I really liked the feel of Wanaka so decided to have a day off and relax there. I got a few jobs done and just generally took it easy. It’s a small place but has a really nice feel to it with a few coffee shops, bars and a lovely lake to sit by and read. I found a coffee shop to hang out in and ended up drinking way too much coffee but it was really nice to just take it easy and have a day off the bike.
The following day I set off to go meet up with Eric and Diedre to do some climbing, there’s an area of routes about 20km out of Wanaka and the ride there was lovely. It takes you around the lake and lucky for me the weather was stunning meaning the views along the way were epic. I got there about lunch time and after finding the others we set off and did some sport routes in an area called Roadside attraction. I rented some shoes in Wanaka but had to borrow Eric’s harness and we alternated who went up first, then who lead and then who retrieved the gear. Amazingly Eric and Diedre had carried all their stuff climbing stuff around the South Island..not light let me tell you! We finished up at about 5 and went to find somewhere to camp which ended up being next to a lovely river. It was a great spot well hidden from the road which was good. That evening it was a really clear night so we decided to do a bit of night climbing at a spot called Riverside. (Not far from where we camped amazingly) Night climbing is something I’ve never done before and we only did one route but it was cool to climb with the just the light from your head torch. Made finding foot placements a bit trickier though. Have to try it again soon.
We woke up early the next morning as technically you aren’t supposed to wild camp in this area so we were a bit paranoid about getting caught so got packed away and went to find somewhere further up the river to relax and have breakfast. After a couple of chilled hours relaxing we headed over the hill to another area called The Bakehouse. We spent most of the day there doing various routes before I cycled back to Wanaka to return my shoes and get sorted to carry on south. That evening when I was putting my tent up one of the joint points for the poles broke. Not ideal! It’s annoying because when this doesn’t work I can’t actually put tent up. I therefore had to come up with a bodge to get it working so with a spare carabiner I had and cable ties…brilliant things…I managed to come up with a sort of temporary splint arrangement. Fingers crossed it holds until I can order a replacement!
From Wanaka to Queenstown there were two routes I could have taken, one is a slightly longer one which takes you around the hills and the second a shorter road which takes you over the hill…I for some reason decided to go for the over the hill approach. I’d heard a few people talk about how long the hill was but I figured if you just keep on pedalling eventually you’ll get to the top. I must admit it was quite a long climb, it was only at the top did I realise it was the highest Tarmac road in New Zealand. Who knew! Still the view going down the other side was lovely so I can’t complain too much.
After a blast down the other side of the hill I followed signs to a place called Arrowtown. It’s one of the older towns in New Zealand so I thought it would be a nice place to check out. It was lovely with old wooden buildings and a bit of history which is always nice. I met another cyclist from Holland in the campsite and we went for dinner and a couple of beers which was cool. From Arrowtown I had a short 20km ride to Queenstown where a friend from back home called Andrew is living and working. He very kindly offered me a place to stay for a couple of nights, showed me around and introduced me to his friends. On the day I arrived there was a wine and cheese festival in town so we popped along. Now anyone who knows me know I don’t know anything about wine but I tried some and even liked a couple…don’t ask me to name them though, not a clue. Sorry Mike, I thought of you as I wandered around not really knowing the difference, you’d have loved it…there was some that were red, others were white and even some called Rose? I eventually found the beer tents…there were two, so I think they should have called it the wine, cheese and beer festival but hey ho never mind. It was a great afternoon!
Two really fun nights in Queenstown later, one involving a big quiz with all Andrews friends and I was back on my way. I had read about a ride that takes you along a gravel road on the other side of the lake Wakatipu so after doing a bit of asking around I was told I would have to get the TSS Earnslaw which is a lovely old steam boat to get me to the start. Being a little bit of a nerd of all things mechanical I didn’t really mind and was very intrigued by the engine room which you could look into while we steamed across the lake. It’s the little things I know. The trip was about 45 minutes and dropped you at Walter Peak farm which was where the route started. The track took you through some amazing scenery and I only met a few vehicles along it so it really felt a bit off the beaten track which was fun. I stopped and camped about 50km in and finished the rest of it the following day.
From the end of the track I had a pretty short ride to a place called Manapouri which was next to another lake…called Lake Manapouri (Who knew)…I’m keeping this lake theme going as long as possible, can you tell? In the days leading up to getting there I did a lot of thinking about whether or not to go and see either Milford sound or doubtful sound and in the end decided not to do either. This was partly due to the cost but more because in the case of Milford sound the road out to it is 120km each way and very popular which for cycling wasn’t ideal so in the end I thought I’d come here to try and see some less visited places and I’ll come back and see places like Milford sound another time. Manapouri was a very quite little place and I had a pretty chilled afternoon and then watched the sunset over the lake which was another lovely view.
From Manapouri I could have gone a couple of routes down towards Bluff but in the end I decided to go for the smaller road on the map which would take me down to SH99 and around the coast to Invercargill, my theory being a smaller road would mean less traffic which until the last 40km before Invercargill turned out to be true. The first day after leaving Manapouri I wanted to get a big day in, I figured that I could reach bluff in a couple of days if I got my cycling on so I had a few little aims for the day, the first being a town called Tuatapere which was one of the larger towns along the route. In about 150km there weren’t many towns and the stretches between them were pretty desolate, in a good way. There was lots of farming land which meant it was fairly flat but also meant a bit windy. I got to Tuatapere at about lunch time so decided to carry on a bit further which got me to the coast. Here the wind really increased and the rain came down. I got drenched and a bit cold so when I got to a very small place called Colac Bay I found the campsite and took shelter. I even pushed the boat out and went for a cabin which was a whole 5 dollars more than a camping spot…I nearly hugged the guy when he told me the price, surprised at how cheap it was, mind you not sure he would have appreciated that. Anyway I warmed up, dried out and took it easy before what would hopefully be my last day down to bluff.
Colac Bay to Bluff was 79km and all being well I expected to get there in a day. The first stretch was pretty straight forward other than a few spots of rain. I stopped for a quick coffee in the town of Riverton and then pedalled towards Invercargill. What I hadn’t realised until looking at the map the night before was bluff is about 28km south of Invercargill…I’d casually thought once you were there you’d made it, not the case. Im not sure if they do this on purpose or not but the road from Invercargill to Bluff is I think the worst I’ve been on in the South Island and in my top three of the whole of New Zealand. It’s exposed, busy and there’s loads of trucks, it was crap and made the last stretch tough going. Eventually after what felt like further than 28km I reached a big sign which said Bluff…thank god for that. I kept going through the town to the far end, about another 2km to Stirling point which was my imaginary finish line.
Slightly disappointingly there wasn’t a huge round of applause when I got there, in fact there was no one at all which I thought was odd…I had this slightly strange surreal feeling and wondered if I’d actually done it so sat down for a few minutes to let it all sink in. Eventually some other people turned up and I asked them to take a couple of pictures for me. I felt like a right plonker but hey ho, not often this happens so why not. So somehow after 4750km, lots of amazing views and some absolutely amazing people I had indeed cycled from the top to the bottom of New Zealand…Pretty cool if I do say so myself. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of it! It really has been incredible!
What next…ah well I’m not really sure yet. I decided to have a day off today and take it easy. I then might get back to Invercargill and cycle along the coast past Caitlin’s which I’ve heard is nice. I also want to try and do the Alps to Ocean route which I’ve heard good things about. After that we will see, I’ve got a couple of ideas bouncing around my head so I’ll let you know what falls into place.
A few other pictures from the last couple of weeks.