I had a day off while I was in Bluff, I just wanted to relax but I was a bit lost…not literally, that would be bonkers but more in terms of what to do next. For all the time I’ve been in New Zealand I’ve had an aim so for that to suddenly finish was a little bit strange. I thought through a few different options, one was to buy a campervan, another was to just buy a little car and rattle back up north. In the end I cycled back to invercargill to give me a few more options and see what would fall into place.
On my last night in bluff at the hostel I’d got chatting to a girl called Erika who had a small campervan and she had very kindly offered to give me a ride around Caitlin’s. This was great as it meant I could have a few days off the bike but still keep moving. I met her in Invercargill and after a bit of rearranging we got the bike in the back and set off around the coast. It was very strange to suddenly be making such quick progress. While it was nice being in a car I’m so glad I didn’t decide to drive around New Zealand when I was thinking of how to travel here, you see it of course but not in the same way, it’s too quick and felt a little detached from everything. Having said that at the time a car was very welcome indeed! We spent a couple of days driving up the coast towards Dunedin. Stopping at Nugget point and Surat Bay which was brilliant as we got to see some Sea Lions. I kept missing them so you’d be casually walking along and suddenly what you thought was a log would poke its head up and say hello! They was amazing to see and the walk along the beach was very nice as well.
When I visited Ken and Pamela in the north island their son in law Paul said his mum, Rosalie lived down on the South Island and I should stop by when I was passing. She lives about 45 minutes north of Dunedin in a place called Moeraki at a lighthouse and she runs a Penguin Rescue centre! Amazing! I got in touch and she kindly said I could stay a couple of days which was brilliant! It turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip. I would do a few jobs in the morning and in the afternoon we would help Rosalie in anyway we could while she checked on the Penguins that she was looking after. It’s pretty amazing work as the main colony had been disturbed by too many tourists so she has started to establish a new one a little further up the coast which is out of the way and completely hidden from visitors and tourists. The work involved is incredible. Rosalie had about 10 penguins living around her house which needed more care and when they were ready she would release them down at the new colony. While I was there two new arrivals came in, one had washed up on a beach locally with an eye injury and the other was on the landing beach but Rosalie said it was underweight so we took it back to hers so she could feed it and get it to its correct weight before releasing it again. I’m not sure how many penguins were around the colonies but there was plenty to keep Rosalie busy.
The main species of penguin I saw while I was there was the yellow eyed Penguin although there was a little blue penguin there as well who was very sweet. It’s a very small charity that is run by Rosalie on a completely voluntary basis so it was great to get a couple of days to see what she was doing. If you want to find out more information about the charity or donate you’ll find out much more at http://www.penguins.org.nz. Thank you Rosalie for letting me stay and seeing what you do. It was fascinating and a brilliant experience.
From Moeraki Erika gave me a lift to Oamaru which was a huge help. From Omaru I planned to start cycling again up towards the hills. When I got to Bluff I wasn’t very far from 5000km so I wanted to cycle past that little milestone before stopping. All through the South Island I had been told about a route called the Alps to Ocean which was meant to be stunning and a lovely ride. It’s meant to be done from Mount cook down to Oamaru but obviously I was at the wrong end so I thought I would give it a go in the other direction. I set off at about lunch time and headed for the hills. The sun was out and it was a gentle start along mostly off road paths. By the evening I had reached Kurow where I decided to stop for the night.
The following morning it was dry so I packed up my tent and continued to towards the hills. The only bad thing was there was a good headwind which made the going a little slow. The route took me past more lakes which were beautiful and onto a town called Otematata…try saying that 3 times quickly! I got a cup o tea to warm up and decided to aim for the next town where I thought I would maybe have a slightly shorter day and relax. A little further up the road I met a guy from Estonia who had cycled all the way to New Zealand which was pretty amazing! We had a short chat before we both went our separate ways. I got to Omarama just after lunch so grabbed something to eat and then went looking for a campsite. There was two to choose from and both were incredibly expensive so I headed back into town to think through my options. It was while I was outside the supermarket that I met three English guys. Two were cycling together and had also cycled pretty much all the way from England to New Zealand and the other was a guy from East Grinstead who was cycling around New Zealand like me. We all chatted and shared stories which was a great way to spend a couple of hours. There were three routes out of this town and funnily enough we were all going in three different directions which was a shame but it struck me how much of a random encounter it was that we had all met there at the same time. One of the great things about travelling I think! After chatting I continued on my route and decided to just wild camp that evening. I continued for a couple more hours before finding a lovely spot by an old sheep shearing shed up in the hills. Perfect!
I got on my way the next morning straight into a quite technical section, probably the most technical part of the whole Alps to ocean route which proved tricky but really good fun. The hill down the other side was brilliant and I had to be careful not to bounce over the big rocks that were on the path! This took me down to Lake Ohau and I cycled around the edge leading me to the town of Twizel. The name alone tempted me to stop there but it also turned out to be a sweet little place so I had an early one and spent the rest of the day relaxing. I went for a little beer to celebrate passing my 5000km and just took it easy for the rest of the day which was great.
The route after Twizel took two routes, you could either head up a dead end road to mount cook village or continue along to Tekapo. I decided on the Tekapo option and lucky for me the weather was stunning. One advantage of doing the route in the wrong direction is you cycle towards Mount Cook so all morning I had an amazing view of this mountain. I got to lake Pukaki which you cycle around the bottom of before taking another route over to Tekapo. I stopped for half an hour or so just to enjoy the stunning view. It was pretty special and I felt lucky to get a clear day to see Mount Cook so well. The last 30km to Tekapo followed the canal system so it was mostly flat and made for a nice ride. I got to Tekapo at about 2 so had the rest of the afternoon to relax which was very nice. The sun was out and after a great few days cycling it felt like a good place to finish my cycle around New Zealand. What an amazing trip!
From Tekapo I wanted to get to Christchurch which was about 200km away. The weather was about to change and the ride there wasn’t particularly appealing as the scenery, especially the last 100km were pretty dull….so how to get there? I decided to try my luck at hitchhiking. With a bike it could be tricky but I thought it’s worth a go. I found a spot outside town, put Daisy to one side and stuck my thumb out. After about 45 minutes two people had stopped but didn’t realise I had a bike so couldn’t help but then a German guy called Nick stopped in his campervan. He asked where I was heading and he said he was going straight to Christchurch! Epic! We dismantled Daisy, carefully put her in the back and I jumped in the front. Two hours later I was in a Burger King car park in Christchurh…Amazing! I put everything back on Daisy and cycled off to find a hostel to have a few days off and to take it easy.
I’ve got a couple of days here where I plan to read, explore coffee shops and just be a bit lazy. I then have somehow managed to get a campervan for free to get me up to Nelson later this week. In New Zealand because of its shape a lot of people start in Auckland and finish in Christchurch meaning there’s a lot of rental vehicles in the wrong place. You can therefore offer to drive them back north for them. In my case I have two days to get to Nelson and I don’t have to pay anything apart from fuel which is kind of cool. After that I’m not sure what I’m doing so we shall see what falls into place but I’ve got about another month in New Zealand before I start heading towards home. Instead of flying straight back I thought I’d stop in Japan for a month to have a little explore there which I’m really excited about.
Few other pictures from the last couple of weeks