Otematata (South Island) to Taumarunui (North Island)


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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Taumarunui
February 6th 2017
Published: February 6th 2017
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Dansey's PassDansey's PassDansey's Pass

This was a beautifully quiet, gravel road and the sun even came out for a while!
Hello folks and thanks for checking in with us. Ken would like to make the following observation: 'Mark Twain once famously said, "The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco." Clearly, he'd never travelled to New Zealand's South Island. But we don't want to get off on a rant so soon.' Now back to me...It's been quite a long time since we updated our blog, as internet access has been a little sporadic, but here's a quick overview of our last few weeks. The weather has featured pretty prominently, not in a good way, so riding has been very challenging and we've had a few too many soggy camping nights. On the plus side, we've learned some amusing Kiwi expressions for describing the bad weather: 'turning to custard'; 'it's gone a little bit sour'; 'weather bomb' (as in, 'there's a weather bomb coming in tonight', - that one made us pretty nervous); and our favourite, when politely asking a hardy sheep farmer about the pending conditions: 'Aww...it's gonna be shit... and then more shit!'. And indeed, it was. In fact, when we checked the forecast a few days ago, it called for rain, drizzle, showers, and downpours all within the same day! Where else would rain be described four different ways in a single day's forecast? In short, the weather here has been pretty rough, but it's still been a great trip overall, and we always manage to dry ourselves out, eventually.

So, from Otematata where our last blog was written, we fought through headwinds, rain and cold (sometimes all three at once), climbing over Dansey's pass to Ranfurly and hopping onto the Otago rail trail. The headwinds were brutal as we made our way through Alexandra (stopping to visit Anna and daughter Emily, family friends from the UK), Cromwell and Wanaka, and then over the Cardrona pass to Queenstown. Ken took a nasty tumble over the handlebars going down the pass, but luckily he bounces well, so walked away with just a few bruises.
From Queenstown we took a 100-year-old steamship (twin Scotch, coal-fired firetube boilers, powering reciprocating engines, so Ken points out) to Walter Peak station and rode the 'Around the Mountain Trail' through an enormous sheep ranch. The trail would have been beautiful in good weather, but this was at the time of a 'weather bomb' further north, which gave us persistent rain
Fi and AnneFi and AnneFi and Anne

This was near Wanaka, with our Swiss friend Anne, whom we introduced to single track riding on a heavily laden bike - we think she enjoyed it!
and very cold nighttime temperatures. Our bedraggled little campsite at Mavora Lakes saw us holed up in our tent at 4pm, bombarded by sandflies to such an extent that we couldn't open up the flysheet for more than 2 seconds without another brigade of these bloodsuckers getting into the tent. And the rain was still bucketing the following morning as we miserably packed up and rode off towards Te Anau with numb toes and fingers. To make things even more miserable, our propane for the cooking stove had run out halfway through making dinner so we had no hot dinner the night before and nothing for breakfast that morning. Ah well, that's what cycle touring is all about...some good days, but many more miserable ones!
From Te Anau we carried on along the Southern Scenic Route to Tuatapere and then Invercargill, the most southerly city in NZ, making sure to avoid camping in the rain at all costs. Despite the weather challenges, we were pretty chuffed to have ridden all the way there from Auckland. Time was running out by that point though, since we fly out of Auckland on the 15th Feb, so we had to make our way
Boiling eggs at the pier in Queenstown Boiling eggs at the pier in Queenstown Boiling eggs at the pier in Queenstown

Only the seagull seemed to take any notice.
back to the north of South Island (with a lovely side trip to the Otago peninsula near Dunedin) by a combination of buses and a rental car. Renting a car promised to be a cheaper alternative to taking more buses, and this proved to be the case until we mistakenly put diesel into the petrol tank. We had just been congratulating ourselves on choosing the car over bus strategy, when the engine coughed a couple of times, the car twitched and jerked, and we came to a complete stop 100 yards later. This was several miles from the gas station we'd just left, and nowhere near any towns. A good job that Ken is a decent runner I thought, as he trotted off down the road in the direction we'd just come from. After a long run for Ken, and a long wait for me, we managed to find a mobile car mechanic to rescue us. It turns out that getting a mechanic to come out and pump the bad fuel out of your car, then refill it with the correct fuel, is a pretty costly business. About $400 to be exact. Ken was in a really great mood for
Steamship TSS EarnslawSteamship TSS EarnslawSteamship TSS Earnslaw

This was the ship that took us across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to Walter Peak station.
the remaining four hours of our drive to Nelson! But all's well that ends well, and we arrived in Nelson in time to spend a few more hours with my mum and dad, before riding to Picton to catch the ferry back to North Island.
For the last few days we've enjoyed mostly hot, sunny weather as we followed the beautiful Whanganui river north, through the villages of Jerusalem (where we slept in a beautiful old convent), Pipiriki, Raetihi and Erua. We also took advantage of our proximity to Tongariro national park to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing - a 19km trek through stunning volcanic landscapes, from which our calf muscles are still recovering! We have just 8 days left in NZ now, and will ride back to the hostel we first stayed in near Auckland, where our cardboard bike boxes are hopefully awaiting us. Thanks for following us and we'll add another blog when we're back in the U.S., assuming that the UK didn't get added to Trump's travel ban list while we've been away!
~ Fi and Ken


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And then it turned cold!And then it turned cold!
And then it turned cold!

Campground at Walter Peak station where we had to pitch our tent on the concrete slab within this stone shelter to protect us from the wind and rain! It had no roof but we did get a little less wind at least.
Wet campsite at Mavora LakesWet campsite at Mavora Lakes
Wet campsite at Mavora Lakes

The photo doesn't adequately portray just how cold and wet (and muddy) it was here!
Otago peninsulaOtago peninsula
Otago peninsula

We took this photo for my dad. And yes, the sun did come out!
Sandfly bay, Otago peninsula Sandfly bay, Otago peninsula
Sandfly bay, Otago peninsula

A small colony of yellow-eyed penguins nests here and we were lucky enough to see one, though it was not close enough to get a photo.
Mum and dad working for their keep!Mum and dad working for their keep!
Mum and dad working for their keep!

My parents have become part of the fabric of Almond House backpackers lodge in Nelson where they somehow got roped into cleaning the bathrooms in exchange for a room discount!
Old convent in JerusalemOld convent in Jerusalem
Old convent in Jerusalem

This was where the nuns (The Sisters of Compassion) once slept and it now serves as a dormitory for backpackers. We were lucky enough to have our own room, thanks to a very generous Kiwi couple who insisted on helping us pay for it when we were low on cash and soaking wet from the latest rainstorm.
A horse made from horse shoes!A horse made from horse shoes!
A horse made from horse shoes!

This was a nice little lunchstop during our ride on a beautiful stretch of gravel road between National Park village and Taumarunui.


6th February 2017

Jeez, sounds like some rough weather - u guys r hard-core! Think we've barely seen a drop since we left u. When we did Tongariro it was in waist high snow and our digital camera frozen solid. Still looks like an amazing trip (considering you normally remember the highs more than the lows). Maybe u need to come and dry out in Central America....?
6th February 2017

Holy wet trip Batman!
Did I mention it rains a lot there? LOL. Looks like you are still having a great experience. Good luck getting back into the States - let me know if you need us to come and picket outside the TSA office!!
10th February 2017

We met in Omarama
Hi Ken and Fi, we were camped at the Omarama camping area (with our friends in the big black RV) and you guys arrived at the end of the day. We chatted about our respective bike tours (you guys heading south and me and my wife Gaby heading north). Looks like you had the rougher deal regarding weather! We had some very windy days heading to Hanmer Springs but nothing compared to Southland. My family in Gore say its the worst summer ever...Gaby and i are now in the Hawkes Bay where its hot and sunny :-) and getting ready to carry on around through Gisborne and then the East Cape. Hopefully as you come towards the end of your trip you will experience some sun and it looks like you have been enjoying the riding in the North Island. That was a tough bit of luck regarding the rental car, while at Hanmer Springs we wanted to ride the Rainbow Road but the January 'weather bomb' saw the road closed for a week and with the Awatere Valley road still closed at the time we took the bus to Blenheim (Lewis Pass was only open to 1 lane, Arthurs Pass closed at the time and traffic on the road via Springs Junction was diabolical). OK, enjoy the rest of your trip, perhaps we may see you again some time. Regards Andrew and Gaby www.thebikehike.com
23rd December 2017

Merry Christmas!
Hi Andrew...so sorry - I realize we never replied to your message! Hope your trip is going well and we wonder where you are right now...could you send me the link to your blog again? We really enjoyed meeting you in NZ and were pretty envious of your itinerary! Hopefully it's all going as you would like it to. As you can see, we're on a new adventure now, overlanding in truck and camper. Really miss the bikes but this is still pretty fun! Have a wonderful Christmas and happy pedalling! Fiona and Ken.

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