Not so wet We(s)t coast

Leftover of the stormy weeks before The South Island is almost history (at least for the moment) and I will soon be on the way to a new adventure before New Zealand part two is following. However, more about this later. First I will have a look back about the last few weeks on the way up from Te Anau to the north end of the South Island of New Zealand.

Tailwind and Adrenaline: Te Anau – Wanaka
After Heinz and I arrived together in Te Anau, we left it separate. We were already cycling together for a long time and it was good to give each other some freedom again. Heinz was in the morning normally much earlier ready than myself and he had to wait. But it seemed not to be too bad. At least he did it that way for a long time ;-). Also this morning, he was ready earlier and started cycling. I followed much later. The road was heading towards north east and I was hoping for some tail wind because west wind is predominately in this area. There wasn’t much at the beginning but during the day the wind intensified and I made 130km till Kingstone. And surprise, surprise: Heinz was already at the same campground. It was very nice as well, that I got invited to some ice cream by an older kiwi couple on the way. The perfect thing during such a hot day. Thank you very much!
I continued the next day and Heinz again left a bit earlier. However, it wasn’t very realistic that we would be meet again because Heinz wanted to cycle from Arrowtown across the Crown Range pass (which we already cycled in the opposite direction before). But first the road followed along the Lake Wakatipu. It offered some great views and I had to stop several times to take pictures. Unfortunately, the road wasn’t flat, there was no tail wind and it was pretty hot. I was already tired when I arrived at the cross road near Queenstown around lunch time. Here the road to the Crown Range started and that was a definitive no-go for me. I continued therefore in the valley and stopped at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge for watching the bungee jumpers. Nothing for me; I have already enough adrenaline on the road, which I was shown again not much further. The road down in the valley was pretty narrow and also very curvy. However, a lot of people are still driving very fast. I therefor was paying a lot of attention on what was going on. After one of those narrow curves, I heard a truck coming from behind and went as much to the left as possible (there was no shoulder and the hill just started right away). The truck slowed down very little before the curve, saw me in the last second, drove into the opposite traffic, honked his horn and the co-driver showed me his middle finger. Wonderful! First you are killing almost somebody because you are driving recklessly and then you are also insulting the person. I’m a pretty mellow person but I got very pissed and showed them my middle finger as well. I know, not a very adult like reaction but I was scared to death… But it is also not a very intelligent reaction because you never know how the other person reacts. However, there was no space for the truck to stop and so they continued. That was probably the most dangerous moment during my journey so far and I didn’t feel comfortable till I arrived at the campground in Cromwell later in the day… Heinz wasn’t there. I guessed he really cycled across the Crown Range that day.
It was very stormy the next day when I woke up. However, I was a bit disoriented at the campground and still had hopes that it would be tail wind. When I finally started cycling, it got clear what it was: head wind. And a pretty strong version of it. The first 40km along Lake Cromwell were a fight therefor. Luckily the road turned towards west afterwards which made it better. I finally reached the campground in Wanaka shortly after lunch time. And who was already there? Heinz. He really cycled across the Crown Range pass the day before and mad it from Kingstone to Wanaka in one day. I wouldn’t have been able but he did and got a day off that way. There shouldn’t be one for me…

We(s)tcoast: Wanaka – Haast – Greymouth – Motueka
I was actually too tired to continue the next day. But it got clear in the morning, that there would be tail wind. And because this is not very common for the part from Wanaka to Haast, I didn’t really have a choice and just had to go. Head wind the next day would have been even worse…
Heinz again started a bit earlier and I followed a bit later. First along Lake Hawea. There wasn’t a whole lot of tail wind at first but some nasty hills. Nevertheless, the view was just gorgeous. The tail wind finally started when I reached Lake Wanaka and that made things much easier. After recharging with energy in Makarora (a Cappuccino and some sweets…), I continued towards Haast pass. After some smaller hills, it finally got really steep. And then I was surprisingly already on top of the pass. I expected some more hills but I was fine that way as well. It went down hill fast. The sun was slowly setting and I therefore decided to stay at a DOC (Department of Conservation) campground. 100km wasn’t that bad for that day. Two other cyclists from France were there as well and we got invited by two older Kiwis to sit with them next to their fire. We had a great time till the sand flies forced us into our tents… Unfortunately, the sand flies were still there in the morning and we got literally pushed out to the road by them. I was pretty tired from the last few days and decided to stop cycling after 50km and stayed  on the campground in Haast. And because I was still tired the next morning and it was so peaceful at the campground, I decided to stay for another night. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Haast which is perfect if you just need a rest.
I continued along the west coast the next day. The wind mainly comes from west here and pushes the clouds coming from the Tasman Sea towards the mountains. Therefore, it normally rains a lot here and something like a rain forest is formed. Some are calling it therefore the wet coast. But it wasn’t really that wet. Instead I was fighting with the warmth and the hills. They weren’t huge but I couldn’t get good bananas in Haast (they were all completely green) and I really felt that. I didn’t get as far as I had planned. Luckily I had enough time. I continued the next day and reached Fox Glacier around lunch time. Originally, I planned to go a bit hiking (or how they are calling it here tramping here) but because I already saw several glaciers during my journey and also at home in Switzerland, I decided to continue instead. Before  getting to Franz Josef Glacier (my final destination for the day), I had to cross three hills. Between each of them there was a 200m deep valley. Not very motivating but with the right mindset also that was manageable :-).
I continued along the west coast towards north. The landscape was a bit boring but I was already happy that it didn’t rain. The next night I spent at the DOC campground next to the Lake Ianthe Matahi: Three camper vans and one tent. I cycled further towards Greymouth, where Heinz was supposed to be waiting. And we really found each other and continued together till Punakaiki. The last part of the road was along the coast line and the landscape got fascinating again. We had to stop multiple times to take some pictures…
In Punakaiki, we camped at the Beach Hostel. This one is owned by two Germans and a Swiss guy. That by itself isn’t a reason to stay there but they also bake their own bread and muffins and sell it for a fair price. We bought so much bread that we had to eat huge portions of it the next few days :-). In Punakaiki I also met my former co-cycllst Jocke “Thomas” Eriksson from Finland again. He cycled around the top part of the South Island coming from Christchurch and was on his way back to there before going for a side trip to Tonga and then probably flying back to Europe.
Heinz and I continued the next. First to Westport and than further to Murchison through the Buller Gorge. Because heavy rain was forecasted for the next day, we decided to stay in a cabin at the campground instead of in our tents. However, the rain waited till we started to cycle again. First it was pretty light but than it got much stronger. We were pretty soaked after around 50km, when we reached the Hu Ha Bikepacker Hostel in Glenhope. And we couldn’t just pass here. The owners just had started a fire and we happily dried our stuff during the afternoon. And in the evening we got by the young German Katia invited to some beer. What do you want more :-). Thank you very much again! It was a wonderful place.
It stopped raining during the night and we continued therefor the next morning. And we gladly got some tail wind as well. Thanks to that we reached Motueka after 94km already in the afternoon. There we met another known face: Biggi (we met her already at Lake Tekapo and other places). Together we had a wonderful evening and also celebrated, that I was already on the road since a year. Heinz and I separated in Motueka. He continued to Takaka and I wanted to discover the Abel Tasman National Park.

Kayaking and Hiking: Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman Nation Park was on my list already since a while. My luck was, that Biggi was there as well and that she didn’t have yet somebody for kayaking (you don’t get a kayak just for yourself). The itinerary was one day kayaking and two days hiking. At the end it didn’t work out that Biggi and I would be in the same group. Nevertheless, I had a fabulous day and liked it a lot. I went kayaking with the Danish guy Hans. He already had a lot of experience and I therefore concentrated on taking pictures and videos. However, I also used the paddles. We anyway were much faster than the rest of the group :-). I would have loved to continue but unfortunately it was already over shortly after lunch time. Because the group of Biggi started a bit later, it took some time till they arrived as well and we could put up the tent.
We continued the next day by foot. I had again the problem that my backpack was too small. However, this time I also had to bring with a stove and gas. Luckily Biggi was carrying the tent… Thank you very much again! The path wasn’t as flat as expected (I actually had no idea…) and didn’t just follow the coast. However, we frequently passed a bay or stayed over night at one. That way we got at least once a day a bath in the sea. Also the weather was perfect for that :-).
On the fourth day, we took a water taxi back to the starting point. The whole trip was a lot of fun, especially also because of the people I spend time with. However, my feet definitively prefer cycling over hiking…

Motueka – Nelson – Wellington
Thanks to modern telecommunication technology, I met Heinz in Motueka again. We cycled together to Nelson on a very relaxed day. It was the last cycling day for both of us because he would take from Nelson the bus to Christchurch for flying home. And I would take the bus to Picton. Just for making it not too boring, he had his first puncture that day. Shortly after we stopped in a cafe and enjoyed their creations. We continued by ferry to the small Rabbit Island and further back to the main land. We were not really in a rush but reached Nelson already in the afternoon. The hostel was very busy and we got for 80 NZD the most expensive room since a long time.
We took the bus to Blenheim, where Heinz changed to another bus. We already said good bye to each other so many times during the last few weeks, that it almost felt a bit wired. But this time it was for sure the last time in NZ. At least for this journey ;-). My bus continued to Picton. I originally had planned to also cycle that part. However, I cycled it already before in the opposite direction. And after around 5’000km, my back tire reached the end of its life. So there were enough reasons to just take the bus. From Picton I continued by ferry to Wellington. The circle was closed.

And that was it with cycling in NZ for now. I had the luck that I could store my bike and some luggage at Helen’s place (I already met her a few times during the NZ trip) because I wanted to go to Vanuatu. Yes, Vanuatu –  this group of islands west of Fiji. Why? Because of volcanoes, of course :-). And also because I wanted to learn to dive. I didn’t want to take my bike with. After more than 13’000km, we both needed a break.

After Vanuatu I will return to NZ. There are a few things more on the North Island, which I didn’t see yet. And that way I also don’t yet have to decide what I’m going to do afterwards :-).

That’s it for the moment. The next update will come from Vanuatu. At least if I will be able to write at 30 Degrees Celsius and high humidity ;-).

All the best from Wellington,


PS: Pictures of the last few weeks can be found in the Gallery.

About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my wife Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website Stefan, Switzerland

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