Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Zealand bike tour - days 0 and 1: The adventure begins.

 We made it and we are on our way around Enzed, or as we would say "en zee", or just NZ.
getting there
The flights were uneventful, and down right pleasant if you ask me.  Air New Zealand runs a good show.  we left our house around 2m on Sunday, and arrived NZ at about 10 am on Tuesday because of the various time changes and date line.  However, the body-clock time is only 4 hours earlier in NZ than Utah, so the jet lag isn,t too bad.

 getting the bikes, Christchurch, and a real home stay!
We picked  up the bikes and rode around Christchurch for a bit, picking up important items like water bottles and bug spray. Chch has and excellent bike trails, complete with sensors like we have for cars at stop lights in the US and stop lights with little bikes on them. But the times we had to ride on the streets were harrowing.  It is left hand traffic here - so difficult to get used to.
We had to stop often and get our bearings. One place we stopped was this nifty "pop up mall". they love their coffee here.

That was just after a bit of geo-voyeurism surveying the damage from so many recent earthquakes.

One site we did not expect to see was an Occupy protest, but here it was in downtown Christchurch.

My cousin hooked up us with the contact of an old friend of his from North Dakota who now lives with his family in Christchurch. Justin and his wife Debbie took us into their home and fed and entertained us like they were running a top notch B&B!! They said it is the Kiwi way, but to us, it was an extraordinary act if kindness and generosity.  The food was awesome and getting to know them and their three fun kids was infinitely better than pedaling around Chch looking for a reasonably priced hotel. It was so nice!

Day 1: to the top and back down.

The next morning we pedaled early to the train station.
To catch the TranzAlpine train up to Arthur's Pass at the top of the Southern Alps, the mnt range that runs the length of the South Island.  Yes, I know this a self-supported bike tour. We were supporting our need to ease into things. The train traveled across the Canterbury Plains to catch our first good view of the Southern Alps.
 The scenery on the train ride was awesome!  We went through 15 tunnels. The train has a couple of observation decks. We would not find these decks in America; all it would take is one little kid sticking his hand out at the wrong time as we went into a tunnel and the Transzalpine would be out of business.  They were not kidding when they said keep your hands and head inside the train.  And everyone did. (Every time I travel my conviction that many Americans are lazy, self-absorbed, and much too eager to blame someone else for their problems or their stupidity is reinforced. Sad but true.)
But the fun ride and beautiful scenery took me back to the present.

Let the pedaling begin!
But we came here to bike tour, and it was time to start.

we pedaled a few hundred meters to a cafe for lunch first. :-)
Keas are these big parrots that apparently will rip a backpack into shreads if left unattended.
Of course, we did not leave our meat pie unattended.

 Why not start at the top of the mountain!? At 924 meters (about 3000 feet for us Americans) Arthur's pass is not as high as our mountains back in Utah, but high enough to get great scenery and steep grades.

Those signs behind Drew say 16%! And percent isn't different than in America.

The ride down to the west from Arthur's Pass was a rush! I was worried my cantilever breaks were not going to be able to stop me and my 60 pound bike. There was this one really cool part of the road where we went. Under a stream.
The river valley was really impressive, from a sedimentologists point of view.  That puppy can carry some load.

Pedaling is overrated.
The road eventually leveled out to rolling hills, which we were not prepared for.  In planning, we thought we could make it easily the 97 km (55mi)  to our destination seaside town of Hokitika, being that it was all downhill and we are Cyclists. By the time we stopped for a coke at Jackson's at 31 km, we were already tired!  Time to work together against the headwind.  We got into a pattern of trading turns at the front and slowly ticked of the miles.  We averaged about 19 km/hr on the flats, so that's not too bad for our first day on loaded bikes.  Visions of hamburgers and local beer at a seaside restaurant kept us going.

We did stop a few times, once to fix a flat

And once to explore this awesome cave walk.

 It was sooooo cool, but we were really really tired by this time and so we pushed on. Some other cyclists has tipped us off to a slight shortcut, but what we really liked about it was the lack of traffic on smooth road through beautiful farming county.

Finally, our tired legs and sore bottoms made it to our destination.  Rolling into Hokitika, the first place that was on my list as potential lodging said no vacancy. Uh oh.  The second place was too expensive for what you got, but the third place was just right.  There was one tent spot left at the Dirifting Sands hostel. We were home for the night.

 Soft grass, the ocean a few hundred feet away, hot clean shower, and super friendly German travelers to rehash the day with.
We walked into town (tired of that saddle!) for a huge guilt free fish and chips for me and pasta for Drew.  Ride time on Day 1 was 4 hrs 25 minutes. Travel time more like 6 hr. That made for a few kinked necks and sore butts, but overall we are in good shape so far. Nice work on Day 1!

1 comment:

  1. How cool! Make sure you order a 'flat white' at your next coffee stop. They are the BEST!

    It's gorgeous there! You posted some great pics and Love that you took the time to do a post - I can't wait til the next one.

    I've got some friends in Christchurch if you need a place to crash on the way back. I haven't seen them in decades, but they stayed with us for like a year when I was a kid (in my bedroom while I slept on my sister's floor!) and my family has stayed in touch with them. I bet they'd love to entertain friends of mine for a night. Let me know so I can contact them. And yes - it is the kiwi way - kindest folks on the planet. They rival Canadians, no doubt.