I ended up having a few days exploring Chrischurch. The weather was rubbish which was a bit of a shame but I still managed to have a good look around. What really surprised me and maybe a I was a little naive in this but I thought the damage from the earthquake 6 years ago would be fixed by now but what I found was a combination of derelict buildings and building sites. It was pretty amazing and left a slightly strange vibe as you wondered around but I ended up really liking Christchurch and it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like in a few years time when they’ve fixed everything.
The next challenge was to start working my way back up north with all my stuff so as I said in my last post I had managed to get myself a campervan on a rental return. The morning I was due to pick it up the weather was epically crap and my plan had been to cycle the 11km out to the airport where I was picking the van up from. I got talking to a guy called Peter while at the hostel in Christchurch and he very kindly offered to give me a lift out there which saved me from getting completely drenched. I found the campervan, shot back to the hostel, lobbed all my stuff in the back and set off towards Nelson. The main highway is still closed around the coast after the last earthquake so you have to go in land which adds about 3 hours to the Journey but I had a couple of days to work my up to Nelson which was more than enough time. Epically when I turned the van on it had a full tank of petrol! Bonus! I turned on the radio and my little road trip began!
About an hour out of Christchurch I came across a hitch hiker so I pulled over to give him a lift. He was called Nate and had just finished walked the length of New Zealand. We got on well and after exchanging stories about our trips we went exploring as neither of us had been around this area much. After both our trips we found it amazing how simple it was driving places, I know that sounds ridiculous but to be able to sit there and get to places within a hour or so while staying dry was strangely brilliant. Simple things or what! I must admit I think the fact we had the campervan for free made it a slightly better situation as well! Anyway we stopped off to have a look at Hamner Springs which was very nice before working our way over the Lewis Pass around to Nelson Lakes which was another place I hadn’t been to. We got a couple of beers, some food and found a campsite for the night which was right on the lakes which was cool. The best thing though was we didn’t even have to put tents up!!
The next day we slowly drove around to Nelson and after dropping Nate in town I went to find where I had to drop the campervan off at the airport on the outskirts of town. That all went fine so I loaded the bike up and cycled back into Nelson to find a hostel for the night. That evening I met up with Nate again and we went out for some dinner and a few drinks before we both went our own ways. I ended up bumping into him again very randomly in Picton a couple of weeks later while I was waiting for the ferry. Back in Nelson I had been given the details of some old friends we knew back in Hong Kong. Nick and Jenny and their daugther Dani. I’d sent them an email seeing if they had any woofing available and they did which was awesome so after a couple of days in Nelson I cycled out to Mapua which was about 30km north of Nelson along the coast.
I met Jenny at their house which was on a beach just up the road from Mapua and she showed me around, told me what jobs needed doing and pretty much left me to it. I ended up staying just under two weeks but in the middle it was Easter and being a beach house it was rented out over the holiday weekend so understandable they didn’t want a smelly cyclist hanging around so after 4 days doing various jobs around the place I shot off and had a mini adventure. The beach house was an amazing place where you could wake up, make a cup of tea and stumble to the beach and enjoy the view. It was truly stunning and such a relaxing place! I had properly lucked out with this place! The main jobs I ended up doing was gardening and a bit of DIY so I could basically potter around which was cool and then if the weather was good I’d cycle up the road to a coffee shop called Java Hut which was a cool place to hang out. I was very lucky it was an amazing couple of weeks!
So what to do for my mini adventure? I had from the Friday until Tuesday to find somewhere to go so in the end I decided to rent a really cheap little car and have another little road trip. There was places I hadn’t made it to on the bike so I thought I could go and check them out. I borrowed a back pack from Nick and Jenny and loaded everything I would need to camp and cook, along with a few clothes and hitch hiked back to Nelson. Two lifts later and a nice stroll along the waterfront and I was back in Nelson. At lunch time I picked up my new set of wheels. It was a Nissan something or other with a tiny engine and an automatic gearbox which had a mind of its own but I didn’t mind in the slightest as it meant a road trip! The weather was pretty rubbish when I picked the car up so I decided to just have a short drive back to Nelson Lakes along a different route to the one I had gone along before and check that out again. It was such a nice spot it seemed like a good starting point. That evening I was going to put the tent up but the rain was lashing down and it turned out the Nissans party piece was both front seats went pretty much flat when you put the back down, sorted! I ate and crashed out in the car for the night.
The next day the weather had impoved a bit so I slowly worked my way down towards Greymouth stopping at anything interesting along the way. I took highway 7 which took me down through Reefton which was a road I didn’t see when I was cycling so it was nice to explore a new area and after reaching Greymouth I decided to stop there for the night. I then went south and went to explore around Lake Brunner which was about an hours drive from Greymouth. I did a little loop and found a gravel track that went right next to the lake which was fun to explore. Being in a small car on this track reminded me of the Mongol Rally and all the crap roads we went on when we did that! Great fun! As I’ve been hitch hiking I thought it was only right to stop for any people I came across on my trip. Obviously your never sure who your going to pick up until they get in the car and the first person I stopped for turned out to be very interesting! I pulled over and this quite frail old lady got in, she must have been about 80 and as she sat down the smell of alcohol hit me, this could be interesting. It turned out she only wanted to get a ride to the next town which was about 10 minutes away to buy more alcohol, shock horror! Anyway she seemed nice enough and even in the short trip I learn much about her like the fact she had buried two husbands (her description not mine) and how she only had one lung…apparently. One thing I didn’t discover though was her name so I just called her smoking alcohol lady. Not to her face obviously, that would have been rude. You certainly meet all sorts!
I then went back up the coast towards Westport which I had cycled but it was so lovely I thought it would be nice to go back along it and see it again. Then I wanted to go north up to Karamea which I hadn’t explored at all and had heard was well worth the trip. Along the coast I stopped for another hitch hiker, this time a French guy called Tabo who was another hiker and didn’t smell of alcohol which was good. I dropped him in Westport and set off towards Karamea. It was about 100 km to get there and the road follows the coast before shooting up into the hills. The road snakes through them before you come back out on the coast again. It was like entering another world which was slightly disconnected from everywhere. I loved it. I’d heard if you keep driving up the coast you’ll eventually run out of road and there’s a camp site there so that’s exactly what I did. I found the campsite, found a spot next to the beach and had an amazing evening enjoying the sunset. It was really stunning spot, even with all the bloody sand flies! Little sods!
I had the car for another night but wasn’t really sure where to go so I worked my way back towards Nelson and just took my time. I went back along the Buller gorge which I had cycled down on my way south so it was nice to visit there again. I picked up two more hitch hikers on my way there, the first was a kiwi guy called Nigel who wasn’t the most chatty of people and after about 15 minutes the conversation sort of dried up so it left a slightly awkward 30 minutes until I dropped him off. The weather came up a couple of times but even that solid topic didn’t help get the chat flowing. The second hitcher was a French girl called Margaux who was going to Nelson and she turned out to be much more chatty which was great after mr awkward. After getting back to Nelson I went to explore some of the small bays around the coast before dropping the car back in town.
I stayed at the beach house for another few days doing a bit more gardening and what not before cycling back into Nelson to continue my trip north back to Auckland. I thought I would try and hitch with my bike and see if I had any luck. I found a spot on the road out of Nelson and after an hour or so I hadn’t had much luck but eventually a van pulled over driven by a kiwi/American couple and they made some room so I could jump in and throw Daisy in the back. Perfect! The took me around to Havelock where I thought about trying to get another ride to Picton but in the end I decided to stop being lazy and cycle the last 35km. It was along the Queen Charlotte Drive which had been one of my favourite roads in New Zealand so I thought it was be a nice ride. The sun was out and it was indeed a lovely ride. I got to Picton that evening where I found somewhere to crash for the night. I then booked a ferry for the next day to get me to where I am now, back at Pat and Doro’s in Wellington.
I’ve got about a week to do some organising, repack my stuff and get myself up to Auckland to fly to my next country which is Japan. I’ve decided not to cycle there and instead just backpack around. I can’t wait to check out a completely different culture! I’ll keep up the blog while I’m there if your interested at all.
A few other pictures from the last few weeks