As Katie Brayne and Carmela Snooks rapidly approach us from the North, Jutta and I now realise that once we reach Wanaka in just two days’ time (big and steep 1500-foot climb today looming over the Haast Pass), we’ll be just 300 km away from our final destination in Bluff.
Given how we’re now able to cover distances, we could do it in three days – so with well over 2000km already behind us from Cape Reinga over the month since we set out, we’re beginning to feel as if we’re nearly there.
HOWEVER, a plan, and public suggestion to the girls.
How’s about we hole up in Wanaka where yous two (LOVE the way the Kiwis say yous with an S when they mean you in the plural) can catch us up, and we all process the final stretch down to Bluff in a magnificent convoy?
In the meantime, we’ve had two wonderful days where the three of us (that’s Mark, Jutta and Daisy) have been spinning along from Fox Glacier to Franz Josef and on, on, on down the NZ West Coast here to Haast last night (123 km in one day) with gentle tail winds and mostly fabulously cycle-friendly weather.
As ever, pictures tell the story, with captions to add the detail. And to cycling friends who’ve been asking about Daisy’s configuration, a couple of images included which show how she functions in a bit more detail.
Incredible 206km cycling from Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier in two days, and the clouds have just lifted.
Eighty km first on Tuesday along the most amazing bike trail (West Coast Wilderness Trail) we’ve ever encountered, even on a tandem, And then a stonking 136km yesterday from Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier…
…arriving in the dark to find that we’d booked the same-named Sir Cedrics backpacker hostel in Fox Glacier 25km further on.
Thanks to friendly manager, however, roused from his TV watching after reception shut at eight, and a late cancellation, we were found a room, and are now ready to sally forth across a few more passes (what’s a few hundred feet climb between partners?) to a re-arranged booking in Fox.
As ever, let the pix speak for themselves. Click on individual thumbnails below to see them in full glory…. WHAT a tour.
Day one of Week Five of our tandem tour of New Zealand has brought us from Blackball right onto the West Coast, and the rain. Bearing in mind that this edge of NZ gets up to 18 METRES of rain a year in parts, it’s perhaps not surprising that we’ve finally had a soaking.
And now, the goats. Read here first, perhaps, then the caption to the picture below. Says it all.
With a further 80km under our belts, Monday’s ride from Blackball to Kumara was a fabulous day’s cycling. Jutta’s sore but now-nursed tendon held out brilliantly, thanks in part to much shorter gradients and a transition from hills to flatlish coastal cycle paths.
Today, after a rest and dry-out at the utterly fabulous Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara, we’re beetling forward along the off-road Wilderness Trail to Hokitika on the coast, where an overnight awaits with a further Warmshowers cycling colleague.
The low-slung cloud came right in on us as we finally approached Kumara around eight in the evening, as the heavens opened on the path through swamp and jungle. Magnificent, and magnificently wet.
Time again for Jutta’s view.
Four weeks into our tour and one week on New Zealand’s South Island, it’s a good misty day, with my right calf and tendon strained, to take a day’s rest, put my leg up and put some reflections down.
Luckily, my leg has timed this perfectly, keeping us for another night just short of Greymouth at the delightful Formerly The Hilton Hotel in Blackball (they had to add the “Formerly” to their name when Hilton International took offence), with exquisite cuisine.
I am beginning to appreciate Mark’s enthusiasm for cycling – the sandflies don’t keep up! Nor do bumble bees who absolutely love our blue tops and blue barrel bag.
I look either left or right, and when I get tired of it, and especially puffing uphill, I just look down on eternal tarmac of varying quality. So, at times New Zealand feels like an open air gym with gloriously fresh air.
Occasionally, Mark ducks to share his dress circle view. Mostly, I trust blindly, trust being the most important quality for a tandem back rider. (With so many of our psychotherapy clients having trust and control issues, tandem back seat riding would make the perfect Cognitive Behavioural therapy intervention!)
Although we’re taking the easy options (but what’s easy in hilly NZ?), we have struggled up and down various gravelled off-road trails.
I do sometimes wonder why on earth we let ourselves be tempted into it, especially when the hilltop is crowned by an electricity pylon rather than the expected stunning view promised by our maps over lakes and forests.
In the end, we did get rewarded by the most beautiful and extended downhill run through indigenous forest and a gorgeous, long, quiet traffic-free valley.
It’s always a gamble, whether to take the quiet, hillier and windier routes versus the busy, noisy main roads. New Zealand’s long-distance traffic happens on ordinary two-lane highways rather than dual-carriageways, let alone motorways.
Hence, all lorries thunder past us on main roads. At times the drivers have a somewhat optimistic estimation of cyclists’ capacity for steadiness and need for space. (Mark holds the bike amazingly steady, even in side winds and after the blasts of wind that follows passing lorries). On the whole, though, our tandem invites a lot of good-will and cheering on by passing cars.
South Island farm animals and deer are, by the way, just as puzzled by us on the tandem as their North Island comrades, and obviously consider this two-headed creature to be a freak of nature that curiously nevertheless moves ahead efficiently.
To me South Island is much prettier and more varied than the North, and more reminiscent of Bavarian or Austrian countryside.
The West of the North Island that we traversed seemed mostly to be one huge and somewhat monotonous farm with solitary houses on top of hills surrounded by bare grass. I suppose it facilitates overlooking their land.
New or well-kept houses have beautifully-tended gardens with exotic flowers and a profusion of bushes and trees; such a relief to the eye.
Huge rainwater containers on their grounds provide their water. In towns, road signs as we cycle in remind everyone to use municipal water supplies responsibly.
South Island, especially the West, has plenty of water. Sadly, our photographs can’t convey the lovely gurgling of frequent streams and the beautifully eloquent and pure sound of Tuis (native birds) that chat away noisily with each other above our heads.
On both islands you often see fire warnings, for instance a huge coloured disc with a hand showing the level of fire danger. Forest and land clearing fires are an issue here – as we witnessed yesterday cycling into Blackball.
So, with my leg well-iced, massaged, Arnica-creamed and with a good dose of Nurofen inside me, we should be back on course tomorrow towards Hokitika via Greymouth.
No sun today on Day 27 of our tandem tour of Aotearoa/New Zealand, but a rewarding, hard ride from Springs Junction through and over the Victoria Forest Park (between Mounts Victoria and Albert – I just wonder when they might have been named!)
The 45-km pedal to Reefton is described by the Kennett Brothers in their brilliant guide to cycle touring in NZ as one of the best rides on the planet, and Jutta and I wouldn’t disagree.
While the boys and girls we met last night beetled off sideways over seven hours of high mountain bike trails, we tootled along the valley below, meaning that after seven and a bit hours of riding for us, and something like 11 in total for them, we all arrived at the Former Hilton Hotel in Blackball at more or less the same time, ready to share one of the best meals of the trip so far.
105km in one day – one very pleased but also very wet-on-arrival as the heavens opened, and elderly, pair of tandem riders.
Good news from the North. Katie Brayne and Mela are now safely in Wanganu, without an H, having negotiated three days of back-forest tracks ready for the dash to Wellington across much of the route we’ve already travelled with Daisy.
Plans are, perhaps, to meet up in Wanaka way down South, but key thing is, everyone’s well, bikes are behaving themselves, and with luck we should all finish the Tour as planned.
Really enjoyable if slow 80km sunny slog south from Murchison today to Springs Junction, where we’ve been thrilled to meet Jonathan Kennett, organiser of the Tour Aotearoa and cycling his longest ever personal ride and thrilled how it’s going so far. See pic.
Thanks modest Jonathan for an amazing, visionary project. Only six riders of 240 who started out have so far dropped out.
Pretty good for the Tour’s first year, though with heavy old Daisy we’re not officially part of the event, just shadowing and missing out the nastiest off-road segments.
Also warm thanks to Phil and Ali, our hosts last night at the Lazy Cow Backpackers in Murchison, so good with delicious home made pizza, beer and full breakfast that it has usurped our previous favourite Kiwi hostelry in Wanaka.
Otherwise, photos as ever tell the day’s story better than text…