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southland

after two days on gravel it was a nice change to ride on a sealed road again. just at the junction for the von river road we met a swedish couple who sailed in fourteen month from their home to new zealand and found out about the best way to see the country and switched to bicycles. a very inspiring story.

after the decision to go all the way to the south, leaving out milford sound was another change i made. we had another long day of cycling until we stopped at the clifden suspension bridge campsite. the district of southland has a list on their homepage with spots for freedom camping. like the one at the aparima bridge reserve near thornbury where we stay the next night. after we pitched our tents we lay in the shallow water of the river and let the current wash away the dust from the road and later had a glass of wine with our dinner and went to bed rather late.

we only passed through invercargill as jens and laurence wanted to get to bluff, the southern end of state highway one. as they have been already at cape reinga, the very northern end of the road. we stayed at the bluff campground, a nice district run campsite with honesty system which is rare for such a place with all the amenities. we stayed an extra day as it was raining and our legs needed a rest day before retracing our steps to invercargill. we all had some things to organize and to do some shopping. and as we’d all seen the movie “the world’s fastest indian” with anthony hopkins playing burt munro, we had a look at the original motorbike and the replica which was used while filming.

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travel

von river road

the von river road is a gravel road which made the climb from the lake up the valley rather challenging. once on the high plateau the road is quiet flat, there’s hardly any traffic and the scenery of unspoiled beauty.

we stopped at the mavora lakes in the evening. it was busy as it was the day before waitangi day, the annual celebration of the treaty signed in 1840. i had no plan to visit the very south part of the island but changed my mind as i had still enough time and continued to travel with laurence and jens to southland.

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locations travel

queenstown

tagged as ‘the adventure capital of the world’ queenstown’s main road is a succession of adventure tours and thrill selling shopfronts. i called jens and laurence who were on their way back from a day trip to the milford sound. as their hostel was booked out, i pedalled out of town to the twelve miles campsite and we planned on meeting the next morning at the ferry to get to the other side of lake wakatipu. ferry might not be the right word for the tss earnslaw, an old steamer which was built in dunedin and then transported in parts to queenstown before being rebuilt.

it is still the same old engine which propels the screws of the earnslaw which has its 100 year anniversairy this year. the operator offers guided cycle tours and there is a bike storage in the bow.

the bicycle is included in the ticket and still the price is quiet dear for the crossing. but it was well worth it to get to the start of the von river road.

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wanaka

jens and i were looking for a campsite, but the cheapest was not much savings compared to the price of a hostel. especially when we get the low emission discount at the yha which in this case has a direct view of lake wanaka and the surrounding mountains. after sorting out our luggage and our bikes we made a small trip to the supermarket. we came back just in time to welcome laurence who made it despite the heavy wind. yet he had to push his bike sometimes even on the flat road. but he refused to accept a lift which was offered to him three times. churo and sarah, we found out later, turned back after falling off their bikes twice and found a rather luxurious place to stay. while still heading for wanaka, they were invited by a kiwi to stay at his house but turned it down at first. after changing their minds they couldn’t find that person anymore but a house which was unlocked and so they just let themselves in.

the next day i got a lift to the start of the rob roy’s glacier track. past waterfalls…

until the viewpoint at the end of the track with the glacier which once filled the whole valley.

the next day i finally had a rest day while the others moved on to a nearby camping place to do some rock climbing . over the crown range, one of the highest sealed roads in new zealand, and with a stop in arrowtown i continued to queenstown the following day.

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people travel

scenic inland route

after cycling out of christchurch i realized that i forgot my maps in town. as i was already too far to think about turning back i got instructions from a local which were easy enough to follow without a map. it made me realize how much i depend on maps. not only for the obvious orientation but as a token of security and i remembered the time when i was cycling from spain with nothing than a small map of europe on a handkerchief.

the inland route is a much better option to travel south then highway one. not only is there less traffic but the scenery has more to offer. like here around the rakaia gorge.

there are plenty of opportunities to pitch a tent for a night. most picnic areas have a basic toilet and there is always a river nearby to get water. a heavy storm passed while i stayed at a rest area near alford forest and the next morning there was snow lying on the side of the road and on top of mount somers.

on saturday i arrived in geraldine in time for the farmers market. most products seemed a bit overpriced but the live music made for a good atmosphere. at the supermarket i met laurence from wales, jens from switzerland, sarah and churo from spain. after having lunch together i joined their group and it was fun to travel with such a big group. we had a long day of cycling until we found a place for the night which suited everybody at the opuha river crossing. over burkes pass we continued to lake tekapo and when we turned into the canal route, the heavy side winds now became a proper tailwind which pushed us towards lake pukaki where we found a wonderful camp spot where we had our dinner after a very short swim in the rather cold water.

and all the time we had this view of mount cook.

the next morning, still with a tailwind, the 30 kilometers to omarama where flying by. but from there the wind turned again until the climb started towards the lindis pass. a rather barren but beautiful area.

jens and i met again on the pass and started the descent. we found a nice spot at the lindis river and enjoyed a swim in the evening. we left some signs on the side of the road, a bicycle tube wrapped around the guardrail and signs with rocks and branches in case any of the others might see it. laurence passed that point somewhere in the evening but didn’t see it while sarah and churo made it over the pass the next day. we eventually met again in wanaka.

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fashion locations music people

world buskers festival

as central christchurch was still off limits after the earthquakes, the world buskers festival was happening in hagley park this year. which took away the street feeling of the performances but had the advantage that the audience could easily switch between the different stages. the shows included comedy, theater, stunts, acrobatics, music and more.

one of the highlights was peter mielniczek. his show being to spin plates on sticks on a rack while he tries to run a big loop around the audience before returning on stage and catching the plates before they’re falling to the ground. the stunt itself was a nice finish but it was the built-up which was hilarious.

hilby the skinny german juggling boy won the critics’ choice award while he proved to the world that you can be german and funny. here while he’s not only balancing one sword on top of the other but also spins the one on top.

there were a couple a venues besides the buskers park for some evening entertainment. one was the comedy hour at the casino with javier jarquin, the card ninja who won the critics’ choice award for best act from new zealand. the grand finale of his show was the card meets watermelon trick. he was throwing a card that hard at the fruit that he managed to make a card stick in it. he needed about twenty tries and as we were sitting to the side of the stage, some of his misses came flying towards us at incredible speed and i could understand why he asked his volunteers to wear safety glasses on stage.

there was another show on at midnight and we had an hour to kill before that. shouldn’t be too difficult in a casino, eh? well, casinos are not what i once expected. there is little entertainment in gambling, especially if you watch other people gamble and there is for sure no glamour. we managed to win a small sum at a one-armed bandit. but this machine didn’t even have a lever which was one disappointment too many. by then it was still half an hour before the show and we rather went to the bar.

asher treleaven was a good host for the midnight carnivale, which included a stunt show, a contortionist and by the time gypsy wood entered the stage with her burlesque show, the grand cafe of the casino went mad.

i am writing from wanaka and had a wonderful week travelling with four other cyclist over lake pukaki and the lindis pass. four weeks from now i’ll fly to paris and will cycle from there to berlin where i probably arrive in time for my birthday. i hope to see you there, in paris or somewhere in between!

 

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travel

banks peninsula

i stayed one night in christchurch before exploring the nearby banks peninsula. it is always a hazzle to get out of a bigger city and this time i not only wanted to get out but get out at a certain point, the start of the little river rail trail. like australia, new zealand converted some disused railways into cycling paths. these are mostly unsealed but not too bad to ride on a touring bike. the little river rail trail isn’t complete and only sections are open. here the original train station at motukarara, the start of the second half of the trail.

three kilometers before little river is a  picnic area with no signs prohibiting camping which in new zealand mostly means it’s cool to camp and so i wasn’t alone as some other campers stayed the night before exploring the peninsula. a german couple invited me for breakfast the next morning. i already had mine but felt like a second one which gave me enough energy for the following ride to the hilltop. i stopped at the info center at the little river railway station on my way to get a detailed map of the area before starting the ascent. at hilltop the road splits, the main road leading downhill and along the akaroa harbour, while the summit road goes along the mountain ridge before descending towards akaroa while providing great views of the bay along its way.

the downhill towards akaroa is very steep and i wouldn’t recommend to attempt that part uphill with a loaded touring bike. akaroa itself is a pretty town where everyone’s doing creative stuff like shopping or having a coffee latte at the waterfront. it was the only french colonization attempt and some historic buildings still adorn the town.

on my way back i stopped again at the rest area close to little river. the sun was setting along the slope of the mountain while a parade of black swans was passing to their feeding place near the shore.

the next day it was finally time to head back to christchurch for the buskers festival.

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locations people travel

east coast

after blenheim the scenery changes again with rolling bare hills while the road leads over the dashwood pass. i took the turnoff to marfells beach, another d.o.c campsite and the first one which i left again after i had a look around. the place was completely taken over by locals who seemed to want to keep it that way and the small strip of land between the ocean and the hills seemed a little too cramped. despite headwind i kept moving as i had a recommendation for a place to stay twenty kilometers down the road. you can’t really miss the turnoff…

15 years ago a dutch cycling couple asked the owners if they could pitch their tent on their property for the night. they agreed and even extended the invitation. a house which was built to accommodate the seasonal workers who sheered the sheep was not used anymore as the sheep are collected by truck nowadays to get their fleece taking off elsewhere. after that initial meeting with the world of cycle touring they made a little business out of it which became quiet successful especially in the early years, when the new zealand dollar was quiet affordable and around 400 cyclist spend at least one night at ‘pedaller’s rest’ in its first year. there are still a lot of cyclists in new zealand but maybe a little less than fifteen years ago and i had the whole house to myself. company would have been nice but having a whole house to myself was alright as well. in the evening the wind was getting stronger and it started to rain a little and i was getting into the mood for my first rest day in 2012. the morning on the next day would have been alright for cycling but the storm in the afternoon made ‘my’ little house even more comfortable.

there was more head wind towards kaikoura the next day. i met another kiwi and a canadian cyclist on the way and the wind finally died down in the second half of the day and all of a sudden it felt like having a massive tailwind. in kaikoura i had a chat with the canadian cyclist when i saw two familiar faces, the mother- daughter duo whom i met at bob’s place. it was the last day of their cycle journey before returning to wellington and evenually back home.

since i had only one rest day and got motivated by the challenging parts on the way, i was a couple of days ahead the ‘arriving-in-christchurch-for-the-buskers-festival’ plan. so i took it slow and hopped from beach to beach in the hurunui district which has a couple of campgrounds for only a fiver a night. especially the one at amberley beach is highly recommended. amberley beach is only five kilometers from the amberley township. so it was easy to get more supplies when i decided to stay longer.

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people travel

port underwood road

all the way back towards picton along the queen charlotte drive, one has still the view of the sounds. picton is a very small town and which gets its importance because of the ferry to wellington that departs here. the small place gets quiet crowded before the departure or after the arrival of a ferry and the town seems to overflow with people and vehicles.

i got some supplies and started along the coastal road until whatamango bay where i stayed the night. i knew the road to come was gonna be a tough one but it still feels damn hard everytime a heavy climb comes in the morning while your muscles are still thinking about starting their warm up program. on the climb i met to kiwis from wellington which made a short break. they just came from the ferry and were on a four day trip to the south. it is hard to imagine for me to see myself travelling for what seems to me now as such a short period of time. but when you don’t think in those terms then, while it is still being a big difference, for that very day we cycled the same road, the same climbs and later both rolled into robyn hood bay to set up camp.

because of the windy gravel road and steep climbs, this is not much of a holiday destination for the masses and the camping doesn’t need a lot of regulations. i guess the majority appreciates this and wants to keep it that way by not messing it up and leave the place as they found it. the next day started with another heavy climb but once on top it is amazing how abruptly the land changes. the cliffs give way to a plain without even the slightest hill and the road leads through the vineyards the last kilometers into blenheim.