Monday, 11 February 2013
Bluff to Makarewa, 10 kms north of Invercargill
It’s time to start the South Island leg of my challenge to ride the length of New Zealand.
We have driven down from Picton with the Volto electric bike on the bike rack of our car.
After arriving at Invercargill at 5 pm from Dunedin via the Catlins (a drive we recommend) I commenced the planned ride from Bluff to Picton. The rain had stopped and the wind had a southerly vector. Ideal! Annie dropped me off at Bluff, took the inevitable photographs and away I went. I arrived at the Invercargill motel before Annie had concluded our food shopping so I rode another 6 kms to Makarewa (and back). Sunset this far south does not occur until 9.30 pm, so light is not a problem. In fact, it’s quite pleasant riding after 6 pm as traffic is very, very light then. Distance travelled: 39 kms to Makarewa; 6 kms back to Invercargill.
Tomorrow golf and a couple of people to visit. The ride will recommence on Wednesday.
Tuesday, 12 February
Annie and I played 18 holes of golf at the Invercargill Golf Club. Finished just before rain started. Not memorable, apart from one hole. I was 103 metres out and dropped the ball about 1 metre from the pin and said to Annie: “Beat that!”. She was 90 metres out and, with a deft stroke with her trusty 8 iron, sank her ball!! We both bought good gear at the pro shop in their sale.
I needed to buy other wares and had a vague recollection that Invercargill boasted a “David Jones-type” store, and the name Smith stirred dimly in my recesses. We found the H & J Smith department store without too much trouble, and it sure is an impressive place. It serves the wealthy landowners of Southland.
Wednesday, 13 February
Makarewa to Athol, 30 kms north of Lumsden, Northern Southland
Forgot to mention the sandflies at Bluff! They don’t touch me, but Annie had to kill a few hundred inside the car before driving off on Monday.
Before riding today, I wanted to go back into Invercargill to see a couple of things that our friends mentioned yesterday during our visit: Queens Park, and the hardware store of E Hayes & Sons Ltd. So glad we did! That store is unbelievable! It covers over 1.25 acres and as well as dispaying everything imaginable in hardware (it has a 100 metre Tool Wall, for instance) it shows off 38 historic motorcycles (including Bert Munro’s World’s Fastest Indian and a huge display of engine parts he made) and 8 amazing cars (including a 1957 Ford Thunderbird).
The forecast said “16 degrees max, currently 9, feels like 5” and it did! It had rained heavily during the night and continued spasmodically through the morning. Thankfully Annie had brought a beany which I borrowed and wore under my helmet. Apart from that I was well prepared and enjoyed riding in the rain.
I stopped for lunch in the sun just south of Dipton, where another cyclist was squatting on the ground. We chatted for half an hour, and Annie and I popped in to see her at the Lumsden camping ground this evening. What a girl! Annie thinks she’s only 20 but she must be older because of what she’s accomplished so far. Her name is Tammy and she comes from a small town in northern California where they do not have mobile phone access. Tammy has already ridden across the US, from Florida to San Diego. Took two months. She has brought her pushbike to NZ and has ridden from Picton down to Invercargill and is off to Te Anau tomorrow. From there she will take a shuttle to Milford Sound then bike on a dirt road starting near The Key to Walter Peak Station. The Earnslaw will take her and bike to Queenstown and then she will ride up the West Coast to Nelson, get across to Wellington and ride up the North Island. Tammie has no phone and no PC with her. She uses Facebook at Internet cafes to keep in touch with the outside world. She has a small “cocoon” tent and carries cooking gear in her plastic “bucket” panniers. She freedom camps frequently. Has no fear. An attractive young woman in all senses of the adjective.
I arrived in Lumsden to find Annie sitting in our car outside our pre-booked motel, because it was warmer in the car than in our room! As I was feeling fresh after 70 kms I decided to ride on a further 30 kms to Athol. Annie waited in the motel for 3/4 of an hour then followed and went ahead to wait a few minutes for me to arrive.
The total ride was 102 kms. The wind was very strong, but mostly from the west – side on.
Tomorrow – the lovely journey alongside Lake Wakatipu and in to Frankton.
Thursday, 14 February
Athol to Queenstown
Started the day with a good turn by putting Tammy’s bike on our rack and driving her for half an hour towards Te Anau. Wasn’t sure whether she would want assistance, but the wind was gusting strongly from the west – the direction she was heading – and she was very excited to have a lift. Came back to Lumsden for breakfast and then away to restart my ride, from Athol. As she did sometimes in Tasmania, Annie left me to pack the car and she started walking. She says I’m getting plenty of exercise and she needs some too.
Of course, the wind had swung around to the north for my ride! Some of the strongest gusts I’ve ever experienced. The first battery lasted only 33 kms (the same battery did 50 kms yesterday) and the second only 23! However, it was only 72 kms to the Frankton junction where I could have stopped and called up Annie and the car. But I found the 7 km walking/bike track along the waters edge so rode to our motel. We will be here for two nights. Golf tomorrow at Jacks Point. VERY expensive but hey, you only live once.
Despite the wind, I enjoyed the ride. The road traverses the edge of the Frankton/Kingston arm of Lake Wakatipu, and it was every bit as beautiful as I had pictured it from previous trips. But the mountains don’t look right. Where’s the snow? I’ve never seen The Remarkables and Coronet Peak bare before. Queenstown, though, is crazy with tourists.
Friday, 15 February
Queenstown to the summit of the Crown Range
Saturday, 16 February
Crown Range summit to Wanaka
Annie and I drove from Queenstown to Wanaka via Alexandra where we visited a cousin of a Bowral friend.
After a lovely morning tea we went to our motel at Wanaka, had lunch and then up to the summit of the Crown Range. A beautiful day again, with no wind, ideal for cruising down by bike to Wanaka, a distance of 40 kms.
I now know that it was a good design feature that caused the motor to stop yesterday. Every good electronic system has a heat sink that prevents damage to the essential workings. In the long steep climb up Crown Range the thermal protection of the controller worked.
This is correct and good design. It soon cooled down and the I was able to restart the motor.
Detail: Sunday 17 February
Wanaka to summit of Haast Pass (via Makarora)
Could today be improved upon? Hard to imagine. Perfect weather, amazing scenery. Biker’s paradise. Annie and I had a coffee at Wanaka before I set sail on my ebike. Annie stayed in Wanaka to do some walking. I reached Makarora before her. I reckon that the 50 km ride from Wanaka to here must rank amongst the very ultimate best rides in New Zealand, if not the world! One rides beside Lake Hawea for 35 kms, and then beside Lake Wanaka until descending to the river flats of the Makarora River. I had no idea! The views could only be bettered if there were snow on the mountains that form the backdrop. It was an almost cloudless sky and virtually no wind. The slight wind produced little ripples on Lake Hawea and the sun striking each of those ripples made the Lake appear as millions of tiny diamonds in a dark blue setting. Magic. I passed an amazing American family on two bikes. A woman was riding in the rear. A man was in front, riding a strange contraption upon which he sat upright but in front of his handlebars was another small seat with his young daughter on it, who could also pedal. After checking in to a fabulous A-frame chalet at Makarora we went ahead, me on my ebike and Annie in the car. She would do the Blue Pools walk (7 kms north) and then catch up to me. I stopped by a stream and a British family from Beijing also stopped in their motorhome for a cooling walk in the Haast River. The chap runs a not-for-profit organisation that trains ex-pat youngsters in 20 different sports. They are just one of the many interesting travellers we have met on so far. The South Island is just full of holiday-makers from around the globe. We put the ebike on the car to return to Makarora but stopped to do the “30 minute” walk to the Haast Pass summit lookout. Wow! That walk (climb) would have to be the most strenuous “walk” I have ever done! Annie stopped half way up, and I clambered on, but to my surprise, as I started my descent, here was my beloved coming towards me. Surely the highlight of what was already a remarkable day. We went to the Makarora Café to watch the final round of the Australian Women’s Open at Royal Canberra, to see Lydia Ko finish rather poorly, but she still came third. Back to our chalet for a lovely home-cooked meal. Rode 84 kms today. I’m a third of the way to Picton.
Monday – 18 February
Haast Pass summit to Knights Point lookout
28 kms north of Haast township We drove to yesterday’s stopping point, I set off and Annie returned to Makarora as she had booked a one-hour jet-boat ride at 1 pm. We agreed to meet 30 kms past Haast at 4 pm-ish. The weather today started out brilliant again! The scenery was again extraordinarily beautiful but different, because instead of lake views they were now wide river flats (the Haast River) and with pristine forests of black beech, mountain ash and rata (I think; my brother Mark would know) coming right down to and, in many stretches, overshadowing the road. How those trees stuck to the steep banks beats me. The road down from the Haast Pass summit was exhilarating! It concludes with the one-way bridge over the Gates of Haast. Wow!! The view up and down the wild river from the bridge was indescribable. Many people stopped their cars on the Haast side but we were all frustrated because it was forbidden to walk on the narrow bridge, and one could not see the HUGE rocks that line the river banks from anywhere else. There were many smaller bridges from there-on down to Haast, with waterfalls and streams bringing water down from the hills and bluffs on my left-hand side down to the Haast River. What a journey! To think that the Haast Pass was opened only in 1965. The weather changed once I reached the bluffs. The sun seemed to be hidden by a light soup, and rain threatened. It never arrived. The wind blew strongly in my face – a big change from the stillness of the Makarora Valley – but the motor on my Volto ebike was equal to it. Some amazingly steep-sided high mountains in the Southern Alps were always visible across the river valley. I knew that photos could not possibly do justice to the sights I had seen today. I checked in to our Haast township motel, had a short rest and then rode on to our agreed meeting place. Again, a complete change in scenery. What a day of contrasts! The climb up to Knights Point Lookout was tough and I waited there for my support crew, who duly turned up, of course. The thrilling jet-boat ride had lived up to Annie’s expectations and the views up the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers were stunning. I rode 85 kms today. I’m well ahead of my planned rides.
Tuesday, 19 February
Knights Point lookout to Fox Glacier
Resuming the ride from Knights Point lookout was a good idea as it’s the start of a long downhill stretch. Once again beautiful scenery all the way to Fox Glacier. Annie had gone ahead and walked around Lake Matheson and had shots of the mirror-like reflections of the Southern Alps for which it’s famous. When I arrived I had a nap as it had been a long ride and then we drove up the access road to the fox Glacier. The ride was 94 kms, in ideal biking weather – cloudy, not too hot, no wind, almost flat, beautiful scenery.
Wednesday, 20 February
Fox Glacier to Franz Josef Glacier
Just a short ride today – 30 kms. I was a little apprehensive about the climb as described in Pedlar’s Paradise but it was a doddle on my ebike. The motel at Top 10 motor camp is 4 kms north of the Glacier township and has no Internet reception and Telecom’s reception is intermittent – OK for sending text messages but not for calls. Our American friends are camping here. We know them quite well now – the ones with the pseudo “tandem” on which their daughter (Anna) sits in front of dad (Bob) and pedals when required. They (and mother Cristine) have been riding for 8 months! They started in Iceland, rode through Scandinavia and many European countries, then to Thailand and Cambodia before coming to NZ after a brief visit to Queensland – just beating the floods. We have their blog-site (yet to visit) and we are also in touch via email with the young American woman, Tammy, whom we met a few days ago. After lunch we did a huge walk – as close as you can get to the face of the Franz Josef Glacier. Again, weather beautiful. Boring!! Where’s the fabled rain? All peaks visible, including Cook and Tasman.
Wednesday, 20 February
Franc Josef Glacier
We are now in Franz Josef Glacier (the name of the town as well as the glacier itself). Since writing the last blog page in Wanaka there has been no Internet or mobile phone coverage, until yesterday in Fox Glacier town but the Internet was intermittent so I gave up in frustration. As there are several days’ activities to write I will provide an short summary and then add the detail for any who have the time and interest to read more.
Executive Summary: Weather perfect, day after day, with little wind. Marvellous scenery. New Zealand’s best?
Covered more miles each day than planned: 84 kms on both Sunday and Monday; 94 yesterday. Only needed to ride 28 kms today to reach Franz Josef Glacier where we stay two nights. Have passed the half-way mark. Met many interesting fellow travellers. Roads empty, if one ignores the ubiquitous Jucy vans, the Britz motor homes and the Apex rental cars.
Thursday, 21 February
Franz Josef Glacier
In Franz Josef Glacier town, 4 kms back from our motel, we could get Internet and mobile phone coverage so we went in for a nice coffee in the sun, and they gave me access to a power outlet. Great! Caught up with email but no time to do this blog. Then I was off to Whataroa by bike, only 30 kms, followed by Annie in the car, for 9 holes of golf. Another wonderful day. Annie beat me of course. The greens were terrible. That’s my excuse. Back to FJ Glacier town for a dinner out, al fresco. Lovely day in all respects. Niece Michelle Lendnal and her brother Stefan arrived, from Wellington and Christchurch respectively, at half past midnight, to ride with me for the next two days. Awesome. Talked to the Wright family on their bikes. Hope we catch up with them again
Friday, 22 February
Franz Josef Glacier
Michelle and Stefan had a car and a bike between them, so they had to decide who would ride with me, to where, and who would drive. They tried to even it out. I enjoyed their company. There was plenty of time to chat to these wonderful young people, both very successful in their careers. After a quick look at F J Glacier by car we drove out to Whataroa (thinking of Annie’s granddaughter Millie who is doing exceptionally well as a rower for Roseville College in Sydney) and recommenced the ride. We were booked in at Hari Hari, but as we arrived there at lunchtime we asked to cancel the booking and rode on to Ross. The day started foggy but that soon lifted to reveal a full day of sunshine with little or no wind.
Saturday, 23 February
From Ross we (Stefan and Michelle in turns) rode to Greymouth, or attempted to! Unfortunately, Michelle fell off at a road/rail bridge about 15 kms south of Greymouth. There were signs at each end warning cyclists of the risks, and they were well-deserved! Michelle has a barked left leg, a bruised right leg and right arm. So lucky! Nothing broken. Her spirits were just as high as usual too. A few kms further on she had a puncture so Annie took her bike in to our motel at Greymouth. Stefan attempted to fix it, first by inserting the spare tube he had brought (it was the wrong size) and then by patching the leak (the glue would not hold the 100 psi pressure), so neither Stefan nor Michelle could ride with me for the next 35 kms towards our next destination – another niece’s place at Inangahua Junction.
Annie and Michelle went up the coast to see the Westland equivalent of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, and the pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki, which Annie avers are fantastic. I am so pleased she made that trip, because my memory of Punakaiki is one of the reasons I decided to ride up the West Coast, but changed the route to a more direct one from Greymouth to Inangahua. I stopped riding at Ahaura and Stefan came by car to take us back to our Greymouth motel.
After a lovely home-cooked meal, (Annie’s), Michelle and Stefan took off back to Christchurch.
I rode 100 kms exactly today. A welcome tail wind from Greymouth along the Grey River. Pity I was biking on my own. Weather perfect for biking. I cannot believe the West Coast weather has been so benign for biking. I was prepared for rain and feel rather disappointed at experiencing none!
Saturday, 23 February
Staying in Greymouth, but have ridden 35 kms further east, to Ahaura
Again, lack of Internet coverage in the West Coast has meant I have a few days of the journey to catch up on.
Suffice to say, all has gone according to, or better than, plan. No rain. Lovely views, A niece and nephew to accompany me yesterday and today. Annie happy and in witty mode. Bike behaving well. Accommodation good, etc, etc!
Tuesday, 26 February
Lunch-time at Murchison, en-route to Kawatiri
Lack of Internet and phone reception up the West Coast has been most frustrating. Even here at Murchison the Telecom modem stick will work only intermittently so I have bought hot-spot facilities at the Visitor Centre. After lunch I will ride on to our motel at Kawatiri, have a rest and start the next day’s planned ride as it’s a steep climb up the Wairau Saddle (altitude 727 metres at the summit) and I’d rather have most of it under my belt today. I suspect there will be no more Internet or phone coverage until we approach Blenheim on Thursday.
We have stayed the last two nights with my niece, Hinewai Fergusson, and her husband Ian and identical twins Sarah and Hannah aged 6. Truly delightful. Ian manages half a huge dairy farm, milking about 500 cows on his half. The farm comprises about 600 hectares on the edge of the Buller River, which sometimes floods a lot of the farm – they have amazing photos of recent ones – although a drought is the current challenge! This morning I gave a talk to the kids’ school at Inangahua, to all 11 kids in the school.
The ride up from Greymouth was mainly flat. I road 84 kms on Saturday and 30 kms yesterday before returning to the farm.
The weather has been glorious every day, (apart from the rain on my first riding day).
Wednesday, 27 February
St Arnaud to Renwick
Yesterday I ended up riding to St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes District, 25 kms further on than Kawatiri Junction, after having a snooze at our motel at Owen River Tavern and Motels: 84 kms altogether. Today I rode the 91 kms from St Arnaud to Renwick so it’s an easy 35 kms or so tomorrow to Picton. Yahoo!
Today the Volto ebike really proved its worth. The first 5 kms from St Arnaud was, according to Pedlars Paradise, a steep climb to Tophouse. Didn’t notice. Then a steep decline. I noticed! Gradual slope down to Renwick. Hardly noticeable because the wind was, in golfing parlance, a 2-club gale. Straight in my face. The motor was used most of the way. At one stage the battery was exhausted and I thought I’d ride a little further, purely on pedal power, to a shady spot. It looked downhill. I had to ride in 2nd and then 1st gear to get there. After changing the battery I sped along in top gear at 28-29 kph!
The headwind was so strong that I could not hear the vehicles coming up behind me. Usually I can tell whether its a car, a truck, a motorhome or motorbikes approaching. I can’t look round. Neck too old and stiff. Another remarkable thing is the presence of bumble bees. The drought has caused a virtual plague of them, from south of Greymouth to the Wairau Valley; worst at Owen River. Fortunately they don’t sting (or do they?). Also fortunately, they don’t land on cyclists! But they came close, and frequently hit my helmet.
Over the next few days I’ll add a photo or two to enhance the blog. Have too many to choose from!
The Weebly web-facility I use has a stats page which tells me how many hits to this blog site each day. The record is 52, two days ago! Wow! There’s no telling who has looked, unless they leave a comment. I value each comment and always reply.
Thursday, 28 February 2013
Renwick to Picton. Ride complete!
After a lovely breakfast I rode, again in brilliant sunshine, to Hunter’s vineyard for a coffee with Annie. Then on to Picton to the i-Site, our agreed meeting-place. Annie greeted me waving flags she had just bought. No sooner had we had an emotional hug than a reporter from the Marlborough Express newspaper came up and asked if I was the person who had just completed the bike ride of both Islands. He had been telephoned by a shopkeeper in Picton to whom Annie had spilled the beans. So he (Gerard) then set about interviewing us and taking a snap shot or two for his paper and for stuff.co.nz. Probably major headlines tomorrow. Haha. (link to the article here…) Gerard’s questions were quite searching, actually, so it will be interesting to read what he comes up with. The final leg of 38 kms means the South Island ride totalled 1108 kms, compared with 1309 for the North Island. The shortest routes to traverse each Island are 924 kms for the South and 1062 for the North. Most people think the South Island is longer; not so. I’ve added a few more comments to yesterday’s blog contribution, (I will highlight them in colour for easy spotting), and will add photos as soon as time permits.
Tomorrow I will arrange to return the Volto elelctric bike that Mark Koudelka has provided, together with batteries and chargers.
The bike operated perfectly throughout the South Island. Quite a test 2417 Kms trough all Nev Zealand conditions. I can thoroughly recommend Volto electric bicycles, and cannot thank Mark enough for the use of one, right from early November (North Island) through to the end of February. I hope he makes a mountain of sales as a result of my endorsement!