Monday, March 26, 2012

Back to the Grind

Although, I have to admit, my grind is considerably less than many. It's not like I have to go back to a job.

Since my return from New Zealand, I have cleaned and put away all my gear. I fixed and adjusted a few things on Betsy (some related to flying in a bag and some due to having ridden about 1700 km). I haven't even begun to sort through all my photos!

By back to the grind, I mean I'm back to doing my usual stuff. As for workouts, I'm back to strength training. I discovered that cycling truly does not work the abs. When I did my first ab workout, my abs were pretty sore the next day. Upper body seems to have maintained okay. At least I wasn't sore after that portion of the workout.

My riding has been running errands. Today I went to Costco. That is pretty close to the feeling of touring; hauling all the Costco stuff home in "Mr. Ives" (the trailer). I'm back to working on my resolution to drive less than 5000 miles this year. Thanks to 5 weeks of no driving, I am ahead on that goal by about 400 miles!

Next up in June/July is a two week tour around the Olympic Penninsula with my friends Christian and Carol. Shortly after that I'll be doing STP in one day again (last did it in '09). That's what my training is focused on now.

I miss the warmer temps of New Zealand. However, I'm looking forward to getting a second summer! I have a greater appreciation for those "Snowbirds" who head south to Arizona in the winter!

The clouds are breaking up and giving way to some sunshine. Now it's time for a ride on the road bike!

Friday, March 23, 2012


These are photos from the Gondola ride, the chairlift to the top of the Luge track, and a look down on the Luge track. Then there is the TSS Earnislaw steamship (goes across the lake). A sculpture of the icon of NZ, the Silver Fern was taken at the Queenstown Gardens. Fergburger, where I had, reputedly, the best burger in Queenstown. Betsy on the Queenstown waterfront.
Finally, my last sunset in New Zealand.

Dart River Jet Boat Safari

The following photos were all taken on the Dart River Safari. Some were on the way to Glenorchy, some from the Jet Boat, and some from the 4WD ride back to Glenorchy. The one of the sculpture is a large piece of Pounami (Jade) found in the Dart River Valley.

Photos from Cameron Flat to the Top of the Crown Range

The photo of the river and mountains was taken from my campsite at Cameron Flat DoC. The two photos of the clear turquoise water was at the Blue Pools. The lake photo is Lake Hawea. The photo of Dick, Pauline and I was taken at Aspiring Motorcamp in front of their Escape campervan (destined and painted by graffiti artists).
Then there is the historic Cardrona Hotel in Cardrona (and Betsy). The photo of Betsy is at the top of the Crown Range. Notice the road going down. Lake Wakatipu is at the bottom.

Some More Photos

Here are some more photos. The coastal photo is Knights Point. The two photos of the white rocks are the pile and my contribution. The long waterfall is on the way to Haast Pass as is the photo of the clouds and mountains. The other waterfall is Roaring Billy Falls also going toward Haast. The beautiful turquoise river is the Haast. The photo of Betsy is at Haast Pass where I crossed from the Westland to the Otago region of New Zealand.

Yay! More photos!

I figured out how to free up space so I can post more photos! So, here are some select photos from Punakaiki (The Pancake Rocks) and further south. The second is Franz Josef Glacier. The bird is a Kea. The others are on Fox Glacier.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Zealand Recap via the 5 Senses

To somewhat consolidate my memories of New Zealand, I decided to break them up into the 5 senses--Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell, and Touch.

I'll start with the obvious, Sight. There is so much to remember in all that I've seen in NZ. The scenery, of course, takes top billing! The colors alone were amazing--the vibrant blues of the water and the ice; particularly Huka Falls and Fox Glacier. Then there was every shade of green imaginable! Often all at the same time! All the ferns, the symbol of New Zealand. I saw huge Fern trees everyday. The jungle rainforest that meets right up with the glaciers! The white of the snow-capped Southern Alps were magnificent. The landscape formed by glaciers have made even the rock different. Then there was Punakaiki, the "Pancake Rocks". They were slabs of rock stacked for some unknown geological reason.

I saw geysers and bubbling pools of mud at Te Puia in Rotorua (I'll get to the smell).

The darkness of Waitomo Caves and the experiences Leandra and I had on the Black Abyss Tour for forever be etched in my mind! The pinpricks of turquoise light created by the Glow-worms both at Waitomo and on the Minnehaha walk at Fox Glacier Village were very cool! It was all so surreal.

Of course, the Dart River Valley as seen from the seat of a jet boat as well as a 4WD was spectacular!

To adequately describe the sounds of New Zealand is impossible. The deafening cicadas heard almost everyday. In fact, it was strange when I didn't hear them! Then there were the birds. I don't know which birds were making what sound (except the Keas), but it was always a tropical sound. I could use the sounds of the birds to distract me when I was climbing a long hill. I would wake to them in the morning (sometimes earlier than I planned!).

Then there were the two least desirable sounds...wind and rain. Rain on the tent in the middle of the night was never a good sign! The roar of the tent-flattening wind in Picton is something I would prefer to never experience again!

As far as taste goes, I have to admit, I was not the most adventurous eater in New Zealand. Leandra was much better at that. Food was mostly just fuel to me. I could eat the same things everyday and not really care. That being said, there were a few foods I really liked. One was the meat pies, particularly the Mince and Cheese. I loved those meat and cheese filled pastries! I also downed my share of Whittaker's Coconut Block chocolate bars. And, the Hokey Pokey ice cream really was what it's all about!

There are really two smells that will remain in my mind. The sulphur smell of the geo-thermal areas and the road kill. We had heard ahead of time that the smell in Rotorua was pretty bad. That was true but, surprisingly, I got used to it. However, the same can't be said about the road kill. In that case, it all depended on how the wind was blowing. I saw more dead animals (if you don't count the sheep and cows) than live ones. I never saw a live possum or hedgehog. Of course, with the Bushy-Tailed Possum being the No. 1 pest in New Zealand, hitting them with a car is seen as a patriotic duty!

As for Touch, strangely, I will remember the softness of the Possum fur. Gloves, socks and hats are just some of the products made with a blend of possum and merino wool. Possum is supposedly some of the softest and warmest fur. It's just too bad the little varmints are destroying the forests.

Of course there are memories that don't neatly fall into one of the 5 senses. The availability of kitchens at every holiday park and even an occasional DoC campground was a surprise. I carried a full fuel canister for the entire North Island! Even my cookware was not always needed.

Riding on the left side of the road was, at first, a thinking process. By the end, it was second nature. I no longer had to think about it, even in the roundabouts.

Finally, the one memory that encompasses all the senses (except maybe smell) would have to be the people I met. The Kiwis are indeed a friendly bunch. Particularly those in the tourism industry (which is ALOT of them). But, I also met so many people from all over the world. I won't list them all, but a few must be named as they were instrumental in the enjoyment of my trip. Austrian, Gerald, was a great guy! I had seen him twice, when he pulled over and gave me a ride to Fox Glacier when it was pouring down rain. Because of him, I got to see Franz Josef Glacier. He will always be my favorite Austrian!

Canadians, Dick and Pauline are new friends! I first met them in Greymouth. They noticed I was a cyclist as they are kindred bike tourers themselves (on a campervan tour this time). Then, when I pulled off at Ships Creek on the way to Haast they were there too! And, when I was riding toward the holiday park in Wanaka, I heard my name. It was Dick and Pauline! They told me of a better place to stay in Wanaka and we spent the evening together there.

A few other people I just have to mention...Australians, Bronwen and Jeffrey, Japanese, Tatsuya, French guys, Nico and Antoine, Londoners, Steve and Nancy, and Israeli, Tal. There are many more...the World comes to New Zealand!

For anyone reading this blog who may be contemplating a trip to New Zealand, I say, DO IT!!! It will be the trip of a lifetime! Also, if you're going to do it on a bike, I highly recommend North to South (and MORE than 5 weeks!).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Back in Auckland

I've made it back to Auckland. Now have some time before my next flight to LA. Met a nice secrity guy in QT. He was just coming back to work from a South Is. tour of his own. He even helped me pack up Betsy before he reported to work. Then, later he waved me through security.

I'll be home soon!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gondola, Luge, and a Fergburger...

aka...The Last Day!

My weather karma is running strong for my last day in Queenstown. A little chilly this morning, but blue skies and sunshine!

I rode Betsy along the Frankton Walkway and Cycle Path into Queenstown this morning. It might not have been a bad idea to wear some bike shorts under my long pants as the path was really a dirt and rocky road. There was quite abit of bouncing along happening! But, it was only for 6 km or so.

Somehow, I missed the path to cut across the Queenstown Gardens and, instead, had to wind my way through a Frisbee Golf Course (fortunately, no one was playing at the time) and around a small penninsula to get to the marina/waterfront of Queenstown.

Once there, I followed the signs to the Skyline Gondola. At the top of the Gondola ride is where all the "Extreme" Queenstown experiences take place (ie bungy jumping, canyon swing, paragliding, mountain biking, and luge).

I bought a ticket for the Gondola and one Luge trip. I rode the Gondola with a guy named Derrick, originally from New Zealand, but now from Perth, Australia. The ride up gave beautiful views of the city and Lake Wakatipu. It basically went straight up the mountain side. At the top, there was the ever present cafe and gift shop as well as all the "extreme"stuff. Derrick was going to paraglide (even though he admitted to being a bit afraid of heights). I headed over to the Luge where I picked up a helmet and rode another chairlift to the top of the Luge course. The Luge was fun, but pretty tame.

I took some more photos then headed back for the Gondola ride down. Neither Paragliding nor Bungy Jumping were on my itinerary for today.

At the bottom I hopped back on Betsy and headed for Fergburger. It definitely is the best burger place in town as evidenced by the line outside. I ordered my Fergburger with blue cheese and an order of fries with aioli sauce. When it was ready, I took it down to the waterfront to eat. It was a pretty good burger!

While I was eating, I noticed some other touring cyclists talking to none other than Tilmann (a guy Leandra and I met on the North Island when we also met Tatsuya)! I didn't see Tatsuya, but I don't think he was still going to be with Tilmann at this point. I always am amazed how I run into the same people again (even weeks later!).

After my burger, I did some perusing of the shops. I wanted to buy souvenirs, but I had to be careful to not get too much. I don't have that much extra space!

I took the correct path to return to Frankton (without playing Frisbee Golf on Betsy this time).

Now, I must turn my thoughts to packing for the flight tomorrow. It will likely be dark in the morning when I am preparing to ride out to the airport. I will have as much done tonight as possible. Tomorrow will be a long day of sitting. Blech!!!

Weather Karma

I just wanted to do a short post to comment once again on the amazing "Weather Karma" I have.

On today's Dart River Safari, Meg (from New Jersey), one of the people also in the tour, told me about her "Weather Karma". I decided that is what I have too. For Fox Glacier, the weather was perfect for my Heli-Hike (even though it had rained heavily and was overcast the days before and after). Yesterday, it also rained and was overcast. Today? Beautiful! Whenever I have really needed the weather to cooperate, it has miraculously done so! When Leandra and I did Waitomo Caves, it was pouring down rain when we went in. When we came out? Sunshine! All our wet stuff managed to dry on our ride that day.

Yep, it's Weather Karma!

A Beautiful Day in the LOTR Territory

Okay, really, it is the Dart Valley. They just filmed LOTR here (among other movies such as Wolverine, Vertical Limit and The Hobbit to name a few).

The Dart River Jet Safari bus picked me up about 11:30 this morning at the Frankton Bus Stop (a short walk from the Motor Camp where I am staying).

Earlier this morning I did some riding around Frankton in search of bubble wrap and tape for Betsy for the flight. There is a large, by New Zealand standards, shopping center called Remarkables Shopping Center (in the shadows of the Remarkables Mountains). It is just past the airport. You would think there would be someplace selling shipping/packaging supplies. Not so. Turns out I found the necessary supplies at the Pharmacy/Postal Center just at the top of the hill from the Motor Camp. I had to buy three 3 meter rolls to get enough to safely wrap Betsy.

That errand successfully taken care of, I was ready to do a little Jet Boating. As I said, the bus picked me up in Frankton then headed into Queenstown for a few more stops then on out to Glenorchy where the Dart River Jet Safari begins.

It was about a 45 minute bus ride with commentary along the way by Christian, our driver. He told us the Maori legend of how Lake Wakatipu was formed. It was something involving a giant who kidnapped a chief's daughter and a warrior who rescued her and returned to kill the giant. He set the giant's beard on fire which burned so hot as to create the basin of the lake. The fire also melted all the snow which filled the basin and became Lake Wakatipu (apparently, the shape of the lake is a sleeping giant). Of course the real story involves glaciers and all that. I like the legend. One other legend explains why the lake rises and falls a meter every day. It is the still beating heart of the giant. Really, it is oscillation caused by the prevailing winds pushing the water to create a swell.

We stopped briefly for a photo op on the way to Glenorchy. The lake is really beautiful with that glacial aquamarine color. The surrounding mountains don't hurt the beauty factor either!

When we arrived at the Jet Boat base, we were split into two groups. Half of us did the jet boat ride first. The other half did the 4WD and Forest Walk first. I was assigned to the Jet Boat. Curiously, a couple I had met at Haast Top 10 were also on this tour! Elaine and her husband (from the UK) were also on the jet boat first.

We donned spray jackets (something I certainly could have used in the rain a few days!) and lifejackets. Then we reboarded the bus for a short ride to the lakeside and the jet boat. A gal took our photos individually, then we climbed aboard the boat. I got an outside seat (best for photo ops if you ask me!).

We started with a short ride to where the gal took another photo of us in the boat. Then we headed across the lake (a rather bumpy ride) to the mouth of the Dart River. Then Royce, our driver, gunned the motor and we were jetting up the river! It was a blast!

The Dart River is a "braided" river. That means it splits into several channels. The channels are always changing depending on the rainfall/snowmelt. Royce has to choose which channel is the best. Periodically, Royce would stop the boat to give us info on the area. In order to do this, he would do a 360 degree spin. He would give us a signal that he was going to do it so we could brace ourselves. The spins were really fun! I'm not sure the lady sitting next to me was as entertained as I was.

We jet boated up the river for 42 km. That took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We went as far up the river as the boat could go. Beyond that, the river is too rocky. We turned around and headed back downriver for awhile to where the other half of the group was waiting to change places with us. I'm really glad I was in the jet boat first because going up the river was better than coming down. Coming down river the brim of my hat kept flapping into my face. Going up river the wind kept the brim flapped up. The other group went up to where we had gone, but then they had a longer downriver ride.

When we got off the boat, we handed our lifejackets to the other half, but kept our spray jackets on. Next up was the forest walk. At first I thought it would be no big deal, but it was really informative and interesting. We were in Aspiring National Park, a World Heritage Site. Iain, our guide (and 4WD driver) told us about the make-up of the forest. It is almost entirely Birch trees. There are three varieties--the Red Birch, Mountain Birch, and Silver Birch. But, really, they are not Birch trees at all! When they were first discovered, they were named Birch. Upon later examination it was determined they weren't really Birch trees, so they added "False" to their name. Also, the Mountain Birch only grows in the valley and the Silver Birch only grows in the mountains! The Red Birch isn't even related to the Mountain and Silver! Those early explorers got it all wrong!

We also saw how the "pests" (bushy-tailed possum, rabbits, stoats, deer and goats) are destroying the forest. New Zealand only has one indigenous mammal and that is a bat. All the others were introduced to New Zealand for one reason or another (possum for the fur trade). The stoats and possums have virtually eliminated the ground dwelling birds of New Zealand. The Kiwi have been extinct in the Dart Valley for many years. There is a study going on in the forest to examine the effect of these pests on the forest. There are fenced off areas to keep the pests out. They measure the growth of the trees inside the enclosures every year. The difference is tremendous. It really shows the devastation caused by the possums, rabbits, deer, goats, and stoats. New Zealand does not have a hunting season. Hunters are allowed to hunt these pests year round and there is no limit. In fact, they encourage people to come and hunt often (and bring all their friends). Of course they also try poison and other methods.

After the forest walk, we hopped onto the 4WD bus for the drive back to Glenorchy (about 37 km). Along the way we stopped for a grand view photo op of the mountains and the river. Although there is farming in the area, that is not the source of income. The real source is filmmaking. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge LOTR fan so I couldn't say, "Oh, there's where such and such was filmed!" However, Iain pointed out several locations and rattled off the scenes that were filmed there (something about Gandolf's ride into the mountains, the walking trees, the snow scene where Frodo drops the Ring...). The film crews apparently love this area as there are no people, just some sheep and cows.

Anyway, we made it back to Glenorchy. We all had an opportunity to purchase the photo package (why not?). I had a few minutes to check out the Possum Fur Store. The fur is very soft and supposedly the warmest. There was nothing I really wanted, but it was interesting.

Back on the bus to Queenstown (Frankton for me), I noticed our driver Christian looked just like my brother Scott. I told him so. However, I did tell him he didn't sound like him (the accent wasn't quite right!). He said, "In your world, I am Scott". I'm pretty sure he was younger though.

We went through busy Queenstown and dropped off all the people staying there (Elaine and her husband were staying at the Top 10--the expensive one). I was dropped at the bus station in Frankton. I asked the driver if Frankton was its own town or just a suburb of Queenstown. It's just a suburb. He said Frankton has become the place to shop for the locals. Queenstown is for the tourists.

Back at the Motor Camp, I took a shower then walked up to Subway for dinner. Tomorrow I will have a nice lunch in Queenstown and eat my last camp dinner at the motor camp so I can prepare for my departure early Wednesday morning.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day! Perfect for my last non-travel day in New Zealand!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The "Crowning" Glory

I managed to leave a tiny bit earlier this morning. I wanted to get to Queenstown early to book the jet boat. Also, I was hoping to beat the rain.

As it was going to Haast Pass, it was a long time on mostly flat road (except for a steep climb out of Wanaka). I made it to Cardrona at about 11:00ish. I had mistakenly thought Cardrona was the top. Oh no, it was well before even the beginning of the climb!

I took a photo of the historic Cardrona Hotel. I think it is a requirement for cyclists. I had a little snack of trail mix and continued on. The clouds were starting to roll in.

There was a bit of a hill which I thought was "the climb". Nope, wrong again! However, I did notice I was gradually going up. About an hour later (after I crossed the Cardrona River 11 times!) I came to "Chain up Bay No. 1. Okay, now the climb starts! I decided to pull off at the bay and fix a little lunch of peanutbutter and Nutella sandwich.

Back on the road I had indeed reached the climbing portion of the Crown Range Rd. As I was making my way up, I just kept telling myself it wasn't as bad as Haast Pass. Then, when it WAS as bad as Haast Pass, I kept telling myself it wasn't as bad as coming up the other side from Queenstown (so I had heard anyway). It finally started raining so I stopped and put on my rain jacket. I didn't care if my shorts got wet.

Up and up I climbed, resting when I had enough space to pull off the road. Finally, I could see what appeared to be the top. Of course, then I told myself it wasn't so bad!

At the top, the view was incredible. Even in the rain, the Crown Range was spectacular! I could see all the way down to the lake and Queenstown. The Crown Range Rd. is the highest sealed (paved) road in New Zealand at 1076 meters.

I pulled on my rain pants and gloves for the ride down. It was pretty chilly at the top. The descent was steep and winding. Near the bottom it became even more winding with about 7 or 8 switchback turns. The brakes definitely got a workout!

As I reached the lower elevation it warmed up and mostly stopped raining. At the bottom back on SH 6 I was able to take off the rain gear.

I rode another 13 km to Frankton (6km outside Queenstown). Diane, who I met at Fox, said the QT Holiday Park was really expensive ($42 for a tent!). So, I decided to stay in Frankton at the Motor Camp instead ($18/night). Plus, it is only 2 km from the airport.

I paid for my three nights and also booked the Dart River Jet Boat Safari for tomorrow at 12:00. The shuttle will even pick me up in Frankton! It is a 6 hour roundtrip with a jet boat ride, forest walk, and 4WD Safari. Should be fun. Weather is supposed to be getting better tomorrow.

There is a great cycle path along the lake into QT that I will do on Tuesday. I will check out QT then.

I'm hoping Pauline and Dick will be in QT on Tuesday also. It would be great to see them one last time.

My last day of riding was definitely a "Crowning" Glory!

A Tailwind Until the Tail End Or...

Meeting Up With Friends Again!

This morning was a coooolllldddd one! The wind was whipping pretty good. Right away, I noticed it was in my favor! I packed up and cooked my breakfast under the shelter. The wind blew the stove out once and I never really got the water hot enough for the oatmeal (it ended up being more like oatmeal soup). But, no worries! By the time I was on the road it had warmed up a bit and I was not hungry.

Just a few km down the road I came to Blue Pools trail. Two couples arrived at the same time. I kind of thought outloud, "Are there really blue pools?" according to the sign, there really were and it was just a 30 minute round trip walk. So, I locked up Betsy and walked with the couples to the pools. I asked them where they were from as I didn't detect an accent. They said, "Washington State". I said, "Oh, where abouts?" They said, "Bellingham". I told them I was from Olympia. Now I have met, here in New Zealand, people from Seattle, Gig Harbor and now Bellingham! Crazy!

Anyway, the pools were indeed blue (glacial runoff) and so clear, that I could see the fish (large brown trout) from the bridge above.

I returned to Betsy and headed down the road (down being the operative word). The wind was a tailwind and it was GREAT!

Soon I could see small plane after small plane taking off in the distance. When I got to Makaroa, I could see why. They were all scenic flights heading up the valley to Haast Pass and the glaciers of the mountains. I watched a couple take off and land on this tiny grass airstrip. If I hadn't done the heli-hike, you can bet I would have checked into one of those flights!

Since I really didn't have much food for lunch, I went into the cafe and bought a sandwich and a dessert bar like a Nanaimo Bar. I packed them away in my pannier for lunch later.

I continued to be blown down the road at a good 30kmh. Pretty soon, Lake Wanaka was in view on the right. Except that it was a lake and not a river, the scenery reminded me of the Columbia Gorge. The wind also reminded me of the Gorge! I was having to use very little effort to even climb the hills! It was an awesome ride!

After a number of kilometers, I turned to go up what was called "The Neck". It is a strip of land between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. At the top, I could look back and see Lake Wanaka and look ahead and see Lake Hawea. Both are big lakes. From there it was a screaming good downhill where I reached my maximum speed (with the Da Brim) of 72 Betsy kmh!

Going along Lake Hawea, there were some pretty good climbs. I was extremely grateful for the tailwind! At some points, the wind was really pushing the Da Brim up from behind and the chin strap of my helmet was almost gagging me! I didn't care though! Plus, the sun was out in force so I wasn't going to remove the Da Brim.

I worked my way along the lake going up and down. I got to the town (well, the turnoff) of Lake Hawea. There I left the lake and headed back over to Lake Wanaka and it's namesake town.

When I got closer to Wanaka, I encountered a strong headwind for the last few kilometers into Wanaka. That wind coming down the lake was now pretty much smacking me in the face. Fortunately, I didn't have much further to go!

When I got to Wanaka, I stopped at a Four Square to pick up some food. I tried to be careful to not get more than I would eat before heading home.

As I headed through town toward the Top 10 Holiday Park, I heard my name. It was Dick and Pauline! This is the third time I've run into them! They were staying at Aspiring Campervan Park and said they had tent sites (plus a spa and free wifi!). Of course, I decided to stay there too. It is probably even cheaper than the Top 10!

Pauline and I met up in the jacuzzi. Boy, did that jacuzzi feel good! The massive amounts of sand fly bites on my ankles and legs were somewhat soothed (actually, I think just getting the bug spray and sunscreen and grime off helped alot). After showering, I went over to Dick and Pauline's campervan spot and we swapped snacks (I gave them chocolate and they gave me snack mix). We chatted for awhile then I went to put some warmer clothes on and fix my dinner. They did the same and we met up in the kitchen/lounge to chat some more.

Tomorrow I head over the Crown Range to Queenstown. That means tomorrow is my last full day of riding. Then I will have two days in Queenstown. The finish has sort of snuck up on me! I can't believe it has already been almost 5 weeks! But, I guess when I think back to Hihi Beach, it does seem like it was awhile ago. So much has happened and I've seen and done so many things since that first day!

I will enjoy what Queenstown has to offer for my last two days. But, first I need to climb one last mountain range!

Haast Pass is Past At Last!

(The pronunciation of Haast rhymes with past)

Ahhh, once again Mr. Sun has graced me with his presence! After yesterday's deluge of rain, the sun was a welcome site this morning! Everyone at the Holiday Park was quite happy. Antoine (a fellow cyclist from France), still had some wet things, but they would soon be dry. Roger, from New York, was happy as he was setting out to do the Copland Track.

I left at 9:00ish this morning. I stopped in the township of Haast at a convenience store to replenish some food. What I wanted was some canned chicken, peanut butter, and some more Scrummy Mix (trail mix). What I was able to get was some Ritz Crackers, a box of Apricot Muesli bars, a tomato and a banana, and a chocolate bar. No chicken to have with pasta. No peanut butter to have with the last pita. No scummy mix. I still have oatmeal and hot chocolate for breakfast. I had bought a block of cheese at the holiday park (the only thing they had besides sodas) last night. I used some for dinner and had put the rest in the fridge. So, I had that too (hence the reason I got the crackers).

Anyway, after a disappointing grocery stop, I headed toward Haast Pass. The sign said 59 km to the pass itself.

It was really strange because the climbing didn't even begin until about 55 km later. It was just flat or rolling along the Haast River. There were several waterfalls visible from the road. The mist floating above the trees made for a very jungly atmosphere. I first pulled off at Roaring Billy Falls. I walked the short track through the forest to the falls. They were actually across the river.

I stopped for a couple of the Muesli bars at the confluence of the Haast and Landsborough Rivers. The rivers were a very clear and beautiful teal color. The sand flies were out in full force, so I didn't linger.

Next stop was at Pleasant Flat DOC. They had restrooms there and drinking water. I filled my water bottle in anticipation of the climbing. It looked like a nice DOC campground, but I had a pass to climb.

Back on the road, I went across the 6th single lane bridge for the day. Pretty much every bridge was a single lane bridge. It just varies as to who has the right of way. I only had to wait to cross once. Not much traffic.

Next up was Thunder Creek Falls. I, again, parked Betsy (and locked her too) and walked the path to the Falls. This was a short 5 minute walk. None of these Falls were really spectacular, but it was a chance to get off the bike and do some walking.

After Thunder Creek, the road finally began to climb in earnest. After going across another single lane bridge, I pulled off to a lookout. Right behind me came Antoine. He said he was going to eat some lunch at the top of the Pass. We headed up the very steep part of the climb. Antoine was soon ahead of me. It was very difficult climbing and the weather had decided to become very sultry and hot (that or the climbing finally brought the sweat out!). I took a brief break at a pullout, then continued up. It flattened slightly after a bit and I was ever so grateful!

Eventually, I came to the last short walk to a waterfall. This one was called Fantail Falls (after the cute little Fantail bird). As I got there, I could see Antoine heading on up the road. Clearly, he too, had stopped at Fantail. I did the short walk then had a chunk of chocolate to give me some energy for the continuing climb.

From Fantail, it was not too much further to the Pass. The road actually flattened out considerably and the last few kilometers went by pretty fast. Soon I was at the actual Haast Pass. There was even a summit sign! I took the necessary photos then headed down. I didn't see Antoine so I figured I had missed him. He had probably finished eating and went on down. But, no. After a short descent and another short uphill, I saw his bike on the side of the road. I pulled off and found him eating his lunch on the other side of the guardrail. He said it was too shady at the Pass (he was right) and he was cold. I pulled out my crackers and cheese and had a snack. After we finished eating, Antoine had to change out his brake pads. The ones he had were worn out. He didn't want to come screaming down the Pass with no brakes. I stayed with him while he fixed the brakes. I knew I didn't have much further to go as I was staying at the first DOC after the Pass. Plus, he was giving me cookies (and I gave him chocolate)! Turns out, he is a semi-newly graduated Radiologist in France. He is between jobs right now and has 3 months before starting work again. He is spending 2 of them in New Zealand.

He got the new brake pads put on and as he was adjusting the spring screw, it popped out. It took us a long time to find the spring and the screw amongst the rocks. I finally found both and Antoine asked me to put it back in. I finally got it back in and the brakes were good to go.

We headed down the Pass at a pretty good clip. I had my Da Brim on, but it was holding pretty steady. before long, we reached Cameron Flat DOC, my planned stop for the night. It was about 5:00 and I was ready to call it a day. Antoine was going to go on to the next one so he would be able to get to Wanaka earlier in the day tomorrow. He wants to do some climbing in Wanaka. Since I seem to get on the road earlier, I may see him again tomorrow.

Since I have very little food left, I will probably pick up some snacks in Makaroa (not too far down the road) then restock for the last few days in Wanaka.

I'm hoping this nice weather holds. It is much dryer now on this side of the mountains so chances are favorable.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Talk With Carmen

The rain is back and in a big way! It started raining during the night and didn't let up the entire day. As I was laying in my tent lamenting the fact that I was, once again, going to have to take my tent down in the rain, I got to thinking. If I can use my tent footprint and rainfly without the tent, could I somehow take the tent down inside the rainfly? "Carmen" said to give it a try. Step by step I released the tent from the poles. Once everything was loose, I was able to crawl under the rainfly and fold up the tent out of the rain! Also, I had resigned myself to having chocolate and cookies (biscuits) for breakfast (not too terrible, but not ideal). Once I got the tent folded up, I realized I could cook my breakfast under the rainfly! So, I had my usual breakfast, then took the rainfly and footprint down.

It continued to rain steadily. I went past Lake Moeraki then popped back out to the coast at Knights Point. That was a good climb to get to the lookout. At the lookout there was a covered shelter. Now, so far, there has never been any kind of covered area at these waysides or viewpoints. I guess this just shows that this is the rainforest and it rains...alot.

After a snack and potty stop (another unusual thing to find a viewpoint), I continued up abit more then down only to go right back up again...and again...

Finally, I came down a long descent and came to Ships Creek. There was another covered picnic shelter and who should I see but Dick and Pauline who I had met at Greymouth! It was great to see them again! They headed on their way and I sat down for some lunch of peanutbutter, nutella and sand flies on a pita. I didn't care too much for the sand flies, but at least most of me was covered with rain gear. I also met three people from Gig Harbor! Stan, Elaine and Linda came into the shelter while I was eating my lunch. They saw my WA State flag on Betsy and said they were from WA too! Turns out they are also on the same flight out of Auckland on the 21st! How weird is that???

I headed back out into the pouring rain for the last 10 or so kilometers to Haast. Diane, who I met at Fox Glacier told me about this Top 10 Holiday Park. So, I pulled in at about 2:15. Since I had figured out how to take the tent down under the rainfly, I decided to try to put up the fly first then the tent to keep it dryer. It worked!

Then I was off for a shower and laundry. Mike, one of the managers here showed me where I could dry my rain gear on a drying rack in front of a heater in the lodge. So, all is clean and dry now! The kitchen, toilets and showers are in a converted helicopter hangar. It's a pretty cool place!

The rain has let up, and tomorrow is supposed to be nice. That's good because I have to go over Haast Pass.

I met the French cyclist that was at Lake Paringa last night. The guy's tent was soaked inside. He camped in the grass (I did not). He said there was no other place. I told him he could have set up next to me. He is here tonight and his tent is drying.

Time to connect to the Internet, and send this.

Passed by the Peleton

Today, after three nights at Fox Glacier, I was back on the bike. I really enjoyed my time at the glacier and the village, but I was also glad to be on the road again. Time to see some new sights!

Last night I treated myself to a nice dinner at the Cook Saddle Saloon and Restaurant. I had pork ribs and fries and mud cake for dessert. As I was leaving, I passed Steve and Nancy from the Heli-Hike. I stopped to talk to them. Ended up talking for about an hour, even though I needed to get back and organize my stuff and take a shower. Of course, I much preferred visiting! They are a very nice couple who have done alot of travel. They are fairly young too! I told them I was impressed with their travel experiences.

I finally said goodnight to them and headed back to the holiday park. I've determined the best place to meet female cyclists is in the bathroom. Night before last I met Janet. Last night I met Diane from Pender Island, BC. She is solo cycling for 9 weeks on the South Island. Unfortunately, she is going north. We chatted for awhile and I decided I would take a shower in the morning.

I did abit of organization in my tent and went to bed. Today was only 69 km of fairly flat riding, so I didn't need to get a crack-of-dawn start.

I got up and took my shower (actually it was good because I knew I wouldn't have a shower tonight at Lake Peringa). I packed everything up and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Diane joined me and we ate together. We exchanged info as I would like to cycle in the Canadian Gulf Islands where she lives and she would like to cycle in Washington. Maybe we'll get together for a tour?

I got on the road at about 9:30. It was pretty easy riding. The clouds had come in again (making me so grateful to have done the heli-hike yesterday). It spit rain a little, but I could see blue sky ahead. I was pedaling along when two guys went by on road bikes. They said g'day and fired on past. Then about 10 minutes later I heard voices. I looked in my rear view mirror and could see a peleton of about 25 cyclists coming up behind! A couple said hi, but most just rolled on past. One hollered, "Ease off!", then charged to the front. Shortly after, three more cyclists went past saying, "A couple minutes more and we'll be back with them". They were followed by a support vehicle. Must have been some sort of event.

I continued my way to Lake Peringa crossing one-lane bridge after one-lane bridge. There were 9 total today. Lots of rivers coming out of the mountains.

I, briefly, returned to the coast at Bruce Bay. It was a nice beach so I stopped to fix some lunch. The place where I stopped had this curious pile of white rocks piled on a big rock. When I looked closer, I saw the white rocks had writing on them. There was even a permanent marker to do the writing. Of course, I had to go out on the beach and find a white rock to add to the pile. I found a nice one and wrote, "Super Biker Woman from Washington State, USA rode by here on 14-3-2012. I added it to the pile (and took a photo).

After another 25 or so kilometers, I made it to Lake Peringa. It is a small DOC campsite used primarily as a boat launch for the lake. There are the usual representatives from the various campervan rental companies, with Jucy having the most vans. It costs $6 and is also a Mecca for sand flies. It's head net time!

Tomorrow I go on to Haast where I will once again stay in a Top 10 Holiday Park. I won't have as many kilometers, but there will be a couple of medium climbs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Heli-Hike!

If I could post photos, I would simply let them do the talking. Since I can't, I will try to put into actual words today's adventure up on Fox Glacier.

I checked in at the Fox Guiding office in the village at 11:45 this morning. The skies were clear and the sun was shining. A perfect day for a heli trip to the glacier!

There were 12 of us (6 on each heli). We were a diverse group from all over the world. France, Israel, India, Canada and Japan. I was the only American.

Our guide on the ice was Mandy, originally from Iowa. She has a degree in Eco-tourism (how great is that?!!). She is young, 20s I'm sure. She definitely knew her stuff!

We piled into a shuttle to take us to the heli-pad. There, we were fitted with socks and boots. Then we split into two groups (I was in Group 1). We loaded into the helicopter (I had a window seat) and took off for the glacier. The flight up was beautiful, of course, with sweeping views of the glacier as well as the valley. The glacier is 9 miles long. It actually moves a few meters a day.

We landed on a square of ice, framed by rocks--the glacier heli-pad. There was a little rock-lined path to guide us from the heli to the place where we were fitted with crampons and got a walking pole.

We waited for the other 6 to arrive and also be fitted with their crampons. Each time a helicopter would come in or leave, we would have to crouch down. They were also taking 5 groups of 6 people down from their hike. We did alot of crouching!

Finally, the last group left and everyone had their crampons and poles. We followed Mandy up the ice in a single file. I was just after Mandy. At first I spent most of the time watching my feet, making sure I was stomping the crampons into the ice. Also, I was watching to follow in Mandy's footsteps. We stopped frequently, though, which allowed for several photo ops.

It's hard to describe the beauty of the ice. The crevasses and holes were brilliant blue. There were rocks and small creeks of glacial water that we stepped over. At first, the air was cold. I had my down jacket on. But, after awhile, I got used to it. When we got to one of the ice features (a tunnel), I took my jacket off to keep it dry, as it was quite wet in the tunnel. I never put it back on after that. We saw a cool arch of ice caused by the movement of the glacier compressing the ice into an arch. We weren't allowed to go under the arch because it was too thin and could possibly collapse. But, we could get up close and take photos.

When we got to the tunnel, there was another ice feature in roughly the same place. We went into the tunnel two at a time and the same with the other feature which was a large crevasse with a moulan (a hole created by water) that we climbed, by rope, down into. Mandy told us where to step to avoid the deep pockets of ice-cold water.

In the tunnel it was pretty tight. Mandy had placed her backpack as far as we were allowed to go. Steve (from London) was nice and took photos of me with my camera.

Since we were going into these features two at a time, I had time to talk and meet the others in the group. Nico (from Lyon, France) and Tal (from Israel) were great guys. Nico invited me to come to France. He said, "When you come to France, you will come to me and I will show you great places to cycle!". He wanted my recommendations for a bike to buy. Shinya (from Japan) took some great photos of me with my camera. He was very interested in my camera and had some fun taking some photos under water in the ice. The guys all thought it was cool that my camera was waterproof. Nancy and Steve were on their honeymoon. Gupta and Prav were from India and were amazed that I was cycling. There was another Asian couple and a young couple from Vancouver, BC. The girl from Vancouver accidentally tossed her walking pole into a crevasse. Since we each only had one pole, she had to do without for the walk back. Mandy said perhaps they would get it back in about 50 years!

After everyone had been in the two ice features, it was time to head back toward the heli-pad. Hiking down the slopes on the glacier was a little scary until Mandy told us how to do it (toes pointed downhill, small steps, stomping the crampons into the ice). Then, it was really pretty easy. Also, with the sun, the ice was pretty soft which made for easier walking.

We returned to the heli-pad and removed our crampons. I asked Mandy if we could get a group photo. She said if I could get everyone together quickly then we could (the helicopter was on its way). I got everyone together and along with Mandy in the photo, the other guide took our picture (I got everyone's email so I can send them the photo).

Soon after, the helicopter arrived. Steve said I should ride up front because it was really cool (him and Nancy had ridden up front to go to the glacier). So, I got to fly back down to the valley sitting up front next to the pilot! It WAS really cool!

The helicopter ride and the hike on the glacier were worth every cent I paid! It is definitely one of the top highlights of my trip! Somehow, I will figure out a way to get more photos up. It was beyond incredible!!!

The Minnehaha Walk

Seems strange that there is a walk with the same name as my elementary school...

To back up earlier in the day...the sun finally came out as evidenced by the helicopters flying. I decided to ride the cycle path up to the carpark for the glacier. It was a pretty cool path through the jungle-like rainforest. It was gravel, but Betsy handled it well. It was about a 45 minute ride to the carpark. When I pulled in, there was a Kea bird walking around. They are a member of the parrot family and bigger than a grey parrot. Apparently, they are quite a nuisance and will tear apart rubber and go after shiny things. They are protected (only found on the South Island) birds and there are signs not to feed them and to shoo them away (but don't throw anything at them). Anyway, I got some photos before it waddled off in search of something rubber or shiny.

I locked up Betsy and walked the path toward the glacier. Since it was clearing up, I didn't have to walk far to see the terminus. I could see groups of people up on the glacier. There is a half-day guided glacier walk (much cheaper than the heli-hike...but not as exciting I'm sure!).

I returned to Betsy and rode back down the trail. On the way back I stopped at the swinging bridge. It is a bridge that goes across the roaring glacial waters of the Fox River. There is a limit of 5 people at a time on the bridge. I was the only one and it was still swinging pretty good. Periodically, I would see chunks of ice go floating by. I can imagine the water was pretty cold.

I rode the rest of the way back to the village. In the village I stopped at a cafe and had a chocolate banana milkshake and a walnut caramel slice. Both were pretty good. Then I decided to ride the 6km out to Matheson Lake. There are supposed to be great reflections of the mountains on the lake. Of course, not when the wind is blowing and roughing up the water, which it was doing. Still, it was a nice walk to the lake.

I rode back to the holiday park. It was about 7:00, so I fixed myself some dinner. Then I took a shower. After my shower I was in the women's restroom and a gal came in. I thought she was maybe biking so I asked her where she was from (I also detected no accent). Her name was Janet and her and her husband Todd were biking north. They are from Chicago (now I can add Illinois to the list of US states I've met people from). Janet and I talked for awhile then when I came out I met Todd. They asked if I wanted to go ride to the Minnehaha Walk and see the glow worms. I had thought I would do it tomorrow night, but said yes. We strapped on our headlamps and rode over to the path (it's at the beginning of the cycle path I was on earlier). We just walked our bikes on the Minnehaha Walk (no bike riding allowed and, besides, it was too dark). We would walk very slowly in the dark looking at the glow worms. Some of the time I could see enough of the trail to know where I was going. Then, the trail would turn and I would have to turn on my light to see where to go. We saw tons of glow worms. I told Todd and Janet what Anne had told us at Waitomo about the glow worms. We could see the strands hanging down (how the glow worms catch food). Some people were just cruising through with flashlights. I'm sure they didn't see nearly as many as we saw going slowly in the dark.

When we got to the end of the Minnehaha Walk, we had the part of the cycle path to ride to get back to the beginning. That,too, was an adventure--riding on the path. We had our lights back on, but they were not that bright.

When we got back to the street where there were street lights it seemed almost like daylight!

It was a blast and I'm really glad I met Janet and Todd and did the walk with them.

It was a great day off where I actually did about 30 km of riding! HA!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hanging Out (and Drying Out) at Fox Glacier Holiday Park

It's about 1:40 in the afternoon and the rain has finally seemed to stop. I see blue sky toward the coast. The mountains are still shrouded with clouds, but even those might go away before the day is out. Looks like I might get to get out and do something today! Perhaps I'll go for a bike ride!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Hero!

Today started out raining. Actually, it started raining last evening and rained steadily throughout the night. I packed up everything and put my raingear on. The rain let up just a bit so I could fix my breakfast. Soon it was raining lightly again. I finished packing and hit the road. It wasn't really that cold, so I didn't wear any gloves (didn't want to get the short finger gloves wet and the long finger "waterproof" gloves take so long to dry that I only wear them if my hands are cold).

When I was about 5 km down the road, I realized I had left my small bag of trash on the picnic table (the DOC campground did not have trash bins). I felt really bad. I had meant to tie it onto the back of the bike and dump it when I came to Hari Hari. Honestly, if it hadn't been raining, I would have gone back. As it was, I just continued on with guilty feelings. I decided the reason it continued to rain was my punishment for leaving the trash behind.

I got to Hari Hari at about 10:00. On the way there, I had passed 11 cyclists going the other direction. I stopped in Hari Hari at a cafe/small store. Sitting outside was a gal with a bike and rear panniers. Turns out Gaye was part of the group of cyclists, but had to be in Nelson by tonight. She was taking the bus. The group had started in Dunedin. After Gaye's bus came, I went into the cafe and decided it was a good day for a second breakfast. Particularly because they had my favorite mince and cheese meat pie. I'm not sure if it is really breakfast food, but I didn't care. I also had a custard and coconut thing and hot chocolate. Okay, maybe it was more like "pre-lunch".

Back out in the rain I was soon to Mt. Hercules. It was the only real climb for today. I made it to the top with no problem. Coming down I didn't think it could rain any harder but, I was wrong. It poured! I came down quite slowly for fear of hydro-planing (I don't think I really would have, but...).

I reached the bottom and continued on. Down on the flat, I could see a white van parked ahead on the side of the road. As I came closer, a guy got out of the van. Then I looked at the license plate and it said "DAMVAN". It was Gerard! I was very happy to see him! I pulled over and he opened the door of his campervan and said come in. I told him I was very wet, but he said it was okay. I got in and he fixed some lemon and ginger tea on the stove. He asked if I would like a ride. He could fit Betsy in the back. I took a look out the window at the blowing rain and thought, YES, I would definitely like a ride!

We loaded Betsy in and I took a seat up front. At first it was really weird to be riding on the left side and not driving. Gerard said he was going to Haast tonight because the weather was too bad at the glaciers (Franz Josef and Fox). Plus, he has glaciers in Austria. I told him he could take me to Fox Glacier. I was going to go to Okarito today, but with the weather so bad there was no point in going to the coast. There would be nothing to see. And...if Gerard took me to Fox Glacier, it would save me the huge 1200m climb from Franz Josef to Fox Glacier.

We stopped in Franz Josef and walked around the village. Gerard was looking for a stuffed kiwi bird to take to his girlfriend. He didn't find quite what he was looking for--plus, what they had were ridiculously expensive.

When we got to the turnoff to go the 4 km to Franz Josef Glacier itself, we turned and went there. It was great because I would not have done that if I was riding. From the car park we walked about 20 minutes out to the viewpoint for the glacier. From the viewpoint, it didn't look very far to the other, closer viewpoint (and it had stopped raining) so we started walking out there. Then it started raining again and, it was a lot further than it looked. We went for awhile then we decided we were just getting soaked so we turned around. Still, we got to see the glacier!

We got back to the van and started the climb to Fox Glacier. I'm rather glad I didn't have to ride it! It was very steep and winding.

Anyway, we made it to Fox Glacier Village. Gerard dropped me at the Holiday Park and I have paid for THREE nights here! The weather is supposed to get better tomorrow and even better on Tuesday for my Heli-Hike!

I set up my tent and dried it out with my dish towel. Now I'm in the kitchen/TV/Internet Room watching, of all things, Survivor! Bill just got voted out. I only saw the first episode before I left home.

Sadly, I won't see Gerard again. I guess I'll just have to plan a bike tour of Austria now!

Oh, I dried all my wet stuff in the dryer so all is good! Now, I think I'll go cook myself some dinner (in the Holiday Park kitchen of course!).

A Culinary Challenge and a Wedding

I set out from Greymouth after eating breakfast with my new friends, Pauline and Dick from Ottawa. I hope to see them in Ottawa sometime (a trans-Canada ride sounds good!).

I'd been hearing about the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival for a number of days. Lots of people were going to Hokitika for the festival. I just happened to be riding through there today--the main day of the festival. I'd heard there were some pretty weird foods such as Huhu (some insect, fried then dipped in chocolate). There were also such things as "mountain oysters" which I know as "Rocky Mountain Oysters" (aka sheep testicles) and whitebait fritters (a NZ delicacy).

What was more interesting than going into the festival itself (which cost $42, so I didn't go in), was watching the people who were going in. Apparently, there is also a costume contest. I saw all the Wizard of Oz characters, people completely covered in blue paint, Spartacus type costumes and many other oddities.

One of the main things Hokitiko is known for is the greenstone (in Maori--Pounamu or Jade). There were several Greenstone "Factories". I stopped at a smaller shop called Mountain Jade. I decided I wanted to get a small jade pendant necklace. The pendants have different meanings. I chose a small Manaia design. The Manaia is a spiritual guardian and the carrier of supernatural powers. I figured, since I am Super Biker Woman, it was appropriate.

After my Hokitika Wildfoods people watching festival was over, I headed out of town. Not surprising, the traffic going out of town was non-existent.

I pedaled for another hour or so until I came to a sign for Lake Mahinapua. The sign said it was 700m to the left. I decided to check it out as a possible lunch spot. A narrow dirt road took me through a jungle area to a very nice lake. I pulled up to a picnic table and fixed myself a bagel with peanutbutter and nutella. After lunch I went over to the restroom. There were some very well-dressed people over by the restroom building. As I came out of the potty shack, there was a young man in a tux waiting for the ladies to come out. Pretty soon a gal came out dressed in a wedding gown. I said, "its not often you see a gal in a wedding dress coming out of a park bathroom!". Then I asked if I could take their photo. Liz and Eli had just been married 1/2 hour before. Liz said she would be upset if I DIDN'T take their photo! So, I did. I also met the mother of the bride. I told them if I'd known I was coming to a wedding, I'd have brought a gift! Then they went off for more photos and I headed down the road.

My destination for the day was Pukekuru. However, when I got there, although the road sign said there was camping, the place was deserted. I rode around abit, but didn't see anyplace suitable to camp. Also, I didn't see any source of water. My only option was to continue down the road. My map said there was a campsite on Lake Ianthe, another 10 km or so. I made it pretty easily and, sure enough, there was a DOC campsite on the lake. It costs $6. There are about 4 other campervans here. At least one bunch is from Holland.

My tent is set up next to the lake. It is quite nice really! Better than Pukekuru would have been.

As soon as I can get wifi time again, I will go to my blog and delete photos from old posts so I can put more photos up.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Looks Like no more Photos

Apparently I have reached my photo limit on this blogger app. So, no more photos. I'm bummed!

Pancakes For Lunch...

*(Pancakes not included).

Sometimes the day's ride is about the destination at the end of the day. Sometimes it's about a stop along the way. That was today.

I left my free campsite at 8:45 this morning (I slept great!). I was really looking forward to getting to Punakaiki or, Pancake Rocks. The sun was shining again and I started out in the sun sleeves.

I rode for about an hour and 15 minutes when I came to Fox River. I noticed an old bridge with a picnic table on it. I rode over to check it out. It was a restored bridge for pedestrians. On the other side there was a path that led to a tunnel through the rock. I parked Betsy and walked over there. It was pretty interesting and jungle like.

I had a snack of Scrummy Mix and continued on down (and up) the road.

According to my map, I had a big climb before Punakaiki. Before long I was in Super Granny Gear grinding up the hill. (see Stream of Thoughts on Climbing). At the top I met a son and his parents from Czech Republic. That makes the second group of people from Czech Republic I've met. The son was a cyclist and asked me lots of questions about Betsy and Da Brim. He translated for his parents. There was another Weka bird nosing (or beaking as the case may be) around Betsy.

Next up was Punakaiki. I got there right at noon. There were a couple of tour busses there too. Quite a few people, but it didn't seem overly crowded.

I walked the path out to the rocks. They are very interesting. They know they are made of limestone, but they don't know why they are in layers. There are also blowholes. I didn't see any huge blow hole splashing. I think that is tide dependent. I did see dolphins swimming! Again, they were too hard to get a photo of. Fun to watch though.

When I came back to the beginning, I needed to get some water. I went into the cafe and they had water, favorite pies! This time I had a chicken and mushroom pie (afterall, it was lunch time!). It was delicious! There were more Weka birds trolling for scraps. They act like pigeons (except they don't fly).

After my pie, I was back on the road for the last 40 km or so to Greymouth. Part of the route reminded me of the California Coast around Mendocino. Big downhills followed by sharp turns and immediate uphills. That's what happens when the road follows the coast.

Anyway, I made it to Greymouth. Along the way I met two other touring cyclists from Belgium. Unos and Celine. They were going North. After them, I saw three more touring cyclists, but I didn't stop. One guy was pulling a two-wheel trailer. That's the first trailer I've seen here.

When I got to Greymouth, I stopped to restock some groceries (breakfast stuff and a couple more dinners). There I met two more touring cyclists from...the Czech Republic! I told them I had met 5 other people from there! They were going to Punakaiki tonight. It was about 4:15! They said they got a late start. I said, "Good luck!"

I'm staying at another Top 10 Holiday Park. So far this is the most expensive one--$22! However, it does have a bouncy pillow (unfortunately, just for the kids). It is a full service holiday park. I am doing some much needed laundry. That cost $8 ($4 to wash, $4 to dry)!

Today was another fantastic day to be on the road. I hope the sun continues as it makes the scenery oh so much more enjoyable!

My Stream of Thoughts Whilst Climbing

Looking ahead and seeing the upcoming climb...

Whoa! That's a big one!

Starting up the climb...

Focus on the surf, not the ragged breathing.
Listen to the birds, not your heart pounding in your ears.
Too high to hear the surf...
Focus on the cicadas, not the ragged breathing.
Don't look at the speed...too late... Hey, not too bad!
Keep pumping the legs...
"Slow traffic" sign--no kidding!
Picnic pullout on the right 300m. Maybe that's the top? Hope that's the top!

Photos below: views from Trimatuwhero Lookout.

Seals, Sunshine and a Day on the Beach

Last night the sunset was very nice. It looked as though there might be sunshine today. Throughout the night it was very windy. My tent must have been in the perfect spot because even when I could hear the wind loudly blowing through the trees, my tent would only ruffle a little bit. I had firmly staked it down with all 8 stakes so I wasn't too worried. I was only concerned about the next day's riding.

When I awoke this morning, the sky was indeed clear! The wind was still blowing, but it appeared to be in the direction I was heading! Yay!

I headed out at 8:15 to my first stop of the day, Cape Foulwind. It wasn't too far down the road. When I got there I locked up Betsy and hiked up to the lighthouse. Foulwind did not at all describe the Cape. It was beautiful and the wind was just a nice breeze. I returned to Betsy and briefly talked to a gal from Auckland. Then I was off to stop number two--the Seal Colony and Tauranga Bay.

Again I locked up Betsy and headed up the trail to view me some fur seals. This is the time of year when the bulls are gone and the cows are there raising their pups. There were quite a few pups playing on the rocks or nuzzled up to mom. I picked a good time to go.

When I came back down to the parking area it was about 10:15. There was a concession trailer there selling ice cream so I decided it was snack time. I had a double of orange chocolate chip and hokey pokey (because...that's what it's all about!).

Then, it was back on Betsy for a 4 km backtrack to Wilson Lead Rd. where I was able to cut over to SH 6 to head toward Charleston. As I was riding along Wilson Lead, I could see the Paparoa Range ahead of me. I'm glad I don't have to go over those mountains!

Because of the wind this morning, I had taken Da Brim off my helmet. Of course, it was the sunniest day I've had in a long time! When I got to SH 6, the wind had died down so I pulled out Da Brim and reattached it to my helmet.

From there it was maybe 18 km to Charleston. My plan was to stay at Constant Bay. I saw there was a Motorcamp with tent sites just opposite of the road to Constant Bay, but I decided to check out the bay first. I got down to the beach at 1:30...and never left. Constant Bay is this sweet little bay with a nice sand beach. There are vault toilets and rainwater (that I treated). There is also a sign that says no camping 200m. I'm not exactly sure what the 200m means (from the picnic area? From the sign?). So, I just went down a gravel road aways and set up camp in a little grassy area. I'm about 20 feet from the beach. Very nice!

I went wading in the water up to about my waist (in my bike clothes). It was not too cold. Since it was pretty hot out, it felt good. The rest of the day I just hung out on the beach, talking to various people. Rob and Robin were on a motorcycle. They stayed for a little while then later Rob came back to go for a swim. They were also from Auckland. Then I talked to two couples that were travelling in RVs. They just stopped here for afternoon tea (the guys tried a little fishing but only caught seaweed). As I was fixing my dinner at the picnic spot, a guy pulled up in a van. His name was Brian and he is from Colorado. Turns out he is moving to Bellingham! Small world!

I'm sitting on my little camp stool at the edge of the beach. The sun is going down and I'm hoping for another great sunset. The waves are crashing just at the mouth of the bay. It has been another spectacular day in New Zealand!

Here's some photos from the day (and last night's sunset). The bird is a Weka (Maori hen).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The West Coast!

I have made it to the West Coast, and a day early to boot!

After going to bed rather early last night to escape the hoards of sand flies, I awoke this morning ready to hit the road for Day 19 and a 65 km ride through the rest of Buller Gorge to Westport. Interestingly, after I was zipped into my tent, a campervan parked next to me. From the voices, I think there were three people. One gal and two guys. One of the guys sounded, by his speech, to be deaf. He was also German (I heard the other guy mention that). The three of them were speaking English, but it was not their first language. I decided it must be the language they all had in common. Anyway, they were using the picnic table that I had locked Betsy to. When they sat down to eat, the not deaf guy said, "And now we eat with a bike". When I got out of my tent this morning, I saw they had moved Betsy down the bench.

I packed up all my stuff and didn't cook breakfast. Instead I had a couple of oat bars I had picked up in Murchison. Consequently, I was on the road by 7:50.

It was foggy (or low clouds), but not raining. This makes two days in a row of no blue sky either, but I don't care! It's not raining!

I worked my way over a number of one lane bridges and mostly rolling hills. I continued to follow the Buller River with it in view for much of the day. Some of the bridges had traffic lights. At first I was concerned because I didn't think Betsy would trip the signal to change the light. I needn't have worried as there was a button for cyclists to push. It also kept the light green longer. How great is that??!!!

One of the one lane sections with a light was not a bridge, but a narrow section of road called Hawk's Crag. In one the photos below, it is in the background of the Kilkenny Lookout. The road had been carved out of the rock.

Today was also a day to see lots of Pukeko birds. They are a medium size bird (a little bigger than a crow) with a red beak and dark blue feathers. I put a photo below, but it's not the best for seeing the colors. I also saw a long beaked shore bird on the beach. I don't know what it is called.

Yesterday, I had planned to maybe get to Berlins (thus combining two days). I'm glad I stayed at Lyell instead. For one thing, Berlins would have been a 152 Betsy km day. Also, when I got to Berlins this morning the place was closed and for sale. I could have camped there anyway, but I would not have had water. Lucky choice I made!

Even going 65 km (real km--not Betsy km) to Westport, I made it by noon. What should I happen to see as I rolled into town? A Subway! Since I hadn't sampled a South Island Subway yet, I thought now was a good time! Besides, I was hungry. The few times I had pulled off the road I was brutally attacked by sand flies even though I covered every open part of skin with DEET (which worked, but still they were hovering around me in clouds). I didn't spend much time to eat anything. Plus, a couple of oat bars, although delicious, do not a hearty breakfast make!

As I pulled up to the Subway, there was a large group of high school kids there. I thought it must be lunchtime at the school which must not be far away. Nope, when I asked some of the girls where the library was, they said they weren't from here. Must have been some field trip. The Subway people were thrilled with all the business. Oh, and one of the things Subway has here is pineapple. So I had it on my sandwich. Pretty good!

After lunch, I asked one of the Subway people which grocery store was cheaper, Countdown or New World. They were both in Westport. They said Countdown was cheaper. That was fine with me because I have a Countdown Shopper Saver card that I got in Taupo.

After I got some groceries, I headed back out of Westport. I decided to stay at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Carter's Beach. It's just 3 or so km from Westport, but it is on the road to Cape Foulwind and the Seal Colony where I want to go tomorrow on my way to Charleston. I also found out I don't have to backtrack to the Westport/Greymouth junction. There is another road I can take over to SH 6 from Cape Foulwind.

So, I am at the Seal Colony Top 10. I just talked to a guy who said there was only one seal at the Seal Colony. Hmmm...maybe that's why they call it the "Seal" Colony and not the "Seals" Colony! I will find out tomorrow.

Here in the Office the nice lady also let me use the phone to call the Fox Glacier Heli-Hike people to see if I could change my booking to a day earlier. It was no problem. Now, after Fox Glacier, I will be able to split the long 122 km day into two days. WHEW!

Down on the beach there were some pretty colored shells on an otherwise deserted beach. I've included some photos below.

Oh, one other thing. The rooster at Lyell went around to all the campsites and cock-doodle-doo-ed at each one at 7:00am this morning. It was pretty funny!