The Catlins runs roughly from Invercargill to Dunedin, and it follows more or less the southern coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We had a great time wandering around enjoying the awesome sea views. We hit some dirt roads and serious hill work to get to Curio Bay, Porpoise Bay, and Nugget Point. We savored watching playfull Hector’s dolphins, observing sea lions and fur seals, and from far away having a blink of the yellow-eyed pinguin on a fossilized forest and perhaps an albatross.
Before touching the Catlins, we met Isabel. A fantastic young English woman on her first big cycling adventure. She couldn’t explain why she got addicted to bicycle travel. Very interesting. We think it’s a shame she doesn’t have a blog to share her thoughts with the rest of the world. Anyway, when being tired, wet, or just fed up with biking in the cold outdoors of New Zealand the only thing she needs to face the world is a cup of tea. Marvelous cultural nurture.
And we lied to you in our last blog as the Catlins isn’t our last bike trip in New Zealand. We still have some time left to cycle the Otago Rail Trail, which runs from west of Dunedin back to the Southern Alps ending in Clyde. We’re finally fit now and don’t wanna loose it. And above all, we got used to the coldness in March. It’s sometimes so cold that after breaking down the tent in the morning, we warm our hands with lukewarm water in the kitchen of the campsite. Camping is great !
We know this friendly guy in Berlin who sent us the following video. As we don’t have any political power over you, we demand you to watch this (sometimes shocking) video. Don’t watch it on your first spring Sunday morning with freshly baked banana pancakes, but take another 30 minutes of your life to watch it. Awake your soul and do something, S&M
Thanks to an Australian-Dutch cycling couple (rideontrack), we absorbed with high speed some fantastic hamburgers in Queenstown (fergburger). It had been a long time since we hadn’t had such delicious burgers. Actually it was back in the States. Barack knows how to make a burger ! Dessert was a Queenstown-priced two scoop ice cream. It was worth all the savings. Loaded with calories, we took a boat to be delivered on the other side of Lake Wakatipu where we started two days of off-road biking. Wow ! We were back in no-man’s land with fabulous scenery. Cycling off-road as it’s meant to be. Dried yellow-brown grasses and trees mapped on hardly touched mountains. We crossed two rivers using our bare feet. Freezing cold ! We camped at one of the famous DOC campsites (DOC) at Lake Mavora: a nice warden, a warm fire and a great visit of a very curious bird. In the end, our feathered friend was only interested in sharing our pasta.
We walked along the beach of Lake Manapouri and made hundreds of pictures of the great looks of the mountains of Fiordland National Park on the other side of the water. These mountain peaks held a big part of the surrounding rain that day, but after few hours of battle, the rain won and poured it all on us and our little green tent. In the morning, our flip flops came in handy when crossing the temporary camping lake to make it to the toilets. We waited and waited for the sun to shine and to dry the world of Manapouri, but no. We packed before lunchtime and started pedaling towards Tuatapere, but we didn’t arrive. It was so so cold. We were soaked wet and sooo cold. We stopped at the first sign of accommodation and got a mattress and a hot shower and above all, dryness and a fireplace. We watched four movies in a row, and felt happy again.
We’re getting ready for our last cycling adventure in New Zealand: the Catlins. More next time. Big hugs, S&M
Yes, we have finally conquered the West Coast with all its beauties, and in response to the previous blog: no, we didn’t get lucky concerning the weather. The West Coast on the Southern Island runs from Westport in the north to Haast in the south. We received a representation of all the classics known to mankind of this rocking adventurous road: rough sea, rugged coastline, wild landscapes, and defying weather. Our idea of the West Coast turned out to be pretty accurate: (1) Untamed sea and coastline. After already three days of cycling along the coast we were fascinated by the perfect and powerful waves breaking on the shore and quickly wondered why there were no surfers. The answer was given by different locals who clearly explained that the sea is just too tough. (2) Big skies in big nature. Don’t touch it, just let it be ! Ocean with beaches, mountains with glaciers, and impenetrable rainforest. All of it on a background of dark clouds with rain intermingled with sunbeams and rainbows. (3) Mighty weather. Sunny, wet, hot, cold, windy, we’ve had it all. We did expect the rain, the wind, and the sun, but we hadn’t thought it would have been that cold. It was a long time ago that we felt we didn’t even have energy left to warm up again.
All the hardships were made worthwhile by the beauties the West Coast offered, but also, as a cherry on top of the cake, by the meeting of Stephen. We met him in the middle of nowhere, called Harihari, and to sum up our conversation we could say that this great funny and intelligent guy will save New Zealand from going further down in a Mediterranean-like economic crisis. He doesn’t read blogs so he’ll probably not read this: Dear friend, it was a relief to have met you !
We left the West Coast by crossing the Alps taking the Haast pass not really knowing what to expect on the other side. Well, no disappointment is felt as we definitely get inspired by those huge valleys circled by lovely magnificent yellow brown mountain ranges. On top of these bold creatures some powdered snow is nicely layered. Looks like a harsh and cold place to spend a night. We cycled along Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, and then Lake Wanaka again. Pretty confusing if you don’t have a map. The surroundings were so beautiful that it was hard to keep an eye on the road. And thanks to two Belgium cycling couples (movingaround.be and celienjeroen.shareyourstory.nl), we did a bit off-road before entering Wanaka ! It’s now time to rest and recover in great sunny days, S&M
The last 67 h, 23.4 cm of rain came down and we repeat ‘cm’ !! Our Hilleberg tent and the rest of the equipment are made for it, the only items really terrified by the weather now are us. Each of the last three days started with a dip in the local pool to get a bit of exercise, followed by a chai latte with a scone, and just before lunch time we went to the library to spend much of the rest of the day sheltered. The weather forecasts can’t be checked too often, so we decided to assemble a new video for you ! Yes, for you, so you have to watch it. It takes only 5 minutes, just enough for a hot cup of tea.
After having met few people on the road who advised us to spend more time on the South Island than on the Northern one, and after having had enough of the hilly farmlands (we both master sheep and cow language now: pretty scary !), we decided to take the bus from New Plymouth to Wellington. The small capital city is very pleasant and we enjoyed the goody-goodies of the Western world: coffees, loads of chocolates, fresh muffins and yes, a good hotel mattress. Since Asia we hadn’t had a real bed: how fantastic it was not to lay our tired head onto an outdoor pillow !
Once upon a time, a very very famous Dutch explorer took two big boats all the way to the now named Abel Tasman Sea. It turned out that this sailor was the first one to observe New Zealand from a very big boat, so he got famous. We decided to do things differently and rented two yellow kayaks just south of the Abel Tasman National Park and pedaled, this time with our arms, along this wilderness. We camped two nights in this splendid beauty of a reserve having the breaking waves as a lullaby. Kayaking remains for us an adventure. Few hundred meters out of the coast the swells grew and grew ! They got so big that from time to time the (far away) horizon was just disappearing. We were dropped in these oceanic valleys before being lifted again on the top of the next wave. We felt very fragile as ‘our’ boats were much smaller than the ones of Abel. Luckily we survived and saw some cute fur seals with brand new siblings, stunning beaches, native bush, and of course loads of sandflies.
Back on our Baraka and Nyn, we pedaled westwards crossing the island in few days. The landscape was not particularly remarkable although very enjoyable. It seemed that luck was on our side, as the weather forecast was terrible but we got only one insignificant shower before we finally touched the West Coast of the South Island !!! Yeah ! Pure rock and grey sand and powerful ocean and head wind and timid sun… Another dream destination that we are going to explore a bit more the coming days with hopefully the same luck for the weather.
Enjoy the last winter or summer month. Auf Wiedersehen (so many Germans here carrying backpacks. They almost outnumber the sandflies), S&M