Tuesday, 18 November 2014

19/11/2014 Invercargill to Bluff and back

2014-11-19 click for more photo's
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19/11/2014 Invercargill to Bluff and back.
Job Done !
Torrential rain overnight continued through until the morning and we vainly waited before setting off, hoping that it would improve. 30 kms to Bluff and 30 kms back was all that was needed to complete the Tip to Tip NZ trip but the conditions were so foul that we were momentarily tempted to not go. It has to be said that this final day was probably the very worst in terms of the cycling. Hail stinging our faces, busy roads and strong head winds. We saw more lorries today then in the last three weeks all together and not many gave us any space so we were repeatedly thrown of course. Not a good feeling! The weather cleared just long enough to take some pictures at our final destination before we turned round to go back to Invercargill.
Mission accomplished.

We are now going to be proper tourists for a few weeks before returning home to the UK. We both felt a bit sad that the cycling was finished. It was wonderful.
Approaching Bluff

18/11/2014 Tuatapere to Invercargill

2014-11-18 click for more photo's
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18/11/2014 Tuatapere to Invercargill
How many time have we shopped in  a Four Square ?!
Blue skies, a gently rolling landscape reminiscent of Devon and a strong tailwind made the cycling both easy and beautiful. After 7 kms we reached the South coast. Stewart Island could be seen to our SW but directly South there was nothing until Antartica. We stopped for brunch at the last beach before leaving the coast again, sheltering behind the coastal defences from the wind. The 85 kms to Invercargill flew by as the tailwind picked up. We later heard that the gusts had gone up to 118 kms/hr.

It's always a nice feeling to get in ahead of time and just before the weather breaks which it did. Tomorrow should be the last day cycling so we spent the evening ringing NZ friends and making arrangements to meet up with them although arranging car hire proved to be difficult and we elected to get the bus to Dunedin two days hence instead.

Next land Antartica.

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.
Oops!


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.

10/11/2014 Hari Hari to Franz Josef Glacier

2014-11-10 click for more photo's
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10/11/2014 Harhari to Franz Josef
We had a meal in the hotel bar last night and in my wisdom I choose the whitebait patties. It was after all the last week of the whitebait fishing season and I like whitebait. Mostly fish meals have been excellent even in takeaways with lovely fresh fish and huge portions. Not this time I got a very overcooked omelette with some crunchy bits in it. Those of you who know me know how much I like my food so this was a serious setback!

We were expecting wet weather so were quite relieved to see a bright sky. Neither of us was too keen to stay another night in the hotel and had expected to be sitting the day out due to the predicted bad weather and were surprised to have good weather for cycling and made the plan to aim for Whataroa or further if the weather held. Which it did fortunately and we made it to Franz Josef in the dry before the weather exploded from dry to monsoon.

Anyway the ride was very straight forward and not taxing at all. It was a bit of a shame that we didn't get good views because the mountain tops where all in cloud but hey ho we were dry and it was plenty warm enough to stop for some lunch along the way. As per usual we headed for the I site in Franz Josef to search out the best value place to stay. We were directed to the Glow Worm , a lovely friendly hostel with free hot tub, free popcorn, free evening soup and free breakfast. We delighted in listening to the absolute downpour throughout the rest of the afternoon and night. Fully intending to stay another day to let the bad weather pass and visit the local hot springs and wildlife centre where we would have the chance to finally see a kiwi (the bird varity). 
Power food


Reminded me of Chris and Sue

Saturday, 8 November 2014

09/11/2014 Hokitika - Hari Hari

2014-11-09 click for more photo's
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09/11/2014 Hokitika to Hari Hari
After several long days today would be a  shorter one  as a spell of bad weather was due to roll in from the afternoon for 2-3 days. Another beautiful track to start the day along an old timber tramway added a few kms but kept us of the highway. The mostly hidden sleepers gave us plenty of bumps. Once in Ross we found ourselves with time to spare and stopped in a cafe for coffee and full breakfast. The owner seemed to take pity on us and served the one meal on two plates with enough for two. Sometimes cyclists do get preferential treatment it seems. We finally met and spoke to another cycle tourer who was doing a small loop of middle South Island. He was from Peru and we swapped stories of New Zealand and South America touring. It seemed odd to recommend where he should travel in Peru as he hadn't travelled through a lot of the areas we had been through.
The motel in Hari Hari was closed for refurbishing but fortunately there was a hotel but at £55 it was more than we would have normally spent,little choice though. There was only one shop in Hari Hari which was part of the cafe and inevitably prices were high and stock limited. Frozen bread again. 
Should be a good fire tonight

08/10/2014 Greymouth - Hokitika

2014-11-08 click for more photo's
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08/11/2014 Greymouth to Hokitika
How to fall off
It's always hard to make the journey longer when you're on a long distance route but today was a case in hand where it was worthwhile. Hokitika was 40 kms on the highway or 100kms via cycle and tramping tracks following the West Coast Wilderness Trail, which is what we chose. The trail was graded as easy and as it was a Saturday with sunshine we came upon several other cyclists for a change. So much time effort and money has been invested in developing these tracks which are so much fun and always very beautiful. The day started by hugging the coastline before heading inland and looping back to the coast at Hokitika. Lots of single track, lots of North Shore, lots of switchbacks and inevitably swing bridges. The highlight for Marjet was watching Malc tackle a steep in and steep out river crossing and then falling into the ferns on the way up in a too hard gear, 5 minutes later an almost identical river crossing presented itself, a quick change into the easiest gear, go for it, legs spinning madly, bugger, the chain comes off mid stream and Malc falls off in the middle, filling one pannier with water and getting a good soaking. One of us thought this was hilarious the other didn't.
A day we would definitely repeat given the chance except for the awful Thai Takeway in Hokitika. 
Too much coffee again

07/11/2014 Springs Juction - Greymouth

2014-11-07 click for more photo's 
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07/11/2014 Springs Junction to Greymouth
A cold night with a frosty start. The road was quiet but went immediately into a 9km climb which soon got us sweating despite the cold. The Kennett brothers book described this section as amongst the best on the planet and with an abundance of snow capped mountains, babbling streams with waterfalls galore and a gentle long descent through 40 km's of beech forest it was hard to disagree. The NZ beech doesn't look anything like it's European namesake though. I guess cycling at this time of year in NZ means that it often is still quite cold and wet but you do still get snow on lots of mountain tops which does give that extra sparkle.
At Reefton we turned 90º to the SW and the gentle wind became a headwind which slowly picked up as we made our way to the West coast and Greymouth. I was very grateful to tuck in behind Malc and let him catch the worse of the wind. The scenic back road to Blackball was really pretty. There were some beautiful river crossings.
With tiring legs and a fair way to go there was only one thing to do to power up. Headphones on and Alabama 3 for Malc, Idiot Wind and The Tallest Man on Earth for Marjet.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

06/11/2014 St Arnaud - Springs Junction

2014-11-06 click for more photo's
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06/11/2014 St Arnaud to Springs Junction
Wall to wall sunshine at the start of the day was misleading as the temperatures was freezing with the wind from the South. The first 60kms to Murchison were relatively easy despite the gentle headwind and by midday we were stocking up in preparation for a wild camp if we couldn't reach our destination of Maruia. Feeling very reassured to have a warm sleeping bag thanks to Simon.
Turning South in Murchison the road turned unexpectedly into a gravel track after only 5kms. Worse still the surface had just been graded and was slow and slippery. Fortunately after another 5kms we met and passed the grading machine, after which the surface was hard mud and easier. The views and scenery had been stunning all day but the climb over Maruia saddle was fantastic cycling with several river crossings requiring confidence and a good line to get through without falling off. We only failed once (actually only I (Marjet ) messed up.) and had to wade through the water meaning the rest of the ride would be with wet shoes and socks.
We realised that we would be able to reach Maruia and the comfort of a motel and made rapid progress when we reached the sealed road again.
Having already done a difficult  120 kms to goal and feeling tired we were more than a bit disappointed to be unable to get hold of the owner of the motel and were faced with the prospect of camping or pushing onto Springs Junction. We chose the latter and just stayed ahead of the rain for the final 20kms which were in fact pretty easy. 140kms and 10 hrs but another great day.
This time I made it


05/11/2014 Nelson - St Arnaud

2014-11-05
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05/11/2014 Nelson - St Arnaud
I felt a little sad as we cycled out of Nelson. We had such lovely days with Simon and Janneke. It was like having a bit of 'home time'. But at least we would be seeing them again soon. As it happens we saw Simon again very soon! Luckily Simon found Malcolm's sleeping bag lurking under the bed some three hours after we left. Despite a very iffy phone reception Simon managed to relay a message to us and he promptly set off in hot pursuit after us. What a hero, Malc would have been very cold without it.
The ride to Wakefield was all at sea level and the the climb over Reays Saddle (429m) and Kerr Hill (632m) pretty straightforward. What we hadn't anticipated was a continuing undulating road into a cold head wind with a total ascent over 1400 m. After the days of indulgence in Nelson today’s ride was a bit of a shock to the system. We did manage to take a stroll to have a look at lake Rotoiti (Nelsons Lakes). Very beautiful in the early evening sun and surrounded by high mountains. Other guests in the Lodge had been out walking in this Alpine countryside.

We managed to buy some very basic supplies (eggs and a frozen loaf of bread)in the local shop and retired early for some much needed sleep.

03/11/2014 and 04/11/2014 More fun time in Nelson

2014-11-04 click for more photo's
03/11/2014 and 04/11/2014 More fun time in Nelson
Our guest editor might write another blog. In the meantime I've  just posted some  pictures.

2014-11-03 click for more photo's
2014-11-02 click for more photo's



Cable Bay Nelson with Janneke and Simon

Malc and Janneke on the beach in Nelson

Janneke kite surfing Nelson

Late again to the party!
This is the retrospective post for the other days in Nelson.
Took Mum and Dad on the Cable Bay walk with some beautiful sea views, forest tracks and hill tops which Mum has already posted photos of. Unfortunately Simon was then off to work, but we didn’t miss him! ;-)
 Dad did get out kitesurfing in the channel but, (in what I believe may be a ‘first’ in his lifetime) declared that it wasn’t safe enough for Mum and I as the current is so strong that if you fall off you’re toast.
 However, better weather with sun and good winds the next day, so Mum and I had some successful Kite surfing at the proper beach which was good fun and very satisfying (although I was pretty strongly hoping that I wouldn’t see anyone I know when Mum and I had to do the wetsuit swap at the shore line, freezing in our undies!)
 Had a nice fancy meal out on the last night then Mum and Dad off in the morning and me trudging out to work! 
Janneke x