I’m pretty sure we’re somewhere near middle earth…
We made a particularly early start from the old sleeper carriages and the sky was just beginning to blush pink with dawn. A quiet start along the main road until getting to a turn off the highway for a backroads route we were considering.
Getting a mile down the road a plummeting descent followed by a wall of a climb gave us second thoughts and with the main road being so quiet we quickly retraced. It was to be a long enough day already with a headwind and plenty of miles and ascent.
Second breakfast in Cheviot, with hills reminiscent of the Northumberland version but without dry stone walls. Then up into the hills and what wasn’t quite a mountain pass but enough if a climb for our speed to plummet. Snowy mountains peeked over the green hills and the view around every corner became more impressive. A jaw dropping descent with the mountain backdrop and suddenly waves crashed alongside the road. It had been a long 80 miles to Kaikoura and a brief stop before battling into the wind again to try and get to our bnb before dark.
We spotted sea lions on the rocks beside the road and continued along the coast soaking up the impressive landscape. Just about making the bnb by dusk it had been a tougher and longer day than we’d hoped and we were relieved to be welcomed warmly. They even had dinner ready for us too and we are warn, full of good food and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before a push for the ferry tomorrow!
After a wonderfully restful stay at the bnb we had a late start to allow for a bit of recovery before the 60 miles to the ferry. The sun was shining and it was much warmer…but…
I’m sick of writing about headwinds.
But lets just say our average speed was 9.8mph, we peddled downhill and Air New Zealand is asking passengers to rebook their flights because the winds are so bad…
The scenery was stunning again with a wonderful mix of pasture, mountains, vineyards and coast and we tried to take in as much as possible as we climbed and crawled towards Picton. Having decided to take the most direct route we made good time, stopping to pick up some supplies before checking in. Stela the Tandem was securely lashed to some railings and we enjoyed a celebratory meal (the only time I’d have felt justified eating New Zealand lamb!) and a therapeutic glass of pinot noir after moving in slow motion past the vineyards earlier today. Now to cross to North Island and see what we can achieve there!
Antipodeal point number 1
We rolled off the ferry yesterday to be met by Andrew who works @wheelworkshandcraftedwheels to ride us to his flat. We couldn’t have had a better placed host, about only a mile from the ferry port and this enabled us to get to a real bed asap after snoozing on the ferry.
An early wake up call as ever though and Andrew helped guide us out of the city of Wellington along the bike paths. We are really grateful to him for responding to our online plea as his hospitality meant we could get a full day’s ride in today and he gave us lots of route tips too.
A rather steep climb got the lactic acid flowing in our legs tired from the previous days climbing but was soon made up for by a descent down the otherside to beautiful sunshine coast. The wind wasn’t as bad as expected and we were making good progress battering on but needed to refuel with second breakfast-a complete let down at the first cafe which wouldn’t accept our debit or credit cards and it was second time lucky after 45 miles. A solid bruch saw us another good stint down the road into rolling farmland and leaving the shore further away. After the worst bridge ever in Bulls (we were diverted onto a cycle lane with holes covered with planks of wood) we made the last push to Marton and some amazing warmshowers host who fed and housed us for thr night. We even had Jim the goat as a neighbour!
Tomorrow we head up to the mountains…the fact we are staying in a ski resort says it all!!
We reluctantly left our wonderful warmshowers hosts with bellies full of breakfast and half a dozen fresh farm eggs! (Hard boiled…)
It was climbing from the off but we made steady progress to second breakfast at the oxymoronic Flat Hills cafe. The hills were becoming increasingly rolling with a few sharper ups and downs but mostly long drags. Taking a break again in Taihape we picked up Josh who was heading the same way as us on his solo bike and happy to wheelsuck until our turn of the highway. I think all three of us were feeling the need for a boast so it was good to chat about life on the road as the hills ramped up. I was starting to rain slightly as well but then we rounded a bend to find ourselves facing a massive snowy peak. Josh stayed on the main road as we peeled off to circle the peak on quieter roads- we had been warned about the lorries on the narrow switchbacks down the road.
The climbing wasn’t over yet and for every brief reprieve downhill it soon went up again. Quieter roads on the otherside of the mountain with some impressive railways engineering in terms of a massive bridge spanning a river gorge.
We reached National Park just as it got dark and too late for the shops but not for the pop up takeaway van. Settling in to our ski chalet for the night our legs are well and truly knackered!
A bit of a grey start as we ate leftover chips and eggs for breakfast having missed the shop last night. Last few checks on the bike were overseen by the local feline and we were off towards the mountain again.
The peak was shrouded in mist this morning though and we felt we were missing our of the views a bit. Finally getting a bit of descent we found a fantastic cafe for second breakfast and even went for breakfast pudding too (check out @stela_fuel !)
We rolled into the rain and a few miles down the road Laura went to adjust her helmet…which was still in the cafe
A speedy backtrack and Laura retrieved it with her tail between her legs for such a daft mistake. (But admittedly our @exustar_global helmets are so comfy we don’t know they are on!)
As we pushed on the rain set in and the views of the epic laje Taupo were obscured with it disappearing into the mist. A hot chocolate stop in Maccas to warm up didn’t last long as we were still quite high up with chilly rain and wind combined with more descent. Riding past hot steaming springs somehow didn’t make us feel warmer.
The main highway 1 we had been avoiding yesterday was horrendous in the rain with angry drivers, narrow hard shoulder and roadworks testing Stevie’s patience and handling to the limit. Thankfully it warned slightly as we descended but suddenly we were flagged down by a lady in a ute on the side iof the road. Her husband needed medical attention but with Stevie shivering on the roadside all we could do was flag down someone in a motor vehicle to make sure they got help before pushing on to try and keep warm for the last 10 miles. Turning up at the motel we were soaked through and unlike the monsoon this was cold rain so it was straight into warm showers to recover.
Not a day for taking lots of photos…
It was still raining in the morning. Stevie used the opportunity of a sheltered front to the motel room to change the brake pads while Laura did some route plotting and we started a bit later.
Another job was to improve hand comfort as we’d both suffered yesterday and we have two pairs of wonderful @huubdesign neoprene gloves…waiting for us in Auckland so we resorted to an audax trick of marigolds!
The rain was set in as we got back on the dreaded NH1 with traffic sounding much worse than it was on wet roads. We finally peeled off but the drivers didn’t seem to get any friendlier- honking, swearing and making gestures at us which made us feel very much unwelcome. We had heard about kiwi drivers before coming but had tried to reserve opinion until we got here but today made it clear there are lot of very angry small minded people here.
We tried not to get upset and with the rain still pouring opted for a quick and easy McDonald’s stop before continuing to head into more rural areas. There was a hint of mountains through the clouds and plenty if dairy cattle in the lush green fields but most of the views were lost on us. We passed through the town of Te Aroha and picked up some noodles to cook for dinner. It seemed a strange backwater kind of place and some youths shouting at us were incomprehensible but we decided to take it ad encouragement. We’d been treated to tailwinds for a while but as we nearer the coast the wind started spinning around heads one minute, tails the next and the showers kept coming.
The grey sea merged into the grey sky both barely visible through the rain and taking the scenic route was not paying off as we cycled along the coast- it would have been a wonderful ride on another day!
The strong headwind had set in by this point and too wet to be navigating from the phone (the Airbnb location wasn’t uploaded to the garmin) we were counting house numbers to find our stay for the night. A wonderful apartment to dry out and get cosy for the night after what felt like another unnecessarily tough day! There was even a documentary about Middle earth on TV…
But to the airport tomorrow…New Zealand feels over in a flash!
Has been a long day…actually! We have crossed the date line (a concept thar boggles our minds) but today has been much more than 24 hours!
Starting out we were relieved to have dry weather and got to see some of the beautiful scenery along the coast, then up through densely forested hills before descending to a beautiful bay and rolling through farmland. We were almost scuppered by a landslide on the coastal road and there was still localised flooding but we were able to get through on our short stint to Auckland.
Barely believing we were done with New Zealand already we arrived at the airport in good time to pack the bike and cannot thank Rob and Chris enough who got the boxes and packing stuff too us. They also had a delivery of our cold weather kit including lots of great items from Huub and Laura’s shoe from Exustar… it was finally time to say goodbye to the sandals!
Packing up went smoothly and we navigated the hurdles of checking in, getting the boxes accepted (with extra weight fees again), security, customs and finally had a bit of time to relax before the flight. This soon went though and we were getting settled in for long haul- 13 hours to Vancouver.
We both got a bit of sleep but not the most comfortable and we’re not used to being sedentary so long so feet and ankles swell despite flight socks.
Finally making our descent what felt like the following morning it is actually the previous afternoon and exiting the airport warm and sunny! It appears we’ll be waiting a bit to try all our new kit out yet.
The bike build went smoothly- Stevie is well practiced and Laura assisted while catching up on more admin before we had a short ride to some wonderful relatives of a friend of Laura’s who feed us a fantasies curry and gave us somewhere to sleep before we set out into Canada tomorrow!
Weekly mileage 654.16 miles
Total mileage 11,586miles plus
Pizzas: 1 breakfast pizza which wasn’t a real pizza