South Island, New Zealand: More Utes, Mullets, Vaping and Kiwi Kindness
Well that month really flew by! Sorry friends, we didn't take much time off on the South Island and the few days we did, my book took precedence. The great news? My book, Joy Ride: A Bike Odyssey from Alaska to Argentina, is now available for pre-order at bookstores and Amazon! Finally!! Order it now and it will ship May 2nd. If you want a signed copy, come to the book launch: May 12th at 7pm at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Oregon. If you plan to attend, please purchase your book there at Powell's (there will be plenty of books!) and I will sign your copy there. Should be a fun party! If you can't attend, stay tuned, Ville and I hit the road this summer for a book tour through the U.S. and will be traveling to a city near you...(Sign up to stay updated)
Now, on with the show...We left off together in Whanganui, up on the North Island. Although it was only 120 miles to Wellington on the highway, we opted for backroads and farm roads which added a substantial amount of riding. We rode northeast through the large city, Palmerston North. Climbed a steep, busy highway south out of town, onto gravel, farm roads. Occasionally we had to be on highways and that was always horrible. Shoulderless roads with aggressive drivers running us off the road. We rode through Masterton, stopping only for lunch, and continued on backroads through beautiful wine-country, passing Gladstone, Longbush, Hinakura and into Martinborough. Bustling with holiday travelers, Martinborough, was a cute, little town with a park in the center and a decent campground. At a cafe the next morning we met Andrea, who invited us to visit her family once we arrived in Nelson on the South Island.
From Martinborough, we climbed up through Featherston where we joined the Remutaka Rail Trail and climbed through the Kaitoke Regional Park. It was spectacular! The sun peeked out between rainstorms, the grade was manageable, trail was rideable and we met cyclists along the way. We arrived in Lower Hutt (just north of Wellington) on Christmas Day and were welcomed into our friend Izzy's house. We had met Izzy cycling in the north part of the North Island and she invited us to spend Christmas with her at her Dad's house. Beau, his wife and three kids took us with them to church and afterwards we feasted on Burmese food with their friends. Thank you so much for making us feel so welcomed everyone!
From there we rode bike trails into downtown Wellington, where we splurged on a hotel for my birthday and New Years. We ate Japanese, Indian and Thai food. We rode bikes around the city's waterfront. And we went bowling with Izzy and her boyfriend, Justin. Thanks Izzy for the tasty chocolate cake! And on Jan. 2nd, we took the ferry to the South Island, arriving at the campground in Picton just before dark. The next morning, we met up with Justin and took a water taxi north to Punga Cove, with the plan to ride the Queen Charlotte Track together. Because I agreed to keep up on edits for publishing my book, as well as a Blog while cycling New Zealand, carrying a laptop has made packing light an impossibility and therefore many of the "hike a bike" tracks in NZ less than fun. The Queen Charlotte Track was one of these "less than fun" tracks. So after pushing bikes up a steep trail to the saddle, Ville and I opted to drop down to the north side of the peninsula and ride the Kenepuru Road all the way to Linkwater, where it meets up with Queen Charlotte Drive (T.A. Trail) and Justin took the crest trail along the peninsula arriving in Nelson a day behind us. From Linkwater, we rode through Havelock to the Pelorus Bridge, where we took a dip in the Te Hoiere River before taking the Maungatapu Track into Nelson. Although the sign said the track was "closed" we figured we would still make it over. It was that or the busy, shoulder less highway to Nelson. The track/trail was hell. Eighteen percent grade, boulders and most of the trail had been eroded away by the rains. To add insult to injury, motorcycles were tearing up and down past us, spraying us with rocks as we pushed bikes for 5 miles up AND down (too steep and rocky to ride) the pass. With storm clouds threatening rain, we made it down to the river and looked for somewhere to camp.
Just then, four cyclists on electric assist mountain bikes showed up and informed us there was flash floods coming that night and we should not be camping. We were also told it was the weekend of some big music festival in Nelson and we would not be finding a place to stay. Impeccable timing. Then, one of the couples invited us to stay with them! What luck! We followed them eight miles into Nelson, pedaling furiously to keep up. When we arrived at the bar, they were no longer serving food (figures) and we ate bars, nuts and beer with our new friends. After, we followed them four miles up to their house in the hills on the outskirts of Nelson. Again riding furiously on completely spent legs. We helped make burgers, showered and were asleep by midnight. Unplanned we had rode (and pushed) 60 miles with over eight and a half hours spent on the bikes. What a day! Thank you Van Vledder Family for taking us in! The following day, in the pouring rain, we met up with Justin, who had taken a bad spill on the Maungatapu Track, that left him scratched, bruised and with a dented helmet. We stayed a couple more nights in Nelson with the Goodwin Family (Andrea from Martinborough) and enjoyed meals, wine and buying handicrafts from their two kids. Thanks Goodwin Family for taking us in and spending time with us. I love my ring and bracelet!
Riding out of Nelson, Justin decided to continue south with us through the Rainbow Track. We had a long day of riding on shoulder less, busy highway before camping in a family's yard. The next day we arrived at the Rainbow Road, just east of St. Arnaud, and met up with our friend, Roy (we had met he and his wife while riding in Chile and then rode a few days together in Spain last fall) and now we were a traveling circus, party of four. The Rainbow Track was beautiful, long slow climb over the Island Saddle, with crazy headwinds into Hanmer Springs the following day. The weather was great (the sun finally popped out), the grade was manageable and we even had a family pull over and share beers with us! It was a multiuse gravel road and a busy, holiday weekend with lots of Utes dusting us with gravel, but you can't have it all. Not in New Zealand anyway. In Hanmer Springs we ate, rested, soaked in hot pools and went down the waterslides. Izzy came to pick up Justin and they made their way back to Austin, Texas.
Now party of three, we continued south to Christchurch. We rode gravel backroads when they were available and busy highways when they weren't. We stayed a night with our new friend, Jan (a mother of our friend, James, in Bend) in Rangiora and brought flowers and 10 avocados from a roadside farm stand. It happened to be her birthday and we enjoyed celebrating with her over dinner. Thanks Jan! We took a couple days off in Christchurch fixing bikes, replacing gear and resting. With fairly flat terrain and farm roads, we made it to Rakaia Gorge in a day and fell asleep at the campground listening to jet boats roar up and down the river and awoke to a helicopter landing on the riverbank the following morning. In the rain, we climbed out of the gorge to Staveley, where we stopped at the cafe to get warm food. There we met Brain and Leah of Southern Alps Honey and they gave us Buzz Honey Shots to try on our journey. Thanks gang, they were a HUGE help on the climbs south!
We climbed backroads passing through Mount Somers, Mayfield and into Geraldine. There we found a sports bar so we could watch the U.S. Women's Soccer Team play New Zealand. At the sports bar we made a new friend, Jon, a real character and local fixture in the community. "I give that goal a 6/10. Do you agree? HUH? DO YOU AGREE?", to which we replied, "Sure Jon, I agree." He was brutal on his ranking system. From there we were on gravel roads. We climbed over a pass and camped in a farmers yard. Where in the middle of the night, while peeing and staring into the starry sky, Ville stepped into a wet cow pie. Oh what fun! Not enough hand sanitizer and wet wipes could clean him off. Luckily, we crossed a river the next morning and he was able to get a scrub down. Then we climbed up and over MacKenzie Pass into Lake Tekapo, unfortunately the last fifteen miles into town on a very busy highway. Lake Tekapo was an expensive tourist trap and we were back on the road after only a night. Upon leaving, we connected with the Alps to Ocean Bike Route, and had the most spectacular ride all the way to Twizel. There we stayed with Jan's brother, Graeme and his wife Shirley. Graeme drove us up to Mt. Cook and we hiked up to Tasman Lake at the base of the Tasman Glacier. Ville took a swim, but he's a little unstable, so that's to be expected. HA ha! He won't read this.
Still on the Alps to Ocean route, we had beautiful, easy climbing around Lake Ruataniwha and Lake Ohau, had lunch in Omarama and climbed up and over the Omarama Saddle and ATV track. It reminded me of riding in eastern Oregon, dry desert with expansive views. On the backside we crossed 25, yes 25, river crossings arriving in St. Bathans worn out and filthy. We ate burgers at the Vulcan Hotel, bathed in Blue Lake and camped at the DOC campground. Luckily, we had an easy day into Alexandra on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Stunning scenery of wide open grasslands with jagged, rock outcroppings. The next day we rode to Cromwell on the new Lake Dunstan Trail (best riding in NZ yet!) and stayed a night with Shirley's brother and wife, Fiona. Unfortunately, the bike trial is yet to be built to Gibbston, so we had a harrowing eighteen miles on one of the busiest highways, but luckily we didn't die, and made it to Gibbston where we were again on a bike trail, Gibbston river Trail into Arrowtown.
We camped at the Holiday Park in Arrowtown, where our friend Ginny (a friend of a friend) brought us a car with a bike rack to drive ourselves an hour north to Wanaka. Which is where I sit now. Relaxing for a couple days off bikes. What great company! Ginny and her husband, Dan, took us for a picnic across Lake Wanaka last night. It has been much needed time off. Next, we will get a ride back to Arrowtown tomorrow, ride into Queenstown, stay a night, and take a steam ship across Lake Wakatipu where we will pick up a road and climb up and over Walter Peak and continue south towards Bluff. We are so close now we can almost see the bottom! Wish us luck! Thanks everyone for continuing to follow along. Do me a favor, if you're still reading this, please leave a comment. So I know it is worth me continuing to keep the Blog alive. I hope this finds everyone healthy and happy! Until next time, keep on, keeping' on ya'll...
K.G. & Ville
In New Zealand on bikes.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson