20 March – 14 April, 2014 – We continued cycling the following days as the weather was still exceptionally good. Clear blue skies all day long, hardly any clouds and sometimes frosty nights. We didn’t want to miss out on scenery just because our bodies might want to rest for a day. They had to wait until the next rainy day.
From Lake Ohau to Twizel:
We were still following the Alps to Ocean cycle trail heading towards New Zealand’s highest mountain: Mount Cook at 3,755m. Despite cycling on a first poor and bumpy path and later on a loose gravel road with 4x4s passing us at maximum speed we enjoyed the outstanding scenery with Mount Cook right in front of us, an emerald blue lake next to us and tweeting birds around us. We pitched our tent at a sheep farm, where we used the shearers’ basic toilet and kitchen facilities. Unfortunately shearing wouldn’t begin before September and we missed out on an opportunity to see them in action. Instead we became unvoluntary witnesses of the slaughtering of two farm pigs. Farm life at its best. We had a nice chat with the farmer, still blood smeared all over his clothes and his wife who apologized several times for the basic facilities we’ve been provided with. Later she brought us two ice-cold beers for our sundowner at Mount Cook. Life is good!
More sunny days followed and we continued cycling and admiring the surroundings. At Lake Tekapo, recognized as having the most spectacular night sky in New Zealand, we spent a night at one of the worst campsites on the island. As it also functions as a backpacker’s hostel we had to share it with a lot of very young, annoying and noisy backpackers, most of them Americans. That night we actually wanted to get up to watch the starry sky. Knowing we wouldn’t manage by just setting an alarm we drunk a lot before bedtime as we thought we then won’t have a choice. And guess what happened? Despite a lot of tea and despite the noise around us we still didn’t manage to get out of our cosy sleeping bags. It was another freezing cold night and the lack of rest days made us really want to stay inside the tent.
We were now on our way north again, first heading to Christchurch and then back to Picton, where we would begin our journey homewards. This also meant busier and flatter roads and less dramatic scenery. It also meant that we more and more often started to discuss what we would do once back home. Amazing how on one hand time passes so quickly and on the other hand it feels so long with all our experiences and memories from our adventures.
But our main concern was still getting home in one piece instead of sharing the destiny of the many possums that end flat as pancakes on the roads. Traffic became ridiculously dangerous with reckless drivers, trucks and cars passing without giving us enough space. We jumped off the roads more than once. Each evening we were glad we made it to the next destination. Worst were the bridges: the roads get even narrower than they already are, a sometimes small shoulder disappears completely and cars are allowed to continue driving at a maximum speed of 100km/h. We were thinking of the wonderful one-lane-bridges at the west coast where all drivers waited patiently either on the other side of the bridge or drove carefully behind us, even though they could have easily passed us. On two-lane-bridges you really need to be lucky if a car or truck stays behind you. We usually only started crossing bridges, when there was no traffic behind us. We pedaled as if the devil was behind us, but often still were too slow to completely cross without passing traffic. At one point, Johan was cycling right in front of me, I checked my mirror and saw a huge truck approaching quickly at a for us horrendous speed. With opposite traffic our only chance to survive this was to jump off the bikes. I yelled at Johan to warn him that the truck was getting closer without braking and within seconds we both were off the bikes and hung against the railing to make ourselves as small as possible. The truck passed and left about 10cm between us, all opposite traffic came to a halt and we knew once more that someone is watching closely over us.
In Christchurch we relaxed a few days with our cycling friends Annika and Roberto, who just settled there to work for a year before they will continue their cycling adventure. We had a lot of fun and even experienced a magnitude 4.3 earthquake. Scary for us but nothing compared to the devastating earthquakes two years earlier. The city still looks like one big construction site with a lot of old building in scaffoldings. However, we very much liked the spirit and creativity at the container city with colourful containers functioning as shops and cafes.
The last days we continued along the beautiful eastern coastline, rested in a picturesque valley at the Pedaller’s rest, cycled in the worst weather ever over twelve super difficult hills, took the ferry from Picton to Wellington, where I got seasick, took the train back to Auckland and finally said our last goodbyes to a wonderful country and wonderful people.
20 March, Lake Ohau Lodge – Twizel, 38km
21 March, Twizel – Braemar Station, 46km
22 March, Braemar Station – Lake Tekapo, 31km
23 March, Lake Tekapo – Fairlie, 47km
24 March, Fairlie – Timaru, 59km
25 March, rest day
26 March, Timaru – Ashburton, 98km
27 March, Ashburton – Christchurch, 107km
28 – 31 March, Christchurch, 35km
1 April, Christchurch – Amberly Beach, 67km
2 April, Amberly Beach – Waiau, 79km
3 April, Wairau – Kaikoura, 89km
4 April Kairkoura, rest day
5 April, Kairoura – Ward, 77km
6 April, Ward, rest day
7 April, Ward – Blenheim, 61km
8 April, Blenheim, rest day
9 April, Blenheim – Picton, 64km
10 April, Picton – Wellington, 37km
11 April, Wellington – Auckland by train
12 – 14 April, Auckland, 100km
Total distances cycled: 24,215km of which 4045km in New Zealand