6th February 2004

At the coast was a town called Hokitika where we stopped briefly to stock up on food before battling for the first time into a head wind to lake Ianthe. David caught a fish but it was only a perch so it went back.

This coastal road attracts many cyclists touring New Zealand and as in other places we meet the same ones several times over during the trip. So far, we have found the cycling easier in the south island than in the north and this has been confirmed by other cyclists. Generally, there is a shortage of flat roads in the north and we were either climbing for a mile or so, or descending. In the south island, although the mountains are higher, the roads, as in Scotland, tend to go round them rather than over them. The steepest climb so far has been about 1 in 7 unlike the 1 in 4's encounted in England.

The next couple of days was easy cycling along the coast road and camping in small lakeside or coastal sites. When the rain started to fall continuously we were fortunately at a place called Hari-hari and dived into a cafe immediately opposite a motel. When it was obvious that the rain was not going to stop we dived into the motel, checked in, and spent the rest of the day laying on the bed watching the tele and the rain through the window.

Very refreshed and in warm sunshine we set off the next morning towards the glacier tourist area of Franz Joseph and Fox. After an overnight camp by Lake Maponika and cycling through rain forest we arrived at the very touristy Franz Joseph. Helicopters and light aircraft buzzed overhead all the time taking people to see the glaciers which are advertised as situated in serene wilderness! Anybody can get to the glacier with a 20 min walk but some prefer to pay 50 pounds to fly.

There are large old trees in this area and until recently there was one of 1500 years old, the oldest in New Zealand. But, you will never believe this, it was cut down by mistake!

As the western road ended just past Haast we turned inland to climb a 2000ft pass which was OK until the final half mile which was steep and has just been surfaced with fresh gravel. We were forced to walk this bit due to wheel slip.

Camped again by a lake and still caught no trout. The notice says that the catch limit is three trout and one salmon. David reckons this is because that is all that was put in and these have already been caught.

We had heard of a one legged cyclist touring NZ and then we met him. He was from Scotland and had a leg amputated just below the knee so although difficult, he was not actually pedalling with one leg as we had imagined.

Carried on through Wanaka, a tourist town, and on to Cromwell. After 20 miles of riding in the rain towards Cromwell, we were soaking wet and 2 miles from town when Joans rear tyre exploded. As we were so near to town, Joan road Davids bike towards town to get a new tyre while David started to walk in with her bike. In a short while, two men in a pick-up collected first David then Joan and delivered us both outside a bike shop. These NZ people are very friendly and helpful especially these two who were actually going in the opposite direction when they saw us!

Some cyclists had told us about a 100 mile cycle path made from old railway track which partly went in the direction we intended. We joined it just past Alexandra and stayed on it for about 50 miles to Hyde. On the way it passed through deep gorges and countryside not seen from the road. Also on the route was a small town called Ranfurly which had lots of art-deco style houses. It was built during the gold rush years.

At Hyde, we left the track to cross the mountains via Macraes Flat, locally known as the pig-route but we never found out why. macraes is the site of a still working very large open cast gold mine where they are moving a mountain from one place to another after extracting the gold. It is a huge scar on the landscape but employs many local people.

The west coast has had a drought for months now, but as soon we got there it poured with rain. The expected camp-site at Palmeston closed ages ago and the next one was 25km up the road. As it was pouring we stayed in a pub hotel overnight.
A short ride the next day to a small seaside fishing town of Moeraki where we only intended to pause, but as it again poured with rain it became another overnight stop. here, David again tried sea fishing from the rocks and again, much to his annoyance hooked a very large fish which came close enough for him to see, but as soon as it saw him it took off and snapped his 12 pound line. If landed, we could have fed the whole camp site. David says he will now go to 25 pound line for sea fishing. By the way, he caught three other small fish which were similar to our dogfish, but they went back.

Our plan was to ride to Christchurch and then rent a car for the rest of the trip. The next day we continued to ride against the wind, in the rain over uninspiring country side to Omaru and decided to catch a bus the rest of the way to Christchurch which we did the next morning. Even the bus ride was in the rain, against the wind aling boring roads so we didn't feel so bad.

Booked a car from "rent-a-wreck", and it was. After one hour, the drivers electric window mechanism decided to fall to pieces and back it went to be exchanged for another which although grubby, seemed to work ok. It was a Nissan four door, 2 litre automatic which orignally was a luxury car but had seen better days. Still, for ten pounds a day all in and free AA Recovery it wasn't so bad.

After a phone call to macPac, our tent makers in Christchurch, we dropped in on them to show them a three year old tent which had been used at least 500 times. They said they could refurbish it overnight if we could spare it. "How much?" we said. "Nothing" they said. "ok" we said. "See you tomorrow".


Dave and Joan