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locations postcards

marlborough sounds

once again i stayed at a d.o.c. campsite, this time at pelorus bridge. a wonderful campsite at a river surrounded by forest with several walking tracks in the area. on top of that it has a kitchen and hot showers. i met another cyclist, guillaume from france. we both cooked two meals each and had a whole table full of food to share for dinner.

the next day, i turned off the highway and followed the road along the kenepuru sound. most campsites were pretty crowded and too close to the road for my taste. but another not marked turnoff ended in a place which someone had used as a campspot before. there was a table with chairs, a path to a nearby stream to get water and even coat hooks on the tree next to the table. a small path led to another clearing with just enough space to park the bike and pitch a tent. from there it was only a couple of steps to the beach.

i continued to kenepuru heads almost at the end of the sealed road. i pitched the tent and left most of my stuff to start my day trip towards mount stokes. with 1200 meters in altitude the highest elevation in the area. the road soon turned into gravel and soon after that the climb started. the road leads about halfway up before the 5 hour return track starts. there’s hardly any views while climbing through the forest but once you’re on top the sounds look stunning.

there’s a plateau on top with a 360 degree view and nothing but green hills and water. back on the campground i met stefan, another german traveller, who in his kindness provided me with some fruit as i was running low on food. and i didn’t have to pay the camp fee as the  the campsite host is a cyclist too.

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music people

new year

it started raining again and didn’t stop for 2 days, but on the last the of the year the weather got better. i cycled towards nelson and wasn’t sure if i would find a place to stay as the town would be rather busy. half-heartedly i asked at two hostels, earned just some sympathetic looks, saw a couple of ‘no vacancy’ signs and changed to plan b. which was to buy a bottle of wine, get some decent food and cycle over the maungatapu road, a 4wd track and a shortcut to the east. it turned out the road is closed after the heavy rainfalls within the last few weeks. alright, time for plan c which is more or less plan a, finding somewhere to stay in nelson, with no plan b an thus more effort. the campgrounds closer to town were booked out as well and i ended up at the biggest holiday i have ever set eyes on. without the map you get at the reception it would be a challenge to get to the right campsite. while i was setting up camp i already had some entertainment coming from a stage nearby with a band playing rock classic from the last 50 years. they spoiled ccr’s ‘fortunate son’ and acdc’s ‘you shook me all night long’ was not in the vocal vocabulary of the singer, but they nailed a couple of other songs and succeeded in entertaining the few people in front of the stage and the majority of the campers which preferred to stay at their site and listen while sitting in their chairs and having a drink.

i got invited by my neighbours, turned out they were german as well. i guess we were both a little disappointed at first but got on well once into the conversation. this disappointment might happen once in a while as i have never seen so many germans in any foreign country so far. we made our way into the city center an hour before midnight. there was another stage at the central trafalgar square and a band playing mostly songs by ‘the doors’. i had my doubts if ‘the doors’ would be a fitting soundtrack for a new year’s eve celebration. but i have to say, it does the job very well.

the music changed sometime after the countdown and we continued dancing as long as the band played. later we met four canadian sisters who showed us a bar with yet another band. by then i was pretty drunk and… good night.

the next morning came with a slight hangover, the ones you can get rid of with a cup of coffee, a cold shower and a hearty breakfast. i kind of missed out on the cold shower and the hearty breakfast, which accounted for me still not feeling to well during the first kilometers on the bike. luckily i had some time before the serious climbing out of the tasman bay started on my way towards the marlborough sounds.

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locations people travel

golden bay

as i was getting weary of the main road, i took a left turn into a gravel road and exchanged the rather smooth surface of the road with gravel but had only 2 cars within an hours drive. the scenery was untypically sparse for new zealand but not without character.

the next morning i bought sunglasses number 8 on this trip after a campervan rolled over my previous pair. in motueka i met danielle from canada. she invited me to takaka over christmas as she was house-sitting for people who would be away over the holidays. in between is the takaka hill. the climb starts with the hardest part, some hairpin bends with heavy incline,  steady in the middle part but eases in the end while it makes its way to about 700 meters.

arriving at upper takaka, heavy winds were blowing up the valley and were about to dampen my splendid mood after the wonderful climb and descent. though it wasn’t far to takaka, i turned into the hangdog climbers campground for the night.

the next day i met up with danielle again at the house where she was woofing and now house sitting over the holidays. it is looking over golden bay and has a wonderful garden with plenty of space to pitch my tent. it was great to have a kitchen at one’s disposal again and fresh veggies from the garden. so a lot of time went by while cooking or reading or simply enjoying the view. the owner had also a piano in the living room. once again a very welcome diversion.

on christmas we were invited by some friends who live even further up the hill where only people on foot, sheeps or 4WDs find their way up. the reward is a stunning view over golden bay while the sun is setting behind the wakamarama range which was keeping the rain clouds in the west. premium seats.

there are quite a few people in the area around takaka seeking alternative lifestyles, living as sustainable as possible, with own veggie garden, rainwater collection and solar power. you also see more people using bicycles in their daily lifes and some signs remind the motorists to be aware of that.

the road into the abel tasman park was still closed since the heavy rainfalls before christmas which washed out parts of the road and landslides made stretches impassable. we still went as far as we could and tried to persuade the man at the road block to let us through. the young fellow was new to the job and rather overzealous in his shiny new uniform. so we made a small trip to the rawhiti caves instead. the track was also washed out, so we had to walk up the once again dry river bed and then a small path up to the caves.

after christmas we set out further north towards the farewell spit and stopped near onekaka at a buddhist retreat. in the evening we went to the mussel inn, a small bar with outdoor area around a fire place and their own brews from the tab. it is a popular spot despite its remote location because of the quality live music events. on our way back we took a small foot path which leads through a forest past rock walls full of glow worms, sometimes around a hundred per square meter. a good night.

the next day i was on my own again, cycling back over takaka and the hill with the same name and i was pretty exhausted once i rolled into mutueka again. i still had no idea where to be for new years. i thought it would be nice to have some people around but i had such good company within the last weeks without making any plans.

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locations people

bob’s place

the next day it was only a couple of kilometers until we reached bob’s place. our host arrived 5 minutes later with material for a structure he was planning in his vegetable garden. he had made already quiet an effort to create a level area for the tents and outdoor toilet with view of the buller gorge. it is a wild looking piece of land with only a shack to live in but a very cozy one with outdoor bathtub and a big garden with all sorts of fruit and vegetables.

we made a small trip to the next town, about an hour away, to get some groceries before we turned our attention to bob’s table tennis set. it turned out that marco and me were on the same level and it was loads of fun to play in these surroundings while the stereo was playing sly & robbie, or the new tom waits and wilco records. we continued with the table tennis the next morning until two other cyclists arrived. a mother and daughter duo. the girl riding a unicycle while the mother carried the gear for two. after a nice chat while having breakfast we had another short ride together before marco took the turnoff towards the lewis pass and i went further north towards motueka.

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locations people travel

west coast

i arrived in greymouth and checked in at the yha as the weather was getting worse. without asking i got a bicycle discount as a low carbon traveller. the common room looked like the drawing room in an old english country house with comfy couches, tons of books and even a piano which was fun to play after such a long time. my roommate was another cyclist, marco from germany, who was two months into his first cycle touring adventure with his trailer he made himself out of the frame from a wheelbarrow and a barrel.

the next day it was raining all day long. time to do the laundry, spend some time on the internet at the library and some more messing around on the piano.

we decided to start together the next day towards westport. we were already pretty impressed with the first half of the day. and when we stopped at the pancake rocks for lunch, the sun was coming out from behind the clouds and the scenery along the coast just north of punakaiki was getting even better and needs not to fear a comparison with the great ocean road.

as the day was coming to an end, heavy dark clouds were rolling over the hills as we reached jack’s gasthof, a pizzeria slash camping ground, obviously run by a german couple. it is a good spot and it feels like camping in someone’s garden which it actually is more or less. it started to rain while we had our dinner and continued to do so for the next forty hours. so we spent the most part of the next day within our tents. which is bearable for one day but the outlook on another day spent in confinement made us crawl out of our little dry holes the next morning and rather ride through the downpour with a bed and a hot shower in a hostel to look forward to in once we reached westport.

the following day we cycled along the buller river, we met another cyclist from france who just came from bob, a kiwi cyclist who is building a campsite for cyclists on his property, our goal for that day. but again the weather had different ideas and so we stopped at the lyell d.o.c. site for the night (the department of conservation runs a bunch of camping spots around the country which offer basic facilities with no gadgets for an affordable price or even for free). the site is alright only bad with sand flies or black flies, mindless bloodsucking beast which terrorize especially the west coast during the summer months.

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locations postcards travel

arthur’s pass

i wanted to get into the mountains again and cycling over the arthur’s pass to the west coast seemed like the quickest way to get that. the first day i just cycled outside the city in more or less the same weather as on the day i arrived, but the next day was perfect. sunny and not too hot like an early day in spring.

i stopped at lake pearson for the first night. a wonderful setting with the mountain on the opposite shore which reflected on the lake’s surface. after reaching arthur’s pass village around noon the next day i climbed another 1000 meters on foot to the avalanche peak.

i held snow in my hands for the first time this year and was for some time almost alone on the summit.

i was surprised to see a kea this high up. these nasty buggers can be quite a challenge while camping. stealing food is just the start as they don’t stop short of tents and bicycles. luckily i could park my ride in a nearby shelter and had just no milk for breakfast which they snitched from my tent’s vestibule.

the next day it was a short climb from the arthur’s pass village to the actual pass and then a steep downhill for the first few kilometers and i was glad i started the pass coming from the east. i met another group of cyclists on my way down and by now i wasn’t surprised to see one or more each day. so i might not mention all of those i meet.

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locations people

christchurch

arriving in christchurch after midnight, there was little else to do after assembling the bicycle then to get some hours of sleep in the designated rest area. bicycle touring seems to be so popular in new zealand that they even have a bicycle assembly area with a bike stand to assist while piecing the bike together again. after a sunny week in melbourne it was considerable colder and the sunshine was replaced by a constant drizzle.

i’d already heard about the earthquake which hit the city in february but was still surprised about how much of the city center is still closed. some streets look like a part of a ghost town or movie set.

others are busy with workers and heavy machinery to stabilize buildings or tear those down which are beyond repair. after the earthquake the city council invited citizens to contribute with their ideas to the rebuilding process. it is still to be seen how many of these ideas see the light of reality but it already helped the spirit in christchurch despite the growing number of people leaving the city or even the country.

once again i found a host here to stay for the first two days. so i had some time to get accustomed to the new country, people and currency, to organize maps, a new zealand phone number and some supplies. since i fly out of christchurch as well i was able to leave some gear at my hosts place to lose weight before starting over the highest pass of the south island, the arthur’s pass.