Stormy: Christchurch – Cook – Te Anau

On the way towards Lake TekapoTime is running fast at the moment and I didn’t have the time to write a blog entry earlier unfortunately. However, here it is finally and it’s about the windy days from Christchurch along the Southern Alps down to Te Anau and Fjordland in the south of the South Island. Happy reading!

Christchurch – Lake Tekapo
After I cycled for a few days with the Dutch cyclist Femke to Christchurch – she flew to Auckland to discover the North Island with a friend by car – I left the city again solo. And this with a heavy head (I spend the evening with Helen, I met her on the ferry to the South Island, and some of her Kiwi friends) and by almost 30 Degrees Celsius. The road was a bit boring but towards the evening I anyway reached the campground in the Rakaia Gorge. There were already two other cyclists: Heinz and Stephan from Germany. They met each other on the flight to Christchurch and just had their first cycling day in NZ. From now on they had a third co-cyclist :-). Heinz had already been several time in New Zealand by bike and knows it very well.
We continued the next day to Geraldine, where we got Fish & Chips and beer as a starter. However, that wasn’t enough and we ate something else as well (it is still impressive how much you eat as a cyclist; or at least how much I do…). After a partly rainy day the day before, it looked better again in the morning and we started cycling towards Lake Tekapo. Especially the last part there was just gorgeous. Only the head wind wasn’t that great… The campground was already completely full and we therefor put up our tents at a hostel. This is always a good solution if they allow it and we were also well protected from the wind there, which would be an advantage as the next few days would show. The landscape around Lake Tekapo was too nice to just keep cycling. Additionally there was a storm forecasted for the next days. Therefore we decided to stay a bit longer. We used the wonderful weather before the storm to climb the close by Mount John and to enjoy the great panorama and the food in the cafe up there as well. Another fabulous day :-). The storm finally arrived the next day and produced waves on Lake Tekapo like it would be the sea… Because the already visited Mount John is a very windy place on such a day (they measured up there gusts of up to 250km/h), we went up there again. We were a bit disappointed that the cafe was closed but normal people are also not going up there during a storm. However, we were not the only ones… During the night, the storm showed what it was capable of (they measured gusts of up to 140km/h) including intense lightning.

Lake Tekapo – Mount Cook – Wanaka
It was still pretty windy the next day but we decided to continue anyway. The idea was to take the road along the channel of the hydroelectric power station. That worked out fine till a car stopped us and the driver told us that the road is interrupted further down. We didn’t like it but we had to turn around. Into the head wind this time. It was our friend the rest of the day but we anyway reached the next lake: Lake Pukaki. Also on this one were heavy waves because of the storm. We camped at a basic but free campsite close to the dam and enjoyed the spectacle. The wind was partly so strong that you could’n keep standing. Glad we had our tents behind a hill…
The top thing in this region is Mount Cook; NZs highest mountain. The road to the base of it is following along Lake Pukaki and was exactly heading towards the wind. Luckily the wind got a bit lighter and we wanted to try it. Heinz was top fit and went to the front. Stephan and myself followed behind. After some time, it got much better with the wind and we could enjoy the beautiful day and views. We finally reached Mount Cook Village towards the evening and the youth hostel there had just three beds left; for us luckily. We enjoyed their Sauna and a pre made Pizza.
After visiting the Statue of Sir Edmund Hillary, we started to cycle out of the valley. The wind got stronger again but this time it was tail wind. We haven’t been cycling that fast for a long time. We made already 60km till lunch break… We spend the evening at a farm near Omarama. The very friendly owner is offering his own house as a hostel, e.g. there are family pictures and so on all over. Pretty interesting. We camped in the very nice garden and had with Biggi (a young German which we already met in Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook) a wonderful BBQ.
We didn’t really know if we should continue in the morning or not because thunderstorms were moving through the area. It was already lunch time when we finally left. And this also with strong head wind. Luckily the road turned after a while and it got much better with the wind. We drove slowly towards the Lindis pass. Especially the last part was very steep. It was as steep at the other side but this time down hill which was a lot of fun. The question was only where we should stay over night. There wasn’t much in the area except some farms. After searching for a while, we finally found a simple campsite which even had a toilet. That’s all what you need. We continued the next morning; at first up hill. We were pretty hungry when we reached the cafe in Tarras. I can really recommend the Torpedo sandwich but also the cakes were great. They made pretty good business with us :-). We finally reached Wanaka in the evening and camped in the Kiwi Holiday Park.

Wanaka – Queenstown – Te Anau/Milford Sound
After a rest day in Wanaka, we continued across the Crown Range (the highest paved road in NZ). It’s with 1’076 m actually not as heigh as it sounds but especially at the end very steep. For making it up there, we stopped at the restaurant in Cardrona. Some have ordered there even two portions of the cake… It wasn’t me for once ;-). The way down from the Crown Range towards Queenstown was a lot of fun. The traffic into the city wasn’t. We put our tents again up next to a hostel.
If you want you can spend a lot of money in Queenstown for Bungee Jumping, Sky Diving, … and so on. We didn’t do that and continued by taking the steam boat across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak. It felt a bit like at home in Lucerne in Switzerland. The journey was pretty stormy and we weren’t that sure if it was a good idea to drive through the mountains that day. We left the paved road and continued at Walter Peak on gravel. First along the lake (the sun was shining again in the mean time) and then into the Von valley. And here we had to cross our first river without the help of a bridge. But for that we had our sandals with. The water wasn’t very deep but a motorcyclist, which came from the other side, turned around here :-). We continued. As next, the weather wanted to show us what it was capable of. However, after a short stormy intermezzo, the sun was shining again and we continued on the pretty steep road. We just had reached the top when hail started. It was a bit unpleasant but stopped again after a short time and the sun was back with nice colors and a rainbow. I was slowly but surely tired but we decided to continue till the Mavora Lakes. But to get there we had to cross another two small rivers… The sun already disappeared behind the mountains till we arrived at the lakes. After some dinner, everybody went to bed kind of fast.
It got pretty cold during the night (below freezing) and we had some ice on top of the tents in the morning. As soon as the sun was above the hills again, it got warm and much more pleasant. We continued towards south. Soon it was time to say goodbye. Stephan wanted to get to the west coast. Heinz and myself wanted to get to Te Anau first. It was already more than two weeks since we started to cycling together. How fast time is running! Heinz and I continued and reached Te Anau in the later afternoon. It was the most southern point of my NZ journey. We stopped cycling for now and visited Lake Manapouri and its impressive power station (built into the mountain) on a tour the next day and even got a glimpse of the Doubtful Sound. I visited the Milfourd Sound the next day with another tour. The weather wasn’t great but the tour was ok.
After that I had enough of tours and also had spent enough money. I continued therefor again towards north but more about that in the next blog entry. This one got already more than long enough. Thank you for reading :-).
All the best from New Zealand,
Ps: Picture can be found in the Gallery as usual.

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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2 thoughts on “Stormy: Christchurch – Cook – Te Anau

  • Sandra

    Hallo Stefa
    mal wieder ein Lebenszeichen von mir 🙂
    Nun bist du im Süden von Neusseland angekommen….geht es jetzt im Norden weiter od gar am Ende, gibt es schon ein neues Reiseziel 😉
    bin gespannt!
    Liebe und sonnige Grüsse aus Zürich

  • Bernhard Tremp

    Hallo Stefan

    Das war ja eine windige Angelegenheit. Hauptsache es ist Rückenwind. Wie lang bleibst Du noch in Neuseeland ? Da gäbe es noch so ein paar kleine Inseln im Pazifik…………
    Gute Reise wünscht Dir