The cycling in New Zealand really stepped up a notch after we reached Lake Wakatipu – the riding harder and the views more spectacular. In fact, I have had a stupid grin on my face for the last two weeks. It’s been bonkers – the mountains, the waterfalls, the grey wild Tasman sea, rainforests and glaciers ripping through the land. We have had some of our best camping here too.
The descent from the Crown Range was an exciting rim melting ride as our happy faces show outside the famous Cardrona Hotel. Hooch really does handle well – which is good because our loaded tandem and trailer is like a runaway train on the big downhills.
After watching the sunset behind Lake Wanaka we camped by a river in a place called Albert Town – it was a fitting end to a brilliant day – with Katherine cooking up one of her carb-filled banquets.
The spectacular dawn sun that cut through the freezing river mist was a sign of another great day ahead.
It started with the little used road along the side of Lake Hawea, with the sun warming our cold limbs. The silence of the glassy lake and gentle hills meant the morning drifted past in a dream-like way.
After a short climb back over the saddle, called the Neck, we were back hugging the jagged mountains along Lake Wanaka. When crossing the Neck we passed ten minutes chatting to a road worker who had the job of watching the day’s sun rise and fall over the lake while turning a stop/go sign now and then – no-one seemed to mind stopping for him to drink in the views. With no desire to rush on we found a quiet a little beach where we could camp called Boundary Creek.
While Kat did some practical things, I felt the call of the wild and went for a wash and swim. The silent views were breathtaking as was the icy water. I told Kat to join me using the phrase ‘I feel so alive’ – my blue tinge told her exactly what this meant. This is everything I hoped a simple life on the road would be – a perfect day.
Day 34 took us away from the lakes and finally over to the West Coast, twisting and careering through the thick forest over the Haast Pass. Waterfalls poured out of the rocky walls of the forest and high above water projected out from the vertical green faces of the mountains. It was a rush to slalom down the tight drops, with raging rivers directly below and the moving shadows of the mountains from every turn and angle.
On Kat’s suggestion we pushed on further than we planned. We knew the thick forest would end and we would come out at the coast – but when? As dark came in and rain came down thick and hard from the hidden mountain tops, it was a tense moment, reminiscent of the Catlins a few weeks before – but this time we held it together, joked through the situation and arrived soaked and cheeky grinned in Haast Village. The West Coast.
An amusing evening was spent in the camp kitchen, as it was taken over by a 4WD club who were spending the annual Queen’s birthday bank holiday weekend driving their big toys along dirt tracks. While we tucked into our pasta, they eagerly watched back videos made that day of winching each other out of bogs, chainsawing trees across their track and riding through rivers that came over their bonnets.
We were promised spectacular scenery and rain on the West Coast and it delivered both as we headed north.
One morning we woke to a little deer munching near our tent. The next day we arrived in Fox and cycled 20km down a one-way track through steep forest to avoid expensive camp fees – Gillespies beach was pretty remote…
Although we knew that there were glaciers flowing into the forests of the West Coast, it was still surreal to cycle up to the face of Fox Glacier. It was nice to spend an hour off the bike – walking up the ragged valley cut by the ice over the years.
After a few wild nights camping in a damp tent, it came as a wonderful relief when a holiday camp in Franz Josef gave us a gravelly, but super cheap site for the night. Not only this but their sympathies stretched to a free private spa pool and sauna for the evening. It was bliss to sit in the hot bubbles to ease our aches and pains for a while. A romantic bottle of wine brought colour to our cheeks – though we had to drink it from our camping cup…