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Daily Journal: South Island #2, New Zealand
(February 20 - May 2, 2008)
February 20 Wanaka to Arrowtown via the Crown Range 54 km We
left Wanaka with rusty legs and it took me a little time to warm up, it
didn't help that we had to ride up and over the glacial terminal moraine
left behind by the last ice age, a short and steep ride. But after
that it was rolling and we had a tailwind, who hoo. As we rolled into
Cardonna we saw a park and a grassy spot, with two cyclists having lunch.
So we pulled up some grass and joined Chloe and Rob from Canada for lunch.
We opted to ride together over the Crown range and 700 meter (2200 foot)
climb. This is Chloe and Rob's first cycling trip, they bought their
bikes from nataral-high.co.nz in Christchurch, they were last years touring
bikes and Tim said they did a nice job of setting them up on the bikes.
I was surprised when Chloe told me she was a Type 1 diabetic (also know
as juvenile diabetes, she has to have insulin injections). Then she
showed me her pump, it monitors her sugar levels and injects insulin when
she needs it. She commented that she uses less insulin when she
exercises because her sugar is stable. How very cool, I have never met
a Type 1 Diabetic who was so active, Chloe and Rob are guides in Canada and
do canoe trips and rock climbing too. Check out chloe's blog
connectedinmotion.blogspot, she documents her experiences while traveling
with Type I diabetes.
As we climbed the hill I wondered how Chloe was doing with her blood
sugar and if she would bonk easy? Tim paced us up the hill and turned
on the tunes when the riding got tough when it was a bit steep at the top.
I was impressed that Rob never left Chloe behind, he stayed with her all
time, now that is a good riding partner too.
Before we knew it we were at the top of the Crown Range and the views
down into Arrowtown and beyond were amazing. Chloe made the ride with
no problems and even had a smile on her face. She was jazzed and I was
impressed, goes to show that even Type I diabetes didn't slow this girl
down. We coasted down into Arrowtown and got a campsite for the night.
February 21 Arrowtown to Queenstown 21 km It was a short but
scenic ride today wow, the scenery is stunning traffic was medium near
Arrowtown and Queenstown. We rolled into downtown and it did not take
us long to run into Isidro our friend from Spain. We found another
campsite pretty close to town and set out to find out about the Routeburn
track, one of the great walks in New Zealand.
A note on the weather, the weather on the south island has been awesome.
We are in a La Nina year and it is dry and warm at the moment. 25 - 29
C or 75 - 85 F. How long it will last who knows.
We are signed up for the Routeburn track and will wait here in Queenstown
until March 2 when we are scheduled to walk the track, we go up the
routeburn and back down the caples. should be good. Lets hope the weather
February 22 - March 1. We have lots to do in Queenstown the
adrenaline mecca of New Zealand and home to bungy jumping and various other
sports like jet boating, sky diving, white water rafting and the tamest
sport of all tramping (trekking for you north Americans). While
waiting to start our trek we worked on other parts of our book like our
packing list and photos. We have come to the conclusion that we can not
finish the book here in New Zealand, we are at the book layout and book
cover design phase but to do this we need to send large files over the wire
and that is just not possible here. Our maximum upload speed is 12 kb/s
and our download is even slower. We will have to wait until we get to
Alaska, I know it sounds remote but they do have fast internet up there and
Tim and I will be relieved to get a decent speed for our work. We have
wasted hours of our time and lots of money on internet here and are nothing
but frustrated. All you have to do is look at a map of where New
Zealand is and that explains why internet is so slow, they have a long way
to do go to connect to anywhere and there lies the problem.
March 2 - 6 Routeburn Track to Caples Track 57 km- I have
waited 14 years to do this track, the first time I came to New Zealand was
with a friend who said she would go trekking with me if I went sea kayaking
with her, well, we sea kayaked at Able Tasman and were suppose to do the
Routeburn after that, my friend decided that she didn't want to go so I had
no one to go with. In hind sight I should have gone myself rather than
not go at all. So I was more than excited to be going on this trip,
the logistics of setting up the trek were a bit of a hassle but we tried to
make it as cheap as possible, we would camp on the Routeburn at 16 US per
night and camp on the Caples for free as long as we didn't use the huts.
We stored our bikes and extra panniers at the campground for 8US a day and
rented our backpacks for US3 a day each, it all sounds reasonable so far
until we signed up for the bus at 63 US per person to go 100 km or 60 miles
round trip, now that is what I call gauging, and there was only one company
offer this service so there was no competition. Ouch!
Our first day we set off in the rain and walked from the routeburn
shelter to routeburn flats, it was an easy walk through a glacial valley the
camp site was pretty and in the evening it was pretty cold. The next
day we walked from routeburn flats to McKenzie lake, it took us 7 hours
including stops, the scenery was stunning the the weather perfect. It
was a cold night of camping with a frost in the morning. Then we walked from
McKenzie lake to Greenstone divide 20 minutes walk from Howden hut (they
like to keep the campers separate from the huts because they don't want you
using the facilities). The walk was beautiful with great scenery and we
walked past a 170 meter waterfall, wow, the track was well groomed too.
Our fourth day was the longest and the hardest, the caples track 300 meters
up a steep cliff, up and over roots and mossy rocks, a bit of a challenge
for us tender footed cyclists. This is the day Tim strained his knee
going up and over all those roots. The weather was cloudy with a
sprinkle of rain. We camped at the Upper Caples hut too tired to go on to
mid Caples. Our last day was a sunny day and we set out early (for us)
and it took us 5 hours to walk out, Tim's knee was bothering him so we
slowed the pace. We arrived at the bus pick up with 5 minutes to
spare. Overall the hike was beautiful and challenging, I forgot how
hard trekking was on my feet. Funny, I didn't get a blister until the
last day. We had gorgeous weather and in hind sight the distances
between the huts is easier but it costs more. There are three price
ranges on the walks, guided walks, independent walkers, and us lowly tent
March 6 - 8 Queenstown. Back in civilization again and time
to repack the bike. We ran around for an entire day taking rented
packs back, shopping for food and catching up on the internet. One day
I did manage to read for a couple of hours, nice, a luxury that had been
given up to work on the book.
March 9 Queenstown to Mt. Nicholas station 20 km. We bought our
tickets on the Earnslaw steamer that took us across the lake to Walter Peak
station, from there it was about 100 km on a dirt road and 40 on a sealed
road to Te Anau. We planned to do it in two days but I brought food
for three days. It turned out that the first day was an awful head
wind and we covered 20 km in two hours of riding on a relatively flat road,
a bit depressing but we easily go over it because the scenery is stunning
and the weather was sunny. So we camped near the river and in the morning we
woke to a hard frost. Ice everywhere and really cold, the weather is
changing from late summer to early autumn.
March 10 Mt. Nicholas to Mararoa lake rd 58 km. It finally warmed
up and we were happy to ride with a slight tailwind, 5 km after our camp we
passed a hut and a nice area to camp. Our only major climb of the day
was short but steep in places, our bike book said to get off and walk but
that is just plain crazy thinking, it is better to ride and the hill was not
as bad as the author made it out to be. Once over the hill we had a
nice gradual down to flat and a slight rise to Lake Mararoa, only in New
Zealand do you ride up to a lake. We originally planned to camp at the lake
but since we had a tailwind we continued on. After the lake the
country side turns to private land and it was difficult to find a good water
source with cattle everywhere muckin up the water. We eventually
stopped at a farm house and they filled our water bottles and we camped next
to the river. It was windy when we went to bed and the wind howled all
night, we were in a kind of eddy the wind came in one direction and left in
another, our tent swayed in every direction and I half expected it to come
down on us.
March 11 Mararoa lake rd to Te Anau 48 km. After a sleepless night
we woke to a hard rain and when I looked out a the bikes they had fallen
over and were getting wet from the side. Great. So we waited
until noon to pack up and we left in a slight drizzle with the wind from our
side. We had 10 km left on the dirt road and then on to a sealed road.
When we turned to the west we had a strong head wind and it slowed us down
to a crawl, uggh it took us a little over 2 hours to go 25 km on a flat
road, the wind was so strong I couldn't breath and was really happy to see
the Welcome to Te Anau sign. Ah out of the wind and into the shower.
March 12 - Te Anau We met an interesting couple from Africa, the
immigrated to Australia from Zimbabwe, it sounded like a tough place to grow
up and they eventually had to leave,
March 13 - Te Anau to Black mount 60 km After a morning of
internet and a visit to the wildlife park we had a really late start to
riding. We planned to ride to Clifton but a headwind developed and
slowed us down. We are now at the end of summer and the nights are
getting cold. The benefit of this is the sand flies are going away, yeah.
March 14 Black mount to Colic Bay 80 km We met a couple from
Oregon, the hills were gently rolling the thing that scared me was the
trees, they grew in one direction and looked like this area could pack a
fierce wind. oh I am glad it is a calm day.
March 15 - 16 Colic Bay Stopped in Colic bay to work on the book
and start pulling our taxes together. I couldn't be busier, every
moment I can I am doing data entry for taxes and putting the finishing touches on our
March 17 Colic Bay to Invercargill 55 km. Tim got a flat on the
rear wheel and when he shifted his gear to make it easier to get the wheel
off his cable broke. We were on the side of the road for over an hour
March 18 Invercargill. Met a group of geography students from
Wisconsin, it was really fun talking about home and politics, a lot is going
on and all the candidates made stops at the university. I can't say I
have seen a presidential candidate speak and I have to put it on my must do
list. Wow how very cool is that. Met Robert Esson, 77 years old and
riding in new Zealand for 17 years
March 19 Invercargill to Fortrose 42 km. On the road we met a
number of cyclists going the other way, a Englishman on a Dahon folding
bike, and a couple of Canadians on their way to Invercargill too. Since we
got such a late start out of Invercargill we decided to stop at the free
campsite at Fortrose, a pretty spot on the estuary where we watched the
birds come in during low tide, a nice spot. Just as we were setting up
and ready to lock the bikes I realized, ok it was my fault, I left the locks
to the bikes on the tree back at our last camp site, augghhhh. We both
agreed we had to go back for them and Tim, bless his heart, volunteered to
ride back and get them. I was oh so itching to get back on the road
but yet again we were off our rhythm.
March 20 Fortrose. The day was stunning, no wind, a partly cloudy
morning, Tim left unloaded and I stayed with our gear, I had the tough job
of reading a book all day, oh a luxury I have not enjoyed in a very long
time, thank you Tim. Tim was back in four hours, he rode there and
back without stopping, and yes, we have our locks back, a tragedy narrowly
March 21 Fortrose to Curio Bay 44 km. We took a side
trip to Waixxx point and it was well worth it to us because we saw sea lions
on the shore, close enough to get a good look at them and we even watched
them play in the surf. They are such huge creatures and have a hard
time waddling around on the beach but in the water they are really graceful.
There was a short gravel section to ride and the gravel was deep and the
wind was strong from the side, so strong it pushed me across the road.
When we finally got to the flats I was relieved that I didn't wreck going
down the the steep hills. Well I let my guard down too soon. As we were
riding on the flats a large rock bounced up between my fender a fork and
locked up the front wheel, I knew I was going down when my front wheel
started skidding. Oh I tried to keep the bike upright but I couldn't
and down I went, I landed so hard I though I may have broke my collar bone
but luck would have it and all I did was bruise my palm and my pride.
I just don't have the rhythm.
We arrived at the campground at Curio Bay just in time to put up the tent
before it started to rain. The hector dolphins were out in the
afternoon, the campsite at Curio bay may be one of my favorites in all of
New Zealand, the camp itself is very basic, I would love to know the history
behind the murals on the water tanks, the showers are hot, the kitchen tiny
but we met all kinds of people there and there is an outdoor covered area
that has very stunning views of porpoise bay. just lovely, so nice we
decided to stay and extra day, we are not in a rush to get out on the roads
during this Easter weekend.
March 22 Curio Bay. I waited all day to see a dolphin but they
just didn't arrive, but a walk on the beach and we found a fur sea hidden in
a bed of seaweed, a very cute and sleepy creature. Back at camp we
gazed out at the sea all day and when we went to the kitchen to make dinner
we met Robbie from Portland. He said I looked oddly familiar and then
he asked us if we wrote a book about our travels and the connection was
made. We told him about the porpoise bay and the dolphin and we asked him if
he wanted to see the yellow eyed penguin and off we went to the viewing
area. Tim had camera in hand and true to his nature took some
spectacular footage of the penguins which are quite large. Back at the
kitchen Rob made an interesting dish I have named Robaroni and it consists
of rice peanut butter and tuna. Rob is traveling a tad faster, ok
twice as fast, as we are and I can see the joy of riding in his eyes, some
people just love the open road and turning the pedals and Rob is one of
them. He is off to Thailand soon to teach English and continue his
travels, he plans to teach then travel. All this while paying off a student
March 23 Curio Bay to Caberfeidh 54 km. A bit of a hilly day and I
feel like I am on the verge of getting out of shape, it happens when we stop
so much but it is a necessary evil at this point. Stopped at a road and went
up and found a corral and set up the tent, the farmer came by later and
visited with us and said we were welcome to camp in his paddock and we were
lucky we were not there in the morning because the cows were going through.
March 24 Caberfeidh to Nugget point 44 km A trip that was
well worth it.
March 25 Nugget Point to Lake Waihola 72 km I was lucky to see a
pair of yellow eyed penguins leave their nest and go out to sea this morning, the whole
thing was beautiful to watch, I was in awe the entire time.
March 26 Lake Waihola to Dunedin 49 km. We may not have had far to
go today but the hills were relentless, I heard stories of the hills around
Dunedin and they are all true it is hilly. The first hill was really
long 7 km and an hour later we were at the top and flying down the other
side. The other side was steep as well with a few ally oops, we flew
down one side and up and over a short hill, who hooo I love it when I don't
have to pedal over a hill. Thanks Tim for pulling me over. We
stopped at a beach for lunch, it was low tide, I picked a few mussels and
had them for lunch. Awesome.
We had a nice leisurely ride along the beach through the town of Brighton
and into Dunedin. We came to an intersection where we could have gone to
Green Island or follow the scenic road towards Blackhead. We chose the
scenic road and had a nice ride over the hill past a coal mine and then we
looked up the road and Tim and I both thought we were looking at a phone
pole is that a pole, holly sh** it is the road. Not kidding, luckily
it wasn't straight up just up and short relief in grade and then a steep
section again. In our wisdom we had lost the detailed map of Dunedin
so we were riding blind. We continued to follow the scenic road until
we came to a garage and asked direction. Easy, we turned right went to
the bottom of the hill and followed the signs for bikes to Dunedin and we
were in town pronto. Hardly any traffic at all. Nice. We are
staying at the Manor House a youth hostel that allows camping. Ok there are
three sites but hey it works.
March 27 - April 1, Dunedin - Working on taxes, hey check out that
rebate. We leave when the taxes are done.
April 2 Dunedin to near Clarks Junction 42 km. With taxes
done we are ready to get back on the road again. We didn't do much in
Dunedin but we did take the opportunity to see Greenpeace's ship called the
Rainbow Warrior while it was in port. Once again we had a late start to the
day and we decided to ride through Dunedin to Mosgiel through town and we
found it not too bad the bike route is signed well, the hills not as extreme
as we the ones we rode in on and traffic was not bad. It was a cold
morning and it didn't get very warm. We had a headwind out to Outram
and on the way we saw a familiar building from a photo in our cycling New
Zealand book, it was an old bike shop and the sign is still there.
Then we hit the hill and it was a grid up the hill with all our food I
loaded on board. We stopped a couple of hours before sunset and set up
our tent near a paddock.
April 3 Clarks Junction to Middlemarch 42 km In the morning
we took our time packing and watched a local farmer muster (herding) sheep
in the paddock. Then we met the farmer when he came through the gate
near our tent. Time and time again the local farmers have been really
friendly and we chatted with him as we packed our tent. Tim always
clarifies that it was ok to camp and yes it was. We have talked to
farmers all over New Zealand and they are fine with camping, Brad
recommended we didn't camp in a paddock with cows because well they can be
nosey and check out our tent.
We set off and not far down the road was the Clark Junction Hotel and
tavern, we could have camped in the front yard there too. The hills
were demanding again, down two and up three hills. When we arrived in
Middlemarch we were going to take a break and then ride on. After
looking at the map we decided to stay in Middlemarch.
April 4 Middlemarch to Ranfurly 62 km. A huge storm came in over
night and we had a spectacular sunrise, ut oh that means a storm is coming
and watching the news last night it looked like a big one. We decided
to push on down the rail trail. It has an excellent map with all the stops
labeled, towns labeled with amenities and what to see along the way. I
am really impressed with the condition of the trail, a gravel surface with
two tracks one going up and one going down. The bridges on this
section were lovely, well made and easy to ride across.
We stopped at Daisybank informal camp site and really debated whether to
stop or not, it was a nice spot with a toilet, out of the wind and 37 km
from Middlemarch. In the end we decided to push on, we were concerned
with the weather and did not want to get caught in the middle of no where in
a rain storm. We pushed on and road into Ranfurly against a wicked
head wind, time and time again I have to thank Tim for taking the lead and
breaking the wind. I tried 4 times to come around him and finally on
the forth try I got around and the wind was brutal. We were more than
happy to get to Ranfurly find the motor camp and get the tent up minutes
before it started to rain.
Even though it was a tough ride into the wind it was a joy to see so many
people riding a bike and enjoying it, the people coming towards us were
going down hill and had a tailwind, what more could you ask for. My
favorite part of the ride today was between Hyde through the Price Creek
Tunnel ( a little too long) to Waipiata. A really unique way to see
April 5 Ranfurly to Omakau 58 km Ah no wind today and only
about 20 km to the top and then down the other side. Wedderburn was a
cute place with a few cabins for cyclists set up near the rail trail. We
were close to Naseby a town with an indoor curling rink. Looks like a
bundle of fun. We stopped in Oturehua for a break, on the way off the
trail a guy asked us if we had a pump and Tim pumped up his rather low
tires, then we checked a couple other peoples tire pressure and Tim was
pumping again, No worries, we want every one to have a good time and Tim has
pumped so many tires what are a few more among friends :).
At the grocery store we met a few more cyclists and enjoyed the
atmosphere. I could do a few more of these trails. My favorite
part of the day was yet to come, the Pool burn tunnels, the landscape in the
area reminded me of Arizona, dry with a creek and riparian area. I was
feeling a bit homesick and it will be good to get back there this year.
We decided to stay in the cute town of Omakau for the night and just missed
a rugby game at the council camp ground. This town has a nice feeling
and would be nice to wander around and take a look at Ophir a nearby gold
mining ghost town.
We met up with the same cyclists that started the trail with us, I am
impressed, they are over 60 and moving along just fine.
April 6 Omakau to Alexandra 38 km A short day but oh so fun, it is
days like this that I really enjoy riding, sunny, no wind, a trail to
follow. We climbed for a short distance then we started a down hill, not
steep but really long, I was having so much fun I was yelling choo choo like
the original train must have sounded,
around all the corners. The trail made a S-curve and we flew down the
trail at 30 km an hour (18 mph) choo choo. Again the trail was full of
cyclists and a lot of fun. I would recommend this trail to any family
wanting to get a taste of what bicycle touring is all about.
We met a group of cyclists in their 60s that was taking 6 days to do the trail and check out all the
sights along the way, a nice way to do the trail and not over do it.
Unfortunately I did see a few cyclists who rode farther than they should
It is time for a day off in Alexandra, we looked for internet every where
and all we could find was an internet kiosk where you put in $2 coins for 15
minutes on the internet, later we would find a cafe that had wireless
internet, we paid $10 for an hour with a 100 megabit download limit, agghhh what a pain.
Alexandra April 7 and 8. We stayed for a rest day, did some
internet and unfortunately the day we planned to leave we found a virus on
our computer. Tim wanted to remedy the problem before we left and I agreed
we should stay another day and fix the computer. We spent the day scanning
for viruses and repairing the problem. What a time consuming procedure.
April 9 Alexandra to campsite north of Cromwell 60 km I
called my little sister Denise for her birthday and it was oh so nice to
talk to her. She was happy to hear that we plan to return to the
states and do some touring there and I would eventually come for a visit.
Since my older sister passed away so suddenly last August my family have all
made a huge effort to call and keep in touch with each other. I find
it very comforting to talk with any member of my family, I still really
really miss Debbie and my only regret is not calling and visiting her more
often. Since there is nothing I can do about that now I have become
determined not to make the same mistake again with my remaining family.
We set out from Alexandra with a casual attitude and stopped in at Clyde
and Cromwell to visit the historic centers. If you do not mind chilly
temperatures at night this is a great time of year to tour New Zealand,
there are less tourists on the road and the weather this year has been
stunning. Sunny days with not wind, what more could I ask for.
We rode north out of Cromwell until we reached a rest area with a toilet and
camped for the night.
April 10 Freedom camp to camp near Linders Pass 69 km The could
not have been more beautiful, nice weather and a tailwind. We stopped
at Totra home of Shrek the merino sheep. Shrek has an interesting
story, he wandered around the Bendigo Station for six years and had grown
quite a wooly coat, so much that he couldn't see. He is a great
survival story and a big hit in NZ, now he lives the good life and tours
children's hospitals raising money for charity. For some reason I just
love this story.
We climbed steadily and near the top of Linders Pass we stopped to camp.
It was cold at night but oh the stars were stunning.
April 11 Camp near Linders pass to Twizel 68 km. We expected
to cruise down from Linders pass but luck would have it that we had a head
wind. We met a Canadian couple at the top and rode with them for a while and
we camped together in Twizel. The summer season is coming to an end
and things are quieting down.
April 12 - 23 Twizel We decided to stay in Twizel and work on the
book, I worked on the layout while Tim finalized the text. Sadly our
NZ trip is coming to an end and none too soon because while we were here it
was below freezing on three evenings. Those Antarctic winds come up
fast and flash freeze the whole area.
April 24 Twizel to near Lake Tekapo 53 km On the road again, I
love riding but the first day or two after taking a lot of time off is
awful, we really need to get our book done so we can stay in shape and not
stop so much. We road the canal on the way to Lake Tekapo and found a
great campsite before town. In the morning we saw
geese flying north, and this is our clue to follow them.
April 25 Lake Tekapo to Fairlie 47 km It was a short day because I
wasn't feeling well so when we rolled into Fairlie I didn't really want to
go much further. The motor camp near the bridge had free wifi,
awesome, it wasn't super fast but it worked for us.
April 26 Fairlie to Arundel 61 km
April 27 Arundel to Rakaria Gorge 69 km
April 28 Rakaria Gorge to Riccarton 85 km
April 29 Riccarton to Shirley 15 km
April 30 to May 2 Shirley. We stayed with Jeff in Christchurch
(Shirley), he is a bee keeper and he introduced us to bees. I use to
be frightened of bees but after learning more about them I find them
fascinating and I am now calmer around our buzzing friends.
Changes when going to Alaska
Caught flight to Anchorage and my sister picked us up and we stayed in
Valdez. We were there for just about two months and in that time we
finished out second book. We are now on the road from Valdez, Alaska
to Tucson, Arizona. See my Alaska journal for updates.
Late Autumn to Late Spring, Longer day although the temperatures are
about the same as here, change the side of the road from left to right,
change currency and we don't need a visa, yeah, there is no queen in Alaska,
southern cross changes to the big dipper, the sun will be in the southern
sky in Alaska while here in New Zealand it is in the northern sky, the light
switches are different down is on in NZ and Up is on in Alaska, the current
changes to 110 volts from 220 v, different plugs and Tim will be happy about
that, our plug adaptors are shot. Our measurements are going to change from
kilometers to miles, kilos to pounds, meters to feet, and Celsius to
Fahrenheit, I am not looking forward to these changes.
Read all of Cindie's Alaska Journal Here
See index of
all (several years) Cindie's Journals here