New Zealand Ė Christchurch to Dunedin
Denis Kertz, ©2000
I woke up relatively late and decided to take the bus downtown rather than walk.† Once in the Square, I didnít see an obvious breakfast place so I explored.† I checked out a couple of bike shops and found nothing exciting.† I found a place that had banana pancakes so I ate there and it was pretty good.† Later, I found another Internet place so I did another email check.† Then I meandered around and checked out a couple of the park areas that were nice and some of the Victorian architecture for which Christchurch is famous.
Then I discovered a problem.† My VISA ATM card didnít work at several ATM machines I tried.† Prior to leaving I had asked my bank, Bank One, and they assured me my card would work fine.† Fortunately, I had also brought some American Express Travelers Cheques as a contingency so I was in no immediate danger but I didnít have enough to last more than a couple of weeks.
I ate again in a mall food court and walked back.† At the huge Hagley Park, there were a bunch of cricket games going on.† Back at the motel, I decided to take a walk around the block and found a grocery store and did a little shopping.† Then I read up on the route to Queenstown that I would be starting tomorrow.† Then I watched Godfather III on TV and went to bed.
Got up at 8:00 and ate at the $8.95 all-you-can-eat restaurant next door which was so-so.† Packed up and took off a little after 9:00.† All I had to do was cycle to the next major street north and head west on SH 73.† This was flat, easy cycling except for a bit of head wind and a very slight grade.† This was dry country and the fields were brown.† After 40K, I stopped at Darfield for refreshments and ice cream.
Continuing on would take me to Arthurís Pass and the West Coast but I took a left to join up with SH 72 south in a few kilometers.† The terrain became more interesting as I was cycling at the base of the foothills along the Southern Alps.† Fields became green and the terrain more rolling although the route continued its almost imperceptible upward grade.† After about 60K the wind started picking up and became a major factor.† It varied between a head wind and side wind.† Progress became much slower.† The side wind was strong enough to cause problems but fortunately was blowing me away from traffic.
At this point there wasnít any good place to call it quits for 40-50K but the wind was becoming dangerous enough and was keeping me to a maximum speed of about 10 kph.† I had thought I could make Mt. Somers without any problem until the wind picked up.† Eventually I managed to make Rakaia Gorge, which was a popular place for jet boat trips upstream on the river.† When I crossed the river after descending into the gorge, I checked the campground on the other side.† It was pretty full but there was no problem getting a tent site for only $3.† Of course, this price didnít include a shower so after setting up my tent in an area with some protection from the wind, I had my first cold shower of the trip, jumping into an isolated part of the river.† Then I had dinner Ė cereal and cookies, which was all the food I was carrying but not all bad since I like cereal.
A bad day at Rakaia Gorge.† It started raining over night and it was raining in the morning.† The weather didnít look good and my barometer had plummeted.† I doubted things would get better so I made plans to stay for the day.† After a breakfast of cereal and cookies, I started reading the only novel I had brought along.† I got out of my tent only when I had to and was glad I wasnít cycling in this mess.† Dinner was cereal only as I ran out of cookies.† Good thing I like cereal.† Later the rain appeared to stop but then it started up again.† My tent appeared to be leaking in the corners so I probably had some seam sealing to do.† The camp hostess checked on me to see I was all right and wouldnít let me pay for the second night of camping.† The rain finally stopped after midnight.† My barometer was ramping up so that was encouraging.
What a difference a day made.† When I got up I could already see some blue sky and things looked good.† I had another cup of cereal that I figured would tide me over until I found a cafť.† Then I packed up and left.† Immediately I noticed something different Ė the mountains, what I could see of them, were snow capped whereas yesterday they were brown.
But I didnít have much time to admire the view as immediately I had to undertake a 1.5K climb out of the Gorge and the first part was the steepest.† It leveled off some and then steepened again on the final section.† That warmed me up quickly on what was a cool day of 8C.† I knew the temperature from my bike cyclometer but my bare feet in sandals also tipped me off.
Once I reached the top of the hill, it was easy sailing with an overall gentle descent to Geraldine.† It was about 30K to Mt. Somers where I thought I could get breakfast.† SH 72 continued parallel to the foothills and I was within easy view of the mountains except that low hanging clouds clipped the top view.† At Mt. Somers I found no breakfast was available and was advised to continue to Mayfield.† At Mayfield there was a store and I decided it was time to try a meat pie, a popular culinary treat in NZ, so I had one of Mrs. Moeís Famous Meat Pies which was OK but unlikely to become a staple in my diet.† I then continued on another 40K to Geraldine amidst snow topped mountains and sheep in the fields.
I pulled into Geraldine at an early 1:30.† It didnít really make sense to push on since the next town was almost 50K and uphill so I found a motorcamp with tent site for $8.† After unpacking, I washed all my clothes, figuring the sun and breeze would dry my clothes while I wandered through town.† All my clothes were quick drying synthetics with the exception of my cycling shorts whose padded inserts are designed to absorb moisture.
As I walked through town I saw an ATM machine that triggered me to address my cash problem.† I tried another ATM machine that failed as before in Christchurch.† I asked a teller at a Bank of NZ who said it should work.† So I got on the Internet and sent email to Bank One explaining the situation and asking their help since they had advised me that everything would work fine.
Then I wandered through town checking for restaurants.† The best possibility was the Crown Hotel but it wasnít open for dinner until 6:00.† So I killed time and checked in for dinner shortly after 6:00.† I ordered a medley of beef, lamb, pork, and chicken.† Then the waitress explained this was a stone grill meal.† They brought my meal to my table and the meat was cooking on a very hot stone grill on my plate.† It was my job to let it grill to my satisfaction.† So I got my meal grilled to my exact specification and it was good.† Afterwards, I retired to a bar to write my notes.†
Got up around 7:30, packed and headed into town.† One cafť wasnít open until 9:00 so I went to a takeaway where I could eat inside and ordered bacon/eggs/potatoes since there were no pancakes.† I read a newspaper that said the recent snow was abnormal and predicted good weather through the week.
After breakfast I cashed a $100 American Express Cheque at Bank NZ and got slightly more than $200 back so the exchange rate was now slightly more than 2:1.† Then I headed out of town and immediately started seeing motor coaches, five in an hour and undoubtedly on the way to Mt. Cook, which the PP (Pedallersí Paradise) had warned about.† The scenery was very nice with large, rolling hills with different shades of green mixed with brown to go with the snow-capped mountains.† And there were also some white specks Ė sheep.† This really was nice country with great panoramic views.
The dayís route was almost all climbing along the 90K.† Most of it was almost unnoticeable visually but the slower speed of about 13 kph told the truth.† However, the scenery made the time and effort worthwhile.† About 40K in, the route started the Mt. Michael climb along the side of a hill.† At the same time I started feeling a few sprinkles although the clouds didnít look that bad.† At the top, the sprinkles became more serious and I debated stopping at the cafť at the top but decided to continue to Fairlie just a few K away.
At Fairlie I stopped for refreshments and a short break.† At 1:30 I took off again but now the drizzle started looking serious.† At the same time the wind started picking up and I wondered what I was in for.† I had 20K to Burke Pass and another 20K to Lake Tekapo, my destination.† Before too long, the sprinkles stopped, the wind died, and the temperature warmed up to about 23C.
After 20K to Burke Pass the climbing was still very modest and I was surprised.† However, in another K I spotted a traffic sign with a wiggly sign that indicated the start of the real climb to the pass and realized the 20K to Burke Pass was really to just Burke Pass Village and not the actual pass.† Up ahead beyond the village I could see the road winding up a hill and then a sign warning of a steep grade for 1K.† The climb required my lowest gear but I finally made the top.
At the top the scenery changed dramatically with everything brown and no green fields or trees as I entered the MacKenzie Basin, named after the legendary sheep rustler of the 1800s, James MacKenzie.† At the pass, the road was bordered by tall hills on both sides then opened up to a broad expanse of brown fields.† From this point the route leveled out with only some occasional modest climbing.† Then snow-covered mountains came into view on the right and stayed that way into Lake Tekapo.
At Lake Tekapo the lake was surrounded by snow capped mountains although clouds muddled the view at the western end.† I stopped to see the famous Sheep Dog Monument and the landmark Anglican Church on the lakefront.† Then I headed into town and stopped by the Pedallers Paradise, a cyclist hostel accommodation hosted by the author of the Pedallersí Paradise Guides.† I could have had a tent site for $8 but a bedroom with only 2 beds was available for only $4 more so it wasnít a hard decision, particularly since the weather was still iffy.
After cleaning up I walked a block to town.† I ate at a Chinese restaurant using chopsticks, which was a little frustrating since I wanted to shovel food down as fast as possible.† Afterwards, I had my usual ice cream although I was getting tired that all places offered almost exactly the same choices, apparently because the same outfit supplied them.† Then I retired to a bar and wrote my notes.
When I went back to the hostel, Nigel, the author of PP, was in the kitchen talking with two other cyclists I had met earlier.† I paid my $12 and then we started talking about my trip plans.† Nigel suggested heading back to the east coast from Mt. Cook and then down to Dunedin and over to Queenstown.† This would add about a week to my schedule but he also suggested not doing the Southern Alps Loop via Arthurís Pass and Lewis Pass.† Instead he suggested heading up to Arthurís Pass from Greymouth and returning, possibly via train, to Greymouth.† He also pointed out some scenic attractions along my route to come.† A very worthwhile discussion as it turned out.
Got up at 7:30 and was packed and gone shortly after 8:00.† I headed to town and stopped for breakfast, another uninspiring bacon and eggs.† Then I walked to the nearby info center where they had Internet access.† I found a message from Bank One giving me a customer service number to call about my ATM problem, a disappointing response.† I couldnít tell from the response if they were telling me that there was a problem that needed resolution via phone or they just didnít want to bother with email resolution.† I sent reply email to try to get clarification.
As I was about to leave, I waved to a couple heading out on bikes with rear panniers only.† Shortly, I started out myself.† My plan was to catch the canal path to Lake Pukaki but my directions were a little unclear so I stayed on the main road.† It was a cloudy morning and about 10C.† The clouds clipped the mountaintops but didnít look that threatening and it was pretty good riding.† After about 15K the canal path cut across the road so I picked it up.† This was really nice riding as the canal had to be built up to be level and consequently the path was also flat.† The path was still through the MacKenzie Basin and offered wide panoramic views of mostly sun burnt yellow landscape.
At the end of the canal path, I took a little side trip to the small dam at the end of the canal and met the couple I saw leaving Lake Tekapo.† They were from Adelaide, Australia, on a two-week tour, having flown into Christchurch on Sunday and had the misfortune of cycling in the rain on Monday (which I spent in my tent).† They were headed to Wanaka where they had family and then heading back to Christchurch and home.
The end of the canal offered a nice view of Lake Pukaki but the mountains were still clipped by the clouds although they appeared to be breaking up.† From the end of the canal, the road dropped quickly down to the lake level and proceeded around to the front of the lake where it intersected with the road that went back to Mt. Cook, highest point in NZ at 3764m and 55K away.† The clouds were definitely breaking up and it looked like Mt. Cook would be coming into view.† I took the road to Mt. Cook that undulated gently as it rolled along the lakeside.† Now Mt. Cook and neighbors were looming closer as the clouds dispersed into a beautiful day.† However, a complete view was blocked by high hills along the left side of the road.
After 30K, I stopped at Glentanner for refreshments with all the mountains in great view.† This place was a helicopter launch pad for Mt. Cook tours.† From this point the route became a little more difficult as the road wound into side valleys for stream crossings, causing moderate climbs that were more difficult that they looked.† I started looking for the Mt. Cook village but saw nothing.† The road ended in a cul de sac (cirque) of mountains and the village was nestled in the left corner and not visible until just a few K away.
When I got to the village, I took a right turn towards the backpacker accommodations.† I rode up a steep hill past a lodge and saw no sign of the backpacker.† I rode back to the town center and finally stopped at the visitor center and asked.† There I was told the Lodge controlled a bunch of chalets that were used as backpackers sometimes.† A phone call verified a spot was available so I cycled back up hill to the Lodge and got my spot for $20.† I was thinking about staying over a day but decided to hold off a decision until morning.† I did check if I could stay another day and it didnít appear to be a problem although it sounded like I might have to change to a different chalet, which I didnít understand.
As I cycled and walked through the area I began to wonder if I really wanted to stay more than overnight, given the touristy nature and limited food selection and high prices.† After dumping my equipment at the chalet and cleaning up, I started a walk investigation.† The Lodge had a small food store and two restaurants, one that looked more upscale than I cared for.† I walked to the other side of the village to another location only to find its restaurant closed, apparently for the season.† So back to the Lodge and just after 6:00 I found the other restaurant was a buffet.
Almost immediately my attitude improved and I signed on for immediate sitting.† The buffet was outstanding, with salad, main course, and desert bars.† There was also a wine bar for $9 extra but I bypassed because I knew wine would just waste me after a day of cycling.† I like to think I got my moneyís worth but the bill was $40.50 or slightly over $20 US, which was definitely OK.† After dinner I retired to the lounge where there was a great view of Mt. Cook and wrote my notes as I watched the sunset on Mt. Cook.
Today was a rest day so I didnít get up until 8:00 and then I headed to the Lodge for breakfast.† The same restaurant that had the buffet last night also had a breakfast buffet.† In this case there were three choices and I chose the Continental for $13.50 that included all the cereal, oatmeal, bread, and coffee you could eat.† This was actually a good deal and my attitude improved again.† This was easily the best breakfast in NZ after mostly mediocre ones.
When I left breakfast, Mt. Cook and its neighbors were completely shrouded in clouds.† However, within minutes the sun burnt off the clouds and it was a beautiful day.† I checked in with the Lodge and paid for another day.† My chalet was already penciled in with four people so the attendant switched one person to another chalet so I wouldnít have to move.† I was undecided what to do since my legs were tired and I wanted to rest.† In addition, during the night I felt like I was coming down with a sore throat and I was feeling a bit under the weather.† A trip to the visitor center covered the available hikes, which werenít that extensive unless you wanted to do some serious technical climbing.† I settled on the Kea Point trek because it was easy and only about two hours duration.† It also gave me the option to do a more strenuous hike to Sealey Tarns with some significant climbing.
As advertised the Kea Point hike was easy as it went up the left side of the valley to give a close up look of Mt. Seffron and its glaciers.† Retreating, I picked up the Sealey Tarn path but missed a turn and pretty much duplicated the Kea Point hike from a different viewpoint.† So I backtracked again and took the route to the Mueller Hut.† This route basically climbed up a steep hill, which often needed 2x8ís to create steps in the trail.† Without a pack this wasnít that difficult but for those with a pack continuing on to the hut this would have been quite strenuous.
After about 1.5 hours and 1400í of elevation gain, the trail branched off to a viewpoint on a ledge while the rest of the trail continued for another 500m of elevation gain to reach the hut.† The view from the ledge was outstanding.† There was a great view of Mt. Seffron and its glaciers and looking up the Hooker Valley towards Mt. Cook.† Even better was the view looking back out the valley towards Lake Pukaki surrounded by mountains.† This was well worth the effort expended although I could no longer claim this was a rest day.
Whereas climbing up was an aerobic test, climbing down was a knee-braking (breaking?) test.† I was just glad to be without a pack.† Back at the chalet, it looked like my roommates had checked in but were out.† I cleaned up and headed to the Lodge.† I didnít feel the need for another buffet so I made do with some sandwiches and chips from the snack shop.
After eating I showed up for my 5:30 Internet slot hoping for better access than my morning session where I couldnít get through to my email.† I figured my morning session was actually 4:00 CST and probably overloaded..† This time I got through right away.† Since I was still trying to resolve my ATM problem, I checked my VISA bill that I had paid via electronic transfer from my money market account.† Somehow I feared that my last payment could have got listed with an extra decimal point and transferred all of my money market funds leaving nothing for ATM withdrawal but that was not the case.† I also wanted to check my Bank One online account that I had set up before leaving but Bank One requires 128 bit encryption (which it should) and the three or four times I had previously tried didnít have this level of security.† I suspect my online account access will be useless because of the US restriction on exporting this encryption software although this restriction has been or is in the process of being relaxed.
When I checked my email, I had another email response from Bank One to my question why the problem couldnít be handled via email.† Their response was there could be any number of problems and email interchange could take forever.† Probably some truth to that but still disappointing they couldnít or wouldnít even try to help via email.† So I will have to call to resolve the problem.† If it turns out to be their problem, I will bill them for the international call and they can pay or lose a customer.
On a side note, I couldnít help noticing that Mt. Cook was very popular with the Japanese.† So much so that signs in the Lodge were in both English and Japanese. †However, when I queried a bartender, he said US and Japanese visitors were pretty even and together constituted about 80% of the visitors.
Back at the chalet, I met one of my new roommates, Carla from England.† I settled in to read and she left.† Later she returned with Tina, my other roommate who I had seen in the bar.† The chalet had two small bedrooms and each bedroom had just enough room for two small beds and a narrow aisle between the beds.† Carla and Tina were in one bedroom so I checked the luggage of my roommate.† The shoes looked awfully small and there was a definite feminine suggestion.† Thatís when I realized what happened.† Yesterday this was an all male room but everyone was set to check out until I decided to stay an extra day.† Today this chalet was set to be all female but when I decided to stay an extra night, the clerk didnít realize this and moved a woman out and put me in her place.
Turns out my companions were touring via bus and were staying just for the night.† Later, the unsuspecting third woman, a Korean, showed up.† She was set to be my roommate but thought better and chose to sleep in another bed, a master bed that was in the open area of the chalet.† We all survived the night.
It was an uncomfortable night, not because of my roommates but because my sore throat was taking hold.† When I woke up around 7:30, the others were just getting up also and I feared I would never see the bathroom.† But I managed to sneak in and then headed to the Lodge for another great continental breakfast.† Then I packed up and suggested to my roommates that we meet again same time and place next year.
After breakfast, I called the Bank One number to see if we could resolve my ATM problem.† As soon as I explained to the customer service representative that I couldnít withdraw from my money market account, she immediately said it would only work with my checking account internationally.† Then she told me I had the wrong department and handed me off to the ATM department who confirmed the problem.† Then they offered to transfer some money to my checking account, which I did.† So now my ATM card was hopefully functional but I had a beef with the Bank One online folks.† Had they bothered to pass on my initial email note, the problem would have been resolved almost immediately.† So much for customer service.
It was a beautiful morning without a cloud in the sky.† The initial 9K were great as I didnít have to pedal and was cruising at 24 kph.† It wasnít obvious there was a gradient but something was moving me along.† But all good things must come to an end and shortly I was doing some climbing to head inland to cross several streams.† It was a good view going out but also disconcerting knowing I was leaving a great scene behind and couldnít watch very well, looking back over my shoulder while on a bike.† The rest of the way was moderately undulating.† Along the way I must have seen a dozen tour buses arriving but, curiously, none leaving.† When I reached the Mt. Cook Lookout at the eastern end of Lake Pukaki, I stopped for one last view.† Then I headed the 10K to Twizel, almost entirely flat.
At Twizel I stopped and checked out the town center where I had fish & chips, which seemed to ease my sore throat somewhat.† The town center wasnít that much but it was conveniently enclosed without any vehicular traffic and it was easy to check out the handful of stores.† Later I met a woman cycling tourer who had also come from Mt. Cook.† She had spent a week in Mueller Hut, the hut above the Sealey Tarn trail I climbed.† She was from the UK and on her way to Queenstown.
After thoroughly checking downtown, I headed back toward the main road where I planned to stay at a motorcamp.† But it turned out the motorcamp was 5K away so I chose a backpacker for $15.† It looked like a good deal for the price with only two beds, a bunk bed, in the room and nobody there although it was still early.† After settling in, I took the opportunity to clean and lube my chain and other parts.† I checked bolts and found my left front rack loose so I tightened it.† I also re-wrapped my handlebar tape that had loosened.
Then I headed across the street where an info center had an Internet Kiosk that offered 10 minutes access for $2 and I did a quick email check.† Then I headed back to the town center for more fish & chips and a large milk shake.† Interesting, while eating outside at a picnic table, I immediately attracted a crowd Ė a dozen sea gulls.† One was bigger than the others and a bully.† He continually fended off the others for first dibs at food and irritated me so much that I offered no morsels.
When I returned to the backpacker, two young guys were in the kitchen/living room area, which was OK.† However, by the time I cleaned up, there was a mess of people including some kids.† The kids, of course, thought the surroundings were a playground and all of a sudden the backpacker wasnít such a good deal.
It was a pretty long night as my sore throat didnít get better and I didnít sleep very well.† When I got up, I debated whether to stay and recuperate or continue.† I decided to continue because I would probably just be bored and miserable even though it was a very nice backpacker and probably would not be busy on a Sunday.† Tired of the NZ idea of breakfast, I just ate some cereal.
I finally left about 9:30 after the daylight savings time change.† One of my concerns about cycling was the wind, which was very breezy and appeared out of the southwest.† Since the 30K to Omarama were south, I had a fair head wind but it wasnít too bad as the route was flat.† In Omarama, I stopped for a lunch of minestrone soup and fish & chips.† This seemed to give me a boost and soothe my throat.
From Omarama to the east coast was easterly so the wind was now helping.† The first 15K were a ďbreeze,Ē followed by a fairly steep 2K climb and a 7K downhill requiring no pedaling.† From that point, it was undulating with an overall gradient decline.† From Omarama I passed Lakes Benmore, Aviemore, and Waitaki, all man made lakes part of the Waitaki Hydro Power project.† Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau, all glacier formed lakes feed into these lakes via man-made canals.† These lakes formed quite a contrast with the surrounding brown fields and hills, broken only by the occasional stand of green trees and the clear blue sky with temperatures around 30C.
Kurow, about halfway between Omarama and Oamaru on the east coast was the logical stopping point, given its facilities at a population of 580.† In town I stopped for refreshment and ice cream to help recovery and my sore throat.† Then I headed back to the motorcamp at the town entrance and paid $9.50 for a tent site.† I set up my tent to dry out, still wet from its last use, and cleaned up.† Then I applied seam sealer to the four corners of my tent, the likely source of water seepage at Rakaia Gorge.† Unfortunately, the sponge applicator broke and I ended up getting seam sealer all over a couple of my fingers as I used them to apply the sealer.† At least my fingers will be waterproof now.
Then I walked back into town.† I stopped at a takeaway and ordered a lasagne square.† Interestingly, the square was breaded just like the fish.† NZ seems to think that everything needs to be breaded and deep fat fried.† Then since the last ice cream seemed to help my throat, I had another.† I also walked up and down the main street and noted two stores selling used merchandise.† Another location was advertised as a hotel/tavern and appeared to be shutdown.† Overall impression was that Kurow was not a thriving town.† Then I walked aback to camp and retired to the lounge to write my notes and watch some TV.
Another not so restful night due to my sore throat but hopefully the last bad night since my sore throats usually last for two days and then another 2-3 days of sinus congestion and runny nose.† I packed up and headed into town at about 8:00 only to find the two takeaway places didnít open until 9:00.† I stopped for a paper at a store and inquired about breakfast and got escorted to the adjoining cafť.† The cafť was not open but a woman was preparing food for the day.† She was kind enough to fix breakfast (bacon/eggs/toast) along with a muffin and coffee.
From Kurow the route was gently downhill and easy cycling.† This was now farming country about equally mixed between sheep and cattle.† After 23K, I came to Duntroom and took a side route that was supposedly more scenic with less traffic at the expense of an additional 4K and a somewhat hillier route.† Immediately I saw low limestone cliffs and a little further stopped to see the Elephant Rocks Ė limestone etched in various patterns although I failed to see an elephant in the patterns.
I had to climb some at this point and then climbed some more.† And then after a short descent I climbed quite a bit.† I was beginning to think this somewhat hillier route was all hills and considering whether to bail out back to the main road.† After a fairly long descent to Ngapara, I could see that bailing out back to the main road was going to involve some significant climbing.† So I stayed on the side route, which flattened considerably with only some modest climbing the rest of the way.† This was definitely farming country and I even saw a couple of sows, first of the trip.
After nearly 70K I pulled into Oamaru from the south and headed downtown for fish & chips.† I also found an Internet terminal and checked email.† I decided I could use a simple nylon daypack that would fold up into itself and take up almost no space or weight in my panniers that I could use on my occasional hike such as in Mt. Cook.† So after lunch I checked a couple of stores but found nothing.† Then I headed out of town to make more progress towards Dunedin at about 3:00.
The PP recommended a side route to the coast to avoid the busy SH 1, the main road from Christchurch to Dunedin.† This was a great choice with a nice road along the beach to Kakanui.† It was nice to hear the ocean crashing against the shore and seeing gently rolling fields on the right populated by sheep.† After Kakanui, the road headed inland just a bit away from the shore but it was still nice.† However, at Waianakarua River, the road returned to SH 1 to cross on a bridge.† At this point I was stuck on SH 1 with an onslaught of high-speed traffic with at most a foot of shoulder most of the time.† This was rather harrowing because I had virtually no shoulder to work with and the high-speed traffic often could not move out to pass because of oncoming traffic.
After about 8K of this, I was ready to call it quits when I reached Hampden so I set up camp at the motorcamp just off the highway close to the beach.† There I met a retired couple in a motor home who were filling in for the real owners.† They used to live in Auckland but their motor home was now their home with a little wood stove for heat in the winter.
I set up camp, cleaned up, and paid my $10 camp fee.† I walked up a short, steep hill back to the store along the highway.† Since the town takeaway was closed on Mondays, I grabbed a couple of cans of Mexican style chili, some biscuits (cookies), and a Coke with an ice cream to go.† Back in camp I heated up the chili in the kitchen.† Two cans were a bit too much but a single can wouldnít have been sufficient.† Afterwards I debated walking back up the hill to the tavern along the highway but it started drizzling.† Rather than risk rain, I retired back to the kitchen to write my notes and plan my entry into Dunedin tomorrow.
I didnít sleep particularly well but I donít think I could blame it o my sore throat which wasnít too bad.† Maybe it was because I head the pitter-patter of rain on the tent part of the night.† In any case I woke up and gave up at 6:30 and got up to face the day.† I used my stash of cereal and a banana from the store for breakfast.† Then I took a wait and see attitude on the weather.† It was cloudy and the manager told me he heard it might rain in the morning and clear up in the afternoon.† The sun peaked through a couple of openings but there were some nearby ominous looking clouds.† Then I checked my watch and saw the barometric pressure had plummeted through the night but was rapidly ascending since early morning.
So I bit the bullet and headed out.† It was a short start as I traveled just a couple of K before taking the Moeraki Boulders exit to a restaurant with a deck view of the amazing spherical boulders on the beach below Ė a few hundred meters away.† I had a cup of coffee and toast, took a picture and was off.† The wind was a bitch as it switched between a head and side wind.† The only saving grace was the wind was blowing me away from traffic.† It was impossible to even break double-digit speed on the metric scale.
At this rate I was going to have to cycle at least eight hours to reach Dunedin so Dunedin looked out of the question.† Then periodically some drops of rain would fall and threaten complete misery.† At one point when it started drizzling and looking serious, I was able to duck in a roadside picnic area that provided some good protection with a couple of huge evergreen trees with very low branches.† I was tempted to throw up a tent and call it a day after less than 10K.
But after a few minutes the drizzle stopped and the wind calmed a bit so I headed out again.† Shortly, the wind picked up and drizzle started again and I ducked into another roadside area.† I began to think Mother Nature was just teasing me.† When I started again, I calculated I had about 15K to make Palmerston, the next logical stopping point.† After Palmerston, I could try for Waikouaiti another 18K but that would be it.† Eventually I reached Palmerston and stopped for a lunch of fish & chips.
After lunch, the weather didnít look so bad and the wind had died down quite a bit.† I made pretty good time to Waikouaiti since I was back in the double-digit speed range.† At Waikouaiti I saw a sign for a motorcamp but it was closed for the season.† There was a motel but then I thought about Karitane just a little further off the highway along the coast.† It reportedly had a motorcamp and dairy (small store) so I chanced they would both be open and headed just another 5K down the road.
Then just as I was entering the outskirts of this small holiday village and almost at my destination, it suddenly started pouring.† I had my rain jacket on from earlier to combat the wind but just thin tights and sandals.† The rain was cold and piercing.† I debated whether to seek immediate shelter or try to find the motorcamp.† I continued and within a few hundred meters took the camp turnoff and the camp was right next to the dairy.† I pulled my bike under the dairy overhang and celebrated with an ice cream.
Then I walked across the street to secure a tent site.† I had thought there might be some cabins to provide indoor shelter but this was just a caravan park.† However, the manager offered to rent me a caravan, basically the equivalent of a cabin, for the same price as a tent - $9.† This was too good to be true and I accepted before he could change his mind.† The caravan was perfect with three beds and room for my bike and stuff.† It even had cooking facilities but they were unnecessary with the communal kitchen.† I settled in and cleaned up and went next door for food.† To show my culinary flexibility I skipped the Mexican chili and went with macaroni and cheese.† I also bought milk for cereal in the morning and a banana.
Not too long after I arrived I saw another cyclist had pulled in and set up in a small tent.† I felt sorry for him and a little guilty because had he arrived a little earlier our situation would have been reversed.† So after dinner I looked him up only to discover that ďheĒ was Mya, a Swiss woman, cycling up the coast from Melton, south of Dunedin, where she had been visiting her boyfriend.† So I did what any gentleman would do Ė I offered to let her sleep with me.† My caravan had three beds and it seemed to be in the spirit of touring to share the caravan as if it were a backpacker.† Later, Mya said she was considering sleeping in the kitchen or laundry room because her tent wasnít totally waterproof.† Mya was just started on her trip north and was going to be doing my trip in reverse to Nelson.† From Nelson she planned to go down the West Coast to Hokitika and across the Alps via Arthurís or Lewis Pass and back to Christchurch and down to Melton.
I slept the best I had since catching my cold.† Part of that surely was due to the comfort of sleeping in the caravan.† Mya and I both got up at almost the same time and she checked out to get ready for the day.† After cleaning up I grabbed my milk from the kitchen refrigerator and had another breakfast of cereal and banana.† Although the weather looked good if a bit cool at 14C, I laid around in the caravan for a while longer before packing up.† Overall I felt pretty good but now throat congestion made it difficult to do anything but eke out a whisper.† Someone who didnít know better would probably have thought I was dying.
Just as I was ready to leave, Mya came by and thanked me again for the sleeping accommodation and we went our separate ways.† I headed south along the Karitane coast and after about a 2K warm-up had to tackle a very steep climb that I didnít think I was going to be able to make it but I gutted it out despite the gradient and a stiff headwind that didnít help.† At the top I stopped to admire the view that I had earned and it was pretty nice looking down on the bay.† When I resumed I discovered I hadnít quite made it to the top but the remaining climb was easy by comparison.
The rest of the way was rolling with the headwind taking all the fun out of the descents.† After 15K I descended back to SH 1 at Evandsdale where I stopped for coffee and tea.† I could only wonder what the hostess thought about this guy who could barely whisper his order.
Another 2K and I reached Waitati where I looked for the turnoff to Mt. Cargill Road that I needed to take into Dunedin since bicycles werenít allowed on SH 1 as it turned into a motorway.† After another K I realized I misunderstood the directions and turned around to get back to the Waitati turnoff.† Immediately, my bike took off with a tailwind and a slight downhill gradient.† It was reassuring to know my bike worked and didnít have permanently engaged brakes as it sometimes felt.
The Turnoff got me on to the Mt. Cargill Road that began a long and sometimes steep 8K climb.† I knew this would take at least an hour so I made up my mind to put my bike in the lowest gear and take it as easy as possible, grinding up the hill.† I prayed to the road and wind gods to be merciful to a sick cyclist.† At times they seemed to show pity and at times the trees along the edge of the hill fought off the wind.
The view going up the hill was fantastic looking down on the fields below and across the hilly landscape.† I seemed to get a rhythm and the climbing wasnít that bad after all.† At the top were more great views and a little farther was the Otago Harbor lookout that was really great with a view of the peninsula, the bay, and wonderful green fields demarcated by rows of trees along the field boundaries on an undulating landscape.† I stayed at least 20 minutes absorbing the views and could have stayed all day.† Finally, I pulled myself away and started the descent that could have been very fast despite the headwind.† However, I kept a steady hand on the brakes to enjoy the view for which I had worked so hard.† Then I came to another view that finally revealed Dunedin laid out below on the hillsides.† Another outstanding view.
Finally I pulled into Dunedin and started encountering real traffic.† At the first light I did a right and left and was on George St that took me right to the Octagon Ė the heart of the city.† I quickly located the info center and loaded up on brochures including the location of backpackers.† The first backpacker I saw was further away from downtown so I checked a couple of the closer ones.† Then I checked the Chalet that required pushing my bicycle up a steep High St (aptly named) for 3-4 blocks, taking solace that the return trip would be easy.† At first I thought I would only be able to get a dormitory room but when I told the proprietor I was looking for a single room, one magically appeared.† When I asked for two nights, some pencil work made that happen too.† All for $30/night in cash.† I unloaded my gear to, appropriately, the third and highest floor room and had the bike locked away in a storage room.
After cleaning up, the next stop was the 10-minute walk downtown to find a portable daypack.† I checked a couple of suggested places and finally got directed to the Katmandu, which had exactly what I wanted in a fist-sized package for $24.† Then I stopped at an Internet place to check email and couldnít get through to my email server.† Fortunately, the first two minutes were free so I gave up quickly for no charge.† Later I tried again with the same results.
I decided to eat at a Spaghetti Factory and had OK spaghetti and a beer.† Then since I was running low on cash, I headed to the nearest ATM machine and punched all the buttons and waited.† Finally the transaction got approved and I got my money.† I walked back to the backpacker and called a friend of my brother.† Originally, I wasnít going to be in Dunedin but here I was so this was going to be a bit of a shot in the dark.† I didnít reach Ken but got his answering machine and left a message.† I hoped he would be able to make it out despite my hoarse voice.† Later I tried again but got no answer, which may be just as well since it wasnít clear how much conversation I could carry on anyway.† Then I bundled my dirty wash and handed it over to the caretaker to be cleaned for $5, the only option.† I warned her everything was synthetic and could not be machine dried.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2000. All rights reserved.