I left Christchurch already in the mean time and I’m on the way towards south. However, a lot of stuff happened on the way to the biggest city of the South Island and I met several interesting people. You can read about all that and more in this blog entry. Enjoy!
Tongariro – Wellington – Nelson
For speeding up the journey a bit, I took the train from the Tongariro National Park to Wellington. The train because transportation of the bicycle is very easy with it and you get through areas, where there is no road. This compared to the bus, even if it would have been cheaper. After the train arrived with some delays (because of some construction work on the way, they said), we continued towards south. Through headphones we got informed about a lot of interesting things along the tracks. For example that there occurred a very bad train accident south of the national park several years ago in 1953. At that time, a muddy avalanche (a so called lahar) created by the water of the volcano Ruapehu crater lake, rushed down the valley in the darkness of the night and destroyed one of the train bridges. A car driver saw this happening but he couldn’t stop the fast train Wellington – Auckland any more. The train crashed into the river and got partly swept away by the flood. 151 people got killed that night. An alarm system got built in the mean time to avoid such tragedies. Comforted by this, we continued our journey to Wellington, where we arrived with a delay of one hour.
In Wellington, I met my former co-cyclist Jocke Eriksson from Finnland again. He already organized some tickets for “The Hobbit” movie. On the way to the theater, we got introduced to the Wellington weather and got completely soaked. The movie was three hours long, which was long enough to dry our clothes. However, on the way back to the hostel, we got another load. Welcome in Wellington.
After a few days in the city, I took the ferry towards the South Island on the 17th of December. Christmas and New Years is the bussiest traveling time in NewZealand. It’s therefore important to book the ferry ahead; even for cyclists and foot passengers. We crossed the Cook Strait and its strong winds in around three hours. On the boat, I met Helen and her friends from the UK. They all live in Wellington and cycled towards the west coast during the holidays. I had a good talk with her and got already some useful information for the west cost. Because a package was waiting for me in Nelson, I continued towards this city the next day. It was cloudy that day and the Queen Charlotte Sound wasn’t as impressive as expected therefor. Nevertheless, it was still nice. After a night at Pelorus Bridge, I continued through hilly terrain. And that was pretty exhausting. I passed a decorated pine tree somewhere in nowhere. Yes, Christmas was coming but it didn’t feel like it with those hot temperatures.
The next few days I spend in Nelson and also celebrated Christmas there with a bunch of teenager. The dinner was very good. The rest not that interesting… I guess I’m getting old…
Nelson – Kaikoura
Originally, I planned to leave Nelson on the 26th of December. However, the weather forecast for that day was very bad (a lot of rain). I decided therefor to stay for another day. At the end, it was a very sunny day… Sometimes the weather forecasts here in New Zealand seems to be almost like guessing. So don’t make your plans based on them… I finally left the next day. It was very cloudy but it didn’t rain. I was pretty happy about the clouds because it was one of the harder (means hillier) and longer cycling days. When I finally arrived in Saint Arnau, I was pretty tired.
The next day, I continued towards Blenheim on the east coast. On the way I met frequently a Canadian and Scottish cyclist (both women) which stayed on the same campground in Saint Arnaud. During one of the stops, we discussed together with another Swiss cycling couple about the driving of the Kiwis. My point of view was, that they are not really driving worse than others but also not better. I especially mentioned that a lot are passing too fast and too close. Everybody continued after this discussion. Around 20km before reaching the destination of the day, it started to rain. After reaching the top a smaller hill, I stopped to drink something. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that something happened. And when I turned my head, I just saw in the next curve a car flying of the street and into the vineyard. I drove to that point immediately. The fence between road and vineyard was destroyed. However, the car continued to drive within the vineyard along the fence and drove back to the road at the next exit. The driver stopped, checked shortly his/her car and continued the journey. That much regarding the topic I discussed with the other cyclists. After a moment, I realized that if I wouldn’t have stopped for the break, I could have been in this corner when the accident happened… And that didn’t make me feel very safe on my last few kilometers that day. See also the picture series below. At one of the pictures, you can even see the car which had the accident…
I continued the next day through vineyards and along the coast towards south. And the weather was beautiful again. On the way, I met the dutch cyclists Femke. She started in Christchurch a while ago and cycled around the whole South Island. Pretty impressive as her first cycling tour! Her destination was as well Christchurch and we continued to cycle together the next few days therefor after staying at the wonderful Pedalers Rest in Ward (highly recommended!). Several people told me, that I shouldn’t cycle the road to Kaikoura because it is too dangerous. Other ones said, that it is a very nice area. At the end, both were right. The landscape was beautiful with that sunny weather and we were also pretty lucky with the wind. The Finish cyclist Jocke was less lucky. He cycled at the same time along the west coast behind the mountains. And they got a whole lot of flooding there…
Kaikoura – Christchurch
Kaikoura is famous for whale watching. I already did whale watching tours twice during this journey. But it’s always worth it and also a good thing to support. It was a must do here as well; especially also because Femke had never seen whales before. Unfortunately, our tour for the 31st of December got canceled because of strong winds and heavy waves. The alternatives on the 1st of January were either at 6.45 in the morning or 15.00 in the afternoon. 15.00 was too late for us, because we had to continue that day. So 6.45 would be it. Let’s say it that way: I have for sure been less tired at other places. However, it was a great day with New Years sunrise and whale watching afterwards. We saw five whales and were told, that you normally already have to be happy, if you see one…New Years was definitively much more fun than Christmas :-).
To speed up the journey a bit again (Femke had to get to Christchurch), we took the train from Kaikoura to Mina/Cheviot, which is around 120km away from Christchurch. We were the only ones which left the train at this pretty remote station. The train stopped especially for us.The next day was the last cycling day for Femke on her tour around the South Island, before she would travel with a friend around the North Island (by car this time). It was a pretty long and windy day. And we also got some rain. The whole NZ program summarized in one day. And then we arrived in Christchurch.
Christchurch is special, because the city got hit by two strong earthquakes during the last three years. They changed almost everything and a huge amount of buildings got destroyed or severely damaged; especially in the city center. If you have never been in this city before (like myself) you only see a few damaged buildings and a lot of construction sites. I didn’t really get what happened here till I saw the city before the earthquakes on Google Maps. Whole street blocks just disappeared. Very impressive and of course a huge disaster for the people which live(d) here. At least the earthquakes have stopped for now and the city slowly gets rebuild. This is a longterm project, of course.
I continued cycling towards south. More about that in the next blog entry. It’s a bit late for the English part of that blog but I hope you started well into the new year and I wish you all the best for 2013 And I hope of course, that I can share with you also the rest of my journey. It’s not yet over :-).
All the best,
PS: As usual, the best pictures can be found in the Gallery.