Last post from New Zealand

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.

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Damaged Church in Christchurch 

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!

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Campervan Adventures

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!!

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Nelson Lakes

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.

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Beach House

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!

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View from the beach house 

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.

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Road Trip

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!

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View along the road to Karamea

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!

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Campsite views at Karamea 

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.

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View at the top of the Lewis Pass

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.

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Sunrise coming up over 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

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Karamea Beach

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Bridge at the old Brunner Mine near Greymouth

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Streets of Christchurch 

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Karamea Beach 

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Small Project 

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What to do next?

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.

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Views along the Alps to Ocean

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.

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Sea Lion on Surat Bay

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.

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Penguin Rescue at Moeraki Lighthouse

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.

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Yellow Eyed Penguins 

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.

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Alps To Ocean 

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!

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Camp spot up in the hills 

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.

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Technical part of the Alps To Ocean 

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!

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Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook in the distance

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.

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Lake Takapo 

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

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Moeraki Lighthouse 

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Church of the good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo 

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Alps to Ocean 

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Clouds moving in across Lake Tekapo 

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Yellow Eyed Penguin 

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Moeraki Boulders 

Wanaka To Bluff – My Finish Line

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.

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Lake Wanaka on my way to climbing

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.

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A few climbs at The Bakehouse 

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!

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My Bodge – Finger crossed it holds 

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.

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View coming down into Arrowtown 

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!

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TSS Earnslaw 

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.

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Track after leaving Queenstown 

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.

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Sunset on Lake Manapouri 

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.

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Windy on the coast – even the trees have no choice 

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.

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A very welcome sign 

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!

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The obligatory Picture 

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.

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Track after Queenstown 

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Fence of bra’s – Was a breast cancer campaign

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At the top of New Zealand’s Highest Tarmac Road 

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Views along the south coast

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Another on the track after Queenstown 

The West Coast

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

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Kapitea 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!

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Cowboys Paridise

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.

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Lake Kaniere

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.

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Evening meal at 4000km

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.

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Lake Wahapo

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.

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Fox Glacier

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!

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Bruce Bay

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!!

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Views along the road between Haast and Haast Pass

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.

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Top of Lake Wanaka

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!

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Blue skies above Lake Wanaka

A few other pictures from this week…

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Road along the West Coast

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Mountain Views (with another lake)

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The walk up to Fox Glacier Lookout

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Section of the West Coast Wilderness Trail

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Lake Wahapo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Island Begins!

I’m back on Daisy and back cycling again after my mid trip break. Very exciting! I got all packed up at Pat and Doro’s and had a ferry booked for Wednesday afternoon which I was hoping would give me a good view of the trip across from the north island to the south. Luckily it didn’t disappoint and I had a great trip over with some stunning views, especially the last couple of hours where the ferry weaves it’s way through the hills as it comes into Picton.

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View from the ferry 

Strangely when packing up and for the first two days I was really nervous, I’m not really sure why but I guess going back to not knowing where I’d be each night and also having changed my bike set up a bit which was untested I was a little nervous about wether that would work or not. Anyway I arrived in Picton at about 6pm so decided to find a campsite and set off fresh the next day. Picton was a lovely little place with a few cafes and various little shops. I treated myself to a fancy breakfast of eggs before leaving and enjoyed watching the world go by, it immediately felt more relaxed for some reason. I then did a quick shop, got some cash and set off on my way.

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Picton Harbour

I wanted to have a pretty relaxed first day to get my legs back into the cycling again and from Picton there’s a lovely little road called Queen Charlotte Drive. It was beautiful without too much traffic, stunning views and nice beaches all the way along it. Perfect for just wondering slowly along at my own pace. It was also along here that I was overtaken by a lady on a bike, not a problem at all obviously but she was on one of those electrically assisted bikes, as she came past me at the bottom of quite a noticable hill I jokingly said that’s cheating to which she replied you’ve got a big hill coming up. As she shot past she then waved her hand in a slightly sod you gesture and dissappeared up the hill. That told me then! Funnily enough I didn’t see her again as by the time I got to the top she was nowhere to be seen!

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Queen Charlotte Drive

About half way along this road I took a little detour to a small town called Anakiwa, from here you can do a walk/cycle which takes between 3 to 4 days out to ship cove. I didn’t want to do the whole route but I thought it would be fun to do the first section which was roughly 12km to a campsite called Mistletoe Bay. It was a fun track with a few interesting little sections and a lovely lookout about half way along it. It was here I met a couple from England called Kev and Ashleigh. They were heading the other direction but it was cool to have a chat while we had our lunch. Mistletoe Bay was at the bottom of a gravel road and was a really relaxing spot with a nice view out to the bay.

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Mistletoe Bay

From Mistletoe Bay I took the gravel road out which then went along and joined the main road again towards Havelock. Just before reaching Havelock I bumped into a group of 4 ladies who were all in their 70’s and very cheery. I’d met them the day before on the track to Mistletoe bay and they were walking the length of the South Island which I thought was very impressive. I had a little chat, took their picture for them and wished them good luck. I haven’t seen them since but you never know I might see them again, I kind of hope it do to see how their getting on! From Havelock I followed the main road to a place called Pelorus Bridge. There’s a really beautiful campsite there next to the river so after getting sorted I went for a dip which was very invigorating indeed! The water was crystal clear and you could just float away, jump out, run back up and do it again. Brilliant! I was told it was where a scene in the Hobbit was filmed, being a bit out of the loop with the whole Lord of the rings thing I didn’t realise this. It was only when a very cheery French guy asked if I was taking pictures because of the scene did I find all this out. Apparently a scene involving barrels in the hobbit film in case you wanted more specifics. I just thought it was really pretty.

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Pelorus Bridge 

After my relaxing evening at Pelorus Bridge I set off towards Nelson. I got there in reasonable time and found a little hostel which was not very big and very relaxing. Perfect! They had hammocks…an important criteria of mine! My first evening there I went to meet another English couple I met at Mistletoe Bay called Con and Bee. We got a takeaway Pizza and sat by the river, then went for a beer after which was really nice. The following day I asked what there was to do in Nelson, evidently not that much but you could walk to the centre of New Zealand! I kid you not there was a sign and everything! I’d met a guy called David at the hostel who was from San Francisco so we decided to tackle the walk up to the hill to the centre of New Zealand together….seems a bit convenient the centre was at the top of a hill but hey, very handy none the less! After that we had a wonder around Nelson and I got a few supplies. That evening we went for dinner which David very kindly bought for me! Amazing! Thank you again David!

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The view from the Centre of New Zealand – Or of Nelson 

I had two choices leaving Nelson, I could either head straight over towards the west coast or take a little detour north to the Able Tasmin national park. I’d only heard good things about it and there was a nice ride up there called the Great Taste Cycle which mostly kept you off the main road so it seemed like a worthwhile trip. The route took me up the coast to rabbit island (didn’t see a single rabbit I might add) and eventually along to a place called Kaiteriteri. From there I popped over the hill to Marahau, a small place at the entrance to the national Park. When I got to the campsite while unpacking my bike I discovered one of my new bags had suffered a bit during some of my off road excursions and a strap had broken. Not ideal so I went to ask at the office if they had a needle and thread I could borrow which got some interesting looks, not really sure why but I managed to fix it and it’s still holding…Rachie, you’d be proud! I also got some more bungees to really support the bag which seems to be doing the trick! Time will tell I guess! I decided to stay up in Marahau for two nights and have a day walking as there’s a pretty famous route through the park which can take up to four days if you choose to. I arranged to get the water taxi up the coast to Anchorage, the nearest drop off point and walk back to the campsite from there. It was only 12.5km but I had all day to do it and so I just took my time, it was lovely  weather and nice to walk instead of cycle for a little change of pace.

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Walking the Able Tasmin 

After my day walking it was back on Daisy and I wanted to make some progress towards the west so I headed back to Motueka and from there wondered as much west as I could. This ended up taking me along a beautiful road that followed the river down to a town called Tapawera and from there I took the smallest road I could see on the map to get me in roughly the right direction. I turned out to be quite a fun little route and was strangely quiet, as I was pedalling along I kept wondering why isn’t anyone else using this nice road. About half way along it suddenly changed to a gravel track…ah that would be why then. Fortunately for me it meant it stayed quiet until I hit highway 6 which was the road that would eventually take me to the coast. I found somewhere to stop for the night and was surprised to see I’d done 110km! The legs were back in the swing of things!

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Lake Rotoroa

The next day I followed highway 6 for a short time but the traffic got a bit heavy with some big trucks, this I think is because Highway 1 is still closed after the earthquake last year so all the traffic has to do a roundabout route down to Christchurch. I therefore took a detour down to lake Rotoroa which was a beautiful road with no through traffic which then leads to a gravel track called the Braeburn Track which turned out to be a perfect alternative to the main road. It started with quite a steep climb but once you got to the top it was a brilliant downhill through the trees, through  a couple of fords and along to a really quiet road which took you to Murchison. Once at Murchison I joined highway 6 again, fortunately not far after it the traffic heads south towards Christchurch so it’s a bit quieter which was nice. That night I stopped at a cheap little campsite called Lyell which was very pretty but I now have a new hate…sand flies! My god what annoying little creatures they are! They swarm around and no matter how many times you swip or slap yourself they don’t go away. Weirdly as well they didn’t seem to be too interested in the locals which meant they really liked me! How wonderful. I’ve been told they only get worse as you head further south…what fun!

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Braeburn Track

Highway 6 continues all the way down the west coast so all I have to do is follow that, simple navigation I guess! From Lyell campsite it was a really nice ride through the Buller Gorge which took me out to Westport. The previous day I had met an American couple also cycling south called Eric and Deirdre. They had set off before me and I bumped into them about 10km from Westport so we continued together, found a campsite and had a nice evening as there was a Barbaque so we had a nice change from the dried food we had the last few nights. The following day we said goodbye but I hope to bump into them again and do some sections further down the coast together.

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Start of the West Coast

From Westport to Geymouth, where I now am it’s about 100km or so. I decided to break it up into two days. The first day I had a bit of a headwind but the sun was out and some of the views were lovely. I stopped for the night in a place called Punakaiki where I did a short walk along a gorge with some beautiful limestone rock formations to explore. The second day from Punakaiki to Greymouth was not too far and the weather was a little more hit and miss but wow what a stunning section of road…I’d heard the west coast was amazing and so far it hasn’t disappointed at all!

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West Coast between Westport and Greymouth 

I’ve got an evening in Greymouth and then I head further south along the coast tomorrow. I’m planning on doing a little detour off into the hills for a night and then back onto highway 6 to continue down toward fox glacier and the haast pass. Sorry it’s such a long post but there just too many beautiful places to talk about!

A few other pictures from the last couple of weeks.

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Sunset above Picton 

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Lunch Stop along the West Coast 

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Needle and thread time

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Great Taste Trail up to the Able Tasmin 

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Another New Zealand sign…I didn’t see any snails though. 

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See, just in case you didn’t know where to go!

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The hills along the West Coast 

New Zealand via Hong Kong

I’m back in Wellington after a really cool trip back via Hong Kong. My dad lives there so it was the perfect way to break up the journey back to New Zealand. It was really nice to check Hong Kong out again as it’s been a few years since I was last there and as with any big city it changes so quickly it was interesting to see what’s new and what’s changed. I arrived on the Friday evening and was due to leave Tuesday evening so I had nearly 4 days to explore and hang out in Hong Kong. Brilliant!

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Classic Hong Kong 

My first day there I managed to persuade dad to go bouldering which was a fun experience, well I enjoyed it, I’m not sure dad was in his element but he still had a good go. The routes were pretty tricky, apparently in preparation for a competition but it was still cool to check the place out. That afternoon we went for a walk to Stanley over a couple of classic hills called violet and the twins. It was great to check them out again as I used to walk/run them when I used to live here. It wasn’t the longest walk ever but there was a good number of steps and the views were lovely.

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View down to Stanley 

Sunday ended up being quite a relaxed one thanks to a few too many beers the night before but on the Monday me and dad decided to do a walk/run up Lantau and over Sunset peak starting at Tung Chung and finishing at Mui Wo. Lantau is the second highest hill in Hong Kong and sunset isn’t much lower so it was a good route with plenty of climbing. We got the train to the start and set off running up Lantau which was a good climb and towards the top got quite steep but the views at the top were lovely so certainly worth it. We then ran down to the bottom of Sunset and worked our way over the top to Mui Wo.  In the end we did about 16km with 1300m of climbing so it was a good leg workout before getting back on the bike.

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Top of Lantau looking across to Sunset Peak  

My final day in Hong Kong was pretty relaxed, we went to explore the peak as I hadn’t been up there in a long time. It was a clear day so the view from the top was stunning. We had a bit of food and then got the train back down which I haven’t done for a very long time so it was cool to check that out again, it’s steeper than I remember. In the afternoon before I travelled back to the airport we went to a place called PMQ which is the old police marriage quarters which has been converted into lots of little shops. It was a really interesting place with lots of shops with things I never knew I wanted! Really worth checking out if your in Hong Kong.

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PMQ 

That evening I went back to the airport and continued my trip out to New Zealand, my flight was via Sydney which seemed easy enough. The first flight was event free and my transfer was going ok until I glanced up at the information board to see my flight from Sydney to Auckland was on final call! Shit! A slightly mad dash through Sydney airport later I made it to the gate in time. It turned out I wasn’t the last person to arrive so it was all good in the end but I did for a short time think I was going to spending more time than I expected in Sydney. Unsurprisingly I guess, when I got to Auckland I was told my bag hadn’t made the transfer which was a shame but not the end of the world. As I was only in Auckland for one evening and leaving early the next morning I asked them to send it straight to Wellington which they did so it was all sorted pretty quickly. After a short night in Auckland I was up early to get my bus down to Wellington. Up at the same time was another English guy who was also called Tom (It was someone else honest, I wasn’t just talking to myself) so we got the bus into town together and went for some breakfast before we both dissappeared off to get our next buses. Mine would be a lovely 12 hour trip back down the north island to Pat and Doro’s in Wellington where I’d meet up with Daisy who had been chilling in their garage for the last few weeks.

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Pat and Doro’s in Wellington 

I got back to Wellington all fine and have had a few days here helping out with a few jobs before setting off again on Wednesday. It was also my birthday at the weekend and everyone here was awesome, we went for a few beers and had a cool meal to celebrate which was great. The time before setting off again has also given me a chance to reorganise my things as having spent 2 and a half months around the north island I have a much better idea of what I do and don’t need to carry on the bike. As a result Daisy has been to weight watchers and now’s a lot lighter than she was. I’m curious to see what difference it makes when I set off. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t.

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Daisy post Weight Watchers 

Like I said I’m all set to head off on Wednesday which I’m really looking forward to as its been quite a long gap off the bike and I’m excited to be off exploring again. I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on!

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Me and Dad at the top of Lantau 

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Sunset walking to Stanley 

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Bouldering

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Sunset Peak 

Which way did I Pedal around the North Island?

Good question, so I thought I would do a quick post with a map of the route I’ve taken so far which hopefully will make it a bit clearer. Below is said map with a useful blue line drawn on it with my route. It might not have been the most direct route but it’s been a great way to see a lot of the island instead of just blasting from the top to the bottom.


Starting in Auckland I first went north to the top of the island by going up along the west coast. I then came back down the east coast and quickly stopped in Auckland to see Shaun and Jenny. I then went east around the coromandel where I did my first Help X in Kuaotuna. From there I went down the coast to Rotarua with a quick detour to Paeroa to check out the Karangahake gorge. From Rotarua I kept going east and went around the east cape through to Gisborne with a stop in Tokomaru bay at the brilliant hostel called Stranded in Paradise. I then kept going around the coast past Gisborne to Wairoa where I started the route up past Waikaremoana Lake which got me up to Taupo.

From Taupo I went to the timber trail and across the Forgotten World Highway to New Plymouth where I stopped with Pamala and Ken. From there I started going south down to Ashhurst where I stayed with Mark and Lauren. I jumped over the hills to highway 2 and down to Masterton which got me down to the rail trail. After the rail trail it was a nice chilled cycle into Wellington. Not a bad route! I’ll do the same when I’ve got to the bottom of the South Island!