Day 343 to 351 New Zealand

Day 343
Saturday 12th March
Rest day

It was a very wet, cold and noisy night as the waves were crashing against the shore so we didn’t sleep well and were glad that we had a rest day.

We spent the morning buying a new tyre for my bike as my old one was thread bare some new pedals for Garys bike and buying some warmer clothes including some bike gloves to keep our hands warm on the bike.

To pass the time away we spent some time in the library uploading photos and posting the blog.

We agreed that as it was a wet and cold day we would treat ourselves to an afternoon in the local cinema. The only film worth seeing was a film called Concussion, with Will Smith it was quite thought provoking and easy watching.
the cinema was small with approx only 6 rows and it was only us three and 2 lads.

As another treat we also had lunch in the Chinese Restaurant, my meal was very bland but the boys lunches went down well.

The ride back to the camp site was really wet so as soon as we got back to the tents we stripped off and put the clothes in the on site tumble dryer.

As we’d eaten out we only had soup for dinner which was surprisingly filling and tasty.

We spent the evening drinking wine, eating sweets and playing cards.

Day 344
Sunday 13th March
Greymouth to Pukekura
56 miles

It was great to wake up and find the rain had stopped, it was still grey but at least it was dry.

Gary took advantage of the dry weather to change my tyre before breakfast.

We didn’t want to hang around so as soon as we’d finished breakfast we packed up and hit the road.

It was a fairly flat boring day’s ride, we took a diversion on route to follow a cycle track through a wooded area which was quite scenic and gave a little break from the road.

We passed a shared bridge where car traffic and trains use the same single lane, we have not seen this type of shared bridge before.

The last 15 miles were a little bit undulating but nothing too demanding. We arrived at the camp site at about 4.00pm. It stayed dry all day which was great as we had expected rain and it was much warmer than predicted.

It was a very basic campsite with only one toilet and one shower for campers and cabins (which just contained beds) and a small kitchen. As we were pitching our tent we could hear a lot of wasps, this put Stuart off camping and he opted for a cabin. We moved our tent to a quieter area in the hope that the wasps would not bother us.

Whilst cooking dinner we got to talk to a couple who had been travelling for 18 months, they were from Bridport and had done a similar route to us. It was good to swap travel experiences. As the kitchen was so small we sat outside to write our diaries whilst the other couple and a newly arrived couple made their dinners. It was hard to relax as there were so many sand flies around which are really annoying and nasty little buggers as they keep biting us.

Day 345
Monday 14th March
Pukekura to Frans Joseph
54 miles

We slept really well and woke early just before the sun was up. I was having a lovely cuddle with Gary when he made a complimentary comment about my body, and quickly followed it up with the fact he’d love me whatever size I was (which is actually true but he is aware that I’ve become a little body conscious), although this was really sweet and made me gooey inside I felt slightly quilty when I thanked him but reminded him his beard would still have to go in May. I love him to bits but I do prefer him without the bushy beard.

It was another dry day which was a bonus, we packed up the tent and was on our way by 9.00am

I was a little concerned that I may run out of podcasts so I was delighted when we stopped at a cafe with free wifi for a mid morning snack these are so rare but it meant I could download some free podcasts.

The cafe was great, the boys had steak pies whilst I had a delicious vegetable quiche with spinach and pine nuts. Our timing was perfect as no sooner had we ordered than a coach load of people arrived.

We had thought we were in for an easy 30 mile ride but just as we were reaching our destination we saw a sign which stated Frans Joseph was a further 33 kilometres away, this meant we still had a further 25 miles to do rather than the 3 we thought we had.

It was a beautiful day so it didn’t matter we were all upbeat and happy to ride on but it soon transpired that this error would also effect the mileage on the next day and instead of 38 miles we would only have 12-15 miles to cycle. For some people this would be great news but when you’re touring it feels like an awful lot of effort to pack up your tent for an hours ride. However the weather is predicted to be wet and miserable tomorrow so we have decided to do a walk in the morning up to a glacier in Frans Joseph, cycle to the next booked camp site in Fox Glacier and then do a further walk up to another glacier. It will be interesting to see how the day pans out.

In the afternoon we bumped into a fellow tourer from Poland she was riding South to North and had spent some time in Asia. It was good to stop and talk to her. Interestingly everyone we’ve spoken to that has been through Asia before coming to New Zealand says the same thing ‘I wish I was back in Asia, it was cheaper and warmer’. New Zealand is lovely, it is clean and the views are spectacular but it feels like England just on a bigger scale with less people and perhaps a little more expensive.

It is clear to see from the river beds that it is the end of the summer here in New Zealand as they’re really dry but it doesn’t take a lot to imagine what they’d be like in full flow.

The views of the mountains and Glaciers were breathtaking, we stopped several times to take photos and some of them are pretty amazing.

We arrived at the campsite at about 4.00pm and pitched our tents, before going into town for more supplies. There seems to be a gentle rhythm for our days which goes a little like wake, eat/drink, pack tent, cycle, eat/drink, enjoy views repeat until we reach our destination, pitch tent, get food, eat/drink, hopefully find internet, read ad sleep. It is so easy and it is great not to have to worry about anything other than what we’re going to eat/drink next or for me there’s the added pressure of what I’m going to listen to next, but I’m not complaining. It is amazing how simple life can be. As an added bonus we get to meet some amazing like minded people on route.

The campsite was a fully equipped site with kitchens, bathrooms, lounge, games room and laundry. Stuart prefers these, we’ve not converted him to camping and cycling, however I remember it took me a long time to adjust so perhaps he just needs a little more time.
Day 346
Tuesday 15th March
Frans Josef to Fox Glacier – 17 miles

Neither Gary or I slept well last night, we were too hot and itchy and surrounded by snoring men!

As a consequence we were up early and on the road before 9.00am.

It was a wet and cold day but we decided to make the most of it and started the day with a cycle ride to the Frans Josef Glacier. This was a pretty route mainly off road with a 1 hour 45 min walk at the end of it.

I’ve found a way to get the boys to walk a wee bit quicker, it’s simple really I just gave them a sweet at the beginning of the walk and kept the packet in my pocket. If they wanted more they had to keep up (Gary – speedy knickers netty). I realised the effect of this was wearing off so I decided to leave sweets on posts for them, but as it was so wet and miserable they had their heads down and walked passed them. I had to shout for them to go back for their treats. The glacier was a bit of a disappointment, I’m sure it would look much better in the winter or a sunny clear day.

By the time we returned to the bikes we were all very cold, Gary seemed to feel it more than Stuart and me and struggled to get his hands warm, I even had to help him with his gloves. We were grateful the bikes had been left under a shelter otherwise everything would have been soaked.

The cycle ride up to Fox Glacier was hard physically and mentally, I had to stop twice, once for food and once for a little talk to myself. Once I put my head into gear I was off and soon reached the top but there was some pretty steep climbs to contend with.

Once at the top we cycled down into Fox Glacier and promptly changed our tent booking to cabins. It was great to get out of the wet clothes and into something dry. The cabins were very basic and just contained beds but there’s plenty of toilet and kitchen facilities on site. If we’d known they were so basic we might have considered sharing with Stu but at least this way we get a little privacy which is a small price to pay for £40 in New Zealand.

We spent the afternoon shopping, washing and doing IT tasks with the aim of watching a DVD in the evening. Not a lot else you can do when it is so wet and cold outside.

Day 347
Wednesday 16th March
Fox glacier to Lake Paringa
47 miles

It seemed to rain itself out last night, although it did take most of the night before it stopped. I didn’t sleep very well, it is strange sleeping in doors the air is different, it feels too dry and warm, I’m sure I’ll quickly acclimatise once we’re back in the UK. (Gary; if not I think I can sell the house and we move into the tent on a permanent basis).

The wifi system was rubbish at the campsite which meant whilst the boys went to Fox Glacier I stayed in town to download some podcasts and do the shopping. I’ve seen the photos and the walk/cycle to the glacier look very pretty.
Gary; the cycle track to the glacier car park was through a very damp rain forest and was a nice ride. when we reached the car park we both dressed warmer due to how cold we all felt on yesterday s walk. the sun was out so the walk to the glacier was very scenic, waterfalls, fast running river and great mountain views.

The ride to Lake Paringa was fairly easy but the boys seemed to want to push the pace (Gary led most of the way and Stu for a few miles). It was a very scenic route without many bumps.

We stopped for a quick break at Bruce’s Bay which is rated one NZ’s top beaches, it was pretty but there was a lot of drift wood on the beach and as there were so many sand flies around so not many people.

About 5 miles away from our campsite we were pleasantly surprised to find a Salmon farm with a cafe and shop. We stopped and purchased some salmon for dinner, a bottle of coke and ice creams to eat on site.

The camp site was better than expected Stuart hadn’t booked anywhere and the campsite he had initially plotted the route too was very basic and only had a drop loo. Fortunately after reading the reviews on line which were really bad he looked for an alternative site and found some camping availability at a local lodge. The facilities were fairly basic only one toilet, one shower (in the same room) but it did have a kitchen and an indoor seating area away from the pesky sand flies which are eating us alive.

Gary; I feel strong whilst on the bike, I am slower on the steeper uphills but can set a good pace on the flat however whenever we stop for a break and set off again the lactic acid whizzes around my body and spreads to a queazy feeling in the tummy for a few seconds but soon passes. In an evening after even a short rest the legs protest when they need to do any work again. My stomach is the smallest its been for a good few years, middle aged pouch is still there like a long lost friend but a little less of a paunch.

Day 348
Thursday 17th March
Paringa to Haast

Gary’s Diary

We had a nice evening chatting with some other cyclists that were doing the ‘bluff’
and a local NZ fisherman. The cyclists (a couple from Adelaide) had cycled LEJOG on a tandem in very wet weather and written a book about it. The fisherman told us of a couple of ‘must see’ places.

It was a cold start down to 8.3c but the sun was out and the temp went up during the day to a more acceptable 23c

A fairly short day we had few hill climbs which gave us some great views over the Tasman sea. The roads were busy, a hells angel thought it would be funny to fly past us as close as possible ‘arsehole’

Ginette was feeling weary (on blob) which allowed Stu and me to take some photos on route. Towards the middle of the day she got a burst of energy and we did not see her again until we got to the ‘curly tree cafe, this was a white bait patties cafe that the fisherman had recommended. Ginette had checked out the joint and at $9 for an open sandwich and no seating area we decided to give it a miss.

The next place recommended by the fisherman was a place called “Kwitchatown’ this was down an off track road about 3 miles from our campsite. Ginette decided to give this a miss as it was on an off road track. After a mile of gravel and sand we came to the town, a small settlement in a dead end track by the sea, the houses were all huts called ‘batches’ each batch had a name on it these included ‘Kwitchastirrin; Kwitchacroaking; kwitchagrogging; kwitchafarting; kwitchawife; kwitchabeliiakin; kwitchayappin etc.

We stayed in another Top 10 campsite which was a nice site with luxury showers and an on site kitchen. Net and I went to the town to do a bit of shopping but it was really small there was only a small store which was really expensive we felt like ripped off tourists.

In the evening we watched a rubbish dvd, Gary and I went to bed before it finished. Gary is really moody, which is so unlike him, I think the thought of going home is starting to affect his mood, he will be starting a new job which is bound to be playing on his mind.

We are both a bit bored of New Zealand, the views are stunning but the UK also has stunning views. It all feels very safe, same, same but different, full of tourists and expensive shops and trips.

Day 349
Friday 18th March
Haast to Makarora

Gary’s diary

I felt in a prickly mood (Ginette – again) this morning so Net and I butted heads a little. The morning was cold (13c) and overcast with the promise of rain. The first 30 miles were fairly flat following the River Haast eastwards inland. At one point a waterfall was signposted, Stu and I decided to stop for some photos and Net cycled on ahead.

Stu and I managed to get separated from each other, I had pulled into a large coach gravel car park to get some pictures but as Stu came past one of the coaches was leaving so Stu went past without seeing me. I took a short walk along the dry stony river bed to an unimpressive waterfall. Back on my bike after a while of cycling on my own Stu came back to find me. He had cycled really hard to catch me up, thinking I must be going like the clappers but when he caught Ginette he realised he had somehow got in front of me.

Ginette – I cycled really slowly and tried to stop at several places but the sandflies were really annoying so fearing the boys had an accident or a bike malfunction I doubled back to find them.

We had lunch at the 25 mile mark it was not pleasant due to a plague of sand flies. Net and I put on long trousers and put our hoods up on our coats to keep them at bay.

From the 30 mile mark we had a hard 5 mile climb to 1800feet some this was pretty steep so it was hard work. We then had a down and wet trip into Makorora valley. The Makarora Tourist Centre had an A frame lodge available for the evening so we booked one of these as the weather was wet and cold and it was forecast for heavy rain overnight.

The lodge was nice it had its own kitchen and toilet and 6 beds so plenty of room, but only curtains to separate us. We managed to blow the fuses by turning the fire, stove and kettle on at the same time, an electrician had to come to replace the fuse.

In the evening we went to the onsite bar and I had a lovely glass of white wine, the internet was rubbish, it is hard to believe that we had better wifi access in Asia than we do in NZ
Day 350
Sat 19th March
Makarora to Wanaka

Gary’s diary

A good decision not to camp last night as it tipped it down, in the morning our front lawn had a moat around it of rain water puddles. After a false start due to a puncture in my back wheel we set off in the rain.

The views were quite stunning with the rain and cloud cover along the side of a long lake with loads of rainbows where the sun was trying to shine through. When we turned to follow Lake Hawea the weather cleared for us even with a wind pushing us along for a change.

The area was very scenic and by having rain then sunshine we got to see it in all its glory. We camped by Lake Wanaka but still 4 miles from the Town Centre.

The views were amazing, we were cycling alongside a number of lakes and across from the lakes were large mountain ranges. It was easy to see why NZ had been picked to film ‘Lord of the Rings’ and other movies with an ‘unearthly’ feel to them. As Gary said the light from the sun and the clouds were breathtaking, hopefully we should have some really good photos.

We all rode at our own pace which meant we rode on own most of the day, which suited me. The boys have their cameras and like to stop to take photos but once on their bikes they shoot ahead for the next shot. This means I’m either cycling slowly or very fast. Riding at my own pace meant I could enjoy the views without the inconsistent pacing. The alternative is to wait with the boys whilst they take photos but the sandflies make this very difficult.

When we got to the campsite I felt very weary, I’d been up since about 4.00am reading and had some tummy cramps so went to sleep for an hour, this is a first on this trip, but my body loved it. We have a day’s rest coming up and I’m looking forward to this, Gary and I have discussed the possibility of hiring a car for a couple of days as theres so much of NZ we will not see on our current route and the weather is predicted to be wet, wet, wet

I had a phone signal for the first time in 3 days, Tony and Beth (who we met in Laos) have been trying to get in touch. They drove 2 hours to come and see us.
Day 351
Sunday 20th March
Wanaka to Queenstown
50 miles

Gary’s diary

We had a nice evening chatting with Tony and Beth, they came and set up camp next to us, we had discussed eating out but the beer and conversation flowed so we decided to stay put and cook on site on our cooking stoves.

We set off light as Tony and Beth kindly offered to take our panniers to Queenstown as they were planning on spending the night there. We kept a few items including puncture repair kits, tent and change of clothes everything else went in the back of their car with their deaf staffy dog called Pearl.

it was a beautiful morning when we woke up but it we could see some cloud cover coming in and as the weather forecast was still for rain we decided to pack up our tents before breakfast. Stuart has broken another tent pole, we don’t know how he does it.

The ride from the campsite along the Wanaka Lake on a gravel cycle track was nice, there were several jet boats preparing for a race, they were pretty noisy so we wouldn’t have got a lie in while these were starting up.

Wannaka town looked small but picturesque, it was a shame we didn’t have a bit longer to explore it. We cycled along a valley ‘Carndona Valley Road’ which had a gradual steady climb and we were surrounded by mountains.

Beth and Tony met us at the famous pub in Cardona, it’s fame came from the fact that during a divorce half the pub was taken by the wife, then a brewery advertised its beer by sailing half the pub around the world.

Ginette – In NZ they think nothing of taking a house/hotel or half a pub and moving it somewhere else including half way round the world.

The pub had a nice ‘English feel’ with a traditional pub garden, the boasts that Prince Harry has stopped by for a drink or two. Whilst we were there we met the Bluff cyclists we had seen the previous day just leaving as we arrived, they’d been talking to Tony and Beth about their challenge.

After this the road climbed more steeply up to over 3000ft Ginette and I were flying along with no heavy bags, we over took the bluff cyclists and event left Stuart well behind.

Ginette – I’d been dreading this climb as I’d felt a little weary during the week, I didn’t realise I was going particularly fast until the boys said they were having to work really hard to keep up.

The views at the top were stunning and Tony and Beth had made us a lovely food spread including fresh salmon.

The ride down into Queenstown was steep, we were glad we didn’t come up that way. As we cycled along you could see the aircrafts coming into land they were actually flying below the height we were cycling.

The views on the top and on the way down were breathtaking, it really is like Middle Earth, with large mountain ranges as far as the eye can see with a lake immediately in front of them. The colours on them were amazing so unworldly.

The campsite was a very busy tourist site and very big, we were squeezed in like sardines.

Beth and Tony camped elsewhere as the site had a no dog rule, but they kindly dropped our bags at the campsite and took us on a drive to Glenorchy and then on to Paradise. These were all around Lake Wakatipu. The route was very scenic with glaciers still on the mountain tops. ‘Paradise’ was down an unsealed road over a ford called River Jordan but not a lot around as it was raining.

As a way of saying thanking you to Tony and Beth we treated them to dinner and drinks in a pub in Glenorchy. We were served by a young lass from Belfast who was working the summer so that she could get a free ski pass for the winter season.

The food was heavenly, the boys all went for meat dishes whilst Beth and I went for the fish. Although it was reasonably priced we still managed to spend £70 on food and £30 on drink which is our food budget for 3/4 days.
Once back at the campsite we had a hot drink with some biscuits and chocolate it was a lovely evening. Beth and Tony are so easy to talk to and have a lot of travel experience to share with us.