Author Archives: twymer12

Day 40 – Haast shmaast

Since we made it to Makarora last night, today we felt we needed to push the 81km to get to Haast. This is another tiny little town but was the nearest place with any type of store or service. Of course getting to Haast required us to make the climb over Haast Pass. This pass is the lowest one going over the alps towards the west coast and we were taking it in the easy direction. Easy direction over mountains mean the descent is on the fun side.

Having a riding buddy has had a lot of perks on the road but unfortunately I pulled something my riding buddy at home used to do to me: “I'll see you on the other side”. At the base of the climb we took a break and then I took off at a faster pace making my way up alone. Waited for him at the picnic area at the peak and we ate lunch before I once again took off alone to fly down the mountain.

After the pass the road flattened out and we spent the last 50km cruising through the rain forest, pushing towards the sea. When we pulled into Haast we met a couple other cycle tourers at camp. Mark and Garben, who met on tour and started riding together as well.

 

Day 39 – Entering sand fly country

When we woke up, my new riding buddy James and I lamented about whether or not we should ride. It looked to be a beautiful day but I was pretty beat from the day before. In the end we decided to head out to make proper use of the beautiful day, but keep it a short ride. I took some time in the morning to use the Internet and then we ran some errands in town, not knowing when we would get the chance to do any of this again as we pushed into the rather unpopulated west coast. We rolled out of Wanaka finally at 1:30pm.

As we cycled alongside lake Wanaka and lake Hawea, passing up DoC camp sites left and right, it became apparent that having a riding buddy wasn't going to help me keep my goal to go easy on myself occasionally. We eventually decided to make the day end in Makarora, 75 hilly and beautiful kilometers away from where we started.

I suppose we were well rewarded when we found the quaint camp site with spotless showers and a good kitchen at the end of the tiring day.

 

Day 38 – Shut up, legs!

So today was to be part one of my two day trip to meet James in Wanaka. Day one was a shorter, slightly hilly route to Arrowtown. Most of this was the same route I took to Queenstown a while back so I was pretty familiar with it. Or so I thought.

About 40km in I think I see my turnoff. Weird, the sign doesn't say Arrowtown but it says Wanaka via Cardrona, I thought to myself. I make the turn, start climbing. I shouldn't be climbing like this so I stop and check the Pedallers' Paradise book's sketch map. Looks right, think I'm on the road that goes up and then I turn left to Arrowtown instead of right for the Crown Range climb.

2km in, I'm to about 650m elevation. Something isn't right. I get to the scenic overlook. Hey, that's…. Arrowtown…. Guess I'm meeting James in Wanaka tonight then.

If I go down I have to make this climb tomorrow, and well I'm too lazy for that. Now the Crown Range climb is from ~350m where I was on my turn off up a sharp winding road to 650m at the scenic lookout, flat for a bit then slams up to 1080m, the highest point on a highway road in New Zealand.

My legs were not ready for the second steep climb. About halfway through the stiff 3.5km I'm done. I can't push a pedal down hard enough to not roll backwards. I get off, take a short break on the edge of the highway and still can't do it. So I start walking. It's hard to even walk up this! I frown and push my bike abut half a km to another scenic look. Flop on the ground and lay there for about an hour, getting talked to by people who walk past. “You're almost there!” “Tell that to my legs!”.

Eventually I assemble enough gumption to get back on the saddle. Turns out I was 1.5km from the peak. With about 100m to go the road gets steep again and I can't pedal. Whatever, I'll walk over the top. I get up there and have 40km to drop the distance I just climbed in 8km.

I get to Wanaka and try to track James down, then we make the ride out to the furthest possible camp site in town. Uuuuugh.

 

Day 37 – A riding partner?

The plan was an easy ride to Cromwell, 35km from camp, as part of two short days prepping the legs for the Crown Saddle climb. So I woke up late, read and cleaned my drivetrain before setting out at noon.

When I arrive I find a coffee shop with free wifi and start catching up. I've got an email from James (one of the cyclists I ran into during the Catlins) saying he should be in Cromwell today as well. We had discussed riding some of the west coast together if our paths crossed again. Minutes later, I look up and see him roll by. I grab my iPad and run out to flag him down.

After we catch up he mentions he's tenting in the yard of a cyclist he met previously. I end up joining and have a night discussing our journeys, drinking beer and watching some rugby. His friend being Nigel who blogs at http://www.nigelsbicyclejourneys.com/. The picture below is him in front of the monstrous tent James and I slept in.

There was a lot of talk of the other cyclists we've ran into here and a lot of that directed around those who approach cycle touring as a life style, not just a three month holiday. Kind of inspiring.

Anyway, James and I plan to ride the west cost together. I'm taking a two day route to Wanaka via Arrowtown and the Crown Range mountains so we meet again on the 10th.

 

Day 36 – Been there done that

I woke up to rain this morning. Pretty common occurrence, so I pulled out my kindle and figured I'd wait it out. A couple hours pass and it's still raining so I packed my bags, waited for a lull in the rain and frantically packed the tent, loaded the bike and headed out. Needed new groceries too and by the time I left Miller's Flat it was after noon. I'm in no rush, I remind myself.

Today the goal was Alexandria, a town I passed through while doing the rail trail a while back. Coming here last time I road mostly downhill on the long and rough gravel rail trail but today's ride in was all paved and all covered in hills. I broke my speed record on the touring bike 3 separate times, actually, with the last one being 44mph. I'm still pretty impressed the Surly carries so much gear, feels at home on dirt roads and completely comfortable at 40mph+.

In case I didn't really talk about why I'm revisiting areas it iss because I made the weird decision to head to the east coast after getting to Omarama, rather than heading south over Lindis Pass. From there I road down the coast to Dunedin where I wanted to ride the rail trail I had heard a lot about. When this ended I road up towards Queenstown and down, around the southern coast and now get to cut a north west diagonal across to continue on.

After tomorrow it should all be new territory again.

 

Day 35 – Small adventures

I'm often shocked by how out in the middle of nowhere I get here. I left Balclutha on a back roads route that the Paradise books show, but don't talk about. Not sure what the roads were I showed the book to a local and got pointed in the right direction. About 20km in I feel strangely alone. I've seen maybe one car and nothing else. Pushed through southern Otago plains and a neat forest road for about 60km and make it to a tiny town with a pub that you can camp behind. I get a beer and try to figure out if I'm still riding today or not. The entire road here was lined on both sides with barbed wire fences or thick bush so this is really my first chance to stop and rest since I started.

Bar tender tells me of a gravel road that avoids the steep hills before the next town. My legs like the sound of this. “It's a really short ride”, she says.

10k pass, no signs of this ending soon. There are cows all over the road that I'm shouting at to move and occasionally chasing down the road. At some point it becomes a cycling/walking path instead of a road. I thought she said short? 20k and the trail hits a paved road, yay I'm done! Maybe 100 feet later the road turns back to dirt and I see my trap go off the side. It's obvious nobody has been on this recently. Tree debris and fallen limbs are obstacles. Eventually I hit an intersection that just goes off into the grass for someone's sheep field. Not far past that, maybe 7km from the short paved segment, an enormous tree blocks the path and there is no way short of climbing over barbed wire fence to continue. As a last ditch effort I mingle with some sheep and walk my bike through the field I passed hoping to find a way out that way. I head for the gate and there's the main road, now paved, that ends up taking me into Millers Flats, the town I decided to pitch my tent in.

 

Day 34 – Crazy weather and the end of the Catlins

I often wake up early (around 7am) but don't leave my sleeping bag for an hour or so while I wait for the sun to warm the world a little. Today I was forced out of my bag as it was over 70 degrees when I woke up. By 10 it had passed 80! There wasn't even a breeze and I was dripping sweat on the early hills. A pitch black storm cloud was rolling in and I started pedaling as hard as I could, hoping to find shelter in the upcoming town. I didn't make it to town in time, but I did find a covering at a domain to hide under before it started to rain hard. I ate lunch and read for a bit while I waited out the heavy rain and thunder. By the time this finishes the temperature is down to 60 and stayed there.

A bit of a short day, though, only put in 60km. I guess that's more “normal” if you ignore this crazy week of 100km days. Passed through Kaka Point, a small beach town that I expected to make it to and camp at last night. Kept going and finished at Balclutha which is roughly the end of the Catlins and is actually only about 90km from Dunedin, a city I was at about two weeks ago. This concludes my weird coastal trip and in the coming days I will cut diagonally across the country to head up the west coast.

 

Day 33 – Should I be lazy?

I realized I don't actually talk about the bike part of this trip very often on here. Most of that is because I've had pretty solid luck with my bike. Between Steve from Baer Wheels and /r/bicycletouring I landed extremely well prepared. I brought pretty much everything I wound up needing and forgot almost nothing. My bike hasn't needed to be touched by a mechanic since I got here (which is good because I haven't found one I'd want to touch it yet). The only work I've done was using pliers to bend my disc brakes back into shape after I put it in a bad bike rack and covering a gouge through the paint on the frame from when the bike fell over. In terms of gear I patched a hole in my tent as well.

I've heard a lot of other cyclists talk about problems that mostly came from low quality tents or panniers leaking water, cheap racks breaking or similar issues. My setup as a whole was probably more pricey than I should have gone with but I like to think its the reason I've had such luck.

I've tossed a few small things along the way and recently bought a cheap stove and pot set to try to keep food costs down. I do wish I brought a stove with me as the selection here wasn't so great but I hadn't expected it would be cheaper and easier to get fuel for gas stoves than alcohol ones. Mostly because the huge number of backpackers that carry these stoves, I guess. I also bought pins to hang clothes, a coffee mug, squishy bowl and more stuff sacks.

Anyways, today was windy, surprise. I saw a German couple packing their bikes at camp when I was getting ready and we talked about whether or not it was worth it to sit the day out. The beach was beautiful but despite the wind it was going to be a beautiful day and I wanted to see more of the Catlins while the sun was out. It was a close call, that beach was pretty incredible.

So I got on the saddle, saw a petrified forest and Niagara Falls (yes, really, they are in the background of the picture below).

I've been getting pretty lazy in the mornings. I started reading before getting out of my sleeping bag which meant today I didn't start riding until almost 11. This meant I got to the place I wanted to camp yesterday (Papatowai) around 3pm. DoC camp ground, so $6 and no shower (again). My mom is afraid I will fall in love with a girl and not come back. I hope she knows how unlikely this is given my ability to practice proper hygiene on tour.

Anyways, the camp site was nothing special and there was no pub so uh, onwards, I guess. Wind has mostly gone away which I appreciate as I climb over Table Hill heading towards Owaka (oh-whack-ahhh). Chatted with a local cyclist about the town on the road until she said bye and dropped me on a hill. Ugh.

I arrive, see there is a pub/motorcamp and head straight there. $5 to pitch a tent and there are showers. Camping behind a bar just means I drank more than I would have, oops.

 

Day 32 – The Catlins, cyclists and sea lions

Well the wind kept at it again, but I'm done talking about that. Just pointing it out as it is relevant later.

My goal was to make it to Papatowai today, a 105km trip. I've really been putting in the miles lately with this being the third roughly metric century day in a row. No mountains or headwinds let me do crazy things, I guess.

I head out of Invercargill and realized I picked the furthest possible motorcamp in the city for my journey. Odometer said 12km before I was even out of town. Anyway, I continue off and on flying down the road thanks to the wind and about 35km in I jump into a coffee shop to avoid a quick moving rain cloud. We talk about the wind for a while and about my plans. The insist its not normally this windy but say its not likely to die down for a couple days. The guy recounts a story of planting hemlock trees that he loved when he was in northern Canada but they can't survive with the wind they normally get down here. They attempt to convince me to stay safe and camp there rather than continuing. Sadly it's only 1pm and I've learned my lesson of how bored I get of my kindle if I pitch my tent in the middle of nowhere that early.

Not much further down the road I'm waved down by a German couple touring on a loaded tandem. They were going the other way and, like the French couple, were not very happy. “I had such high hopes for the Catlins but with this wind you can't enjoy anything… Sorry normally we are more friendly but after today.” I told them about the offer to camp at the coffee place as they were trying to get to Invercargill, directly into the wind.

Furtrose is my new goal at this point. It's only a 50km total trip but I want to get out of this wind and read. There is one camp site there and it's free. Perfect. Well when I arrive I find said campsite and it is on the beautiful beach (pictured below). Perfect, right? The wind is coming directly over the bay and there is no shelter from it. I'm standing there staring at it, trying to figure out what to do and I see another cyclist pushing into the wind.

Making the same trip as the Germans, but he's only starting his tour. This is day two for him and he's been ramming into the wind the entire time. Poor guy. He tells me the camp site at Curio Bay has bush sheltered tent spots, completely protected from the wind and they're cheap, too.

Well, on to Curio Bay for me. 32km with 14 of that on gravel. As I went on it started to seem like the wind was mostly calming down. I couldn't figure out if I was getting to a more sheltered area or if it was finally letting up. I kept hoping it had stopped for James and the Germans, since they had it way worse than I did.

So I make it to camp kind of late and plan to check out the touristy stuff here in the morning. I scoped out the camp site and found the perfect spot. Flat, overlooks the ocean and shielded from the wind. Only one problem, there is a sea lion guarding it. I wait a while hoping he will leave but decide to take the second best spot in stead.

After walking on the beach and exploring the area for a while I head to my tent to read for a bit and get a surprising guest. He sat down pretty close to my tent, heard my rummaging for my camera and ran over close to where he is in the picture and lounged for a while.

 

Day 31 – Blowin’ in the wind

As I began to leave Tuatapere, the wind was faintly blowing from the west. My ride to Invercargill was about 25km south then 65km east so I was mostly okay with the new direction. As I went, the wind kept building strength. By the time I made the turn it was as heavy as the tail winds I had yesterday. The road weaved a lot so, again, crazy fast riding with dangerous hits from the side. I broke my speed record on the touring bike when I hit 40mph, rocketed down a small hill with the wind.

There really wasn't a lot of interesting stuff to talk about today. The weather was nicer and I saw the ocean. I met a French couple touring on a tandem. They were going the other direction and entirely unhappy about the current weather, of course. I mentioned a sign I saw about a camp site not in the Paradise books in case they wanted to get off the road early. I'm also getting better at tripod self timer shots.