At Greymouth I was planning on taking a pretty chilled day off as the weather wasn’t looking great but I got a text from Deidre saying her and Eric were due into Greymouth later that day and planned to carry straight on and do the west coast wilderness trail. I decided to abandon my day off and join them, a bit of company for a few days would be nice and a bit of a change from the norm. The whole route is roughly 137km long and apart from two really small sections it’s off the main road which was a very welcome change. It takes you up into the hills south of Greymouth and brings you out further along the coast in Hokitika. We set off in the afternoon and got about 30km into it, following a lovely route along the coast before finding a spot to camp alongside a reservoir
The following morning unfortunately the weather had changed and I woke up to the pitter patter of rain on my tent. We got up slowly as getting out into the rain is never the most appealing thing in the world but eventually we packed everything up and set off again. It was a gentle climb into the hills and the rain actually made it all the more impressive. There was clouds all around the hills which gave it a really beautiful feel. By lunch time we got to a place called Cowboys Paridise which was a funny little place in the middle of nowhere. I think the idea is there’s places to stay and a restaurant with a western theme… Slightly odd and not New Zealand’s best tourist attraction but it was in a stunning setting. We found a bit of shelter, cooked up some food, a cup of tea and warmed up a bit. As we were doing this the weather improved and the rain stopped. Brilliant!
We followed the track and came out at a lake called lake Kaniere and the view across it was just stunning. I was slightly in awe! Just a warning…there’s a few lake related pictures in this post, I apologise in advance. Turns out there quite a few down this way! This particular view we just stared at for about half an hour…it was beautiful. We looked at finding a spot to camp by the lake but it was a bit early and so instead carried on along the route and found a place in the forest. As the sun was out we managed to dry everything out and got set up for the evening. There was a little river so we had dinner next to that, dried most stuff out before crashing out.
The next morning we cruised down the hill into the small town of Hokitika, a lovely little place. We found a coffee shop and relaxed for a few hours. While we were relaxing I bumped into 4 people I had met a various stages on my travels…I rarely bump into 4 people I know back home never mind here so that was funny and a nice surprise. We stocked up on food and continued out of town south down the coast. We decided to cycle until 5ish and then start looking for somewhere to duck off the road, we found a nice little spot in a field behind some trees so set up for the evening. We had dinner and I’d bought a beer and Eric and Deidra bought some wine as I was celebrating passing the 4000km mark so it was a nice evening to share with these guys.
As there’s only one route along this coast we didn’t have any navigation to do so we just set off along highway 6, nice and simple. We went through a town called Hari Hari where we had a bit of food and relaxed for an hour or so before carrying on. I don’t know if it’s me but I’ve been really surprised how busy this road has been especially with camper vans. It’s not m25 busy but to get a 5 minute window of silence was quite rare. I was told 5 years ago it was much quieter, I’m not surprised it’s so popular as it really is a stunning bit of road but I must admit I thought it would be more chilled than it is. After Hari Hari it was a nice cycle and we soon started looking for somewhere to camp. We found a spot on lake Wahapo (see told you there was a few lakes) which has to be in my top three camp spots that I’ve stopped at this during this trip. It was just stunning, especially when we woke up in the morning. The evening we got there we had a quick dip/wash in the lake and relaxed before we made a little fire so we chilled out around that. When we woke up the mist on the lake which was just beautiful and made for a stunning setting to enjoy my porridge.
After being mesmerised by the lake we all got packed up and set off for the next town on the map called Franz Joseph. This is where the first of two glaciers along this route are. We decided to aim for the second, called Fox glacier where we would find somewhere to camp with some facilities to do some housekeeping. Franz Joseph was a nice little mountain town and we stocked up on a bit of food and set off towards Fox. It was only 20km or so up the road but you had to go up and down three times along some pretty decent climbs. It was also very warm so it was a tough little section but as with this whole road the scenery was epic! We got to Fox Glacier at about 2, found a place to camp at a hostel which was in the car park and turned out to be super noisy and basically rubbish but it meant we could do some washing done and use the wifi. We set up our tents, dumped our stuff and Eric and I cycled up to the glacier which was a 10km round trip there and back. We had to leave our bikes locked up in the car park and walk the last section up to the viewing point. Unsurprisingly it was tourist central with coach loads of people and because of accidents in the past involving tourists getting injured on the glacier the nearest you could get was a lookout about 400m away. It was nice but not epic. Apparently the best views were from a helicopter…unfortunately I didn’t pack mine so I didn’t make it up there to check it out. Maybe another time.
After 3 days of lovely weather it decided to change on Saturday so again we woke to the lovely sound of rain on our tents. We had a relaxed morning waiting to see what to do but by 1 it had cleared a bit and another night in the car park at a hostel didn’t appeal at all so we all packed up and set off. It actually turned out to be an amazing afternoon of cycling with a mostly downhill gradient and I think a little tailwind so we flew along…it was great, almost easy! We went past Bruce Bay and continued just past lake Paringa where we found a place to stop in the forest. Despite a bit of rain which never got very hard we had a lovely quiet spot with no car park anywhere nearby which was very nice and very peaceful!
The following day was my last full day with Eric and Diedra as when we got to Haast they had a slightly different plan so I said goodbye and we planned to try and meet up in Wanaka in a couple of days time. I carried on up towards the Haast Pass and found a little campsite which was about 10km before the Pass meaning in the morning I would be able to get going on it pretty quickly. I set up my tent and was just in the middle of making a cup of tea when a guy who turned out to be called Peter walked over with a refreshing beer asking if I’d like to join them for a drink. How could I say no! He was part of a group of 5 who were travelling around in their camper van and they had passed me a few times during the day. The invited me over for a drink and then even more amazingly they cooked me dinner. It was so lovely! We chatted, had a few more beers and a BBQ! Beats my instant noodles any day!!
It was just under 100km from where I’d stopped for the night to Wanaka so my aim was to get there that evening but there was the Haast Pass to tackle. All the way down the west coast I’d heard various things about this pass and how it was really tough. It was therefore a bit of a surprise when I got up there and found it to be pretty chilled. The bottom was quite steep but it soon levelled out and you had a gentle climb to the top. In fact I accidentally missed the top and ended up asking someone if I’d reached the top, they told me I passed it 5km or so before…oops! I was quite lucky as I only had a bit of rain and a small headwind so it wasn’t too bad at all! Im sure it can be much much worse. I stopped for a refuel at a place called Makarora and then followed a stunning bit of road along lake Wanaka, over the neck (that’s the hill’s name) and around the side of lake Hawea. The rain had cleared by this point so all I had to deal with was a bit of wind which wasn’t too bad in the end. The last 15km to Wanaka were Ok but I was tired so I was pleased to reach Wanaka. I found a campsite in town where I am now for a couple of nights where I’m having a day off the bike and a bit of an explore.
Wanaka is a lovely little tow at the bottom of lake Wanaka, funny that. Today the weather is back to epic blue skies and the view across the lake are stunning. My rough plan is to relax today, then tomorrow head 20km or so round the lake to a climbing area to meet up with Eric and Diedra again to hopefully do a bit of climbing. Then I’ll be back on my via Queenstown and down towards Bluff! Not too far until I get to the bottom now!
A few other pictures from this week…