impressions we weren’t too impressed with Christchurch.
Everything seemed so
“small town” and apparently all shut by 10pm! On
that, we had already sampled the restaurants which were amazing.
It’s true what they say about New Zealand Lamb being the
best… what a flavour!
the bikes, and within 15 mins of cycling on an alien bicycle, Leanne was
shouting at Mike as he
tried to give advice on dealing with city centre traffic “it
wasn’t my idea to go cycling anyway!” –
“oh great!This is
gonna be a FUN time”
cycled back to the hostel and filled the pannier bags with all the
necessities. We also had to pack our tent (which would prove invaluable
later on). Also
shopped around for a good price on campervans, and reserved one for
next week. We
hadn’t appreciated that it was the start of tourist season,
suddenly campervans were like gold-dust, so we were exceptionally
pleased with our find (half the price of the competition (was that too
good to be true?)
afternoon Leanne wasn’t
great (start of a flu bug) so she went to lie down. Meanwhile Mike set
off on his first adventure with the bike – 33kms. That
Mike returned and we went out for dinner. When we arrived back at the
hostel at 9.30pm, we checked out the train times in order to travel to
the west coast (Greymouth)
to begin our
cycling adventure. We realised that it would be a very early start as
there was only one train a day (8am) which meant leaving the hostel at
6.45am! oh joy!
morning Leanne jumped on the free shuttle bus to the train station.
There wasn’t enough room for both of us on the bus so Mike
follow in a taxi. Mike was in a bit of a panic as to whether he would
make it on time but there was no problem. It was a freezing cold
morning and there we were in our cycling shorts standing on the
we met a very pleasant couple on the train who were now living in the North Island.
The guy originally was
from Scotland and
the lady from Australia! He
was a typical
Scot (even though he’s been living in Auckland 13
years), chat, chat, chat. He
sells cars. She
was quite quiet
throughout until 20 mins before we arrived (5 hour journey –
still sitting in our cycling shorts) –suddenly, she lit up
came to life.
are very much into property investment and informed us of the land and
property situation inNew
sounds fantastic by
their estimates. They’re modern day property tycoons and
frightened to tell any of their friends, family or colleagues, so it
was obviously a huge relief to finally talk to us and get it off their
chests… how intriguing.
we went through “Arthur’s Pass” and some
scenery. We had our first real taste of New Zealand which
appeared to be vast
and unpopulated! All the places we passed through seemed to be about
ten years behind the UK in
terms of buildings and
of the villages had only two or three houses – beautiful
but you wondered how they survived in relative loneliness.
arrived one hour late into Greymouth.
The train tracks were “too
hot” so the train had to slow down in case it de-railed. We
this quite humorous! And
only one train per day!
From Greymouth we
were straight on the
bikes and started cycling up the coastal route of the west.
an understated word to describe the magnificence of the scenery we
passed whilst cycling. Never before had we seen such clear seas which
were of a “turquoise” colour rather than the
colour of theNorth
some life. We stopped for lunch at the “Rata
which was situated on a hillside just 100 yards away from the main
road. (we hadn’t
even passed a petrol station, or corner shop, or person for the last
two hours). This place was beautiful, very fresh and newly built, quite
different from some of the shacks that we’d passed en-route.
Originally, we were the only customers, which seemed a real shame, then
the guys we’d passed earlier digging up roads, came in for a
or three… obviously regulars! They
even left their
boots outside the door.
opposite the first Ostrich farm that we had come across. We found out
later on that “Rata” is a particular kind of
found only in NZ.
carried on cycling towards “Punakaiki”.
Leanne by this point was not feeling good, and she needed a little
“push” up the bigger inclines from Mike! The road
getting much harder for cycling as the hills started to get longer and
arrived at Punakaiki “Pankake”
rocks and the BlowHoles –
a popular tourist
sight on the west coast.
(43kms) we found the campsite and set up our tent for the first time.
Our first night camping was in pretty extreme weather. It was freezing
cold and rained most of the night – to the point where we
fighting for the one-person mat underneath us to prevent us from
getting cold from the ground underneath the tent! Ending
up sleeping nose to tail.
we treated ourselves to a great full breakfast to prepare ourselves for
our onward journey. There was only one pub nearby (on campsite
entrance), so the bar staff were delighted to chat to us nutters that
were preparing to
cycle UPHILL (North) in the rain.
a bit of
persuasion, Leanne realised we couldn’t just stay there for a
days. We eventually left at 11am and within a couple of hours had
This was a very pretty little town where streets were named like those
We took our picture beside
the sign for
“Princes Street”!!! hilarious,
as it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.
minutes outside of Charleston there
“Goldmine” which we had a look in. We took a couple
photos sitting in the cart! Quite
rabbit warren of holes, with no apparent restrictions, visitors could
roam wherever they liked (and keep whatever gold they find). Obviously,
only £2 each to get in, and winning a tourist attraction
they don’t get many visitors. Must
you’ve seen one goldmine or coal mine, there does seem little
point in spending more time or money visiting the others.
Goldmine we cycled on to the next town named “Westport”. We’d
hardest, steepest parts of the road, but nevertheless, there were some
seriously long, steady inclines. The
big trucks had
to change down gears to get up.
what goes up must come down, so we really enjoyed freewheeling downhill
and looking at the marvellous scenery. Our speedo hit
44kph at one
stage… bit dangerous when your panniers are fully loaded.
didn’t encounter too much traffic, but discovered that the
“A” roads were the only routes available, there
cycle lanes, off-road tracks or even pavements alongside. Mostly
fine, but some of those double-trucks (one truck pulling a trailer same
size as itself, without the engine, obviously even bigger capacity),
they were quite unforgiving, especially if there was traffic coming the
other way. The
vicious slipstream created by these lorries meant
we had to hold onto our handlebars for dear life.
deliberately cycling behind Leanne. a)
to let her set
the pace as she wasn’t well, otherwise he would’ve
far ahead, and that can be quite depressing for the second rider b) to
position his bike one foot further out towards the middle of the road,
to ensure the vehicles had to take a wider berth and thus protect
Leanne, as the less experienced cyclist.
visiting Westport we
had wanted to visit the
seal colony which was close by, but upon realising it was another 4 km
in the opposite direction to the way we were wanting to head, we
decided against this. It was getting a little cold, and time was moving
on by this point. That
would’ve been an extra 8kms onto the day’s journey.
we passed lots of Deer farms. Never before had I seen deer so enormous.
Apparently it’s not a good idea to get into a field with a
so it was a good job we didn’t decide to pitch our tent in
arrived at Westport (74kms
today) It was very
cold by this time and our hands were freezing. We didn’t much
relish the thought of staying another night in a cold damp tent after
the previous evening’s experience.
first time, we had to remind ourselves WHY we were doing this adventure. Yes
it was an
experience of a lifetime, but truly we wanted to make a difference,
raising money for British Heart Foundation to
help those may never be
able to enjoy the luxury of cycling... that’s why
here doing this!
wished her dad was there to see the scenery, he would have loved it.
did want to
find a campsite but we couldn’t find it, our map was not
enough. As it happens we later discovered, we were only one street
away, but we continued on for another LONG mile before turning back.
dark, we were tired and cold, and not so cheery, so we stopped off at a
motel to check out prices. The owner realising he wasn’t
to get any more business that eve, must have felt sorry for us as he
gave us an $80 room for $50 with TV, two enormous bedrooms, kitchen and
hot shower! Just what we were dreaming of!! It made us feel like we
were getting ripped off at Stonehurst (the
hostel in Christchurch)
which prior to our visit to this motel, we thought was pretty good
was 5th November,
wanted to sleep, but needed sustenance, and reckoned the fireworks
would be going off every few mins so would keep us awake anyway. We
immediately for some food, but food at 9.15pm was like finding
a couple of chip shops, and then finally we found it, our saving grace
– a quiet pub called “Baileys”. Leanne
went to the
bar and surprise, surprise, immediately caught the attention of the
local “sheep-farmers”. They
tired and hungry woman who wasn’t much in the mood to play. (best stick
to sheep, they don’t growl so loud)
day, Leanne was still quite poorly, we decided not to cycle all the way
to Nelson (another 132kms) and instead went into town looking for
alternative things to do and other accommodation.
owner, Paul, took Leanne into his own home and offered to put us up
there FREE for the next night if she didn’t feel up to
Leanne, wouldn’t take the “charitable”
ironically, if he’d offered us the room at say $20, we
would’ve taken it!
“Ned” town, with the typical 40 year old cars and
kids with nothing to do. The houses were mainly wooden and a lot of
them had cheap corrugated iron roofing! We weren’t too
discovered that Dunedin is
one of the few towns that doesn’t have
as it may
seem, the wooden shacks seem to be the only buildings that remain
standing after an earthquake, because they are so flexible. So
a fair number of
the lovely brick houses in Westport had
actually fallen down in
Tourist Information at Westport to
ask about activities. We
booked Jet Boating with a company down the road called “Buller Adventure
Tours”. They asked us to come back later, and when we did, we
discovered that they were too busy, so we confirmed our space for the
found the local campsite which was to be our accommodation for the
night. We went to the supermarket for something for dinner and then
chatted to a very seasoned cyclist (from York originally
but now living in Spain)
who cycled at least
100 kms per
day! Our upper limit
thus far had been 74kms, so now we were feeling pretty inadequate!!
morning we were picked up by “Buller Adventure
go Jet-Boating. It had already begun to rain but we figured we might as
well get a little more wet!
was great fun. It was also extremely funny being taken to the river
being pulled by tractor whilst we sat in the boat! At
$65 each, this seemed much better value than the rides in Queenstown
advertised at $145 each.
Queenstown is much more dangerous, as the gorges are much narrower. The
rock faces are extremely steep and sharp and continue quite far down
below the surface. It
is the tourist attraction town of the South Island.
were on (the buller river),
although much wider, could rise or fall more than two feet in a day. The
drivers therefore need to be quite experienced as they deliberately get
very close to the edge, to provide the biggest thrills. Our
loved his job, and gave us some thrills with whirlpools and he put in a
wet, we were dropped off at “Baileys” pub, where we
some lunch and a drink. We stayed there for quite a while as the rain poured down
outside, and I mean
“chucking” it down! We
eventually braved the elements and ran along the main street where we
found some interesting wee shops to waste some time (stay dry). Found a
bicycle shop which doubled as an internet cafe, so naturally we took
the opportunity to check our emails.
continue North to Nelson, we decided we had to get back to Christchurch. We’d
booked the campervan which would be available on Monday. We
reckoned it would
take another 3 days to cycle to Nelson, and then we’d have to
another bus to Christchurch anyway
(no trains from Westport or
started the journey cycling towards Nelson, we would have had no choice
but to make it all the way as the only bus pick-up points were either
where we were in Westport,
our destination in Nelson. There
was only one
option, the once-a-day bus which had only space for two bikes, so if
someone else had booked their bike on, we would have to miss another
next day we
headed back to Christchurch and
the East Coast where
it was apparently a
from Main street at
8am. Dismantling and
packing soaking wet tent at 7.15am wasn’t to be relished, we
nearly missed the mini-bus!
on the journey was beautiful. Once in Christchurch we
took to our bikes once
again and cycled through the city and through “Mona
park which was just the most picturesque park you could imagine, with
beautiful little bridges, fabulous flowers and boat rides down the
river. It was such a lovely warm day too – quite a change
our west-coast experience. We were so glad to see the sunshine.
km to a Campsite, where after pitching the tent, we reluctantly decided
to “upgrade” to a cabin rather than stay in a cold
once again. When the sun went down it really was quite nippy (nobody
else was camping) and Leanne still
wasn’t well. Still,
we managed to get the tent aired and dried and packed away again.
very basic. Ours had a bunk bed on one wall and a double bed with
single bunk above. One
very old fan heater that was ready to explode and whined noisily as if
complaining that the fan was rattling against the plastic grid. We
decided to leave that alone. Still, at least we could get the bikes in
were basic blankets, but we decided to sleep in our own sleeping bags.
bed around 7pm, whilst Mike went off again that evening to cycle the
mountain bike trails around the campsite. In a couple of hours before
it got too dark, he managed 8km and came back enthusing about how great
the tracks were. These were the 1st off-road
she would give it a go in the morning! Mike went to watch the Scotland
V Australia and New Zealand V South Africa rugby games before falling
into bed at 1am!
morning we had breakfast before heading back towards Christchurch.
It was a beautiful day
again and we took the quieter coastal route, passing some amazing
scenery. For the majority of our journey we were able to take the
mountain bike trail which was great fun, and no traffic, although quite
a number of families out enjoying the tracks (it was Sunday after all).
We found and followed another off-road path close to the river, most of
the way back to Christchurch and
covered another 33kms.
We returned the bikes to the bike shop just in time (4.40pm –
again, it was Sunday after all) and we walked back towards Stonehurstaccommodation. We’d
in 1st and
emptied our panniers, making sure we had everything to hand back to the
bicycle hire shop, in good working order.
we relaxed for a while in our expensive room, which we reckon, was prob
the best room in the hostel! prior to
going for Pizza at “Dux de Lux”
which was the most amazing Pizza ever.
morning we took all of our belongings and picked up our campervan at
around 11am. This was to be our home for the next five days before
returning to Singapore.
returned to Stonehurst and
cancelled our Friday
evening reservation. Our
flight on Sat was 3pm and we had the camper until Sat, so we may as
well save money and sleep in the camper on the Friday eve (because
we’d shopped around and negotiated a “half normal
price” deal with zero mileage costs, it worked out cheaper to
sleep in the van than the hostel).
hadn’t taken her driving licence, so Mike was gonna have to
ALL of the driving, ALL of the days. We
heading South, down the Eastcoast towards Dunedin (or
Mike found 5th gear
on the van after
was exciting. Mike’s
old 1963 campervan at home has column-shift gears too, but not 5th gear,
in fact granddad was
so proud of the fact that his was one of the 1st to
have a four-speed box.
wondered why it seemed to be consuming soooo much
in a town for lunch. We
didn’t know at the time that it was a “penguin
sanctuary”, regularly populated with two different types of
penguins and also sea lions, that aren’t afraid to approach
people, so there were signs warning not to venture too close.
had a great
lunch and met a woman who showed us around the back of her shop to see
baby penguins hiding behind some corrugated iron sheets, waiting on mum
returning that eve to feed them. Apparently
half an hour after dusk, the wild penguins literally wander up the main
street, sometimes getting quite lost. We’d have loved to have
stayed for another 4 hours or so to see this, but we had to get on.
continued on to the Mouraki boulders. These
formed naturally over time by the sea eroding the sand. I’ve
good piccies – take a look.
arrived in Dunedin,
we visited Mike’s ex-employee Gaelene and
her husband Sam, cat Jim and what seemed like the largest and softest
dog in the world, Zeus. Sam
showed us his dog-sledding piccies with Zeus pulling for all his worth.
showed us his gold-trenching photos. He
has been trained
how to pan for gold, and realised that the gold-diggers in the olden
days were limited to panning only up to their knees in the streams.
Most people now seem to have considered that the gold-miners must have
found all the gold there was to find, and have stopped looking. Sam
has got himself
some new equipment including scuba gear, how intriguing. He’sgonna
be a rich man very soon.
well and took us to see the “little Blue Penguins”
home from the sea on the beach atDunedin to
feed their young. An
amazing experience – one we will never forget. They got so
to us and we made sure we captured quite a bit of it on camera although
it was dark by this time (after 9pm), Mike has infra-red on his Sony
video camera, so we got some good footage.
us to see the steepest road in the world and couldn’t get the
up in first gear!!! Scarily
we rolled back down backwards and then took another run at it, getting
into second gear before having to drop to first, and finally we made it. Guess
are houses all the way up on both sides of the street and a dead end
(more houses) at the top, so we had to turn and drive back down
night. On Sam’s recommendation, we camped on a quiet road
view over the sea. We enjoyed the most fantastic view in the morning! Almost
deserted beach, with the occasional jogger and three brave surfers.
south west passing through Timaru and
Alexandra and up towards Wanaka where
it had been recommended we visit. Passing some bizarre massive stones
in little clumps in the middle of nowhere, like lots of individual Stonehenge’s. Indeed
one farm was
called “Stonefield”. Leanne
slept most of
pleased we made the effort to visit Wanaka as
it was a lovely little town right beside the most amazing lake. There
were loads of cosmopolitan café bars