This is a highly stylized interpretation of the Robert Ridge route in Nelson Lakes, from the display in the Dept of Conservation [DOC] office on Lake Rotoriti. I chose not to ford the Traverse River [braided stream] to hike the left side of the lake, as 3 guys who shared my last night at Coldwater Hut told me it was a thrilling waist-deep wade. Unlike Abel Tasman, this water is somewhat colder.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Enjoying the "balmy" weather on the Robert Ridge Route to Angelus Hut in Nelson Lakes NP. The 60km/hr wind gusts only added to the experience. At the hut I'm sure I saw this guy in a white robe, holding a strange looking walking stick, and wearing pointy hat.
Later, I booked a shuttle ($35 each way) to St Arnauds, to do 2 days' tramping in Nelson Lakes. True to form, Nelson Lakes laid on the full alpine experience. High winds, with 60km/hr gusts and bare exposed ridgetop hiking to a great 21 bed hut: Angelus alongside a glacial tarn. The icy rain, mist and storm clouds only added to the experience. Day 2 involved a dangerous descent on loose rocks to Lake Rotoiti, for more spectacular scenery and tough hiking. Day 3 was a hike out in the mist and rain along the lake shore. I hitchhiked from the road, so didn't have to do the last sodden 4km. I then sat dripping in the Alpine Lodge cafe, inhaling cappuccinos.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Final shot, which I took using my I-phone. At the end point of the cycleway, just outside Richmond, if you follow the bike path signs to Moteuka and SH60, you reach Waimea Winery, where you can do some wine tasting among the trellises.
How perfect is that? The Nelson region is the far side of Malborough, which is New Zealand's most famous wine making region. The whites and "varietals" like pinot noir are excellent.
I bought a bottle of Pick and Shovel, a Central Otago pinot noir, on sale in the supermarket for $20 NZD and took it with me on a 3-day sea kayaking trip in Abel Tasman National Park. Golden sand, blue, blue water and sunny weather. A real campaign poster for "Natural New Zealand" the current tourism push, if ever there was one. Still, there is trouble in paradise. Lots of hungry little black sand flies, that like to bite you on the shins.
Another shot of the Nelson Cycleway. It's a fun ride, rolling along the beautiful shore, and ducking under SH6 in places, through tidal underpasses. This means that when the tide is up, you can't use the underpass, but as the tide goes out, it's great fun to ride through the puddles. You ride along the side of the rushing traffic on the highway, and it's another world.
I arrived in Nelson, a big adventure base in New Zealand, on a dreadfully rainy day. Still, here's the view the day after. This is from the bike lane along Rocks Road. I learned later that this chain fence is historic. I took the photo after riding 18km to the neighboring town, Richmond, along Nelson's Cycleway, which was opened in time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Horatio Nelson's triumph at the Battle of Waterloo. Hmm. I had no idea Sir Horatio was a cyclist :-)
I took the Inter Islander ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. It was a very odd experience to take my bike aboard. I thought it would be like riding the Washington State ferry, where people are used to cyclists walking on board. Not here, folks. Apparently, I'd paid to be treated like a piece of freight.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Hmm. OK, I checked a little into these claims. As far as I can tell, all these cycle ways are ONLY for mountain bikes. While there is some mention of "on-road" but if sealed roads are part of the plan, the project sure is hiding that fact.
The latest one open (Oct 2010) is on the South Island, the Saint James Great Trail, 60km that follows river valleys and traverses the St James mountain range.
I know many mountain bikers, but I'm not interested in mountain biking. I'm hardly alone in this. I like to walk on single track, rather than ride my bike on it. I like nice sealed roads, which are the perfect surface for bike riding. After a few days' cumulative experience on the North Island, I can report this about the state of "Share the Road" in NZ. It's a work in progress. For a country full of people who love sports, the behavior of motorists is a bit discordant. I've been chatting with a Swiss woman cyclist at my New Plymouth backpacker, who is finishing up a tour of the North Island on a rental bike. She's in her mid-20s, blond and cute, so what she tells me seems so disappointing. She says many motorists pass her too close, either honking, or yelling, or otherwise acting like idiots. Now, this method of picking up women didn't work when I was younger, and it sure doesn't work these days, either. This polite Swiss gal tells me she's taken to giving people the finger in response.
We are both bemused by the behavoir of motorists on a road with a PASSING lane. The signage always says: "Keep left except when passing." But, to kiwi motorists, apparently, when passing a cyclist, this means "Always keep left when passing someone on a bike." Even when there is a passing lane and no traffic in either direction, motorists will not change lanes, and insist on staying in the left lane. What do you not understand, folks? Pull OUT! Pull OUT! It won't kill you, but it might kill me. The draft from your car/van/tractor trailer can suck under a cyclist who's clinging to the white line. I am very glad I put a rear vision mirror on my handlebars, as now I see how it works, I'm always scanning back up the road for approaching morons.
Kiwis love travel and seem to love travelers. I wish they'd apply this logic to bike travelers in their own country. The only people so far who seem to pull out are foreigners driving rentals.
It appears that New Zealand powers that be are adopting the "totally separate" approach to making cycling more feasible in their country for visitors. This theory is that cyclists and motorists shouldn't have to share the same routes. I respectfully disagree with this logic. Why not both? A campaign to educate road users might also be a good part of this "Great Rides" initiative.
It's a thought.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Day 1 (Friday) was 62km of roller coaster riding on "the Surf Highway" Route 45, from New Plymouth to Opunake. Ocean to the right, green, green pasturelands to the right. I took a short 800m, but steep as heck detour into Mt Egmont National Park to Lucy's Gully, a grove of old growth exotic trees that is managed by the park people. Lots of bird song, and I had it almost to myself for the whole time.
I was ready to stop by 6pm when I got to Opunake. It was headwinds for 3 hours without let up along this stretch, and Wm the Conqueror isn't made for it.
Day 2 (Saturday) and I got to ride along with the one-day racers for Round the Mountain. The first one, a big German guy, came through as I was exiting a coffee shop in Opunake at 9am. Now, this is the same route I rode yesterday, that took me close to 9 hours, including the stop in the National Park. I guess this gonzo chap started at 6am and did it in 3 hours. I shared Eltham road with nearly all the pelotons, until I turned towards the mountains, for the road to Stratford. Lots of "atta-girls" from the many riders. Very different sort of event to what I'm used to. Seems that everyone has a personal support vehicle, so there's a convoy of cars and vans, all loaded with extra bikes, either for other riders to do a relay, or perhaps, if one bike breaks down, why fix a flat?
One of the support vehicles, a red mercedes convertible drove up next to me, and I got handed a bottle of cold water.
Turning to ride into the mountain proved a challenge. Seems like those headwinds were now sweeping down the flanks of Taranaki, and hitting me right in the center of my bike helmet. It took me a good 15 mins to ride about 1km. But for most of today I got side winds. I can tell because I've attached an orange scarf to my helmet to make me more visible to kiwi motorists. When it flaps to the side of my face, that's side winds. Haven't yet had it flap over my head, which would mean a tail wind. People pass too fast and too close for my liking out on Hwy 45. Too many of them roar up behind you, and then pull out, in a sort of half assed way. And forget about slowing down. That's a foreign concept. Even the peloton supporters were passing way too fast. Still, today's 42km ride was much better, as I had most of the last 20km to myself. All the racers were going through Eltham.
In Stratford I treated myself to dinner out, as my super cheap backpacker accomodation really looks like it should be condemned. Then I went to The King's Cinema "home of the first talkies in New Zealand" and saw the Harry Potter film, Deathly Hallows 1, complete with an intermission.
There's definitely a sense of time warp in this part of New Zealand.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I'm following the route listed in Lonely Planet's Riding in New Zealand book. The biggest problem will be the wind. It gets pretty blustery here, and no matter which way you ride, it's sure to get you somewhere. Lucky for me I'm one day ahead of a big bike race, around, you guessed it, Mt Taranaki. It's a one day affair, and runs on Saturday. By then I'll be riding from Opunake to Stratford. It's very likely I'll meet them all pounding up behind me. The women in the i-Site helped me book accomodation (it's very rural around Taranaki) and also set me up with a hut permit for the National Park. After riding the circuit, I plan to take a shuttle back to Egmont Village, and get dropped off to do an overnight hike. Not sure what I'll see, but will likely be pretty good.
I'm not familiar with this part of the North Island. I'm not alone. Most tourists don't come over here. You can sense New Plymouth is about to take off as the next "hot" destination. Lucky for me, I'm here on the rising tide. The hordes looking for something undiscovered (oxymoron in NZ) will come later. That's always a problem with "undiscovered" places.
Something else yet undiscovered is New Plymouth's brand new 12km Coastal Walkway, a shared walk/bike/blade path that runs along the shore. It's lovely. Usually concrete, some wooden board walk, some newly graveled sections, here and there dotted with New Zealand's "coastal cafes" which are basically outdoor cafes set up out of funkily decorated trailers. I had the most extraordinary iced coffee for $6 NZD at Big Wave Cafe, a fun place with tables made out of surfboards. I had to stop to investigate when I saw a row of 1950s era lounge chairs lined up alongside the bike path. The thing was basically overflowing with ice cream, sprinkled with chocolate and garnished with 2 chocolate coated marshmallow fish.
Gosh it was good. Big Wave happens to be listed in a flyer I got from the i-Site this am, called "Taranaki's Must Do Experiences" www.taranaki.info/visit, "your guide to Taranaki's 50 most umissable experiences, adventures and attractions, as voted by the locals." I was reading this flyer, and using it as a napkin to wipe off the ice cream that dribbled down my chin.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
"exciting" flight and trip from the Auckland airport. You don't really
smell the sulphur springs unless the wind is blowing in the right
It's a curious place. Geysers and hotsprings just erupt where ever they
darned well feel like it. So, you can ride by someone's house, or a
storm drain, and out of it streams a plume of white smoke. I was walking
around on a Sunday, which is quiet in smallish towns like this one.
However, from the local high school I could hear a group of people
singing in Maori. Not part of the tourist circuit, where you can buy a
hangi (dinner) and dance show, complete with haka (the ferocious maori
chant known to most from any viewing of an All-Blacks game), grass
skirts and tourist trinkets.
Rotorua is a big Maori town, and all the signage is bilingual. Down on the lake is a Maori village, that
boasts very interesting looking buildings, including a meeting house
and a church. The architecture of the church is a hybrid of Maori
carving and C19th England. Surprisingly, it works. I didn't go into
the settlement as it's private, so you need to be invited.
I took the Intercity bus at 1:15pm today to Lake Taupo, then changed
to another bus to go to Turangi. I have a 5:30am shuttle booked to do
the Tongariro Alpine Crossing tomorrow. Weather is supposed to be
fine, and snow level is 3,000m.
I'm finding the Intercity bus drivers very cooperative when I want to
load William the Conqueror in a specific way: upright, stuck between
my backpack and a large carryall. No doubt the kiwi bus drivers have literally "seen it all" and are used to crazy backpackers hauling all sorts of odd shaped things. So I fit right in. I'm trying to prevent damage to the
bike. So far, there's lots of luggage in all the busses i've ridden,
so it's not falling over and sliding around like a ping pong ball.
I still have too much stuff, even though I am managing to pack
tighter. Not sure what I will throw out, but something has to go. It's
too unwieldy to ride fully loaded on my "circus" bike.
Monday and Tuesday I'm staying at Riverstone Backpackers in Turangi, one of the
hostels that gets a 90%+ approval rating from the BBH group. BBH is a competitor to the YHA system. I bought for $45 NZD a BBH card, which gives me $3 off future bookings, and $20 of domestic calling card. Riverstone deserves its high ranking. Kiwipaka for the last 2 nights was a bit scuzzy. This
place is palatial by comparison, and I'm paying $25 NZD for a dorm bed
(6 in the room but only 2 others occupied tonight). The private room
at Kiwipaka cost me $52 NZD. The dorms there would have been a bit
Photos to come once I have wireless. I don't trust public internet terminals with my flash drive just yet.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
So, I had a coach ride booked on Intercity from Manakua City (outside Auckland) at 8:05pm local, I rode out of Auck airport literally like a bat out of hell at 6:45pm and I made it at 7:58pm, despite riding for the first time on left side of road from airport, not know where the hell i was going, all my gear bursting out of the bags I'd trial packed so neatly a month ago. things must have expanded in the Queensland wet. Still, the group of Maori locals and scruffy backpackers standing at the bus stop were speechless when I did a U-turn in front of them, leapt off bike, folded it up, stuck everything in a big Target bag I'd bought in Melbourne to carry stuff on the plane and defeat JetStar's $10/kg extra baggage fee (i carried on about 15kg, so there, JetStar!). Still, out of breath and sweating like the proverbial porker, i then learned the bus was 1/2 hour late, and nothing available to buy to eat or drink. Bugger.
Once on bus, with large extended Maori families all chatting away in Maori, 1/2 hour out on the highway we ran over something, and had a flat tire. Oh yeah. 1 1/2 hours later, everyone standing in a cowfield for multiple smokes, then finally back on the road. I got dumped off the bus somewhere in the dark, as the bus went to Lake Taupo and I had to get a small shuttle to Rotorua. Still, the bus driver drove me right to the door of Kiwipaka and I finally got to bed at 2am. thank you Intercity for this unexpected gift. I would NEVER have found the hostel otherwise.
Then at 6am, the 3 [count 'em] Magic Busses parked at the backpackers roared to life, along with a bunch of obnoxious Australian boy scouts, who ran up and down the staircases yelling at top of their voices. They pulled out around 8am I think and I fell back into sleep.
Finally took a shower in the completely soggy, messy women's shower room (3 loads of Magic Bus does that to a place), and it finally was quiet.
I am now booking hostels and onward journey to Turangi where I will get a shuttle to Tongariro NP and do the Tongariro Crossing on Tues, weather gods holding. After that, fingers x-ed, going to Taranaki [Mt Egmont] for circuit ride OFF the tourist circuit for 3 days.
Kia Ora, Cathy
p.s., Wm the conqueror did GREAT on the highway, despite the stupidity of its rider.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
However, in Freycinet, I did see a large group of loaded tourers braving the road into the park. They were supported by a couple of sedans, so I think it was a club ride. The shoulder on this road was nonexistent, so I couldn't easily pull over and chat.
I've just finished a 2 night/3 day hike on the Peninsula Great Walk in Freycinet. Pretty tough in places, as trail maintenance appears to be a foreign concept to the parks people. But worthwhile. Photos and a report to come when I have better internet and more time.
Today heading to Launceston.