New Zealand: Part I

I’m at the Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand:

At the end of the last update I was at Sydney airport. From there I flew to Christchurch, New Zealand. In Christchurch I met up with Mark, another friend from Peterhouse. Mark lives here in New Zealand and would be joining me for a few days of cycling in the south of the South Island. After a morning spent rebuilding the bike and getting provisions for the trip, we drove down to the town of Cromwell, where we would be starting our cycling together.

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On the drive down to Cromwell
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Setting off from Cromwell

It’s worth mentioning that Mark is a really good cyclist. He races in an elite team over here (a that’s team good enough to have multiple sponsors and its own support car). He was also travelling on his lightweight road bike (weighed down slightly with some bags he had attached to carry some of his kit). As such, he was much faster than me, especially on the hills (I probably have an extra 60 kilos to get up each hill, once the weight of my kit and me is taken into account). After the first day, we therefore decided to ride at different paces: Mark would often go off on a small detour or go to a cafe, and I would then cycle and meet him somewhere further down the road. That seemed to work really well, and it was good to meet up with him at various points during the day.

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The cycling in New Zealand is amazing: the scenery is stunning and the roads are not too crowded. There are quite a few hills to cycle over, but they make for some great views when you reach the top. There are also lots of picturesque lakes (which are great for swimming in).

We had a couple of days of really strong winds. On the second night of camping, we were both woken up by the gale force winds which were shaking the tent. We were camping under a tree that night, which wasn’t the best place to be if a branch fell down. We therefore decided to abandon the tent in the middle of the night and move into the camp kitchen. We packed up everything and hurriedly moved it all inside. We also took down the tent in case it ripped or blew away during the night.

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This is the kitchen that we moved to during the gale

The following day, the winds had died down slightly, but they were still pretty strong. They were also blowing in our face, which made the going very slow (it took 2 hours to do less than 20 miles). That day we were riding in the Catlins (in the south of the South Island). The wind made the cycling a bit of a slog, but we managed to do nearly 85 miles, even though the wind was very much against us the whole day.

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Oh deer!
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The Catlins
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Lots of sheep…
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… and quite a few cows too

The following day the winds turned and all was good: we were flying along on the flat parts. In all we cycled together for four days before Mark had to drive back to Christchurch. I enjoyed having Mark’s company for those days (and he also had lots of good local knowledge about the best places to eat!).

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Along Lake Wakatipu towards Queenstown
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The beginning of the climb up to the Crown Range Summit. It’s the highest sealed road in New Zealand (at 1076m above sea level)

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The view half way up
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Farewell: at the top of the Crown Range Summit we said goodbye and Mark cycled back to the car in order to drive back to Christchurch

After Mark headed back, I headed north towards the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier. Again, the scenery was spectacular: much of the route is spent cycling along roads that run alongside the many lakes in this region. I had to be slightly careful of the tourist drivers in this region though: the road is dominated by people in motor homes and I sometimes had the impression that they were spending more time gazing out at the scenery rather than looking out for cyclists on the road.

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I reached 45 mph on this descent
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They really don’t like freedom camping here (but there are lots of campsites available, so there’s not much need to freedom camp anyway)

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I stopped by the river for some lunch. It turns out a Korean couple had also stopped in the same place, but had managed to get their car stuck in the sand. We did try to push the car out but they revved the engine and dug it in deeper. In the end they decided to call their insurer (although even that was non-trivial, given that there was no mobile reception for 80 miles either side of this spot)
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Along the coast towards the glaciers
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A beautiful campsite at Lake Paringa. No showers, but swimming in the lake was better

I’m now heading north towards Nelson.  After that I will cycle back down to Christchurch where I will finish.  It’s very wet here today (hence no pictures of the glaciers), but should improve soon.

 

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