Date: Saturday, 16 February 2013
Route: Home to Renwick
Distance: 60km, including ride to ferry from home
Weather: clear sky and hot, no wind
Accommodation: On the Terrace Bed and Breakfast, Renwick – recommended for good value, spacious private accommodation, friendly hosts
Murphy was on holiday with us this morning. Firstly, one of the headlamps didn’t work. We needed them as we were leaving at 6am and it was only just getting light. Kris tried to fix it but gave up and so we took the spare.
Then I got a flat tire on a rock near the bottom of Horokiwi road – even though we were going really slow and carefully as we knew there was lots of debris on the road. I just didn’t see it. We changed the tube in a huge rush. I was getting really tense about being late for the ferry check in. In the end we got there about 7.15, rather than 7.00 for the 8am ferry, and it really didn’t matter.
The ferry crossing was very smooth and trouble free. We wheeled our bikes on with the rest of the passengers and they tied them up at the front of the the car deck. It was nice being some of the first people off the ferry with the foot passengers.
The Picton to Renwick ride was relatively easy. Only one manageable hill just out of Picton. We turned off the main road onto a quiet country road as soon as we could at Tua Marina. Stopped and bought some plums from a road side stall – the kind where there is no one around, you just place your money in a nearby box. The road runs alongside a river, and we began to notice vineyards. We also noticed that my back tyre was a bit soft. We pumped it up a few times along the way – having to admit that I had my second puncture of the day. The road turned to gravel for a few km – I was really happy to see that tar again with my dodgy tire.
Renwick is a small town surrounded by vineyards with not much else in it. It was really hot when we got here so we ended up drinking some very refreshing beer at the pub, where we also ate. The locals were watching a darts tournament on TV (out in the cool porch where we were sitting). Kris brushed up on his understanding of the rules with them and explained them to me – so I learnt something unexpected today.
Our B&B accommodation is very neat and spacious. It is a self contained flat connected to the house. Plenty of garden to do bike repairs in (patching the tube this time). We were told we could help ourselves from the apple tree which is loaded with fruit. There are also a heap of olive trees all bearing green olives and a grapevine.
Date: Sunday, 17 February 2013
Route: Renwick to St Arnaud
Distance: 94km, plus 5km around town in evening
Weather: Overcast and cool in morning, no wind
Accommodation: Nelson lakes motels backpacker lodge – basic but clean, has all the facilities, good value
We had a good early start at 8.30am and ideal conditions. The road was flat and easy for the first 80km. After that there was a steep steady uphill over a pass just before the lake. At the start we rode past a lot of vineyards. Later on we rode alongside the river with mountains on either side. This was one of the longest distances we have planned and we did well.
No problems with tyres today, but my chain slipped off the gear about three times. Kris has adjusted it and think it is ok now. We both arrived with oily hands.
We were happy to find a washing machine at the hostel, so no hand washing tonight.
We found the only shop in town – but it was very limited and expensive. So decided to go to treat ourselves to a meal at the Alpine Lodge – the only local restaurant and bar. Had delicious craft beer there from local brewery. The meal was their Sunday evening barbeque – wonderful quality salads and meats. We ate too much! We always seem to fall into this trap with buffets.
Went to look at the stunning Lake Rotoiti before dinner. Elsbeth – last time we were here we walked along the lake with you, remember the clear water with the large fish and the beech forest.
Date: Monday 18 February 2013
Route: St Arnaud to Murchison
Distance: 62km (plus 4km around town)
Weather: Overcast and cool in morning, no wind, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Kiwipark holiday park cabin
One of our shortest planned routes today. Also an easy ride. We did the first 25km in an hour, hardly having to pedal as it was a long steady downhill. Nice quiet road to start with but once we turned onto the main drag to Murchison from Nelson there was too much traffic, including trucks. The whole route followed the river – very beautiful in parts with native forests and mountains on either side.
Few mechanical issues today – Kris just had to stop a couple of times to adjust his front paniers.
We met and chatted with a Swiss cyclist who has done around 3000km all around NZ when we arrived in Murchison. He was going on to Westport in the afternoon.
We left early at 8.45 and arrived early around 12. Spent the afternoon shopping and relaxing. Very hot in afternoon. Bought food for tomorrow. The shop here is not so expensive and we have kitchen facilities – so made our own meat and vegetable meal and bought food for tomorrow.
Date: Tuesday 19 February 2013
Route: Murchison to Springs Junction
Weather: Misty and cool in morning, no wind, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Alpine Motor Inn
Woke up at about 4am to go to the toilet (so had to leave the cabin, no ensuite). I was awestruck when I looked up and saw the Milky Way. It seemed much closer than ever and had acquired a few more stars. No wonder our ancestors were so impressed with the stars – there is so much more to see if no city lights.
By the time we got up we were totally in the cloud and it was quite cool. We made eggs for breakfast – the advantage of being in a camp park with cooking facilities – and left quite early at about 8.30am. It was a very scenic ride today – the first part atmospheric in the mist, along the river with mountains rising into the mist on all sides. This cleared around 10am. We passed through some stunning river valleys with wooded hills all round. The countryside is very dry though.
We stopped at a waterfall lookout and met Laurie – a Dunedin born Australian cycling around the S Island. We didn’t stay long to chat as we began to be plagued by sand flies and bumblebees. They have been a problem the last few days every time we stop or go slow up a hill. We think the bees like our bright coloured clothes. I got my second bumblebee sting.
We crossed paths with Laurie a few times during the day as he was also going to Springs Junction.
The hardest part of the ride was a long climb up the Shenandoah Saddle at about 500m but we coped well. The rest of the road was constant ups and downs but manageable.
On the other side of the steep climb we met a couple from Melbourne touring on fold up bikes. We stopped at the cafe at Maruia (we remember stopping here with Elsbeth some years ago). It is the only cafe on the route so the other couple stopped too. We took a table together and had a good chat about our cycling experience. They have cycled on the fold up bikes in Italy and Eastern Europe. They use the fold up bikes as they are easy to take on planes and trains. From their description of Romania it is not a country suitable for cycle touring (note to self for future planning).
Got to Springs Junction around 2.30pm. Laurie had arrived just before us. Another cyclist from NZ arrived later coming from the other direction. That is about the whole guest list in the motel. All are very disappointed to find out that although there is a cafe and a dairy, there is no beer to be had in the town! It seems I am NOT the only one who wants a beer after a long hot ride.
The motel is comfy with a bubbling stream directly outside the units – makes a lovely sound. We brought some food with us, so had a picnic meal outside our room. It got really uncomfortably hot again in the late afternoon – that seems to be the pattern here – and the insects got increasingly aggressive – so we were driven indoors to rest and write blogs etc.
Date: Wednesday 20 February 2013
Route: Springs Junction to Hanmer Springs
Distance: 94km plus 5km around town
Weather: clear, no wind, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Pines Holiday Park – cheap but very basic, no bedding, had to pay 50c for shower! (however it was clean and there were nice trees to sit under)
Probably the most challenging ride so far.
We had an early start again at about 8.15am – after an Alpine Burger at the Motel restaurant – it included a hash brown and egg on the burger!
The first hour of our ride was a gentle climb to Marua Springs, which is where the main climb of the day (to Lewis Pass summit) started. Luckily this was at the start of the ride and the route was shaded. It took about 35min slow uphill slog in lowest gears to get to the summit. On the other side we had a wonderful long downhill run. After that it was all up and down – probably more down than up.
We had beautiful mountain scenery – following the river tumbling over a rocky valley with mountains on either side. It was exhilarating free wheeling down hills with a huge open river valley below.
It got very hot after 12 – and we suffered for the last couple of hours of the ride. In some places the tar was melting and I could see Kris’s tyre making a track on the road!
We we got into Hanmer just before 2pm and immediately saw Laurie on the main street. We stopped at the Monteith’s Bar for a draft (or two), to cool down and had a good chat. There is nothing as good as a cool beer after you have been cycling in the hot sun.
Laurie came to camp at our campground (we are in a cabin). After cleaning up and shopping we all had a al fresco style meal at picnic tables under the trees. We also met and shared our wine with a young German backpacker and had a long conversation – he is from Bodensee – an area of Germany we really loved.
Date: Thursday 21 February 2013
Route: Hanmer Springs to Hurunui, then to Peaks Farm and back
Distance: 96km – 51 to hotel, 42 to farm and back
Weather: overcast and cool
Accommodation: Hurunui Hotel
We had an easy ride to Hurunui in the morning, as it was flat or downhill and lovely and cool after yesterday. It was scenic going out of Hanmer Springs, but less so once we got onto the plain. Also not the best road for traffic.
We got to the Hurnui Hotel at around 11.30am. It is in the middle of nowhere and is more a pub than a hotel. However there are rooms upstairs – they are very rambly and old fashioned with uneven floors. We were the only guests. We left our back panniers at the hotel and set off for our farm visit.
We have a small shareholding in the Peaks Farm, but I have never seen the farm before – so this was very exciting. Unfortunately the road leading to the farm (for about 5km) had just been graded and was full of loose gravel – not at all pleasant to ride on. When we arrived we had some confusion as to where the entrance was – luckily Jen rode past at that point and met us. Jen and Gavin are the couple that manage the farm. They gave us a very friendly welcome. It was good to meet them and get to know them better. The farm is also very beautiful with an outlook on the Hurunui river and the Peaks mountains behind. The farm manager’s house is stunning with large doors looking out onto the wonderful view. Jen and Gavin took us on a tour around the farm in their 4X4. We saw the milk shed and the irrigation sprinklers. They have done a lot of re-pasturing the past year and you can see the difference. The work they have done to protect the river bank by dumping whole trees onto it was one of the most interesting aspects. I learnt a lot about dairy farming. It was great to see it all for myself, after reading about it in reports.
We took a slightly longer route back to the hotel that had a shorter gravel road section. We enjoyed a fairly stodgy meal back at the hotel, together with more Monteiths beer.
Date: Friday 22 February 2013
Route: Hurunui to Ashely Gorge (near Oxford)
Distance: 100km – exactly
Weather: overcast and cool, slight headwind in morning
Accommodation: Ashley Gorge Holiday Park – excellent value for money, beautiful location – recommended
Today we clocked exactly 100km as we pulled into the holiday park. Kris also broke his first spoke about 20km from our final destination. Hope this doesn’t become more frequent now. We were worried about getting the wheel cog off as it was very stiff at home – luckily Kris got it off after a brief struggle. It was hard starting up again after we had fixed the spoke (we cooled right down and muscles began to get stiff).
We started out the day a bit later than usual, as we waited till 8.30am for the cooked breakfast included in our stay at Hurunui Hotel. The breakfast was huge and fuelled us for most of our ride.
We enjoyed chatting with the proprietor. He told us that he can notice the number of trucks on the road going past the hotel doubling in the last ten years since railways have been stuffed up. He also told us a tragic story about a local man who committed suicide last year by jumping off a local rock formation called frog rock (we passed it later) – his picture is on the bar as he was a regular drinker there.
Possibly the most scenic part of the ride today was Weka pass, near the start of the ride. Interesting rock formations and very dry. We spent a short time on the main drag to Christchurch before veering off to farm roads. These detours extended our planned route from about 85km to 100km.
We stopped and bought our groceries for supper at Amberley around midday. We then got onto Scenic Highway 73. Most of the ride was flat over the plains. As we approached Ashley Gorge we passed more and more lifestyle properties with horses, some miniature horses and Alpacas. The last part of the ride became more scenic with some ups and downs – I was almost getting too tired to appreciate it.
Our cabin here is very comfy and includes a kitchenette where we could cook our supper.
Date: Saturday 23 February 2013
Route: Ashely Gorge to Methven
Weather: overcast and cool, sun coming out late afternoon
Accommodation: The Brown Pub – big room, shared bathroom, good view of town square from window
We left in the sunshine this morning, but soon rode into cloudy weather again. Most of the ride was flat and we made good time – it was so cool we didn’t want to stop and get cold. (this is still better than getting too hot though!) We travelled along Inland Scenic Highway 72 again – through farmland – mostly sheep and dairy.
We gathered some food along the way – some beautiful big apples off a tree by the side of the road and a huge 2.5kg bag of hazelnuts for $10. The nuts were being sold at the side of the road with just an honesty box in attendance. We have our work cut out cracking them all.
The most impressive part of the drive was coming down into Rakaia Gorge – a long steep winding downhill – and crossing the river. The bridge was high and rickety. From up there we could see the river, which was a long way down, large and deep and a strange bright turquoise colour. There were many fishermen down on the river bank which was wide and rocky. The way out of the gorge was just as steep – so much so that we pushed our bikes part of the way (first time this trip!).
Once we turned off on the road to Methven we had a long gentle downhill run – I barely had to pedal – was just pulled along in Kris’s slipstream. The problem with such a cruisey end to the ride was that I got really cold and arrived quite chilled – nothing that a pub meal couldn’t fix though. We had made excellent time – arriving just before 1.30pm.
The hotel we are staying at is at the top of a pub in the centre of town. We spent some time walking around and cracking nuts in the sun on a bench. We met a Swiss tourist called Esther who is touring on her own – this was her first day and she rode from Christchurch. We may see her again as she is also going to Geraldine tomorrow. Kris gave her some nuts (trying to lighten his load!)
Date: Sunday 24 February 2013
Route: Methven to Geraldine
Distance: 70km to Geraldine – and another 14km around town
Weather: sunny and clear
Accommodation: Geraldine Holiday Park cabin – excellent location and value.
We had huge rooms and wooden floors in our accommodation on top of the pub. However, I wouldn’t recommend sleeping at the top of the pub on Saturday night. After falling into an exhausted sleep at about 9pm, we woke just before midnight to the sounds of loud music and partying downstairs. The advantage of being this tired is we that we quickly fell asleep again. A while later, the music had died down but I heard a huge fight going on in the street outside with men and woman shouting at each other. Kris didn’t even hear this bit. Who would have thought Methven was such a party town at night?
Today’s 70km was extremely easy – just about all flat – we left at around 8.40am and arrived at 12 noon. We are travelling through the Canterbury Plains – good farming country with some large dairy herds and also sheep and some cropping. Where the land is not irrigated it is very dry.
It was great to ride in the sun, the air had a crispness to it, so we never got too hot. In the clear conditions we could enjoy the view of the mountains in the distance.
Geraldine is a lovely little town that was buzzing with Sunday afternoon markets when we got here. There are many small shops selling tourist stuff, wool products and delicatessen foods. We saw the largest knitted jersey in the world, hanging in a jersey shop (together with certificate from Guinness Book of Records). Also bought some special pepper Gouda and some Barkers jam from the Barkers shop (the factory is here).
After shopping and cleaning up we rode around town a bit and found Esther just arriving in town. We shared a few beers and some conversation – maybe she will drop in on us in Wellington.
We also had a discussion with an Australian couple from Sydney while making supper in the camp kitchen. They are in a hired motor home but went travelling all over Australia for a year with a caravan after they retired
Date: Monday 25 February 2013
Route: Geraldine to Fairly
Distance: 48km – and another 2km around town
Weather: overcast and cool in morning, sunny in afternoon
Accommodation: Fairly Holiday Park motel cabin – too close to road!
Today was a shorter ride, but very much up and down. We left late after a lie in at 10am, and it took us 3 hours to get here. We had a few steep climbs and downhill runs on the way. The countryside was rolling hills – we are well out of the Canterbury Plains now and entering MacKenzie country. There is a statue of James MacKenzie in Fairly main street – he was the first European person to cross this country. He also stole 1,000 sheep from one of the biggest farmers in the area at the time.
The ride today was marred by the fact there was too much traffic for the windy road, not enough room for bicycles, and it can be dangerous. I would not recommend this road to bicycle tourists (however there are no real alternative routes).
The highlight of the day was our stop at Valley Brewing Co about 10km outside of Fairly. We saw the brewery and stopped to see if we could buy some beer for tonight. The cafe and shop were closed, but the owner was there and gifted us some bottles of beer. An excellent Pale Ale (strong hops) and a gorgeous Red Ale (called Muster). Very hearty and natural tasting – great craft beer.