Monday, 17 November 2014

17/11/2014 Mavora Lakes to Tuatapere

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17/11/2014 Mavora Lakes to Tuatapere
The wind had died off overnight and the sun was out but it was still bitterly cold when we packed the tent away. In the full light of day it was sad to see what an awful mess had become of our shoes after melting them against the fire bucket, still they were just about usable and only had to survive for a few days.
What there was of the wind was now in our favour and with a slight descent all day we made rapid progress. We had thought of stopping or at least stocking up at Manapouri
but as progress seemed so good we decided to push on and try for Tuatapere. The only problem was that we had already run out of food and were not sure if there were any shops on the 120 kms trip to Tuatapere. There weren't.

Fortunately the tailwind picked up and there was only one significant hill which we soon knocked off allowing us to get into Tuatapere in time to raid our usual food supplier Four Square. The backpackers motel was only $65 so as is our policy, if you save some on the accommodation you can spend it on the food , which in reality meant home made chicken curry with a pack of olives as a treat.

16/11/2014 Queenstown to Mavora Lakes

2014-11-16 click for more photo's
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16/11/2014 Queenstown to Mavora lake via steamboat Earnshaw
Another beautiful day and a wonderful trip on a steamboat for starters from Queenstown across lake Wakatipu. Much better then anticipated. It really was a different experience than travelling on a regular ferry. It was great to see the steam engine in action with the stoker shovelling coal onto the fire and going round with a little oilcan. Once we arrived in Walter Peak station we soon left the tourists behind and slowly climbed our way up to 750 meters. The scenery was stunning and the fierce head wind made sure that we cycled through at a very slow pace giving us plenty of time to enjoy.This was one of the best days so far for stunning views combined with total isolation and reminded us of the big vast openness of South America.

We soon decided to camp up at Mavora Lakes and make it a short riding distance having only started cycling when disembarking at 11 am. Pushing on in that headwind to Te Anau would have been too punishing to be enjoyable. As seems to be the way the DOC campsite had a wood burning stove and Malcolm quickly got it going. It seemed like a good ides to dry off our socks and shoes which got wet on both river crossings. No falling in this time but the water was just too deep to keep cycle. Little did we realise how hot the back of the stove was! We managed to melt the heels and buckles of our shoes and burn the socks. Luckily the shoes still just about function, they just look very weird.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

15/11/2014 Wanaka to Queenstown

2014-11-15 The Crown Range.
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15/11/2014 Wanaka to Queenstown

Once again we awoke expecting heavy rain only to find a perfectly sunny day. Quick, let's go.
Overnight it had snowed on the peaks which looked like fairy cakes with a sugar sprinkling. Todays' climb was a biggie of 800m but spread out over 40 kms. The weather remained good and the climbing was comfortable although the last 3kms had a bit of a sting in the tail and made the arrival at the top a sweaty affair but with a gale force wind and a few snowflakes it was time for a quick change into coats and over trousers. From the top there were fantastic views of the peaks of The Remarkables and down the valley to the SW Queenstown could be seen, albeit 25 kms away. The descent was completely exposed to the full force of the gale force SW wind which made it difficult to keep the bikes in a straight line and the speed had to be kept down.
We had time on our hands and decided to follow the trails into Queenstown, again all very beautiful along rivers and through the forests. On the final 10 kms into goal we found ourselves on an isolated track well away from a road and came upon a sign abruptly announcing that the track was closed. We could go back but decided that the sign didn't really apply to us and pushed on. 1 km further on the track it became obvious why the track was closed as it had fallen into the river. We managed to negotiate the slip but had to take the bags off and breathe in to negotiate what was left of the track.
Queenstown is a lively tourist town with lots of thing to do for adrenalin junkies but after a full days cycling all we usually want to do is, find a room, get some food and drink and refill/recharge. There are loads of mtb's here. Like in the French Alps you can use the tele cabin to get your bike to the top of the mountain so you can then enjoy the downhill without having to slog up the hill. Will have to come back to check it out!
Trickier and steeper than it looks but explains " track closed "

Thursday, 13 November 2014

14/11/2014 Makarora to Wanaka

2014-11-14 click for more photo's
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14/11/2014 Makarora to Wanaka
Another beautiful day riding and yet again we had wonderful sunshine. The views were truly breathtaking and thankfully there were not quite so many camper vans on the road. It wasn't a difficult ride but it took us forever because we kept stopping to take in the views. Miles and miles of lakeside riding with snowcapped mountains all around.
Unfortunately we missed the beginning of the off road track in Lake Hawea but managed to pick it up later on. It was a lovely single track trail which took us all the way round the lake before heading for the centre of town. Well worth the detour. Once we were settled in the hostel we paid a visit to the local supermarket. We were spoiled for choice after quite a few sparse shopping days and had ourselves a real feast.

Saw some sheep today. Where are they all? I thought NZ was full of them. We have seen field after field with young calves instead. Another thing we noted is that you see more little planes and helicopters than buses on the west coast and it has been days since I last saw a lorry.
The lupins smelt gloreous.

13/11/2014 Haast Township to Makarora

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13/11/2014 Haast Township to Makarora
We awoke to blue skies and a cold wind which despite a complete change of direction for the day was once again head-on. The expected prevailing wind would have been on our backs so we felt sightly cheated but most people do today’s route in cloud and rain and we had perfect sunshine all day so we didn't mind the wind too much.
The first 45 kms were a gentle ride along the valley floor but when the gradient changed it was brutal and sustained. We had agreed to break the climb up into a 300m and 200m section with a drink stop at the side of the road in between and in this way the climb wasn't too bad. In the Kennett book the ride from the summit to Makarora is described as 20 kms of freewheeling downhill. Unfortunately for us the headwind turned this into a slog. All in all it was a beautiful day riding with not too much traffic either. I wonder what it would be like in high season though since the traffic nearly solely consists of hire camper vans.

We did stop to look at the roadside maps of the Gillespie track which we may well do later as a tramp with Janneke and Simon. The river crossing we would have to make to start the route looked pretty wide and deep,hopefully the river level will fall in the next 2 weeks.
Makarora was pretty small with one garage with a shop and cafe attached and we regretted not having stocked up in Haast. Having said that, we had an amazing meal sitting outside in the sun in the café. Served by a very helpful and friendly barmaid.
Worth repeating.
Tutunmarjet in her Pyramid

12/11/2014 Fox Glacier to Haast Township

2014-11-12 click for more photo's
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12/11/2014 Fox Glacier – Haast Township
We woke up to freshly fallen snow on the mountain. The sky was blue and the sun was out. A helicopter whirring overhead was taking people up for a very scenic flight I guess. Unfortunately the Department of Conservation had not reopened the glacier viewpoint because of swollen rivers. We will have to save the glaciers for another time! The photo's really don't seem to do the scenery justice. We made very good progress and after some 40 km's came upon a gorgeous beach (Bruce Bay) where we ate some lunch. It is quite amazing that you can sit on the beach and have snowcapped mountains just behind you. We were rewarded with more stunning views and another lovely beach at Ships Cove. All in all an excellent day in which we ticked off another 120 odd km's with only one brief shower. Even more so since the forecast had not been good and everyone appears so pessimistic about the We(s)t coast. You have to admit 5m of rainfall per year does seem quite a lot but the optimists claim it falls mostly at night and today they appeared to be right.
Gave the whitebait patty another go tonight but still not very impressed. I prefer the way they are cooked in the UK. I do however really really like the greenshell mussels. They are huge and in many places you can buy them fresh by the kilo or failing that you can always buy them ready shelled in a vinaigrette au naturel, wood smoked or in garlic. Delicious you just have to remember not to look at what you are eating.

Monday, 10 November 2014

1111/2014 Franz Josef Glacier to Fox Glacier

2014-11-11 click for more photo's
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11/11/2014 Franz Josef - Fox township
Well it worked out differently than planned. We woke up late to blue skies and bright sunshine. Unheard of on the Wet coast ( no spelling mistake, this is how the locals seem to refer to it) and when the guys in the office suggested strongly that we should go while the going was good we quickly decamped. It had been nice thinking we we where going to stay in the same place for two nights and setting up home! But off we went into the sunshine. It lasted for about 20 minutes before the clouds came down and soon we were drenched in a hailstorm with loud thunder all around us. Oh joy. I was all for going back, I'm not much of a fan of thunder but Malc wisely said we were wet anyway and might as well carry on. To be honest it wasn't far and we managed to find a hostel that was prepared to let us leave our 
belongings while we set off on our bikes to find the perfect reflection of Mount Cook   and Tasman in Matheson lake as celebrated on every calendar and chocolate box in NZ. Of course it wasn't quite like that in reality. We found lots of clouds and rain on and of. Having said that, it was still a beautiful walk and well worth it. As a cyclist you get a bit obsessed with the weather and you know what it doesn't matter too much. You just make the most of what's on offer and in NZ that's pretty good.

This is what is should look like
This is our version. What's wrong with a few clouds.