s not my fault.  It won awards at multiple festivals.  The poster was full of accolades from the critics and academies. Never trust a movie poster.  

We feel underdressed with our sparse wardrobe now that we’re back in the city.  In the countryside towns we don’t really notice.  In the cities we start to feel self conscious.  

The quality of the food in Wellington, as we’ve found almost everywhere, is excellent. It’s not cheap but we’ve yet to have a bad meal.  And the coffee is the same.  It’s hard to find a bad cup of coffee.  Coffee making is an art form in the cafes of Wellington.  At the end of the trip I’ll share a list of the best desserts and cafes from the road.

Tuesday, April 28th. Wellington and the National Museum.

Spent 1/2 of the blustery day at the National Museum viewing the deeply moving battle of Gallipoli memorial exhibit designed by Peter Jackson. It was larger than life and brought the tragedy, suffering and sacrifice of the battle and war to life.  It runs through August if you are in Auckland.   

    
One of the things that I miss about Hong Kong is not being able to wave your hand at waiters to get their attention. Now that we are back in a city for the first time in months, I was reminded by someone that this is not done in Anglo speaking countries.  It’s impolite or something. Now, perhaps I’ve been away for a bit too long, but what else am I supposed to do?  Randomly wait until one of the waiters makes eye contact, which of course never happens? Inefficient. Much better to raise your hand like that annoying student in class with the answers, wave it around a bit and have someone immediately respond, than to wait and wait and wait for pigs to fly.  

We have settled on where to spend our remaining days in New Zealand.  There isn’t enough time to ride to Auckland unless we take busy highways, without stopping, defying death hundreds of times a day from massive sheep and cattle trucks, tailgating impatients and Chinese RV renters, all breaking the speed limit. Instead we have decided to cycle the East Cape, a remote arm of land sticking out towards South America from the North Island. Also, the weather report calls for a couple of days of heavy tailwinds.  Tailwinds to a cyclist are better than New Zealand carrot cake; better than riding smooth sweet tarmac; better than a broken-in  leather saddle; well, better than almost anything.  We love tailwinds.  

Wednesday, April 29th. Bus to Gisborne.

We spent 10 hours on the bus.  10 hours on the bus with King nodding off from motion sickness pills is a long time. Did you know that one of the side effects of motion sickness pills is they can make you very grumpy?  I have my doubts but will look that up.  

We had one of the best dinners of the trip at USSCo and then prayed for the rain to stop and the howling wind to change direction before we leave tomorrow morning.  

Thursday, April 30th. Gisborne to Tolaga Bay on the Eastern Cape. 61 km. 

  The prayers were answered.  It was a beautiful ride with a strong tailwind as promised. 

  The few cars were mostly loaded logging trucks going in the opposite direction.  “Opposite direction” and “loaded” being the key phrases here as we would have needed some nerve pills had they had been going in our direction. The logs ship out of the port in Gisborne.  The further we rode, the fewer cars there seemed to be.   

 Almost a full moon.

  

Friday, May 1st. Tolaga Bay to Tepuia Springs. 52 km

If you take the clearest day you’ve ever seen, that’s basically what the air is like every single day in New Zealand. Unless it’s raining.  Which is often.  But if it’s not raining, it will be the clearest day you’ve ever seen.  Especially if you live in Hong Kong or China.  Then you may likely have never, ever seen a day that clear.  You wouldn’t even have known that air could be so clean. It is impossible for air to be so clear you would say. Well, not if you are in New Zealand,  Everyday it’s like that, unless it’s raining, in New Zealand.   

 After another beautiful day of riding, we stopped in Tepuia Springs where were told to track down the proprieter of what we thought was the boarded-up Tepuia Springs Hotel. He was taking a nap at home. That night we soaked in the famous sulfur springs containing what the sign says are the World’s Highest Mineral Content Hot Springs.  These were Guiness Book of World Records worthy springs.  They indeed felt minerally and the sulpur fumes were bracing.  

 That night I finished reading Julian, by Gore Vidal about the pagan Roman emporer Julian.  I’ve never read any of his historical fiction before.  It was as well written as his auto-biographies and I’ll have to pick up his American novels at some point. Julian would be a good read in a combo with I Claudius and Yournencier’s Memoirs of Hadrian.  I’m almost caught up with my “one book of substance per week” New Year’s resolution.

Saturday, May 2nd.  Tepuia Springs to Te Araroa.  80 km

The road continues to see fewer cars over the weekend, and the logging trucks are gone.  There are only a handful of cars each hour and we can just relax and ride and ponder.  At one point on the side of the road every 50 meters or so was a small rotten pumpkin.  This went on for a couple of kilometers and will remain one of the great mysteries that I pondered on the trip.  

 At the end of the day I got a flat tire. The first of the trip. We were already running late and ended up riding for the first time in the dark.  We were passed by a lone policeman who stopped and asked where we were headed and if we needed help. The moon was mostly full, the road flat and the night quiet as we covered the last one and a half hours with our reflective vests, headlamps and flashing tail lights, though they were barely needed.

I read the mercifully short Aimes-Vous Brahms… by Francoise Sagan.  Unlike the Vidal book, I probably won’t be eagerly tracking down her others.  

Sunday, May 3rd. Te Araroa to Waihau Bay. 50 km

The East Cape seems to be in a state of slow decay.  The old buildings in small towns are mostly abandoned and have cracked, dusty windows.  The small and long-closed banks with their peeling paint have old sounding names that bring to mind ships that no longer call at the abandoned docks and bays of the Cape.  

 The town and place names are all Maori as are the people who live here and each town seems to have a small Mormon church with a freshly mowed lawn and an Anglican church with garden and hedges somewhat gone to seed.  

Maori woodwork inside an Anglican church.

 Today’s ride was short and we stayed in Waihau Bay where the Maori movie “Boy” was filmed.  

  I had seen it at a film festival in Hong Kong about 4 years ago and remember the scenery being remote and beautiful.  I’ll have to watch it again as I’ve forgotten most of the plot.   

Waihau Bay

    We have been quite lazy and haven’t been camping much at all.  On the downside it means things are expensive.  On the upside it means I can read more.  Tonight’s short book that was then gifted to the next occupant of the room was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. It’s witty, well written and I want to watch the movie. 

Monday, May 4th. Waihau Bay to Opotiki (ride from before Hawai).  65 km.

Today was another clear day with no traffic on the small back road and a smoking volcanic island in sight just off the coast all day.  This has been some of the nicest riding of the trip and you could lose yourself here for weeks if you had the time. There are few cars on the road, sparse mobile coverage and you can listen to birds and waves all day as you pedal along.  

 Today was likely our last day of riding in New Zealand. We were running late to make it to the Motor Park for the night and then on to Rotorua in a few days to meet my Kiwi friend from Hong Kong, Mark Joyce.  About an hour before dark, a truck stopped 50 meters in front of us and a guy hopped out and asked if we wanted a ride.  This was the first time this happened on the trip.  It was also the first time we really needed one and that we would have said yes.  We gratefully accepted and got a lift for the last 40 kilometers to Opotiki.  At one point when talking about Hong Kong and big cities, I had asked him if they had a subway in Auckland and he said yes.  After dropping us off near the information center he pointed up the street and said there was a Subway sandwich shop in Opotiki just around the corner. After repeatedly thanking him, King asked his name and he said we could just call him God.  Indeed!  What a perfect way to end our cycling in New Zealand!!

This is what God looks like from behind: 

 

Pet Eels and Lolly Trees.  Westport to Wellington

Tuesday, April 14th. Westport to Inangahua. 48 km. 

The first big storm of the winter left a dusting of snow on the surrounding mountains as we rode past groves of pines surrounded by mushrooms. The red Amanitas are everywhere we go.  

 Despite it being the main road inland, there was little traffic for most of the day and it felt good to be making our final push to the top of the South Island.  Much of the day’s ride was in the shade as we followed the river towards Inangahua.  Inangahua is a collection of a few houses and a school, one of which had a backpackers sign.  When we knocked on the door nobody was home though there was a sign on the window of the side house saying let yourself in and make yourself at home if nobody is around.  It felt a bit strange but we did and the owner Lorraine showed up about 3 hours later.  By that time we were mostly unpacked and lounging on the couches. Very cold night but the beds and blankets were comfy and it felt like a home.  

Wednesday, April 15th. Inangahua to Murchison.  50 km. 

Short ride today and we checked into the backpackers lodge in Murchison.  Cute little town with expansive views, antique stores to poke around in, a roaring fire at the backpackers to keep warm and an excellent cafe to keep us in the cake and coffee. Highlight of the antique shop.   

 With such a prescient title I was very tempted to add to my book collection, but I resisted.     

Thursday, April 16th. Murchison to St Arnaud. 60 km.  

Got another late start as the mornings have been too cold and we are too lazy to get on the road early.  When we finally did get out the door we headed straight to a cafe with a fireplace for another hour.  By then it was time for an early lunch so we lingered a bit longer.  At about noon we started riding and made it a good 100 meters when we met Annika and Roberto, a Mexican/German couple with their loaded touring bikes headed in the same direction.  After a good long chat we found that they knew our friend Heike (pushbikegirl on Facebook) who is riding around the world solo.  She had stayed with us in Hong Kong last fall.  Annika remembered us from her blog.  We will meet up with them again on the road and said goodby at the turnoff to St. Arnaud.  After the turnoff we had the road to ouselves.  The road and weather were perfect for cycling.  Rural, quiet, farmland with glimpses of mountains in the distance and our first Kiwi crossing. 
 Friday, April 17th. St. Arnaud to Tapawera. 54 km 

Another beautiful day of riding small back roads.   

 We wanted to spend another night in the small mountain town of St. Arnaud but everything was full for a big footrace around the lake on Sunday.  St. Arnaud is also the start of the highcountry gravel Rainbow Road which we wanted to ride but there was still snow from the storm a few days ago and more forecast in the near future. Visited with a friendly family off pigs at one of our breaks. Everyone loves a selfie.   

 Instead we were rewarded with the brightest rainbow of the trip after checking into the Motor Camp that was lost in time in Tapawera.  It was as if nothing had been touched for 30 years.  We were the only ones staying there.  

 Saturday, April 18th. Tapawera to Motueka. 49 km

Another day of small winding back roads through tree farms and vineyards as we approached the coast.   

 The last 3 days have been some of the nicest riding of the trip.   

 

Sunday, April 19th. Rest day in Motueka.  

The food in Motueka is great.  Some of the best on the trip.  Toad Hall is a great place to while away a few hours over lunch.  The kids at the table next us having a serious discussion over which would be better, a chocolate tree, an ice cream tree or a lolly tree.  I’d have to go for the chocolate.  We wandered along the seashore before catching Woman in Gold at the cinema, our favorite day off activity. 

 Monday, April 20th. Hiked last leg of Abel Tasman Great Track. 16 km. 

Spent the day hiking the last leg of the Abel Tasman great track.  Beautiful beaches and good to get some non-cycling exercise in.   

 The vibe here is nice and you could spend days lazing around on the beaches in the summertime.  It would be worth coming back for. 

 

Watch out for the seagulls!! 

   

 Tuesday, April 21st. Motueka to Nelson. 55 km on The Great Taste Trail.  

We are back on the road headed to Nelson before more bad weather hits.  The Great Taste Trail was our path for the day taking a circuitous route to Nelson.  Highlight was feeding the pet eels at the Jester Cafe while having a pot of their Ceylon tea. Who keeps pet eels? 

I guess they would make a good pet for someone else…   

Wednesday, April 22nd.  Nelson 
Couldn’t help it. Going out of business sale at the local used bookshop, cleverly named Litterarty. All books $1. I had to limit myself to 4 books.  I could have easily bought 20.   So after much deliberation and with “slim” aka lightweight books getting extra consideration I settled on 4; Julian by Gore Vidal; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark; The Plumed Serpent by DH Lawrence ; and Aimez-Vous Brahms, by Francoise Sagan.  The faster I read, the lighter my load as I will just leave them for others as I finish them.  Also, this is an excuse for procrastinating on the blog.  I was reading!

Thursday, April 23rd Nelson. 

Rain day in Nelson.  Also a quick trip to the doctors for a skin problem.  Ouch.  I’m $125 poorer but hopefully soon cured.  

Friday, April 24th. Nelson to Havelock. 74 km. 

Beautiful ride towards Nelson today and lots of excitement.  We had stopped to take photos when there two hard jolts on the ground as if a large truck had just passed by.  This was followed by about 5 seconds of rolling ground and you could hear the trees creaking on the hill behind us.  It was an earthquake and it felt big.  We later learned that it was centered in St. Arnaud where we had been last week and was 6.4. A picture in the news showed the local store with it’s shelves emptied on the ground.   

 Met also met Eric and Jenny Jansen.  Passed through Rai valley and took lots of pictures for our friend from Nepal, Bhisan Rai.  We found where his people drink! 

 Saturday, April 25th. Havelock to Picton. 38 km.

Anzac day.  

 After watching the small memorial parade in Havelock to commemorate Gallipoli, 

 

and after meeting a whole gang of long distance cyclists, we rode with Roberto and Annika to Picton on the beautiful Queen Charolotte’s drive.   

The news this afternoon of the massive earthquake in Nepal was shocking as we looked at photos of all of the places we had visited in August reduced to rubble.  I can only imagine the loss of life and hope that our friend Rajeev who lives there is ok.   

Sunday, April 26th Ferry to Wellington on North Island. 

 Beautiful ride to the North Island on the ferry on a grey and stormy day.   After so many weeks of riding it feels sad to be leaving the calm beauty of the small towns of the South Island and it feels like we are nearing the end of our New Zealand adventure.  

After so many weeks in small towns it feels strange to be in a large city.  We feel out of place.  How quickly things change after being away from Hong Kong for such a short time.  

Rain, Rails and Rocks. Franz Josef Glacier to Westport

Map of our route (Franz Josef Glacier to Punakaiki)  

Sunday, April 5th. Franz Joseph Glacier to Hari Hari. 64 km

No we haven’t flown to India but we have stayed in more than one town with a vaguely Indian sounding name (at least to my ear) like Manapouri, Hari Hari or Lake Paringa. 

As we rode out of Franz Josef Galcier in the morning, the clouds lifted and we got our first, brief view of the glaciered mountains above.  

Hari Hari was a short row of houses along the highway with little to do in our prison block rooms but take advantage of the free wifi. 

Monday, April 6th. Hari Hari to Hokitika.  72 km 

Chasing the storm.  Got an early start as we tried to reach Hokitika before a big storm due that afternoon.  Mostly successful, though it rained hard on us a couple of times. 

Sign at the Bushmans roadside restaurant where we took a coffee break from the rain and where we had to sit on newspapers in order not to get the possum skin seat covers wet: “Be patient.  Our toilet can only handle one asshole at a time. ”

Bought a copy of the Man Booker Prize winning novel, “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton at the bookstore in Hokitika, the town in which the story is set.  
  
Tuesday, April 7th. Hokitika to Greymouth. 41 km 

Another day’s ride trying to beat an approaching storm.  About 20 km before Greymouth, King’s bike slid on some rail tracks and he fell.  Lots of road rash, torn up clothes and a nasty bruise.    Thankfully the cuts weren’t deep and we weren’t going fast.  First stop in Greymouth was at the pharmacy to pick up more bandages.  Ouch! 


Wednesday, April 8th . Greymouth

We’ve decided to take a few days off for King to heal and to take a break from the foul weather.  I spent the day diving into the 800 pages tome The Luminaries while King fiddled with and changed his bandages. Outside was heavy mist and fog all day. 

Thursday, April 9th.  Greymouth  

Another rest and bad weather day.  King is feeling much better and the scrapes are starting to heal.  We spent the day continuing to eat massive amounts of food.  Despite not doing any exercise for the last two days we are always hungry.  

I managed to finish The Luminaries.  I loved it and found it clever and hard to put down.  After 800 pages in two days my eyes hurt. Highly recommended, especially if you’ll be visiting the West Coast of New Zealand and have a bit of patience and time to work your way through it.  

Friday, April 10th.  Greymouth to Punakaiki. 47 km. Heavy rain.  

Heavy rain on our ride today.  Beautiful coastal views and colors between downpours as we made our way North.    We are again chasing a big storm that is supposed to hit on Sunday.  King has healed well and seems to be feeling fine.  Despite the rain, two days rest has put us in good spirits as we head to Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and famous blowholes.  They aren’t only for whales.  

Punakaiki is an old Maori word for pancakes, introduced by Welsh gold miners and for which the town is named.  The local school cheers are “Pu-na-kai, pu-na-kai, iki, iki, iki” and “give me a P, give me a U, give me an N, give me an A, give me a K, give me an A, give me an I,” wait, I’m lost. 

Actually, I just made all that up.  

With seemingly endless bad weather we are starting to go a little bit stir crazy.  
  

Saturday, April 11th. Punakaiki to Westport.   

Pancakes for breakfast seemed appropriate before viewing the glorious pancake rocks and blowholes of Punakaiki and then racing north to once again beat a storm.  Unfortunately it was high tide so the blowholes weren’t  blowing with all their glory. It was more of a puff, albeit an impressive puff.  

Along the way we met a lone female cyclist headed South and stopped for a quick chat.  We complained rather bitterly about the cold and rain and swapped travel information. We gave her our e-mail and URL.  As we didn’t have a pen handy, she said to just google her.  When we later did a search for Ruth Storm we saw that she had skied to both the North and South Poles and had cycled Alaska. Impressive.  I guess we shouldn’t have whinged so much about the weather. We aren’t worthy. 

Sunday, April 12th. Rain day in Westport

Took a rain day again as riding in cold rain is miserable and rather dangerous.  Rain days seem to be turning into reading days (which isn’t so bad) and I managed to finish a very funny book by Geoff Dyer called Out of Sheer Rage, Wrestling with DH Lawrence, about writers block and procrastination and which makes me feel less bad about not posting a blog update for two weeks.  Actually there just hasn’t been much to photograph with all of the rain and clouds and the rides have been more “head down trying to get to the destination” than looking around, mouth open in awe and amazement at the scenery. 

Monday, April 13th. Rain day in Westport. 

The seasons changed today.  It feels like the first day of winter with hail and heavy gusts of wind and the hills covered with a dusting of snow.  To cheer up I read a book on the history of the Inquisition. I found solace with 2 new additions to my top 10 carrot cakes of New Zealand list (to be released at a future date).  This brought me great cheer. King is still healing and shouldn’t have any scars. 

 

Go West to Westland. Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier. 

Map of our route. 

 

 
Sunday 29th. Wanaka to Makarora. 74 km. 
After multiple rest days, movies and heavy rain, we finally got back on the road and headed to the coast. The scenery continues to awe. 
 
On the way we met a German cyclist named Buggi and his bike Berta. He knows our friend Heike (Pushbikegirl) who stayed with us in Hong Kong last year. We felt a bit guilty when he told us he was managing to travel on $15 a day. That’s generally what we spend on lunch, or more  
Had a good chat with a South African couple Cas and Lisa from our Milford Track hike 2 weeks ago. They recognized us as they drove by and made a U turn. Small world.  
A small mouse kept us awake much of the night with its scratching and rustling. It would freeze and then bolt in panic every time we turned the lights on. It would have been cute had we been able to get more sleep.  

Met a very funny young French couple Coralline and Cou Cou (sp?) who were wild camping most nights and had spent two nights in a touristy cave during some severe rainstorms on the coast two weeks ago. They had fled a flooding river in the middle of the night, found the cave, set up their tent and started pointing out things to surprised tourists who visited during the next two days. Great travel advice and stories. 
Beautiful Amanita muscaria mushrooms were everywhere around our cabin.   

 

Monday 30th. Makarora to Haas. 80 km 
Long day over the pass into Westland, the Western Coast of the South Island.  Complete climate change from the relatively dry and barren Otago region to the rainforest of the coast. When the clouds would lift you could glimpse glaciers in the distance. 
  
Tuesday 31st. Haast to lake paringa. 64 km
 
Long and mostly flat ride that seemed to go on forever. A cyclist at the campground had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail for five months in 2012.  We had just seen “Wild” and asked what he thought. He said that at the re-supply stops on the trail he keept meeting women who wanted to know what issues he was working through on the hike. He said none, he just loved to hike. Oprah had recently featured the book and author on her show. 
  
Wednesday, April 1st. Lake Paringa to fox glacier. 70 km
  
Woke up to a dewy sunrise on the mirrored lake Paringa. 
  
There were sand flies everywhere.  Biting, blood sucking, tiny little mites. Their breakfast was served the moment we opened the tent fly. In their memory I’ve composed a short piece. 
Ode to The Sandfly
In 3 stanzas

Sand flies in the shower,
Sand flies on my nose,
Sand flies by the hour,
Like to bite my toes.

Sand flies during breakfast,
Sand flies on my chin,
Sand flies having blood fests,
As they eat my shins. 

Sand flies always bite you,
When your skin’s exposed. 
When you’re ’round the sand flies,
You’d best keep on your clothes.  

Mark Thomsen 2015

Thursday, April 2nd. Rest Day at Fox Glacier.  Hiked to glacier and around Lake Matheson. Cycled 22 km. 
  
Lots of clouds so we spent much of the day looking down at the forest floor instead of up.
  
Found a beautiful sky blue Enteloma hochstetteri that is also depicted on the NZ $50 bill. 
   

 

The water and moss on a glacial pond were more photogenic than the cloud shrouded glacier. 
  
Met up for dessert with John Hockridge, a friend from Hong Kong who surprisingly happened to be in town for the night. Thanks to John and Dana for treating us to an excellent chocolate cheesecake and conversation. 
   

 

Friday, April 3rd. Fox Glacier to Franz Josef Glacier. 23 km. 

In the morning we took the short but steep road to Franz Josef Glacier and then spent a couple of hours having a long soak in the hot pools. Perfect for sore legs on a cool and rainy afternoon and the sand fly bites didn’t seem to itch as much afterwards.  Bonus. 
  
Saturday, April 4th. Rain day at Franz Josef Glacier.  Hiked to Glacier. 

After a second breakfast and between rain showers, we had a lazy hike up to the glacier.

 

Clouds obscured the top.   

  Spent the rest of the day eating. WE EAT A LOT and it doesn’t show, despite how King looks in the photo.  

  I have dessert 3 times a day.  You can do that when all you do is cycle :-). Have more, the dessert witch says with her seductions.   

 

The Best of Many Countries. Te Anau to Wanaka

Saturday, March 21st. Te Anau to Mavora Lakes.  74 Km (37 Km gravel)

 

   When I was young and growing up in the small country towns of Northern California, we would spend most of our days outside, riding bicycles along the dirt roads down which we lived. I’m having a second childhood.  Except that now I have to prepare my own meals.   

  We ended the day at a campsite in the mushroom forest around the Mavora Lakes with curious birds following our moves as we set up the tents and our first attempt at using the camp stove.   

Run kids!!  Run for your lives. The roads aren’t the world’s safest.   

Sunday, March 22nd. Mavora Lakes to Arrowtown (via Queenstown).  78 Km (58 Km gravel)  

We met a local guy who said that you could recognize a bit of many countries in New Zealand. Today it was Iceland, mountains in Scotland and lakes of Switzerland. It was also one of the most spectacular single days that I’ve ever ridden.    A red bellied hawk followed us for two Kilometres flying from post to post, keeping a short distance in front of us and looking out for rodents that might be stirred up by our passing.     It had poured all night and we woke up in our campsite to a wet, almost icy, grey morning. The clouds hung down over the mountains leaving us to guess what was above, much of it looking vaguely familiar.  A fair bit of The Lord of the Rings was filmed along today’s ride. In 58 Kilometres of gravel we saw three cars and a lone Canadian cyclist with an alarmingly sunburned face. I put on more sunblock as we spoke. We groused about the high prices then she carried on pushing her bike up the long, steep hill.  

  After a smooth ride across the lake on the steamer Earnslaw, we rode another 20 km to Arrowtown, stopping, exhausted at the first restaurant we found just before dark.  

  

Monday, March 23rd. Rest day in Arrowtown. Hiked the Sawpit Gully Trail. 2 hours

Small ski town with a Colorado mountain feel and prices. The trees were teasing with hints of the golden fall coming in a few weeks. Great food and a new tie for best carrot cake at Provisions CafĂ© and its Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia, owner.  Great place to chill out and avoid the backpacker crowds of Queenstown. 

  

Tuesday, March 24th. Arrowtown to Wanaka via Crown Range. 55 Km. 

Cycled New Zealand’s highest paved road today. Three steep hours to the top then downhill to Wanaka.  

 

 Seemed shorter as we stopped to take photos constantly and had an excellent lunch at the Cardrona Hotel. 

  

Wednesday, March 25th. Hiked to Rob Roy Glacier.  3 hours. 

 

 Rest day and our last day of travel with Rodney. Took a van to the Rob Roy Glacier trailhead and tried to enjoy the scenic terror ride along the lake with our crazed Palestinian driver doing 90 km per hour on the gravel roads, passing Chinese tourists with their totalled car sliding sideways and taking one lane mini bridges at 80.  Would make a lovely bike ride if there weren’t cars throwing rocks out like lawn sprinklers as they screamed by. We survived and had lunch under the glaciers to the sound of a small avalanche and a high school class of girls in estrus and the male mating call of “ya bloody goose chaser.”  The meaning of this escapes me. Great day hike and would make a beautiful bike ride. 

  

Spent the evening with Kirsten and Jamie Roy who graciously cooked up a BBQ feast for us and had some excellent travel advice. 

  

Thursday, March 26th. Rest day in Wanaka.  

Still feeling lazy and sad to see Rodney off. Two weeks went by too quickly. Rodney graciously carried more of my unused stuff back to Hong Kong. Got rid of my laptop, a jacket and wool cycling shorts and jersey.  Yeah for the extra room in the panniers. 

Met up with Baz and Ellen from the Milford Track and  watched “Wild,” our first movie of the trip.  Sympathy as she struggled with the weight of her pack and leaving books behind.  

Friday, March 27th. Wanaka. Hiked Iron Mountain.  1.5 hrs. 

 

 Hiked up Mt Iron with Kirsten and Jamie for a late sunrise and the launch of a NASA weather balloon.  Smaller than expected but still impressive and worth it just for the views. 

 

 

  

Afternoon was spent off balance and lost in the maze at Puzzling World with Baz and Ellen. Must do in Wanaka. 

 

 

Get me out of here!  

   

Saturday, March 28th. Wanaka. Rain day

Rainy morning so we decided to have some more R&R in Wanaka. There are worse places to sit out the rain and spend the day cafĂ© and carrot cake hopping. Impressive showing by the carrot cake at Relish CafĂ© on the lakefront. 

Map of our route.   

 Photos of fungi found this week. The first is an unusual morel like mushroom that I’ve never seen before.  It’s not in my Mushrooms of New Zealand book.   

     

Parting shot.  Not everything is expensive in New Zealand.    

God’s Country and People (most of them) Invercargil to Te Anau and The Milford Track

Thursday, March 12th. Invercargill to Tuatepere. 94 km

Friday, March 13th. Tuatepere to Manapouri. 80 km


Two days with big mileage running from the rain with yet more beautiful scenery along the way.

  

 Not much traffic and mostly fast roads with a couple of hills thrown in to keep us on our toes. We are racing to get to Te Anau by Saturday to meet our friend Rodney Ross. We are relieved we didn’t have to take a bus from Invercargil but exhausted at the end of each day from hauling 30 Kilos up the hills.

  

Met an eccentric woman managing the motor camp in Manapouri. She spoke with a distinct North American accent and to her side, in a cup on the counter, was a small Canadian flag. King asked if she was from Canada. She looked at him as if confused by the question and said no, American. When asked about the flag she looked at it in surprise and said some Canadian must have snuck it in when she wasn’t looking. Just then a very tall man came in, ducking so his head wouldn’t hit the doorframe. She looked up mid-sentence and loudly asked him “are you Dutch?” 


Saturday, March 14th. Manapouri to Te Anau. 20 km


Road rage. Twice in one day. We had been warned about bad drivers, but until today everyone without exception has been safe, friendly, courteous and has given us a lot of space on the roads. This morning when we were stopped in the corner of the driveway of a deserted gas station a guy pulled in with his boat very fast aiming it so it would hit us and then screamed at us to get out of the fucking way followed by his enraged shouting that he hopes we get run over, get the fuck out of his country, etc… The best I could manage was to call him an asshole and that we would call the cops if he did it again. Ugly. 


The next hour was a gloomy ride as we kept looking over our shoulders to see if we were going to get run down and we went back and forth over the things we should or could have said. We were both quite shaken. As if on cue a van stopped in front of us and a very nice retired couple who had been following us for the last two weeks jumped out and the spell was broken. We had a good chat, our faith in humanity was restored and the rest of the ride we enjoyed the scenery and the beautiful day.

  


Later that evening as we were riding through Te Anau a woman randomly hung her head out of the window and screamed at King to get off the fucking road. He was doing nothing wrong. As this is the most touristed area we have been in we hope it’s not what we have to look forwards to. We stopped in a park and were once again bummed out when a young German cyclist came over for a chat and the spell was again broken. She said she hadn’t had any problems in six weeks of riding so maybe we just had our Friday the 13th a day late. 


Sunday, March 15th


Spent the day catching up with Rodney, shopping for food for our 4 day hike tomorrow and visiting with Paul and Fiona McDonald and their budding young baker/daughter Laura who was making delicious cupcakes for the first time. We need to figure out how to get these on a daily basis 🙂 

 

 Paul very kindly took us out on the lake for a bronco bull-ride spin on his jet boat through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. Thanks again to Lynda and her friends and family for the introductions and the hospitality. 


Monday to Thursday, March 16th to 19th. The Milford Track. 33.5 mile hike. 

  

We spent the last four days hiking with all of our food and gear, staying in cabins on the Milford Track. It is billed as one of the world’s most scenic hikes and it lived up to its reputation. 

 

 Every day the scenery was stunning and each day it got better. 

 

 There were fungi along the path, ancient trees, waterfalls and curious birds at every stop. We were lucky with the weather over the pass, the highlight of the trip. 

   

 

A ranger had told us that she had hiked it 8 times this season and it had been clear once. 

 

The closer we got to the top the more the clouds lifted until you could see the Southern Alps in their glory in the clear morning air. 

  


Curious Kia parrots raided our camps two mornings and tried to get into anything left out. 

 All of the birds that we encountered were curious and showed little fear of humans as they followed us from tree to tree or wandered out of the forest to see if we would leave any scraps on our breaks. 

  

No showers or phones. Lots of friendly and funny conversations over freeze dried meals with contacts and photos exchanged at the end. 

Look forwards to running into Baz and Ellen sometime in the future. We enjoyed their company.   


If you have a chance, do a trek in the New Zealand Alps. It’s truly God’s country and with some luck you may be blessed with good weather. 

 Edit  

 

Saturday, March 20th. Rest day in Te Anau.


Carrot cake seemed appropriate for breakfast and sore legs and sunshine were the day’s theme. 


Map of our route