Home Again

Date: Friday 15 March 2013
Route: Linkwater to Picton to Home
Distance: 42km
Weather: Sunny

We had a pleasant 18km ride with lots of glimpses on the sounds along Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton.

 After booking our ferry tickets we spent some time exploring the Picton shops and eating lunch. We found out all about the Kaipupu point wildlife sanctuary – a community project where they have put up a predator proof fence across a peninsula and have now been pest free for several months. The sanctuary is opening next weekend and entry is free.

 We were on the 2.15pm ferry back to Wellington.

 Horokiwi hill is still harder than the hills we did in the South Island (a 2.5 km climb that is very steep). Reinhard was glad to see us. The cats and chooks are in good health. It is good to be home, but sad that our holiday is over.

Last Leg

Date: Thursday 14 March 2013
Route: Nelson to Linkwater
Distance: 97km
Weather: overcast in morning, sunny in afternoon
Accommodation: Linkwater Motel – recommended

We had some long uphills this morning between Hira and the Rai Valley. The road had too many trucks to be comfortable for cycling. The Rai River is incredibly clear, you can see the pebbles at the bottom as you ride alongside it.

We had a break for coffee and fudge at Havelock and shopped for our dinner. We were relieved to turn off the busy Blenheim road onto Queen Charlotte Drive after Havelock.

There is another long uphill straight after Havelock with great views over the sound. This part of the ride was a lot quieter and more pleasant, with no trucks.

There is not much at Linkwater – no mobile phone reception either. However the hotel is very comfortable and quiet.

The Royal Hotel

Date: Tuesday 12 March 2013
Route: Motueka to Nelson
Distance: 88km (62km to Nelson, rest around town)
Weather: warm and sunny
Accommodation: Nelson City Holiday Park

We left fairly late today, still a bit weary from the previous day’s marathon ride.

We first did a scenic ride along the Motueka beachfront – there is a rough cycle track there. We then took an inland route through farmland towards Nelson. There are cycle routes under construction here (Great Taste Trail), but unfortunately not realised yet, so we were on a road and had to ride along the motorway part of the way. We met a bewildered Swiss family on the motorway. They had their small daughter in a cart behind one of the bikes. We felt sorry for them as the motorway is certainly not suitable for this, but this was really no alternate route here.

We did a detour to go and look at Rabbit Island just before Richmond. The island is covered in plantations and the gate on the bridge closed as sunset – there is not much here – just a recreation reserve.

We picked up the bicycle trail from here again into Richmond – it was pretty rough again (what Kris calls a goat track – better for walkers than cyclists). We met the Swiss family again in Richmond and had a long chat.

After Richmond there was a beautiful (wide, tarred) bicycle route all the way to Nelson.

We spent some time in Nelson checking out the different camp sites. None are really close to
the central city – we eventually settled for the City Holiday Park.

In the evening we went into the centre and had a pizza each – very good and discounted 30% between 4 and 6pm. Then we looked around at the pubs and Kris found the Royal Hotel. It doesn’t look very promising from the outside, but Kris saw there were some interesting beers on tap. Richard, the owner has a passion for beer and stocks a selection of locally brewed beers. He took us through a tasting. We enjoyed the Mussel Inn Manuka beer (very aromatic), as well as their Dark Horse beer (beautifully balanced) – these are brewed in Golden Bay and delivered in person by the beer maker. The Lighthouse Pilsner was also very interesting with buttery caramel tones. Richard was so personable we spent the rest of the evening there. Later on we met his wife. A group came in to play a friendly pool competition and Kris was roped in to make up the numbers. We also watched a re-run of the Super 14 Stormers vs Chiefs (Stormers won). Richard only bought the bar about two and a half months ago, but he is doing a great job creating a welcoming, community atmosphere, with great beer.

If you go to Nelson – visit this bar!!

Happy to be Alive

Date: Monday 11 March 2013
Route: Murchison to Motueka
Distance: 134km
Weather: mist in morning, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Vineyard Tourist Units – recommended for friendliness and value for money

We totally overdid it today, and also almost got killed by a stupid driver.
We knew the Murchison – Nelson road was bad for bicycles due to lots of traffic from our previous experience on it coming down from St Arnaud. We left early to try to avoid some of the traffic and the first hour or so was not so bad. We had a bit of fog again but it lifted more quickly today (or maybe we just rode out of it sooner) – we could still see it lying in the valleys.

The road follows the Buller river and has many small climbs and downhill runs. There is a long climb after the St Arnaud turn-off.

It was around here that we had a terrifying experience with an oncoming car that decided to overtake a truck as the truck was approaching us. I thought it will hit us as it came towards us at speed and was very shaken afterwards. I would advise all cyclists to avoid NZ roads like these. In this case there is no alternative route. There is too much traffic for cyclists, too little space and drivers are in such a rush, they are willing to risk lives.

We pushed to get to the Motueka turnoff (onto quieter road) in record time – it was around 70km and we were there around midday. There is a cafe there and we stopped for a coffee and scone and to refill our water bottles.

Our original plan was to stop at Tapawere, as we knew there are cabins and meals available in the town. However Kris persuaded me that it was too early to stop and we should go on a little further.

This ride, which follows the Motueka river valley is one of the most beautiful we have done and I recommend it highly. In some places the trees and grasses beside the river look like a landscaped garden. Some of the trees are already getting their autumn colours. It was a relief to be on a quiet road again. However it began to get hot and we were worn out for the last 20km or so.

The land along the river is fertile and many fruits are grown . We bought delicious strawberries from a roadside stall with honesty box. They tasted fragrant, as though they had just been picked – we polished the whole punnet off while standing on the stall.

A little further on we stopped to buy some blueberries, and had our water bottles refilled by the stall holder. And yet further on we bought some plums and peaches (spray free!) from another stall with honesty box. These are the most delicious plums I have ever tasted – they were as sweet and soft and juicy. Kris even stopped and picked some pears from a tree that was growing wild at the roadside.

We saw hops being grown and harvested for the first time. The hops are vines that grow upwards on long strings. When they harvest them the remove the whole vine. Then they let the sheep graze where they have just harvested.

We arrived hot and tired in Motueka . We were lucky to find the vineyard camping ground – and obtain a very reasonably priced fully equipped two room motel unit. The best thing about it was that it had air conditioning – which helped us to cool down. The owner was very kind and gave us some free range eggs from her chickens for our breakfast. I was so exhausted Kris had to go out and get take aways (roasts) while I dozed on the bed. Later on we revived enough to go into town for a beer – it was very quite (may because it was Monday night?)

Riders in the Mist

Date: Sunday 10 March 2013
Route: Reefton to Murchison
Distance: 86km plus 4 around town
Weather: mist in morning, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Kiwipark motel and holiday park cabin

Our first 30km this morning was in thick mist. I had to take my glasses off as they became too wet to see out of. I was nervous because the visibility was so bad.
Joe caught up with us and we rode together for a few hours which was companionable.

The first 50km of the ride was easy, until we reached the upper Buller River gorge. Here we had lots of up an downs through the gorge beside the river. The river is large and green blue with steep green mountains on either side.

We arrived in Murchison just as it was getting really hot – the heat this afternoon has been almost unbearable. We stayed here a couple of weeks ago on our way down to Springs Junction.

A Long Ride

Date: Saturday 9 March 2013
Route: Hokitika to Reefton
Distance: 122km
Weather: hot and sunny
Accommodahtion: Old Nurses Home Backpackers – recommended

Today was the longest ride of the trip. The fact that there were no major hill climbs made it do-able – however I was exhausted at the end of the day.

We stopped at Greymouth outskirts when we saw a church fair. We had scones and bought a date loaf and biscuits. The road followed the Grey River and the main railway line from Greymouth onwards. We passed some historical coal mining works on the river.
We passed through farmland and many small towns.

Our ride was extended by Kris breaking a spoke – this one broke in the spoke nipple, so we had to take the whole tyre off (luckily we had a spare nipple). It took around an hour causing us to be on the road after 3pm – the hottest part of the day.

It became more wooded and hilly just before Reefton. Reefton is a cute little town and our accommodation is in a large, restored nurses home. Shared bathrooms, but with lovely large well equipped lounge and kitchen, leading out to a large garden.

We felt too tired to shop and cook, so we went to the pub in the local hotel that was advertising a “world famous roast” – it was very good. Kris had the large and had to share some with me, as I had a medium roast. We also enjoyed the Speights dark beer. There was a cute bar cat that was so confident he slept stretched out across the bar counter.

We ended up watching the Super 14 rugby again – the Cheetahs (Free State) against Invercargill. The Cheetahs won. We sat beside a party from Wellington who had also been to the Hokitika wild food festival and had a good banter.

We also met Joe from the Chatham Islands and his support part again – they were eating at the same pub.

Party Time in Hokitika

Date: Friday 8 March 2013
Route: Whataroa to Hokitika
Distance: 105km
Weather: clear
Accommodation: Amberley Bed and Breakfast – recommended

We managed to leave nice and early this morning at 8am, as we had a long ride ahead. A thin blanket mist hung over the ground with the mountains showing clear above.

We had a hill to climb in the first 20km, before Harihari, where we stopped briefly to look at displays about Guy Menzies who undertook the first solo flight across the Tasman from Australia and landed in a swamp near the town, in 1931.

As we approached Lake Ianthe, the farmland gave way to thick rain-forest with some huge trees and many ferns. The second climb of the day was just before Ross. We were interested to see some earthworks just before we got into the Ross township, assuming they were quarying for nearby roadworks. However we were informed in town that this is indeed a gold mining operation!

With only about 25km to go to Hokitika, we stopped at a Ross cafe for coffee and scones. We got talking to the man who runs a small motorcycle museum next to the cafe. He is a real enthusiast and has painstakingly restored several old motorcycles on display. Most of the cycles are Triumphs from the 1960‘s and 70‘s. Also some old Harley Davidsons. The oldest was from the 1920‘s.

The final stretch into Hokitika is totally flat and quite boring. We were lucky to find accommodation here tonight as the Wild Food Festival is on and 12-17 thousand (depending on who you talk to) people have descended into town. The festival itself is tomorrow and you have to pay $35 to get into a big tented area where you can buy strange foods (we are not attending).

We spent some time this evening walking around. There are two different tent cities on each end of town. The streets are closed off and there is a significant Police presence (they have been shipped in from all over the S Island – the one we spoke to was from Blenheim). There are also groups of young people roaming the streets – girls dressed to kill and young idiots driving around in souped up cars.

We ate some excellent steak sandwiches from a street stall plus a selection of other take-aways. We also tried a couple of the bars. It is a glass-free zone for the festival, so they serve you your beer in a plastic glass.

We ended up involved in watching the very exciting Super 14 game between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders. The Hurricanes (Wellington) won by 1 point. Luckily there were some fellow Wellingtonians in the bar (dressed as the Blues Brothers), so we could cheer the Hurricanes on together.

There was also a lovely blues band that started playing during the game. The guitarist had a handlebar mustache and the lead singer was wearing shorts. Kris enjoyed dancing around with the Blues Brothers before beating a retreat.

The last excitement for the night was seeing a youngster (in a leg cast) get arrested by the Police. He was dropping his pants to traffic. Funny, we had just been dancing to brown eyed girl played by the live blues band.

Glacier Country

Date: Thursday 7 March 2013
Route: Jacobs River to Whataroa
Distance: 92km
Weather: overcast
Accommodation: White Heron Sanctuary Motel

We set off in a cloud this morning. Dewdrops formed on our glasses as we were riding. The cloud lifted after the first hour. Bright sunbeams lit up the landscape and wisps of cloud hung around the the mountains and brushed against the tops of the tall forest trees.

It remained overcast and nice and cool the whole day. The first part of the ride, up till Fox Glacier had relatively easy up and downs, with us making good time.

Between Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier we had three long climbs – very exhausting – and two steep downhill runs. We were relieved when we got to Franz Joseph, as this is also where cell phone coverage started once more (after 3 days with no coverage). We phoned to make a booking for tonight, 32km away in Whataroa and then bought our groceries for supper. There was a good Four Square in the town and we were like kids in a candy store after the slim pickings at Haast.

Franz Joseph is a real tourist town, the air above your head buzzes with helicopters going to the glacier, like bees around a honeypot. Most of the businesses are cafes, but a coffee costs more than in central Wellington, so we decided to push on.

The road to Whataroa was a pleasure with gentle ups and downs, passing two lakes and finally running along a river.

Our accommodation here is retro but well equipped cabin. The proprietor was away for the afternoon, but told us the cabin is open, so we could just go in, which we did.
The only other guest here is a young Californian cycling through New Zealand. We had some beer and wedges at the local hotel bar – with a strong local flavour – men wearing short shorts and gumboots at the bar.

Wet on the West Coast

Date: Wednesday 6 March 2013
Route: Haast to Jacobs River
Distance: 89km
Weather: overcast with showers, no wind
Accommodation: Pine Grove Motel, 2km from Jacobs River

Our first wet day after two and half weeks of travelling. We waited a bit, and eventually left in a light shower, but it only lasted about half an hour. We dried off, only to drive through a soaking drizzle again at around 11am.

We had some steep hills after the first 20km. It felt like we did the climb around three times. The highest viewpoint was Knights Point Viewpoint, where a few tour buses had stopped.
After this the road was a bit up and down, not too steep.

We rode through impenetrable West Coast forest, full of ferns and vines. We could hear many birds. Mist and clouds shrouded the mountains and the two lakes we passed.

The last 20km of the ride were flat and easy. Part of this was along the very quiet beach at Bruce Bay. The beach has white sand, covered in driftwood. There is nothing much at Jacobs River – just a few buildings and a cute school which was deserted (we found out it closed this year as there were only four children last year).
Our motel was hard to find on the internet – it sits on its own on the motorway about 2 km from Jacobs River. Kris volunteered to set up a Google maps entry. We had to clean the bikes – they were filthy again from riding in the rain. All the while we were battling with aggressive sandflies. We retreated into the motel room which we are maintaining as a sandfly free zone.