Before I ever decided to ride my bicycle far, far away I spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland. Working for Steve & Kylie at the Hostel. Here’s a picture of the girls back in 2006, working hard…
Doris, me, Catriona and Kylie. Kylie happens to be from New Zealand. Her parents are still here. An excellent excuse for me to make my way through forest and fields of grapevines towards Blenheim. Where Shaun & Marg not only welcomed me into their house. My bicycle got a nice comfortable spot in the hallway too.
I went fishing with Shaun and his friend, Eric. We picked Eric up in one of the remote, quiet bays in Queen Charlotte sounds. Where he owned a beautiful holiday home in a great little spot, only accessible by boat.
On the way out we got company.
Not just 2 or 3 dolphins, but more than 20 who happily swam and jumped around in front, behind and right underneath the boat. Only when they are this close you realise how big these animals actually are. There were a few that were as long as, or longer than the boat. It was amazing! I got so excited I nearly fell overboard.
We had a little stop-over at Motuara Island. The spot where Captain Cook raised the British flag on the 31st of January 1770 and took possession of the mainland in the name of king George III, and named the inlet Charlotte Sound, after the kings wife.
It is also a bird sanctuary.
In the hope to see a kiwi Eric and I hiked to the top. No kiwi showed itself to us. We did see a little penguin.
And I finally got my picture of a silver fern!
Been looking for those ever since I arrived in the country.
We then continued to catch some yummy cod,
and snapper before heading back to land.
On Sunday mornings Blenheim has a farmers market.
Where we went for a great breakfast and coffee before it was time to say goodbye and head towards the last big thing on my New Zealand-wishlist (for now).
The Rainbow road is a private road through the Crimea ranges with the highest pass in the whole of the country. One minor issue is that this road is only open for the public a few months a year. And right now it is closed.
It is possible to get permission to pass through if you ask. So I asked, and all seemed fine untill I got to the locked gate. With no key in sight I climbed over and left my 2 dollars toll at the gate.
The best thing about cycling on a closed road is no traffic. No police, so no need to wear that silly helmet
I enjoyed riding through the beautiful autumn colours on the gravel road a lot! With a few fords and some excellent mountain views I peddled along untill I came to the ‘old homestead’ I had a quick wander around and realised there was no one around except a lot of cows staring at me and moo-ing when I rode past.
I noticed a small sign along the track pointing to ‘Connors Creek Hut’. I took the turn off and about a km in I found the lovely hut alongside a little creek with fresh water, where I decided to stay the night.
I just spread out all my gear,
finished my delicious meal of pasta and tuna and crawled into my sleeping bag when a flash of light and the sound of a car startled me.
Steve was on his way home from dropping off his son in Golden bay. He preferred taking the back roads so he had a chance to go hunting in the morning. He hadn’t expected anybody to be around right now, specially since he hadn’t seen any vehicles.
I quickly moved some of my stuff around so there was a place for him to sleep too.
He went out hunting in the morning and I set off on my bicycle.
Another glorious day in the high country.
I wasn’t keen to get away from this road, so I took it slow. The plan was to spent another night along this road before having to head back to Christchurch.
After climbing over the 2nd gate I was back on public roads. Or actually onto Molesworth station, with over 1800 km² the largest farm in the country.
Steve, who did have the keys of the gates, overtook me about 15km down the track, we sat down enjoying chocolate and coffee.
Two most important ingredients of life.
After leaving the rest of his chocolate with me and inviting me to his house just north of Christchurch Steve left me to keep riding.
I noticed another vehicle just before climbing up the pass. A guy with a massive camera was staring at the hill so I asked what he was looking for.
Just then 3 mountain bikes appeared over the top of the hill and the 2 guys and a girl came down the steep slope at ridiculous speed.
As it turned out the girl was New Zealand downhill champion and they were shooting some photo’s for a NZ brand of mountain bike clothing.
After a chat, me admiring their bikes and them admiring mine, I was ready for the climb over the top.
I didn’t get very far.
About 300 meter up the road I heard voices.
A set table and 5 people were sitting on the side of the road near a small creek enjoying a lunch drenched with beer and wine.
“What are you doing!”
“I’m riding my bicycle…”
“Oh! Come over, eat!, drink!”
So I sat down for another hour or so and got terribly spoiled by this family on holiday. They even gave me food and beer for later.
I didn’t much regret getting my panniers a bit heavier just before the climb.
As it turned out it was nowhere near as long or steep as Dufflers saddle (the highest public road, 1300m) or Crown saddle (the highest paved road, 1076m)
An easy climb got me up the 1348 meter and the highest road in New Zealand. Yay!
I turned into the lake Tennyson turn off where I jumped in the ice-cold water and decided it’d be a better idea to just use it as a fridge.
Another magical place to pitch my tent.
I knew when I set off in the morning that this was my last day cycling on nice tracks in this country.
So I was in no particular hurry,
and stopped a lot.
I came down the glorious downhill into Hanmer Springs. Famous for its hot springs. After not having had a shower for a few days I stopped for a couple of hours to have a soak. Before climbing on my bicycle for a quick dash down the highway to Christchurch.
It wasn’t long before Postman Ian overtook me and offered me a ride.
Not overly keen on the busy highway I said sure. And had a lovely tour of his area. He’s been on this route for three years and showed me all the sights, from old railway lines to frog rocks. He even teached me a little bit about being a mail delivery man.
I took Steve up on his offer to come and spend the night at his and Heather’s house.
They got a great big log-home imported from the states.
“In case there is an earthquake, under the door frame there is the safest place to be.” Steve casually remarked as I was heading for bed.
Ah, yes. I’m getting closer to Christchurch again…
Back in town I caught up with my relatives and had a great day with my far away cousins that involved bicycles and beer. Can’t go wrong with those.
Now my time here has finished. But I’m not ready!
Staring at my maps I still find so many little tracks and places I’d love to see. And that’s only on the south Island!
I would love to stay, but visas keep pushing me on. I’m sure though that this wasn’t my last visit to New Zealand.
I’ll be back.
(and thats a promise, or a threat… whatever way you look at it)