The Wet Coast

Current Location:Franz Joseph, Aotearoa

One note on Wanaka, if anyone goes there you absolutely much check out the Cinema Paradisio it’s a charming little theater that I think has one screen. It doesn’t have normal theater seating but couches instead and a car so you can pretend to be in a drive in movie theater. They also have an intermission in each movie where you can go and grab another beer or fresh baked cookies! This was absolutely brilliant.

I tried to wait out the weather in Wanaka since the forecast for the day I planned to leave was rain in the morning then clearing up in the afternoon. I waited until about 9 to leave (I typically leave at with the sky looking just as grey as it had been all morning but I was anxious to get a move on. It turned out to be a somewhat poor decision as the thunder and lightning kept me on my peddles figuring if I put my feet down the cleats at the bottom of my shoes would make a perfect conductor. The wind and the rain was something fierce as well, the wind got so bad I actually had to dismount the bike and crouch against the wind otherwise I’d be blown over and the rain fell down like little shards of glass. The only upside to it all was the sign that said the road to Haast was still open (as I left Wanaka) so I figured I’d give it a go anyway. I made it as far as Makaroa where there is another sign that says if the road is open or close, this time the sign had changed to closed. I didn’t quite believe it and kept on going anyway as if I was going to make it to Haast there was no time to dawdle. I made it about another 3k before I ran into some workers who weren’t too keen on me disregarding the signs in the middle of the road that said the road was closed and they told me to go back to Makaroa, which I did. Found a backpackers place there where a few other people joined me who were in the same boat (the road ended up being closed for the whole night.)

The only good thing about stopping was I got to dry out my shoes, protip – stuff your soggy shoes with balled up newspapers and by morning they will be dry as can be (change newspapers before going to sleep for even dryer shoes.) And the people that were stuck with me were awesome. Met a couple of aussies and a dutch girl and we all ended up playing cards so it ceartainly wasn’t a bad night.

The next day was better in the sense that the road was at least open but I ended up getting just as wet that day as I did the day before. But on the upside it was forward progress which I’ll take at any time. Not much to say about Haast as I was indoors hiding from the rain and there isn’t much to the place that I could see.

I’d let you guess what the weather was today for the ride to the glaciers but there wouldn’t be much guessing. It was another soggy day in the saddle and I’m kinda worried my saddle is unhappy with all this rain but I’m not sure there’s much I can do about it. The ride was supposed to be amazing with the views of the glaciers in the distance but all I really got was glimpses of them as I was going along due to them being covered in clouds, hopefully it clears up tomorrow but I’ll not hold my breath. I talked to another guy the other day and he mentioned it had been raining at the glaciers for the last 7 days, I would hope that it would have to end sometime.

On a seperate note I got sent this link by a few of the trampers I did the Milford Track with. This happened only 1 week after I was on the track so I’ll consider it lucky I got to finish it when I did.

A Few Loose Screws

Current Location: Wanaka, Aotearoa

The parallels to the Pacific Coast at this moment in time is frightening. I feel somewhat like Icarus, each time I try to go to the highest point of my ride the wheels give out on me. I started the hill with a rebel yell, I was really looking forward to conquering the hill and it was shaping up to be a great day of riding. It was to make up for missing Leggett hill on the Pacific Coast and I thought it would make for an interesting challenge. I made it up the first two-thirds of the hill with about 2k left in the climb, then it started when I would peddle the rear wheel would just spin around the axle. My first thought was uh-oh not my axle. I then looked at the road and there was frost on it so I quickly attributed it to that since I was still in the shade and I thought the wheel was just slipping on the road. I got off the bike and walked it to a sunny part of the road and let the tyres warm up in the air. I get on the bike again and start peddling with the same result, only this time I look down at the rear wheel and the spokes are in the middle of the axle, not on the outside of the axle like the should be and I am now wobbling around like crazy on the rear wheel. As I get off the bike I realize that I somehow unscrewed where the spokes connect to the axle and there is no chance of me walking the bike to the top of the hill just so I can ride it downhill (most of the remainder of the days ride was downhill.) So out popped the thumb, I waited about 15 minutes before getting a ride. I disassembled the bike and stuck it in the trunk and made it to Wanaka yesterday. The bike shop can only find a 36 spoke replacement since they can’t find any axles of the 40 spoke variety which leaves me worried, hopefully the weight I’ve lost can lead to an easier time on the axle. I’m now stuck here until Sunday when they expect to get the part to me (they can’t get it to me Saturday as there is a huge mountain bike race going on here.) I guess my biggest concern is that Wanaka is the last town with a bicycle shop for the next 500km (approx) So if the wheel does fail me then it will either lead to me backtracking to Wanaka or having to hitch to Greytown which I really don’t want to have to do.

As people have been telling me there are worse places than Wanaka to get stuck which I sort-of agree with, I’d much rather be cycling rather than having to have my bike fixed though. Other than that Wanaka is another Queenstown, just half the size of it which fits me much better than Queenstown. I stopped by Arrowtown on the way to Wanaka yesterday and it was the definition of quaint, it’s an old mining town and they are in the midst of their autumn festival, the hot chocolate there was excellent.

Getting stuck here gave me a good excuse to upload some pictures.

A nice end to a trek A Nice ending to a long trek

A Great Walk

Current Location:Queenstown, Aotearoa

I can’t help but compare the Milford Track to the Pacific Coast cycle ride I did, just on a much smaller scale. It provided amazing vistas and somewhat challenging terrain, much like the Pacific Coast. But I think the greatest echo of the Pacific Coast tour I did was the fact that every day you walk on your own (or with a group) and at night you camp together with the same folks which makes for an awesome environment. We played tons of card games each night after the walk, I amazed yet another group of people with my card shuffling skills. The highlight of the walk was on the 3rd day when we got to what I called “holy-shit falls” because that’s all I could think as I was walking up to it. It’s actual name is Sutherland falls and it stands at a towering 580m (1,904ft.) It sounds like a jet engine going at full tilt and that’s what first caught my attention because I thought a plane was going overhead only to find it peek out of the trees shortly after to which I exclaimed “oh-shit.” It’s pretty neat after you get over the fact that there is this torrential amount of water falling down not more than 30ft in front of you (it was the only shower I got on the entire 4 days) and they actually encourage you to go stand behind the waterfall (I passed since I had my camera with me.)

Pictures really can’t do the place justice and I don’t find myself disappointed after doing it. I think it adds to the allure the fact that you have to catch a boat to and from the track which is how they really regulate how many people a day get onto the track. I thought that they had found a nice balance between commercialization and allowing access to the track, any more people and it would have been crowded but there were times throughout every day when I could walk for hours without seeing another soul.

When we finally made it to Milford I had a few hours to blow as did a lot of other trampers as our bus wasn’t due until 5 o’clock. So a bunch of us did a scenic cruise through the Milford Sound (the difference between and sound and fiord? A fiord is created by glaciers while a sound is created by rivers) So technically it’s Milford Fiord since it was created by a glacier. The captain was quite nice and drove us under a waterfall which more than made up for me missing standing underneath Sutherland falls and we got to see some dolphins playing around in the water. It ended with a rainbow under Mitre Peak (most photographed peak in New Zealand they say) Quite a nice end to a long trek.

The cast of characters was pretty broad. Though meeting 4 people from Montana was somewhat strange (2 separate groups of 2 from Montana) a pair of touring cyclists from Nebraska and a smattering of internationals made for an interesting group of people. I met a couple of girls from Wellington who have promised me some curry when I get up back around that way which should be good.

Being back on the road is definitely a nice feeling, although I come back to the road quite frigid. My toes normally don’t warm up until around noon and I must look quite silly wearing almost half the clothes I own. I sure hope the coast is more temperate than it is up the center here. Tomorrow I plan on hitting the highest paved road in New Zealand on the way to Wanaka.

In Stasis

Current Location: Te Anau, Aotearoa

After riding the bus one last time (I’ve vowed that it be the last time while in New Zealand) is that the seats are more uncomfortable than my bike seat. I can literally sit in my bike seat for 4 straight hours without any uncomfortable while I can’t sit in a bus seat for longer than 2 hours without getting uncomfortable. One of the many things I don’t care for on the bus. The view from behind the glass also loses some of the charm that a bike affords, the hills seem so inconsequential as compared to a bike and distances seem so small, but it’s infinitely more gratifying to do it by bike.

I find that I’m truly more comfortable when moving forward or just moving, as long as it’s not backwards. I’ve found myself in Te Anau for the past 3 days now waiting to get onto the Milford track. I did a 100 mile ride yesterday sorta by accident. I meant to ride to Milford Sound which should have been a 120km (~80miles) to Milford Sound, but in between here and there is a 1.2km tunnel that is unlit, something I was none to keen to try. So what ended up happening was me riding to the Divide, turning around and making my way back. I find that my body takes care of itself while riding and my mind is free to wander, it’s peaceful.

I’m disappointed to an extent with how expensive this hike is becoming, I guess also because I haven’t moved forward in the last few weeks since I’m back where I was a few weeks ago, a touch discouraging as the days keep getting shorter and the I know the cold is coming. Which isn’t to say that I’m not excited to do the Milford, I just hope the experience will outweigh the cost.

As for how wwoofing affects my theory of being happy when moving forward I think it gives me a purpose which I think I need from time to time. When I’m riding my bike that is my purpose and when I’m wwoofing it becomes my purpose but when I’m waiting for something I’m purposeless which makes me restless.

New muscles hurt after switching over to clipless peddles, I imagine I’ll be used to it after a week or so. I fell for the first time yesterday, fortunately it was into the dirt and not the gravel. I was more interested in using the bathroom than getting out of the peddles. I tried to step out like I’m used to and thought “uh-oh, I’m trapped”, Thump. Fortunately nobody else was around.

I’ve added a few pictures

mirror lake Name this lake!


Current Location: Christchurch, Aotearoa

A couple of anniversaries passed me by this week and it gave me a chance to think about a few things. The first one being it’s been one year since I’ve worked a proper job and since I’ve been in Hawaii. I think it’s important that I say it again but a heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who’s given me a bed, food, a laugh, or best of all the memories of an amazing year. It’s been a great year of cycling, eating, laughing, and experiences. I know people often say that you should travel around while you’re young, I fully agree with that saying for the experiences will stay with you the entirety of your lifetime, this will certainly be something I’ll never forget.

The second anniversary is that this happens to be the 6th month that I’ve been in New Zealand. In that respect I sorta feel like the white rabbit saying “I’m late, I’m late.” But I have to remind myself that I’ve only been on the south island for a total of 2 months now and I’d like to spend until at least the beginning of June here (which would make it 5 months on the south and 7 on the north.) To help me slow things down I’m terribly excited to have gotten a booking on the Milford Track next week on the 16th! This track is heavily regulated as it’s one of the most scenic tracks in all of New Zealand. They allow 40 people a day to do it independently and it costs $40NZ a day to stay in their huts (you aren’t allowed to camp at all) or you can pay $2,000NZ to have a guided 3 day tour and food prepared for you (they allow 50 people a day to do that option.) Fortunately for me there was a cancellation next week that I managed to sneak into. So this basically means I have until Wednesday to figure out how to get my bike and I to Te Aunu in time to catch the ferry over to the beginning of the track. For reference, typically people book this tramp 4 or 5 months in advance.

Another first for me on this trip is I took a bus to get from Dunedin to Christchurch to meet mom and dad. I now have perspective to how much I hate riding the bus from behind the glass. I’ll have to consider how to express how bad it is compared to riding a bicycle. Suffice to say that I’ll have to take a bus back to Dunedin to get back to my bike, but after that I hope never to have to take another bus while in New Zealand (I may have to take one to get to Te Aunu in time, but I’ll try everything to not have to take that option.)

Finally I met mom and dad yesterday, it was a nice treat to be sure. We did what I do best in Christchurch, wander around and drink beer at the Twisted Hop, once again that place hasn’t let me down. I also go my clipless peddles and some Lake shoes and am terribly excited to try them out. On a sour note about the bike, I realized I broke my first spoke this trip, hopefully not a harbinger of things to come.

Skinny Tyres

Current Location: Oturehua, Aotearoa

Find that on a map, let alone try and pronounce it. Took me a few times to get it right after stumbling around with it a few times. I think the population of this town is right around 20 so you can imagine it’s pretty quiet around here at night. How did I end up here you may ask? I was doing the Otago Central Rail Trail this week thinking it would take me max of 3 days, and that’s taking it super easy doing only 50km/day. Well after I started it I couldn’t just stop at 50k so I just kept on going (I even started later thinking I would force myself to stop earlier.) So I ended up doing more around 90k on the trail instead and ended up at a place called the Crows Nest, a backpackers where they have tent sites available. Anyway I got to talking to the owner (Annette) and after telling her that I do the wwoofing thing she offered to put me up and work around the place for a few days. Well that few days turned into 5 days with me doing side trips to little towns around the place just to keep riding.

One cool thing that happened is I met a girl at the crows nest that works for DOC (Department of Conservation) and of all the places she could work at she happens to work at the Milford Track, the hardest track to get booked on and she invited me to check out the last two days of the hike which I most likely will if I can fit it into a schedule (I get to stay at the staff hut which has hot showers, yippie) I’m still kinda hoping I can get booked onto the full tramp but I’ll have to see when I get nearer to Queenstown again.

I finally figured out whats broken on my bike. I thought it had been the bottom bracket after just having it replaced but it turns out it was the peddle. So that means I get to replace that now which leaves me with the only thing on the bike I haven’t replaced yet is the cranks (which I should replace), the frame, and the handle bars. This might be my opportunity to put in clipless peddles which I’ll have to consider for a few days as I’ve always been a bit hesitant to put them on because it means the next time I fall I go down with the bike since I won’t have my escape option I do now. Notice I say when and not if, it’s only a matter of time before I take another spill, I just hope i’m not doing 40km/hr this time.

I’ll cycle the remainder of the trail tomorrow and head to Pukarangi to catch the Taieri Gorge Train back into Dunedin, supposed to be a nice ride but I’ll have to be hasty to make it to the train by 4:30p otherwise I’ll have to find someplace around there to camp for the night.

I think I’m done with gravel roads for a while, my skinny tyres have held up admirably but I feel like I’m pushing my luck every day I ride on this rough roads. I blew one lady away today as I did a survey on the trail, she couldn’t believe how much my bike weighed and how many miles I’ve done, super funny lady because all the questions were about how much I spend and most of it was zero dollars since I free camp and ride my bike around, but she took it pretty well.

Mom and dad are gonna be here in a few days so i’ll have to figure out how to get to Christchurch to hang out with them for the day and then how to make it back to Queenstown, but i’ll worry about that in a week or so.

I’ll post pictures when I get to Dunedin.

Train Station in the Middle of Nowhere Train station in the middle of nowhere

edit: Pictures uploaded