Diary for the New Zealand Cycle Tour

21 November to 30 December, 2010

Some abbreviations:

B&B  :   Bed and Breakfast
Chch  :   Christchurch
DOC  :   Department of Conservation
LP  :   Lonely Planet Guide to NZ, ISBN 978-1-74104-816-2
NZ  :   New Zealand
OAP  :   Old Age Pensioner
PP  :   Pedallers' Paradise, Nigel Rushton, 2 Volumes: ISBN 978-0-473-12605-6 and -12604-9
SH  :   Southern Highway, the NZ designation for main roads.

Kari's diary is on the left.   David's is on the right.

Sunday/Monday, 21st/22nd November

Zurich to Singapore: a long flight but comfortable. The food could have been better, especially breakfast!

Singapore was hot and very humid. The stop was not too long before carrying on to Auckland. The flight to Auckland was also very comfortable, mainly because of the lack of passengers - enough room to stretch ourselves over three seats.

It took 2 hours from the plane landing to setting off from the airport. Found the first hotel very easily. People very helpful; slept well.

Our flight was with Singapore Airlines in an Airbus 380, scheduled to leave Zurich at 10:55 and to take 11½ hours. We had checked-in our baggage and bikes the previous night, so we just drove to Colin's and Mirjam's for breakfast, and got Colin to drop us off at the airport with lots of time to spare. Georg was driven to the airport by his wife.

We took off about 30 minutes late and arrived in Singapore at 06:00 local time (CET+7) after an uneventful but full flight. The A380 is quite comfortable. The connecting flight to Auckland in a Boeing 777 was scheduled to leave at 09:20, so we didn't have too much time to kill at the airport. To pass the time, we went looking for the swimming pool and a way out of the terminal buildings into the fresh air. With some difficulty, we managed to do both. Unfortunately, the fresh air wasn't very fresh. Not surprisingly, I suppose, it was rather tropically stifling. The flight was 20 minutes late leaving, but arrived pretty much on time at 23:45 local time (CET+12) after yet another 9½ hours or so in the air. The plane was delightfully empty, so we were able to stretch out to sleep.

Getting through immigration and "Bio-security" was not as bad as I had feared. The bicycles, being "road" as opposed to "mountain" bikes, were just waved through in their boxes. The tents were taken away to be unpacked and inspected, and were passed to be OK. Whilst they were being inspected, we were able to start assembling the bikes. It took 2 hr 10 min from getting off the plane until we had the bikes assembled and were ready to leave the airport.

Tuesday, 23rd November


0 km

Auckland Airport


5 km

Grand Chancellor Airport Hotel


0 km

Grand Chancellor Airport Hotel


17 km

Grand Chancellor City Hotel

Made our way into Auckland city with the help of a Google map. Did a bit of sight-seeing - Albert Park - nice flowers and interesting trees - very old. Sky Tower - fantastic view over Auckland. Some people were bungy jumping from the top - they were stopped for a short while just in front of the observation platform.

Found out about ferries to islands and across the bay.

We got a Google-Map print-out of the route into town to guide us to our hotel in down-town Auckland. It went quite well, except for a causeway across a sea inlet where road works caused us to lose the way for a while, and had us climbing a steep hill, which had us panting. We stopped in Epsom, a suburb of Auckland, for lunch in a café, where it started to rain, quite heavily. The rest of the way into town was a bit damp, but not too bad. Heavy traffic and lots of slow traffic lights were more troublesome, and slowed us down. Eventually we got to the hotel.

We spent the afternoon ambling around the city, including a trip up the Sky Tower to admire the view over the city. From the top of the tower, we saw Albert Park, which looked very inviting. We went over to it afterwards, and were surprised at the steepness of the hills that we had to climb to get there. The trees in the park are incredible - huge trunks and rambling roots.

The day finished off with a miserable toasted sandwich in a coffee bar.

Wednesday, 24th November

Didn't sleep at all!

David and I went shopping for some breakfast. The day was cloudless and fresh. Made breakfast in the hotel room; they are equipped with not only a hair-dryer, but also a kitchenette. There was also an iron and ironing board. Made scrambled eggs and soup. Then packed all our bags, which we would leave at the hotel whilst we visited Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island only about 650 years old but covered in very interesting vegetation. We marched round the island and up to the top - fantastic views of Auckland - as we weren't too sure of how long one needed - the times given on the signposts were very variable. It was well worth a visit. The vegetation was like a jungle on one side.

Came back and had to find a new hotel. We found a backpackers' hostel not too far from the quayside and they had a room. Couldn't stay in hotel because they were booked out. Had a superb fish and chips for supper. Georg wasn't very impressed with the decor. I think he would have preferred a restaurant with atmosphere!

Kari and I got up quite early, and went out to a supermarket to buy some things for breakfast. We returned to the hotel, woke up Georg, and cooked soup and scrambled eggs, which weren't bad.

Since the hotel was fully booked, we couldn't extend our stay for an extra day as we wanted to, and so we had to check out. But we were able to leave our bags and bikes at the hotel whilst we went out to Rangitoto Island for the day.

The trip with the ferry (just a short walk from the hotel) was very pleasant, and the walk to the top of the extinct volcano, which forms the island, would also have been very pleasant if we hadn't had the stress of getting to the top and back to the landing stage in time for the last ferry of the day at 15:30. As it turned out, we had plenty of time, enough time, in fact, to get quite chilled in the stiff breeze whilst waiting for the boat.

The island is forested volcanic lava. The plant life is very lush, and quite exotic for us, but the lava is black and unfriendly. The weather was very pleasant, sunshine with cloudy periods, and there were splendid views across the bay to Auckland.

On our return to Auckland, we had decided to go to the nearest suburb, Parnell, to look for accommodation for the night, and it turned out well. We found a cheap room in a backpackers' hostel. The evening beer in an Irish pub was quite expensive, though, and the fish and chip shop, although good, didn't have a very cosy atmosphere.

Tomorrow we head off to Coromandel, and cycling should start to become more serious.

Thursday, 25th November


0 km

Ferry to Coromandel


2.4 km

Te Kouma


12.0 km

Coromandel Town


14.6 km

The Little Farm B&B


14.6 km

The Little Farm B&B


16.3 km

Pub (lunch)


23.0 km

Saddle near Tokatea Lookout


31.7 km

The Little Farm B&B

Slept better. Got up early, had breakfast of muesli, milk and boiled egg - quite adequate. Made it to the ferry with plenty of time to spare, enough to pump up Georg's tyres and have a cup of coffee.

Met an Englishman on the ferry - he's doing NZ on his own, and is really into cycling. One day he did 190 km! It was a good ferry ride - not too rough and it took 1 hr 50 min.

Coromandel is a lovely area. We found a superb B&B. Did some washing, then went for a ride intending to get to Kennedy Bay, only 15 km, and have a swim in the sea. We only got half way as it turned out to be a very steep, windy, dirt road and up 400 m! It was tough going. We learnt later that this pass is the steepest in this region - so hopefully all the rest will be easier in comparison.

After refreshing ourselves with an ice cream cornet, we bought spaghetti for supper. Georg cooked it - it was very nice but too much

Today I feel as though the holiday has at last started. To my surprise, jet-lag is hardly a problem any more. This 12-hour time shift seems to have been much easier than the 9-hour shift involved in travelling to Vancouver.

Breakfast was a bit unsatisfactory. We were in a hostel, so it was a DIY affair, and we were under pressure to get to the ferry booking office for 08:30 to catch the 09:00 ferry to Coromandel. As it turned out, we had enough time to get the tickets (OAP tickets at NZ$ 41 per head rather than NZ$ 51 - bicycles are free), and then cross the road to a café for a "flat white" (the NZ term for a white coffee) each before boarding time at 08:45.

The bikes and luggage were stowed at the back of the boat, but we soon brought the bags inside when the boat got under way - everything was getting drenched from the spray. It was a lovely 2 hour trip across Hauraki Gulf weaving in and out of the many islands in nice sunny weather. The ferry lands at Te Kouma, some 10 km from Coromandel Town, to be independent of the tides.

The tourist office in the town soon fixed us up with a B&B at "The Little Farm". The proprietors are Mr and Mrs Little! We had a nice triple room with enough self-catering facilities to cook our own evening meal.

The goal for the afternoon was a ride to Kennedy Bay without baggage. We thought that it would be a nice, not-too-hard, 15 km warm-up ride across the peninsula to the east coast. It turned out to involve 400 m of height gain up a steep, gravel road. Fortunately we stopped at a pub in the town for a late lunch to fortify ourselves for the ride.

When we got to the top, and after a short 15 minute walk up to the summit of Tokatea Lookout (480 m), we decided to return to the town, rather than continue on to Kennedy Bay and have to do the climb again to get back. The ride down was tough, especially on the bends, because of the "corrugations" in the gravel. It was a very hot outing.

In the evening, Georg made spaghetti with a prawn and sour cream sauce, which was very good, if somewhat too much.

Friday, 26th November


0 km

The Little Farm B&B


10.5 km

Waiau Falls


13.1 km

Highest point, Whangapoua Hill


25.2 km

Junction with SH25


32.6 km



48.0 km



Cathedral Cove


53.0 km

Hahei Holiday Resort

The first real cycling day of the holiday. Had a huge breakfast - not really necessary after the huge supper last night, but proved to be necessary. It was cloudy. Set off up Road 309 - long uphill drag but not as steep as yesterday. Georg soon had front pannier trouble - had to be repaired with cable ties. Passed a farm with pigs wandering all over the road, also a peacock.

Stopped and looked at a small waterfall - very idyllic. Stopped later and looked at some kauri trees - fantastic. Most kauris on Coromandel had been cut down earlier for this, that, or the other. It took 1 hour to do 13 km. Lovely going down the other side of the pass.

Georg's front pannier broke completely going into Whitianga. Had coffee and cake whilst waiting for bike shop to open. The man in the shop couldn't help us, but sent us to a hardware shop where we bought jubilee clips. They worked. All in all it took only 1¼ hours to repair it. David did very well as the repair was all his work and design.

Took small ferry over the strait to Cooks Beach. Very pretty and very exclusive houses. Made it to Hahei and on to Cathedral Cove, which was supposed to be only 1 km further, but was the sting in the tail - steep uphill and a very long km. Then had to walk 25 mins to the cove - very impressive with its stacks and arches. I was too pooped after all that to go any further, so we found a spare "hut" in a holiday camp at Hahei. Very adequate.

Georg cooked lamb chops and potatoes.

This was our first day of serious cycling, and we had glorious weather for it. Following our feast of the previous evening, the Littles brought over a cooked breakfast to our room, which we also managed to eat without any trouble. Then it was off to find Road 309 over the hills and through the bush to Whitianga.

It was a gravel road, and it climbed steadily but not too steeply up to a height of about 380 m at Whangapoua Hill. On the way, we passed "Waterworld", a NZ Tinguely experience, without stopping, but we did stop for a short scramble to look at Waiau Falls, and again to visit Kauri Grove. The kauris are a small group of 700 year old giant trees that escaped, or were spared, when the Coromandel peninsula was felled during the Second World War as part of the NZ war effort. They are very impressive - well worth a visit.

From there the road got steeper. Georg's front pannier carriers broke as a result of the vibration from the rough road. They were fixed with cable ties. It was only another 30 minutes to the top. The ride down the other side was steep and rough, but we managed it without incident back onto tarmac on the SH25. There remained only a few easy km into Whitianga, where disaster hit again. Georg's front panniers totally broke off as he hit a bump on the cycle track. The cable ties were obviously not man enough for the conditions. The only cycle shop in town was closed for lunch, so we went to Coghill Café next door for the NZ coffee speciality of a "flat white", which seems to be a huge cup of hot, milky, coffee. The "ginger crunch" calorie bomb which we had with it was super.

When it finally opened, the cycle shop couldn't help us, and referred us to a hardware store around the corner. There, with 8 jubilee clips, we fastened the pannier carriers back on again. Hopefully they will hold.

We left the town on the passenger ferry across Whitianga harbour, a 2 minute ride, and set off for Hahei and Cathedral Cove. The going was very pleasant rolling country with the odd short steep hill. Our plan had been to visit Cathedral Cove and to go on to Hot Water Beach for the night. Unfortunately, the horrendous climb from Hahei to get to the Cathedral Cove car park knocked the stuffing out of us so that, after we had enjoyed the 60 minute walk down to the Cove and back, which was, again, well worth the effort, we called it a day in Hahei, stopping in a cabin on the Hahei Holiday Resort camp-site for the night.

We just had time to get to the shop to buy the necessities for our evening feast, lamb chops and fried potatoes followed by ice cream with grated dark chocolate, before it closed. In fact, the camp-site phoned the shop to say that we were on our way, and they stayed open for us.

Saturday, 27th November


0 km


09:45 - 11:00

9.0 km

Hot Water Beach


17.7 km

Junction with SH25


27.2 km

Top of Whenuakite Hill


33.0 km



69.9 km

Whangamata centre


70.7 km

Blake Court Motel, Whangamata

I'm writing this a day later ...

Very pleasant riding through quiet country lanes. Stopped off at Hot Water Beach - had a swim. Decided not to wait for the tide to turn so that we could experience the hot water springs - too long to wait.

Cycled up and over hills - met two Germans - they were laden with camping gear. Went on to Whangamata where we stayed in a very nice motel. Georg and I went shopping for supper and breakfast - had a super meal of pork chops and fruit salad.

Pretty sure that I saw the Southern Cross.

Today's main attraction was to visit Hot Water Beach where, at low tide, hot water seeps up through the sand to give one a hot bath. Unfortunately the tides were totally wrong for us. Low tide was at either 06:00 or 18:00. We were there at 09:45 as the tide was coming in. We consoled ourselves with an exhilarating bathe in the Pacific breakers. We then headed off for Tairua and the south.

Before getting to Tairua there was a long, occasionally steep, climb of 200 m up Whenuakite Hill, but the traffic was light and it wasn't too bad. I was in Kari's bad books, however, for doing the whole climb without a rest. There followed a nice cruise down into Tairua, where we stopped for coffee and pies.

After Tairua we had a 10 km easy stretch with tail wind inland to get around a long inlet, followed by another 200 m hill. This was steeper than the first, and in two stages, so it seemed much shorter. At the top we found a picnic spot with some welcome shade to brew up a cup of tea. The remainder of the route to Whangamata was straightforward.

Unfortunately we were 30 minutes too late for the Tourist Information Office, so we had to rely on our own resources to find accommodation. We hit lucky and found an excellent motel, The Blake Court Motel, with good cooking facilities for NZ$ 140. Kari and Georg went off shopping whilst I had a shower. They came back with pork chops, potatoes, and fruit for a fruit salad. Georg used the barbecue in the motel courtyard to produce a very nice meal. The bottle of wine helped too. Despite the cloudless sky, I still had no luck trying to locate the Southern Cross.

Sunday, 28th November


0 km



18.0 km

Top of pass


30.6 km



48.0 km



101 km

Seagulls Guesthouse, Mt Maunganui

Early start as we wanted to cycle 80 km to Tauranga - it turned out to be 101 km! NZ km are sometimes very long.

Saw some black swans. Cloudy at first, which helped going up two hills before we reached Waihi, an old gold mining town. Stopped for coffee and coke. Then joined SH2 and the quietness changed - up till then the roads were quiet, SH2 was hectic - few trucks but lots of weekend traffic - miserable. Not many places to stop off for a drink - our last drink was at Katikati - David needed a beer after repairing a puncture. Found a shady spot to repair it. Then went on to Tauranga - not very cycle friendly - found an Info Centre, who found us a motel type place - very nice. It was a much longer day than expected!

Today was expected to be hard as part of earning a rest day tomorrow, but it turned out to be pretty miserable too, on account of the heavy traffic on SH2 after Waihi.

We got up at 06:00, made breakfast, and got off before 08:00 to do the two tough hills on the way to Waihi before the heat of the day. That all went well, and the coffee and cake in Waihi were good too. Then we hit the SH2.

There were no more big hills, just lots of little ones in hot weather and perpetual traffic roaring past. It was quite miserable and, to add to the misery, I got a puncture in my front tyre somewhere near Katikati. And to make it still worse, just as we thought that the goal for the day, Tauranga, was in sight, some 15 km suddenly got added to our expected 86 km - our map could be better!

Eventually we made it through, trekked on along a dreary waterfront at Tauranga to reach Mt Maunganui. The helpful Information Centre in the resort found us a nice, small hotel, The Seagulls Guesthouse, for the night. And an "eat-as-much-as-you-like" buffet in a Chinese restaurant in the town raised our spirits again very nicely.

Monday, 29th November


0 km

Mt Maunganui


Bus to Rotorua

15 km

Baden Lodge Motel, Rotorua

Woke up to drizzle.

Decided to try for the bus. It couldn't be guaranteed that there would be room for our bikes on the bus, which meant we couldn't book tickets in advance. So one has to wait for the bus to come to check that there's room, and then one can buy a ticket - but, by this time, the departure time for the bus has passed, so it is now too late to get a ticket from the usual place, i.e. via the computer in the Info Centre. So one has to go back to the driver and pay him in cash. Complicated!

The bus came, there was space for us, so we bought the tickets (from the driver) and loaded the bikes into the bus and drove off. The first 30 km of the journey would have been horrendous traffic-wise for bicycles. But after the turn off it quietened down. The weather was also not so fantastic - drizzle turning into rain.

We got to Rotorua and found some accommodation - they are all very well equipped - Georg wasn't so impressed with the cooking facilities when it came to making the evening meal, but then he didn't bother to check what was available before buying the food! In the afternoon we visited Te Puia, a Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. It was quite fascinating - particularly the mud pools and geysers. Afterwards we tried to find a place to have a beer (Georg's wish). It was difficult. Rotorua is obviously trying to dissuade drinking. We then shopped for evening meal before returning and cooking it - aelpler macaroni - very good too!

We had a lie-in until 08:00, and then decided not to stay another night (the weather was very grey and overcast) for our rest day, but to try to get the bus to Rotorua, some 75 km away. This left at 09:50, but there was no guarantee of space for the bicycles. It worked out well, though, so we were in Rotorua just before lunch, and in a motel, The Baden Lodge Motel (the proprietor originates from Baden-Baden), soon after having had fish and chips as a combined breakfast-cum-lunch.

We cycled out to Te Puia geothermic area with its geysers and mud pool for the afternoon. We stayed for quite a long time, but really only because it cost so much - NZ$ 42 per person! It seems to be Maori run, but I get the feeling that it's more occupational therapy than useful employment. I have reservations about the way that the Maori culture is being preserved. It seems to be very paternalistic rather than self-driven.

From there, we headed back into town to find a bar for a beer. It's not easy to find nice places in NZ to have an alcoholic drink. We ended up in a Thai restaurant. From there it was back to the motel via the Countdown supermarket. Tonight Georg treated us to aelpler macaroni, and very nice it was too.

Tomorrow is another rest day!

Tuesday, 30th November


0 km

Rotorua motel


5.0 km

Bunnings Store (coffee)


19.1 km

Lake Okareka

22.2 km

Blue Lake start


24.1 km

Blue Lake far end


36.0 km

Rotorua motel

38.0 km

Supermarket and back

42.8 km

Town and back

Enjoyed a nice long lie-in!

Helped Georg to sort out his luggage. He decided maybe he did have too much, and wanted advice on what not to take - we cut down his load by 4 kg! David rang the hotel in Chch where we will be staying on the last night to see if they would keep it for us until we arrived there - no problem. Then, how to get it there? Whilst we were pumping up tyres at a bike shop, a courier was delivering packages, so we asked him if he could take Georg's bag - no problem - but we had to take it to their office to dispatch it. We went to the Post Office just to compare prices - they wanted NZ$ 32, whereas PostHaste, the couriers, wanted only NZ$ 17, and it would take two days - all very satisfactory.

After a watery cup of coffee and a muffin we set out on our day trip to Lake Okareka and Blue Lake, where we had a swim - it was beautiful and quiet - delightful path through the forest, which is semi-jungle, lots of fern trees - really beautiful.

After an egg and bacon breakfast cooked by Kari, the first aim of the day was to post a 4 kg package of Georg's surplus baggage to the hotel in Christchurch to await us there. On the way to the post we stopped at a bike shop to pump up our tyres a bit, and found a dispatch van delivering goods there. We asked the driver if his company transported packages around the country, which they did, so we got his office address from him, and went there after getting a price estimate from the post office (~NZ$ 31). The dispatch company only wanted NZ$ 16, so they got the job.

By this time, it was coffee time, which we had in the café of a huge DIY store near to the dispatch company's office. The muffins were good, but the coffee was very much on the weak side. We should have complained.

We had two items on our programme for the day, Kuirau Park and Blue Lake. We had passed Kuirau Park on our way to dispatch Georg's parcel, and it looked to be simply a playing field, so we dropped it from our list. On reading LP more carefully just now, it looks as though we should have looked more carefully. It's supposed to have volcanic activity to see for free.

Anyway, we headed off for Blue Lake instead, and were faced with quite a stiff climb away from the town, made harder with some severe road works. We took the turn off down to Lake Okareka, which was very pretty with black swans on it and tempted us to bathe, but we decided to try Blue Lake first. There was a climb back up again, and the lake was superb, with a nice footpath following its shore for about 2 km to a quiet beach at the other end. We spent quite a while bathing there, before heading back to town and home-made aelpler macaroni left-overs from the previous night.

We went into town afterwards for dessert, but they were all so expensive that Georg and I just had a beer each and watched Kari eat her NZ$ 13 portion of apple pie.

Wednesday, 1st December


0 km

Rotorua motel


19.7 km

Waimangu turn-off


30.0 km

Wai-o-tapu turn-off


35.6 km

Wai-o-tapu turn-off


47.7 km



49.5 km

Butcher's Pool


91.5 km

Dunrovin Motel, Taupo

95 km

Town and back

Started early - our early start was wasted by David - he refused to believe that I was right - it added 3 km onto our journey!

Made it to Wai-o-tapu with plenty of time to see the geyser go off at 10:15 (fed with soap - a big disappointment). What was impressive was seeing isolated patches of steam rise from the undergrowth, which is very impenetrable. Saw a mud pool right next to the car park - really dangerous - so easy to fall into.

Cycled on to Taupo - turned off onto a quieter road at Reporoa - that was the last settlement where we could shop for the next 45 km. We bathed in a thermal pool, Butcher's Pool, just the other side of Reporoa. It was hot, but the pool was well maintained.

Stopped for a fry-up of sausages and baps in the shade. David got another puncture - he may have to buy a new tyre - there's a big slit in his tyre. Found a motel on our own this time - very good and spacious.

Had a superb Indian meal - only hope that I can keep it down or in! All in all, an easy day's cycling.

On the whole we had a very good day today. We wanted to visit the Lady Knox geyser at Wai-o-tapu on the way to Taupo so had to make an early start to be sure of getting there for its daily eruption at 10:15. We were up at 06:00, had muesli and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast, and set off on the bikes at 07:35.

It was a bad start. I took us round two sides of a triangle getting out of Rotorua, which added a couple of km to the day. Kari was unbelievably sour.

It was quite hard going at first with the road climbing steadily but, on the whole, not too steeply to the turn-off to the Waimangu thermal valley. But the traffic was a pain, heavy enough for the noise to get on one's nerves, but not as bad as last Sunday. Once we passed the SH38 turn-off things improved, but it wasn't until we turned off to Reporoa that it got really pleasant. The going got very easy too.

As we reached the turn-off to the Wai-o-tapu geothermic area, there was a closed café on the other side of the road with steam rising out of the bushes to the side of it. I insisted on investigating. It was a vent hole, but not reachable due to the bracken. Then Georg suddenly noticed a pool of boiling mud at our feet. The area is really impressive and quite dangerous. The café also had a steaming well in its car park that turned out to be trickling volcanic water.

Anyway, on taking the turn-off towards the geyser, there was yet another turn-off to a mud pool. It was free, and far bigger and more active than the commercial one in Rotorua. From there, the road looped back to the geyser, but not via the main ticket office. The man on the gate let us in without tickets. There was already quite a crowd sitting around a quietly smoking geyser. As 10:15 approached the seats all filled up, and at 10:15 the ticket man took the microphone, seeded the geyser by throwing a bag of soap flakes down its spout, and it erupted in due course. That's how they get it to erupt so regularly. I was very disappointed. What one does to keep the tourists on schedule and happy. As a result, I didn't have such a bad conscience about avoiding the ticket office.

We continued towards Taupo, turning off on a quiet road to Reporoa. It was delightful. Just after Reporoa came "Butcher's Pool", a natural thermal pool where one could bathe, which we did, and it was again free! A local at the post office had told us that the water is about 37°C at the moment, and it felt like every bit of it.

The remainder of the route to Taupo was uneventful if rather hot. The whole day has been a splendid yellow show of broom flowers.

In the afternoon, I noticed that my front tyre was going soft again, but I was able to get to Taupo by pumping it up a couple of times. I've bought and fitted a new inner-tube, and put a patch on the inside of a small slit in the tyre this evening. Let's hope that fixes the problem.

We ate out this evening. It was a huge and delicious Indian meal.

Thursday, 2nd December


0 km

Taupo motel


3.2 km

Taupo centre


17.6 km

Top of Hatepe Hill

13:45 - 15:00

36.3 km

Mission Bay


54.6 km


56.7 km

Shop and back

Had a lazy start - 08:00. After a lazy breakfast we left the motel and had a look at the lake and town. Beautiful situation. Georg wanted an Internet café - found one - spent 30 mins there, had a coffee and pie, and set off for Turangi. Had a head wind at first, but then it subsided.

Road reasonably quiet. Had a swim in the lake about 20 km from Turangi. Very refreshing - felt very cold after yesterday's thermal pool.

Found another motel from the LP guide. Once again good value. Wanted a trout to grill, but cannot buy them - one has to catch it oneself - reason is to stop over-fishing.

Thought it might rain on us - black clouds everywhere - but only a few spots fell. Tomorrow's another early start.

We had what was almost a rest day today. It started slowly with a ride into Taupo and a walk along the lake front and through the park, to be followed by 45 minutes of emailing, and finally a meat pie and flat white. So it was almost lunch time by the time we set off to Turangi, having also called in at a bike shop to check tyre pressures.

Although we were on SH1, it wasn't as busy as I had expected, though it was still more busy than one would have wished. The road skirted around the lake with one big climb of 150 m (Hatepe Hill) over a headland and many small ups and downs. At one point, Mission Bay, we stopped at a picnic spot by the lake side for a cup of coffee and short swim. The water was beautifully clear, but a bit cool.

After that, we were soon in Turangi, and again picked a motel, Judges Pool Motel, from the LP, and it has turned out well again. We wanted to grill trout for supper, but it's not permitted to sell trout in this country, much to our surprise. So we're having to slum it and make do with pork chops!

Friday, 3rd December


0 km



7.6 km

View point


11.7 km

Te Ponanga Saddle


52.0 km

National Park village

57.4 km

Howard's Lodge Motel

Overslept by 30 mins but it made no difference to the length of the day. I was dreading the climb up to National Park. The profile in PP showed it to be very steep and long at first. It was steep, but not so long: 1 hr 15 mins.

We hoped for a coffee at Taurewa, but the café is only open when the tourist buses come in, and we were too late for them. So we just had to slog on. The views would have been superb if it hadn't been so cloudy - the clouds dispersed by the afternoon but the top of Mt Ruapehu still stayed in cloud. Lord of the Rings was filmed here.

Found a hostel in the village, but it's more cramped than what we're used to - for one night it's OK. Cooked spaghetti bolognese à la Kari.

Went for an evening stroll with Georg. Saw the Southern Cross again and another train (goods). Spoke to a NZ couple. They said that spring is not usually a good time to visit NZ. The weather is very unpredictable, but these last two years have been different - straight from winter to summer and drought. Bad for the farmers.

From Turangi, I wanted to change the original plan of going south to Wanganui to going west to Taumarunui and on through some wilderness to Stratford on the slopes of Mt Egmont. In the end, caution won the day and we headed for National Park village, about 50 km and lots of uphill away.

As expected, the first climb to Te Ponanga Saddle, at 740 m with some 360 m of elevation gain, was the worst. It was steep and unrelenting. After that there was a steep downhill to skirt around Lake Rotoaira. The remaining 30 km were generally uphill, but not very steep, and with good views to the volcanoes of Tongariro, 1967 m, Ngauruhoe, 2291 m, and Ruapehu, 2797 m, away to the left. The vegetation has become scrub, so it's possible to get distant views. Unfortunately the summits were in cloud, but the views were very good despite that.

We were hoping for a café along the way, but were disappointed, so we had to make do with a beer and peanuts out of a pannier. On reaching National Park, we had our standard snack of a meat pie and flat white. At one point I trailed behind the others after taking a couple of photos, and I am pretty sure that I was threatened by a bird. Presumably it was one of the NZ magpies that one is warned about in PP.

Prices in National Park seem rather high. Our motel, Howard's Lodge Motel, is charging us NZ$ 140 for a very small family room. I must admit, though, that the communal kitchen and lounge are excellent. However, we've become rather used to having cooking facilities and a private fridge in our own room for less money.

Saturday, 4th December


0 km

National Park


13.0 km

Makatote viaduct


36.0 km



64.2 km



76.4 km



84.0 km

Kauika Camp Site, Ranana

85.3 km

After a trip round the village

Rose at 07:00, made breakfast, and pedalled off. The first 34 km were superb - mainly downhill. The air temperature was fresh but already a cloudless sky. Superb view of Mt Ruapehu and later of Mt Egmont.

Arrived in Raetihi, where we hoped to have a cold beer and pie. But the restaurant didn't smell very nice - old oil - so we found another "shop" which also sold pies and ice cream. I think that it was run by Japanese.

Raetihi is a forsaken town looking like something out of a "Western" - lots of shops were empty. The Information Office told us that there were camping sites and a convent where one could stay. She rang for us, but we were informed that it was full. So, camping for the first time.

The road, known as "River Road" is beautiful. Scenic and steadily rolling downhill with a few climbs. It was mainly a gravel road, which at times required full concentration - it was tough going, especially with the sun pelting down on us. The valley at first was narrow, making it very hot.

We called in at the convent to see if they really were full, but no one was around except two young girls, who told us that everyone was sleeping. So we pedalled on to the next camp-site, which was only another 7 km. It was fine. The loo and showers were clean, the grass newly mown, and a tree giving shade. After a cup of tea and a shower one is almost back to normal. Supper will be from a packet - which turned out to be very good.

This was, as expected, a beautiful day, made even better by fantastic blue skies all day. The first 36 km to Raetihi flew by since the road was mainly downhill. Raetihi looks like something out of an American western. We wanted to try to book rooms in the convent in Jerusalem on the Whanganui River Road, but we were a few minutes too early for the tourist office, so we tried to find a café for coffee and pie.

They were all closed except one, and that didn't smell very nice, so we ended up with a take-away meat pie and instant coffee from a store run by a Chinese family, and consumed it on the pavement outside. They had very good ice cream for afters.

The lady in the tourist office phoned the convent for us, but they were fully booked with a group. Nevertheless, we set off down the road to Pipiriki and the Whanganui River Road. It went well until it turned into a rather poorly maintained gravel road. We soldiered on, though, broke the 50 km barrier before noon, and soon reached Pipiriki and a very nice, cold ginger beer.

The River Road was also poorly maintained gravel with a big climb on it too. It was also frightfully hot. We reached Jerusalem and the convent, but only a couple of young girls were awake; the adults appeared to be having a siesta, so we couldn't ask again to see if they were really full or not. The convent church is very well worth a visit.

The next possible accommodation was Kauika Camp Site in Ranana, a village also known as London! This proved to be open, deserted, clean, and beautifully situated. We stopped for the night, and had a freeze-dried meal for supper, which I had, with foresight, bought last night in National Park. The camp warden sold us some milk and eggs, there being no shops along the River Road.

The evening chorus from the birds was fantastic. Tomorrow, if all goes well, we should reach Wanganui, and be able to get a bus to Wellington. By the way, today was almost a disaster when Georg's sprung saddle fell apart in Raetihi. Fortunately I was at hand to fix it!

Sunday, 5th December


0 km



22.1 km

DOC camp-site, Otumaire


43.8 km

Aramoana Saddle


46.6 km

Junction with SH4


62.8 km



71.9 km

Bus to Wellington

Slept well in the tent - got up early - had our usual breakfast of soaked muesli - missed the fresh fruit. Also had scrambled eggs, which we bought from the camp-site owners. Then pedalled. It was cloudy, made cycling good - still up and down, but mainly down. Passed the next camp-site, which was miserable compared to ours, but then it was free! The last climb over the ridge (to join the main road again) was not as tough as expected. We met two Swiss girls at the top - they were working on a farm. Georg took a fancy to them.

Cycled into Wanganui - took forever to find the Tourist Info (which had moved) and the bus station, which was marked incorrectly on our map. The Tourist Info told us that there was a bus right through to Wellington. Whilst waiting we had a beer and some fish and chips.

The bus driver said he had room for three bikes. He was very obliging and made room for us - so off we went - it was too good to be true.

Whilst driving along David found a suitable motel in Wellington from LP, which he phoned when we were at Palmerston North, where there was a 45 min break. They had room for us - it was a great relief that we didn't have to look for a motel late at night.

Wellington was very windy. Sometimes I felt out of control of my bike. The weather forecast is for showers.

We had an undisturbed night with a wonderful starlit sky for those that had to venture out of the tent in the night. At 03:30 I think that the whole of Orion, standing on his head, was visible, as well as the Milky Way. Kari and Georg had pointed out the Southern Cross before going to bed. It was very disappointing.

We had a nice muesli and some scrambled egg for breakfast, then hit the road south. Fortunately there was no more gravel to contend with, so we made steady, if not fast, progress. My legs felt weary, probably because of not sleeping as well as usual in the tent, but also due to a deficient evening meal.

On reaching the DOC camp-site at Otumaire, we stopped to make a coffee, and also to congratulate ourselves for having stopped at Ranana the previous night. The DOC site might have been free, but the only facilities were water and a miserable loo.

We pottered along enjoying the scenery along the river, but knowing that a big hill awaited us to get out of the Whanganui valley and back onto SH4. The climb, when it came, wasn't all that bad, a mere 150 m in 2 or 3 km.

The final 14 km on SH4 were level but tough due to a head wind. At Upokongaro, just before Wanganui, we came across a tiny Sunday market, where we could get coffee and cakes.

In Wanganui, we had a struggle to find out about buses to Wellington. Both the bus station and tourist office had moved. In the end, we had a couple of hours to kill before knowing if we could get on the bus at 16:30. We had fish and chips in a Chinese restaurant whilst waiting.

We managed to get on the bus and, during a 30 minute break in Palmerston North, could make a reservation at the Halswell Lodge Motel in Wellington for when we were to arrive at 20:20. It all worked out very well. It was blowing a gale in Wellington, living up to its reputation of "Windy Welly".

Monday, 6th December

Started the day by doing a load of washing, and then tumble-dried it. The whole thing took just over an hour.

Then went shopping for maps and Pedallers' Paradise South Island, which took a long time to find. After finding the ferry terminal for tomorrow, we decided to go on the 13:00 crossing and not the 08:00 to make it more leisurely tomorrow.

Then we "did" Wellington. We started in the Houses of Parliament - they were just starting a guided tour so we tagged on. It was very interesting and our guide was good. Government buildings always seem to be "plush". The building had been made earthquake proof - the technology, not to mention the cost, was impressive.

Had a sandwich for lunch then continued sightseeing. Took the cable car up the hill to the Botanical Gardens. They were very good, but it was hard work, because everything was on a steep hill. After walking down to the motel, we had a beer and did a bit of shopping and rested before going out for an evening meal - turned out to be another Chinese. I thought it was good. There was a party of school teachers having their end of term treat.

This was a day of being simple tourists. After a quick walk to the supermarket to get the essentials for breakfast, eating half of them, and doing a load of washing in the motel laundry, we set off into town by foot.

First of all I wanted to buy the South Island edition of Pedallers' Paradise, and a better map of S Island. It entailed a bit of walking to find bookshops. We eventually got both items. The PP turned out to be much cheaper (NZ$ 15) than getting it through Amazon (GBP 13.93, including postage). The map selection was not very good. The scale of the map that I bought is 1:1'000'000, i.e. very small for cycling.

The next port of call was the Bluebridge ferry terminal near the railway station to get tickets for tomorrow to Picton on S Island, before starting on the LP recommended pedestrian tourist tour through central Wellington.

This started at the Houses of Parliament with its "Beehive" annexe. We were just there at the right time to tag on to a tour group. We spent an hour on a guided tour of the building with a very good guide. It's a typical expensive, no-expenses-spared, government building - very nicely done. It has been elaborately made earthquake proof by cutting a complete horizontal slice through its foundations and putting spring-like pads into the gap. That was also not the cheapest of engineering undertakings.

From there we wandered down the Wellington equivalent of Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse, having a coffee and sandwich on the way, ending up at the old cable railway up to the top end of the Botanic Gardens. The gardens were fascinating and very hilly. We spent a long time there and, by the time that we had finished, we decided that we'd had enough, so stopped for a beer overlooking Courtney Place on the way back to the hotel.

The evening meal was a set menu in a Chinese restaurant. It was very good, but too big, as usual.

Tuesday, 7th December

Had a huge breakfast - bacon, scrambled eggs, crumpets, and muesli. We left out the crumpets! Then tried to find the Tourist Info - we found it, but it had been temporarily re-housed. We wanted to check on buses from Picton to Hamilton. We still had time to kill, so we went into the museum - all the school children seemed to be there too - must have been end of term treat.

Went to the ferry terminal at the allotted time of 12:15 for the 13:00 crossing, only to be told that the ferry would be 40 mins late!

We had to be at the ferry terminal for 12:00 to check-in for the ferry to Picton, so that left us a morning to fill. We started with a nice bacon and scrambled egg breakfast in our hotel room, then visited the Te Papa museum for a couple of hours. It was very good. They had a small exhibition of pottery by Peter Stichbury, a NZ potter, which Kathryn would have liked to see.

The ferry should have left at 13:00, but it's now 14:05 and we're still waiting for it to finish loading. Perhaps it's late because of a rough crossing!


0 km



6.5 km

Tourist Court Motel, Picton

The ferry was an old bucket! Doors out onto the deck reminded me of the Fred Olsen Blenheim and Bremar ships of the 1950's. The most comfortable seats were those set up for the cinema. Sheep were also being transported. They were rather tightly packed. Maybe they were being taken to the Canterbury Plains for fattening up!

The crossing was a lot calmer than I had feared. We arrived at Picton at 18:00 in grey clouds and occasional drizzle. We decided to stay in Picton - a good decision - we cooked a simple supper of pizza and yoghurt washed down with wine.

The crossing turned out to be not all that rough, but the boat was really long in the tooth and lacking in comfort. Due to the late start, we didn't get to Picton until 18:00, too late to set off on the bicycles. The weather had also turned cold and wet, so we were not filled with enthusiasm anyway. We found a modest motel in the town, the Tourist Court Motel, and baked frozen pizzas for supper. Not that bad, really, especially with a bottle of wine to help them down.

Wednesday, 8th December


0 km



23.8 km



35.6 km

Havelock SH6 junction


64.7 km

Rai Valley

Woke up to rain - showery rain., which is what had been forecast, so it wasn't a surprise. Had another huge breakfast - Georg couldn't manage his, so David finished it off - how he managed to move afterwards is to me a miracle! We spoke to an English couple who were touring NZ, but they were going from south to north. The ride to Rai Valley went well - it was mainly flat, but the showers were rather heavy and frequent.

Picton has a huge logging depot. Logs are transported all over the place resulting in many logging lorries on the road, all driving too fast!

Made it to Rai Valley and found a super bungalow to rent for just NZ$ 70. It was big and dusty, but after vacuum cleaning the place it looked quite smart - the kitchen is huge. Had a take-away fried chicken and wine. It was very cosy with the cheminée alight.

The weather was still cold and damp when we got up, not at all conducive to getting off and away. We had yet another huge breakfast of scrambled egg, muesli and crumpets, and eventually got underway with leg warmers and full rain wear. We took most of it off on the first climb out of the town as we overheated.

There were two climbs getting away from the town to follow the beautiful road along the Marlborough Sound. The second was quite serious. After that, though, the going got easy, and we made good progress through Linkwater to Havelock in the direction of Nelson, despite repeated showers of rain.

At Havelock we joined the SH6 coming from Blenheim with heavy traffic and even heavier trucks. They are very unpleasant and make NZ not so much of a "Pedallers' Paradise".

We know that we have two nasty climbs before getting to Nelson, and that there's not much, if any, accommodation for the last 40 km or so, so we decided to make Rai Valley our goal for the day, despite the feeling that we could have kept going. We found a bungalow to rent for the night for an incredible NZ$ 70. Well, we do have to supply our own bedding, but it's very spacious. The only minor drawback was the lack of raw materials for a self-catered evening meal. The local shop, from which we rented the bungalow, didn't have a very big selection of fresh food. So we settled for a take-away fried chicken and chips meal, helped down with a bottle of NZ wine.

Thursday, 9th December


0 km

Rai Valley


24.2 km

Top of Whangamoa Saddle


48.0 km


48.7 km

Accents on the Park Hostel, Nelson

It was a coolish start to the day, and stayed cool. The cycling day was relatively short, but there was about 600 m of height gain. The first hill was not too bad, and the second hill was very steep towards the summit.

Not so many trucks on the road, but some do tend to come in close and fast. The ride down the other side of Whangamoa Saddle was really cold. It was good to get down to sea level if only to feel a bit warmer.

Nice ride along the cycle tracks to Nelson, where we booked our tickets for tomorrow's coach ride to Murchison. Then changed some travellers' cheques, which took an age, then did some sight seeing. Ended up in the Cathedral, where there was a choir practice going on. Cathedral had some lovely stained-glass windows.

Ate in a restaurant. Weather picked up - sun came out in the late afternoon. Stayed in a backpackers' hostel.

This was not a very hard day because we were psychologically prepared for the two big hills on the way to Nelson. The weather was grey and cold, but more or less dry, and the scenery very green and hilly, but mainly with forestry plantations. There were plenty of finch-like birds around, and tuis calling from the trees.

The long run down from the second highest point, Whangamoa Saddle, at 357 m was very cold, even with leg warmers, a wind cheater, and raincoat, but it warmed up considerably as we approached Nelson. There were no cafés and no accommodation until quite near to Nelson, which is why we had stopped in Rai Valley yesterday.

Because we are taking the bus to Murchison early tomorrow morning, we've decided to stay in a hostel tonight, The Accents on the Park Hostel, rather than splashing out on a more luxurious motel. We'll probably do that in Westport. The hostel, by the way, is to be recommended. Its kitchen facilities are excellent.

The evening meal was in a Greek restaurant. It was very noisy. There are lots of groups in the restaurants these days, presumably offices having their Christmas parties. Kari's menu choice was too spicy for her, so I had hers and she had my moussaka. It was very good.

Friday, 10th December


0 km

Bus to Murchison


1.0 km



16.5 km



51.6 km

Inangahua Junction


93.8 km

Junction with coastal road


99.4 km


100.5 km

Westport Motels, Westport

We got up early and left without breakfast in order to catch the 07:30 bus. Hoped to have coffee whilst waiting, but nothing opened until 08:00. The buses came - two small mini-buses with trailers, one going to Chch, the other to Westport. They drove in convoy to Murchison and then parted. We had two bikes on one bus and one on the other. It was fortunate that we only wanted to go as far as Murchison otherwise we would have been stuck!

Had a very chatty driver - kept on pointing things out for us and told us lots of interesting things.

We pedalled from Murchison all the way to Westport - though mainly downhill it was tough because of the strong head wind. Had some super fish and chips at Inangahua Junction. Georg had nothing, much to David's disgust. It was a very nice valley to cycle down, lovely sights - followed the river all the way. At parts it was very narrow - one vehicle wide, with a button on the traffic lights for cyclists so that they stay green for a bit longer. Hawk's Crag was impressive - the road had been carved out of the rock by hand.

Finally made it to Westport - drizzle the last little bit, i.e. 30 km. Found another good motel. I cooked spaghetti carbonara for supper. It was 22:30 before everything was cleared away.

Today we did another bit of cheating by catching the bus some 130 km to Murchison. Unbeknown to me, this avoided two very hard slogs, the first up to Spooner's Saddle at 464 m and the second up to Hope Saddle at 635 m. The scenery was very spectacular, but really rather monotonous, being hillsides of fir plantations looking like green corduroy.

Since the bus left Nelson at 07:30, we had had no breakfast and so, given the hassle of getting the bikes into or onto the small bus trailers, we were quite hungry by the time that we reached Murchison at about 09:15. Kari and I had a meat pie and chips. Georg had just a coffee. The weather was quite nice, but the sandflies were a bit troublesome.

Our dream goal for the day was to cycle down the Buller River Gorge to Westport, some 95 km away. There were no known hills in the way, so it was feasible. We set off well, and made good speed. The river and its valley are fantastic, a bit like the Hinter-Rhein Gorge, but on a bigger scale.

We were not sure what to expect in the way of refreshments along the way, and feared the worst, but after 50 km we had the nice surprise of finding a store with café at Inangahua Junction. The fish (rig) and chips were very good.

The next find was food and accommodation possibilities after about 70 km in Berlins. But by this time we had the bits between our teeth and decided to hack it through to Westport. It got cold and started raining as we got to the coast. In the end, it was 100 km to Westport; another case of NZ km being longer than European km!

We found a very nice motel, Westport Motels, shopped for a spaghetti carbonara supper, cooked it, ate it, and called it a day. It's been pouring down this evening.

Oh, I forgot to mention the wind. It got quite strong during the afternoon, and was against us. It added to the effort required over the final kilometres to get to Westport.

Saturday, 11th December


0 km



15.0 km

Cape Foulwind


21.4 km

Seal colony

25.2 km

Junction with SH6


49.9 km



83.5 km

Punakaiki Beach Camp

86.6 km

Pancake rocks and back again

Woke up to rain; had a very slow start. First went to Cape Foulwind to a lighthouse - it was about 20 km of tough going - head wind most of the way. Then went to seal colony - lots of fur seals and rough seas.

After this 25 km detour, we finally started on our way to Punakaiki, another 58 km. The terrain wasn't too bad, but the head wind made it very tough going. There was always the possibility of stopping before getting to Punakaiki, but there was no good opportunity. We arrived at Punakaiki at 17:30, having fought against wind and rain all day.

There is a limestone rock formation called "Pancake Rocks". They were fascinating formations, and they really looked like a pile of pancakes.

We got a cabin at the camp-site and had supper at the hotel nearby.

At last we know what wind and what rain/drizzle mean. It apparently rained torrents in the night, though I didn't hear it, and it was still raining when we got up. By the time that we were ready to leave, though, it had more or less stopped.

We started with a short visit to the town centre, which is quite nice, and then set off to the south with our sights set on Tauranga Bay with its seal colony as the first target. It was a head wind and, as usual, much further than expected, some 20 km with a detour to the lighthouse at Cape Foulwind and back. The wind was certainly foul, but the seals were at home for us when we finally reached Tauranga Bay.

There followed a long link road back to the main SH6 from Westport to Greymouth. The loop to the seal colony probably added some 15 km to our journey, which we could well have done without given the conditions.

We were for ever battling into the wind with occasional belts of drizzly rain causing us to stop and wrap up. The km crawled by despite the stunning coastal scenery with huge breakers. It wasn't actually that cold, especially when the sun shone, but we saw no surfers in the sea all day, despite it being a weekend. Perhaps it was too rough to surf.

In Charleston we managed to find shelter from the wind together with a bit of sun to eat a boiled egg with some cheese, and have a beer. That was our only sustenance all day. The only café that we passed was 400 m off the road - too far!

Eventually we got to our goal of Punakaiki, where the Pancake Rocks are located. We slummed it in a simple hut at the Punakaiki Beach Camp. We'll compensate in Greymouth tomorrow.

We dumped our bags, and went off to visit Pancake Rocks straightaway, because the weather was fine. They are very impressive and quite unusual the way that they have weathered. The visit was followed by showers and a pub supper.

By the way, we clocked up 1000 km today.

Sunday, 12th December


0 km



23.6 km

Time for morning tea


46.0 km

Breeze Motel, Greymouth

54.5 km

After cycling around the town

Had a cup of coffee and a granola bar before setting off up the hill to the café at the top for a proper breakfast of sandwiches and half a muffin. Muffins are solid; it took a lot of getting down. I don't think that I'll have any more.

We followed the coastal road, which was relatively easy, not many hills (and those were small). Stopped after about 20 km to brew up a cup of tea. Coastline is very rugged and wild - no surfers. Stopped for an ice cream at Runanga, an old coal mining town. Made it to Greymouth with plenty of time to find a motel and get a load of washing done. It was a very good drying day and in no time at all it was dry.

Originally we had decided to have a rest day here but, on looking round Greymouth, there was not that much to see that one could get to easily on bikes. As we hadn't paid the motel yet (the owner wanted cash), it was fortunately not too difficult to change our plans. Later we went into town to get some fruit and milk for breakfast, and had a look round at the various restaurants - we ended up in an Irish pub with good food.

After the struggles of yesterday, the prospect of just 45 km or so to Greymouth was very cheering, especially as we had to leave our camp-site without breakfast. We hadn't been able to buy our usual muesli and milk the previous night. However, at the top of the first short climb by Pancake Rocks, the café was open and served good flat whites and meat pies. The muffins were a bit heavy though.

The cycling was easy. The wind had dropped, or changed direction, and the hills were very moderate. After 20 km, i.e. about half way, we found, with difficulty, a spot where we could get down to the beach to brew up a cup of tea. The coastline was uniformly spectacular with rocky headlands, beaches, and lots of breakers. There was a constant haze of spray rising from the sea.

We stopped just before Greymouth in Runanga for a huge, "single-scoop" ice cream. They make superb ice cream in NZ, and are very generous with the portions. That helped us for the final stretch into Greymouth, where we found a motel, The Breeze Motel. Our choice was OK, but not conducive to spending two nights here, as we had originally planned. At least we got a big load of laundry washed and dried in the afternoon. We had another pub meal for supper; I was disappointed with my choice again, though it was a lot cheaper than last night.

Monday, 13th December


0 km



17.7 km

Kumara Junction


39.9 km



67.2 km



89.8 km



113.2 km

Flaxbush Motels, Harihari

Woke up to rain, but it stopped relatively soon and best of all was that the wind was directly behind us - what bliss! The first 67 km were a dream - never have so many km been covered so easily. In Hokitika we had a break for coffee and sandwich, and also bought some jade jewellery whilst Georg bought some insect cream.

On reaching Ross we had a picnic lunch of beer, cheese and biscuits in a bus shelter. Then the weather changed to rain, and it rained lighter or heavier for the next 46 km. Stopped for a coffee at Pukekura. It was a fantastic café - sold possum furs. They are really soft and warm. But the possum, introduced from Australia, is a pest. They attack the kiwis, which are in danger of becoming extinct.

Despite being so wet we decided, as it was still relatively early, to go on another 23 km to Harihari, where we arrived like drowned rats. We checked in at the only motel. It was spacious, but could have been better equipped for wet cyclists - but beggars can't be choosers. We shopped at the only store, where we found the bare necessities for a spaghetti bolognese, which Georg cooked. It came out very well considering that the meat was still frozen, and there wasn't much in the way of extras. I only hope that we dry out enough over night. It's still raining, but then this is a rain forest area.

This could well have been a break-through day on our way south to Wanaka. After our usual muesli breakfast, this time followed up with cream crackers, butter and cheese, and after a night of torrential rain, we set off in rain togs with the wind behind us.

We soon stripped off, and sped along the level road to Hokitika covering 40 km in 1hr 45mins. Hokitika seems to be a prospering tourist town, but all towns here look basically very similar, like an American mid-west town. The coffee and pie were excellent, and so on to Ross, after buying Kari some earrings and a pendant.

Again we averaged well over 20 kph for the 27 km, and stopped there in a bus shelter for beer, cream crackers and cheese as it was starting to rain.

It didn't stop so, after our daily, very-good-value, ice cream cornet, we set off for a possible destination for the day, Pukekura. It rained all the way, was a bit more hilly than heretofore, but not seriously so, so that we still felt capable of a few more km before calling it a day. But first we had a long break in the Bushmans' Centre, a very strange café where they once used to serve possum pie (now forbidden), and where all the seats are covered in possum fur. By the way, I don't think that I've ever seen so many dead animals on the road as one sees in NZ.

The last 23 km to Harihari were again in constant heavy rain so that, on reaching the village, we turned in to the first motel, Flaxbush Motels, and got a very reasonable room, though it was rather challenged by our mass of wet clothing. Georg cooked us a very nice spaghetti bolognese with minced lamb for evening meal. Tomorrow we hope to reach Franz Josef, but it would be nice if it stopped raining first.

Oh yes, I must mention the adrenaline surge of the day. Somewhere between Greymouth and Hokitika, we had to cross a road/rail bridge. The road surface was old wooden slats, long-wise on, with nasty gaps between them and very slippy. We all had our hearts in our mouths as we cycled over. Next time we would get off and push.

Tuesday, 14th December


0 km



32.6 km



64.6 km

Franz Josef

65.1 km

Terrace Motel, Franz Josef

Woke up to overcast skies and slight drizzle. Had a leisurely breakfast and packing of things together after trying to dry out last night. Set off on a shorter and easier (only one hill of 200 m) day's ride. The wind had changed direction, but wasn't very strong. After a while, the drizzle stopped, i.e. when we came down out of the fog, it slowly started to improve.

When we reached Whataroa after 30 km, the sun was shining. Had a coffee and fish and chips - couldn't manage all the chips. They were on the dry side, and too many of them. It was strange cycling through the rain forest, seeing sub-tropical plants, and high up the glacier!

Made it to Franz Josef Glacier, passing by two lakes. F.J.G was very touristy and noisy - helicopter flights. Found a super motel and spent a long time drying out clothes and bags.

Georg cooked a delicious supper of fried onions with mushrooms, ham, and boiled potatoes, then sliced and fried - all mixed together, with a fried egg on top. It was good, but he insists on boiling the potatoes whole and with their skins on, making it a very long time until they are cooked!

Today's goal of Franz Josef was very modest. We knew that we had to get over Mt Hercules but, according to PP, it was only 185 m of elevation gain at most, a mere bagatelle. The real questions were whether the rain had stopped, and whether the wind had changed direction.

Despite our best efforts, we had not totally managed to dry out overnight. The motel's drying facilities were a bit below par. It started off drizzly and grey, and the slight wind that there was was against us. Progress was relatively slow compared with yesterday and, as we climbed Mt Hercules, it really began to get quite damp, nearly enough to don rain wear, but not quite.

The climb was really quite short and, down the other side, the weather improved significantly. By the time we reached Whataroa and the half-way point for the day, it was nice and warm and sunny. We dried out beautifully over a disappointing fish and chips. The remaining 30 odd km to Franz Josef were not particularly strenuous. The road wound around a lot over glacial rivers, so the wind wasn't always against us.

The scenery is either farm land or rain forest. After yesterday's rain, all the creeks were full, and the undergrowth was dripping. The forest is really dense. It makes one wonder how the early settlers ever managed to penetrate into the country.

Franz Josef and its receding glacier were, as expected, tourism pure. The helicopter noise on fine days like today is dreadful. However, we found a very spacious motel room in the Terrace Motel for a very reasonable price, considering the tourist nature of the village, and Georg cooked us a very tasty fried potato and bacon dish with fried egg on top for supper.

We went to the shop to buy a magnum (we couldn't find a "single-scoop" at that time of the evening) afterwards, and to enjoy the sunset over the mountains. As the evening has worn on, the clouds have gradually dispersed so that now, at 22:00, it is almost cloudless with half-moon, and the stars are coming out.

Wednesday, 15th December


0 km

Franz Josef, 140 m


9.2 km

Omoera Saddle, 320 m


14.2 km

Waikukupa Saddle, 405 m


20.3 km

Cook Saddle, 410 m


24.5 km

Fox Glacier I

12:00 - 13:15

28.4 km

Fox Glacier II


64.5 km

Pine Grove Motel, Jacobs River

76.0 km

After twice to Hunts Beach and back

Woke up to a blue sky. After bacon, eggs and crumpets we set off up over three passes - a little more than 500 m height gain. It was tough going - one part was steep enough to push. The vegetation is still rain forest. In Fox Glacier we made a detour to see Mt Cook - it looked impressive and very high. Landscape is a bit like Tessin - steep mountains and densely covered vegetation.

It was early when we got there, so we enquired at the Info Office about accommodation further along the road - there was, about 30 km away. We set off to Pine Lodge, which is in the middle of nowhere - it'll be interesting to see if any tourists turn up later.

David and Georg went to investigate the beach - said it was fantastic - large breakers but didn't do any swimming - Hunt's Beach. Supper was a frozen lasagna - it was good but not enough. Fortunately Carol, the lodge owner, had had a delivery and we were able to supplement it with some pasta and sauce.

After supper we all went back to Hunt's Beach and had a bonfire of drift wood. It was very peaceful. There was a settlement there but no lights were on, and two dogs were on guard. One had only three legs. The other, a collie, was very friendly and waited patiently to be played with.

The only other guests who turned up were two Belgian backpackers - hitch-hiking.

This was an absolutely fantastic day, although Kari found it hard because of the hills in the morning. The weather was beautiful all day, and the winds light.

The priority of the day was to get to Fox Glacier, a mere 25 km away, but with three severe passes to get over, and a total of some 500 m elevation gain, no trivial undertaking. The last pass was the worst because of its steepness; otherwise it was just a question of grinding one's way up. The scenery, as everywhere around here, was spectacular.

At Fox Glacier we turned off to go to Lake Matheson to see the classic view of Mt Cook. After 2 km we looked around and there were Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in all their glory. We took the obligatory photos and turned back to Fox Glacier.

The question was then whether we should stop in Fox Glacier or go on. I wanted to go on to make it easier to reach Haast tomorrow, but it all depended on accommodation being available. We went to the Information Centre, and the man there was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. He phoned the Pine Grove Motel at Jacobs River for us, and we booked a suite, which turned out to be fantastic.

We had a beer, bought and ate a meat pie and ice cream in front of the store, and bought some frozen, oven-ready lasagna for evening meal, before hitting the road for the remaining 35 km to the motel. It went quite easily with rolling countryside and views across the Fox River flood plain.

As I said, the motel turned out to be super. Kari was feeling a bit weary, so she just stayed there and showered. Georg and I cycled the 3 km to Hunts Beach, and had an exhilarating bathe in the Tasman Sea. A sheepdog befriended us on the beach.

The frozen meals, although good, turned out to be too small, so Georg and Kari bought some penne and a jar of bolognese sauce from the motel's tiny store to supplement it. We then went off to the beach again to enjoy our beers in front of a nice bonfire as it slowly grew dark. There were, of course, sandflies around.

Thursday, 16th December


0 km

Pine Grove Motel, Jacobs River


28.2 km

Salmon Farm, Paringa River


37.2 km

Lake Paringa


61.2 km

Knights Point


85.9 km

Haast River

90.0 km

Wilderness Hostel, Haast

Overcast day - ideal for cycling. Made an earlier start, i.e. 09:00 instead of 09:30. Took me ages to get going in spite of the very easy first part - flattish and practically no wind. Was still exhausted from the tough ride over the three passes from yesterday. Stopped for coffee and cake after 30 km at the Paringa River crossing - they bred salmon. Cycled on to Lake Moeraki, where we hoped to find somewhere for lunch - there was nothing! Made it up to Knights Point - super view along the coast. Then onto Ships Creek - went up a look-out tower (away from the sand flies) and saw lots of what could have been dolphins - no one was bathing. Got to Haast - very wide river basin - only about 250 local residents, the rest is made up of motels. We found a super one - we used the backpacker section for cooking as our kitchen only had a microwave. Had a beautiful conservatory with fern plants and yuccas - drank too much beer there when we arrived!

I don't really have much to report about today's stretch. We knew that we had to do 85 km or so, that the last 30 km or so would be the worst, but not too bad, and that there wouldn't be many cafés along the way.

Kari had a hard time getting going, but after a stop at the Salmon Farm Café at the Paringa River crossing, things got better for her.

At Ships Creek, a little south of Knights Point, we stopped to admire the views of the coast from a small observation tower, and to be eaten alive by the sandflies. From the tower we were able to see the dorsal fins of dolphins quite close to the shore.

Haast River is an enormously wide gravel flood plain with a 200 m or so single track bridge across it. Haast itself is a very dispersed community, where we ended up with a nice suite, but with only basic cooking facilities, in the Wilderness Backpackers Hostel. Georg again did us proud with a penne and corned-beef sauce concoction, which he prepared in the backpackers' kitchen.

My estimate by eye was clearly not very good. I've just looked up Haast River on Google and the bridge is apparently 737 m long!

Friday, 17th December


0 km



51.0 km

Thunder Creek Falls


61.7 km

Haast Pass


80.5 km

Wilderness Resort, Makarora

Woke up to rain - heavy rain. Planned to set off at 09:00 but it was throwing it down. Waited 30 mins and had a coffee before setting off. Then came the first shock - the wind, which according to the forecast should have helped us, was against us! But David managed to set the pace very well and led most of the way. Once we reached the shelter of the forest the wind wasn't so bad. Lots of scenic walks and waterfalls off to the side of the road - we visited one, just before the climb up to the pass - it looked good, reminded me of Twin Falls in the Canadian Rockies. All the waterfalls and creeks were impressive.

The first part of the climb up the pass was steep - had to push for quite a way. Met two German cyclists coming down the pass; they gave us the encouraging news that it wasn't steep for much longer.

Scenery was impressive - clouds low over the mountains. Arrived at Makarora more drenched than in Harihari - will we dry out? Once again, the shortcomings of a place show up when one has to dry out - no coat hangers. David told them at the reception that he thought the cabin was overpriced for the facilities provided - she agreed and gave a NZ$ 20 reduction. Supper was good - we had it in a restaurant.

We did the whole stretch of 80 km on only two stops for half a Mars bar at each stop. At the first one, a Russian tourist turned up in a car. We thought he was offering help, but he only wanted to take a photo of the mad people who cycle through the wilderness when it's raining cats and dogs!

It poured down all night, as forecast, and it was still pouring down at breakfast. The forecast was for rain all day for all of NZ, with rain warnings for the Nelson area, where 140 mm of rain were expected.

We delayed leaving until 09:30 by having another cup of coffee after we were all packed up, but it was still raining when we left. We were expecting a tough day, and we were not left wanting.

The first 40 km were east along the flood plain of the Haast River, with a head wind. From the weather forecast, we had been expecting a tail wind! Fortunately, it was only the first 10 km which were bad, before the valley got deep enough to give us some shelter from the wind. It rained hard and incessantly.

The road then turned south, still following the Haast River, but with no more wind. We knew that the Haast Pass at 563 m was waiting for us, and eventually the road started to climb after Thunder Creek Falls. It got so steep that we were all reduced to pushing for about a km. It was punishing. Fortunately it eased off to being simply steep, so we were able to cycle again. We were wet drips long before we reached the pass.

From there it was a relatively easy 18 km to Makarora. There was nothing apart from a couple of basic DOC camp-sites for the whole 80 km from Haast to Makarora, and there will again be nothing for the first 60 km tomorrow. Hence the prices are rather extortionate here, the Makarora Wilderness Resort, definitely not in keeping with what we have become used to. Let's see what their restaurant has in the way of a menu tonight. By the way, the sandflies have become rather troublesome for the last 3 or 4 days.

Well, the evening meal wasn't bad - fish and chips in a basket with a plate of salad. Better than expected! I must send a note to LP about the exorbitant prices here, and that the Pine Lodge Motel is underrated in their book.

Saturday, 18th December


0 km



26.0 km

The Neck, 405 m


49.4 km

Lake Hawea Dam


64.7 km

Archway Motels, Wanaka

68.5 km

After a trip into town and back

Set off after a meagre breakfast of weetabix. The motel had a very limited shop but a very good restaurant. So the idea was that everyone should eat there. One km down the road was a café with cake and sandwiches. It was run by three couples, one of whom we spoke to described himself as a "grey gypsy", i.e. always travelling since the children left home. He thinks that the New Zealanders are better at lateral thinking than the westerners, who think that a good education is important. Maybe he has a point.

Anyway, the cycle ride was really good - the wind blew us almost all the way and the views were splendid. The vegetation has definitely changed - not so tropical. Silver birches and willows are around - could be Norway but there are not many fir trees. It was nice to be travelling next to a lake.

Met a group of Swiss who were doing an organised cycle trip - felt very superior to them! We made it to Wanaka, where all the cyclists seem to have congregated - since we've been in NZ we've only seen the odd one or two, then suddenly they are all here.

Wanaka is beautiful - found a very good motel. The couple in the next chalet were Swiss and Dutch - they invited us over for dessert and wine. Their style of travelling was the opposite of ours, i.e. a big SUV and going on these tourist flights. But it was a pleasant evening.

Because of the tail wind and fine weather, this was a relatively easy and short day. As usual there were some steep climbs, but they were all quite short.

It was trying to drizzle as we left the Makarora motel on a rather sub-standard breakfast of 4 weetabix with hot milk, and a few dry crackers with cheese. We therefore stopped after a mere 5 km when we reached Makarora proper. Our motel was apparently in Makarora west. The total population is only about 70!

The couple running the café that morning were ex-pats of long standing, and he enjoyed chatting to us about cycling for quite a long time. We left in a bit of a hurry as it looked as though the drizzle was going to catch us up.

It stayed fine, and we were soon cruising along the left bank of Lake Wanaka. After 15 km, the road climbed over a small isthmus, "The Neck", to Lake Hawea, which we followed to the dam at its southern end. After some sustenance of ginger beer and crisps bought in a garage, the village of Lake Hawea being a little too far off our route for us to visit, we easily coped with the last 15 km to Wanaka, where we intend to have a rest day tomorrow,

Georg had more luggage rack trouble. This time the two bolts holding his rear carrier sheared off. Fortunately the bike shop in town was able to fit new ones.

Sunday, 19th December     Rest Day in Wanaka

A rest day - very much needed. What a delight to have a lie-in until after 08:00. Everything was in slow motion - breakfast outside, then clearing away the washing, and generally tidying up. We all wandered to The Tourist Info, and Georg found a trip to go on. David and I went back and had sausages for lunch - remind me not to have sausages again! Had a snooze whilst David went on the Internet. We found out that it's going to be problematical to get back to Dunedin by bus with three bikes. So there was a big discussion as to how best to do it. We will start by doing the Otago Rail Trail, and most likely leave it before its end. Had supper in Wanaka - the boys had pizza, I had lasagna. It was good.

Later we are going to a carol service - it was good - not many in the congregation, big choir made up from two church choirs - the organist played at a tempo which would have made Vicky say "a roaring rate" - but it still brought tears to my eyes. Christmas away from home is not quite the same.

After we had had a barbecue at the motel last night, we were invited round for dessert and drinks by a Swiss couple in the neighbouring motel unit, so it was a late night and late morning. We just pottered around most of the day, looking around a market, and buying a couple of kiwi prints as presents for the children.

Georg went for a trip on Lake Wanaka in the afternoon, we ate out at a pizza restaurant for supper, and went to a very high-speed Christmas service of 9 lessons and carols in the Wanaka Presbyterian church.

The problem of actually getting to Chch in a week's time started to worry me today. I had some Internet time, and found that there are no passenger trains south of Chch, and the Tourist Information Office couldn't book us a bus from Dunedin to Chch with bicycles. My colleagues have mutinied at the idea of going over Lindis Pass, which would take us in the direction of Chch, because it would almost certainly involve a wild camp. As a result, we head for Clyde tomorrow and the Otago Central Rail Trail, which gets us to the coast, but not particularly close to Chch. I shall try to force some long days to try to have some time in hand to solve the transport problem once we are at the coast.

Monday, 20th December


0 km



44.0 km

Bendigo, Lake Dunstan (coffee)


57.5 km

Junction with road to Cromwell


72.2 km

Champagne picnic spot


79.4 km



87.8 km


89.9 km

Almond Court Motel, Alexandra

96.1 km

After going bathing

After the threatening clouds of yesterday, it was a pleasant surprise to wake up and find the weather overcast but dry. Soon blue patches appeared in the sky, but the best of all was the tail wind - it hadn't blown itself out. The ride to Cromwell was very picturesque and the traffic wasn't too bad. David had noticed a short cut at Tarras junction - it was a dirt road but very good and saved us 5 km. Every km counts in this game.

There being no café at Cromwell junction (Cromwell being on the other side of the river), we continued on to Clyde. Once again the vegetation has changed - almost semi-desert - everything was very barren and parched looking - nothing in-between towns, just like the wilderness.

Just before Clyde we stopped to look at the dam - very impressive. Had a beer in a very oldy-worldy pub in Clyde - it could have come straight out of the Wild West - it even had a picture of a stage coach. From Clyde we continued along the old rail track, which has been turned into the Otago Central Rail Trail. It was built at the time of the gold rush. It was a dirt track, but straight and flat - could really imagine what it was like it its heyday.

We were at Alexandra in next to no time. Found a good motel - too expensive for David's taste (NZ$ 155) but still very good. The men went swimming in the river, I stayed behind and swam in the motel's pool - very refreshing.

For supper, David cooked fish fingers and oven chips - it wasn't bad.

The climatic change is incredible. Just two days of cycling ago we were in rain forest. As we left Makarora on Saturday morning, we were just getting to the end of the rain forest stretching down from Haast Pass. It changed to grassland and grassy-cum-rocky mountains like the area around Andermatt. Today, leaving Wanaka, it seemed to be grassland suffering a drought as far as Cromwell, and from there it has been desert or semi-desert. At least it has got rid of the sandflies. It has also become quite hot.

We've had a tail wind all day without much in the way of severe climbs. As a result we've averaged just over 20 kph.

Just before Luggate we took SH8A towards Tarras, and by-passed Tarras on a gravel road to save about 5 km, which worked out well. The price was no café anywhere for the 80 km to Clyde. We stopped twice to brew up, once with lake water as our tap water was getting low.

In Clyde, and after a welcome beer in the beautiful, old Dunstan House Hotel, we started on the Otago Central Rail Trail. I wanted to do the few km to Alexandra to see what the quality of the gravel would be, since we have possibly 150 km of it. It turns out to be very good.

In Alexandra, which is a much bigger and opulent town than I had expected, we ended up in a slightly more expensive motel than usual, the Almond Grove Motel, with a single almond tree and a small swimming pool. Georg and I, however, went to find a river for a dip, but it turned out to be only a shallow trickle and a rather disappointing bathe. We had to have another dip afterwards at the motel.

For evening meal I tried to make fish fingers and chips. Oven baked chips are really a poor substitute for proper chips, especially if one has no vinegar to put on them.

Tuesday, 21st December


0 km



17.8 km

Chatto Creek


31.2 km



62.0 km



73.5 km

Wedderburn Tavern

Awoke to rain - still raining when we set off. Met other cyclists, who didn't seem to bother with rain wear. After a while the rain stopped, but the wind started up, and what a wind it turned into, all of it either head wind or side wind, with gusts of up to 130 kph. At times we were blown to a stop - it was very blustery, one had to concentrate very hard on the road. Twice I got blown over, once down the embankment and lost my water bottle as a result.

The countryside that the trail went through was beautiful - very wild, bleak and barren - just like the Wild West - could very well imagine the train blowing its whistle now and then. Not many settlements. Had lunch after 30 km at Omakau. It was the first opportunity for refreshments after Alexandra, and the next one didn't come until Oturehua, another 30 km. Stopped for a ginger beer in a shop which has kept its old style - it was a general store but looked like a museum - old tills, telephones, etc. After checking that the next village had a room for us, we cycled the last 12 km to the highest point of the track, and found another oldy-worldy place to rest our weary bones - a very tough day of cycling. It was a pity we had to concentrate so hard on the track and miss the fantastic views. Met quite a few cyclists.

We had a real fight with the weather today. It was raining at breakfast, and the forecast in the paper was for it to clear up around lunchtime, but for it to get gusty from the NW with gusts up to 110 kph! The cycle track was expected to be generally uphill all day too.

We put on our rain wear and set off bravely. It was warm, and we got properly wet. Cyclists coming against us were not wearing waterproofs, just getting wet.

Progress was slow on the wet gravel trail so that it was coffee time when we reached Chatto Creek after 18 km. Georg had wanted to continue to here the previous night, to Kari's horror (and mine). It's good that we didn't, since it was closed. We didn't get a coffee either.

Shortly afterwards, the weather cleared up and the wind started, with a vengeance. It was mainly across us and slightly against us making progress very, very slow and quite dangerous. Kari got blown over twice, losing her water bottle in the commotion the first time. Fortunately no damage was done.

After 30 km we reached Omakau for lunch. The steak pie, although home made, tasted a bit strange - not as nice as I have become used to. Afterwards it was a continual struggle with the wind and ever more depleted water bottles through spectacular country reminiscent of cowboy westerns set in Nevada. Roolburn Gorge with its two tunnels and weathered crags was especially spectacular.

Eventually we reached Oturehua, a possible goal for the day, but within striking distance of the trail's highest point and a turn in the trail from NE to SE, and further accommodation possibilities just 12 km further on in Wedderburn. We decided to phone ahead to reserve a room at the Wedderburn Tavern, and to battle on. The going got much easier, and we were soon cruising down from the highest point to Wedderburn and a well-earned rest. We had a bar meal, which was very good.

By the way, the historical general store in Oturehua, where we stopped for a ginger beer, is an absolute "must-stop-to-visit" tourist attraction. It is a jewel of an old fashioned shop reminding me of shops from my childhood.

Wednesday, 22nd December


0 km



14.3 km



22.7 km



47.7 km



69.0 km

Macraes Flat


103.8 km


104.1 km

Powers Motel, Palmerston

The wind was still blowing, but not quite so strongly as yesterday. Showers were also in the air. We set off, with the wind behind us - can't say how much of a treat that was. We sailed away after a "continental breakfast" to the next café 13.5 km at Ranfurly. Imagine our surprise and disgust when we found out that they only open at 11:00. We were there at 10:00. So we cycled on to the next possibility, which was another 7.5 km. But the place, Waipiata, was so small that we sailed past it without seeing it, so that we went all the way to Hyde, 46 km, before we could have the long yearned for cup of coffee, by which time it was lunch time! Once again the landscape was beautiful, but the trail needed a lot of concentration. Thank goodness the wind was blowing us.

At Hyde we turned off the Trail to go to Macraes Flat, but we got there so quickly (wind help) that we decided to go on to Palmerston. The wind by this time was gathering strength and there were some unpleasant times coming down steep hills with sudden gusts of cross wind. However, we made it safely to Palmerston, where we stayed in the only motel.

Georg and I went shopping and supper was salad and spaghetti bolognese. The men walked up to the top of Palmerston hill afterwards.

Today the wind repaid us for all the struggle that we had had with it yesterday. On the whole the wind had eased, but continued to blow in our direction.

It was raining during breakfast so we donned raincoats before setting off, and soon donned spats as well but, in no time at all, we could take them all off again. The Rail Trail gravel is variable but, on the whole, it's not too bad and certainly OK for a town bike. With the tail wind and the slightly downhill slope we were able to keep up 20 kph most of the time.

We were soon in Ranfurly to find that the café didn't open until 11:00. We continued hopefully but, in the end, we got all the way to Hyde before getting our caffeine fix.

We left the Rail Trail at Hyde to head for the coast at Palmerston via the gold mining town of Macraes Flat. It rained as we had our coffee and snack in Hyde, but had almost stopped by the time that we were ready to leave.

The road to Macraes Flat was tarmac again, quite a treat after two days of gravel, but it also had a long hill. The scenery continued to be super, rather moon-like with rocky outcrops, and it was nice to be able to hear the larks again. There's too much noise from the wheels to hear the birds on gravel roads.

The open-cast gold mining in Macraes Flat has to be seen to be believed. There are eleven levels of digging. Can it really be economical?

We had a nice, well-earned beer in the old tavern in Macraes Flat, and stopped for a brew-up and egg sandwich once we caught sight of the Pacific Ocean. The price was to get a little damp in a shower of rain just before reaching Palmerston.

We found a suite at the Powers Motel and, after home-made spaghetti bolognese, Georg and I climbed up to the McKenzie tower on Puketapu, a cone-shaped hill dominating the town, to watch the sunset.

Thursday, 23rd December


0 km



16.8 km

Katiki Beach

32.0 km



50.0 km



62.5 km


73.2 km

After visiting penguins

23:30 - 03:00

Bus to Templeton, Chch

The previous evening David rang a free phone number to find out about buses to Chch, the result of which we already knew, but we thought we would try in any case. Two different bus companies came by, but neither could take our bikes. So once again we were pedalling, this time against the wind and on the main road. It was tough, but not as tough as on the Rail Trail. The traffic got heavier - it was nice when we turned off onto the coastal road, but the wind was stronger. I really don't know which is the lesser of the two evils, traffic or wind. The countryside was spectacular - sea a bright turquoise blue, but just a little too cold to go for a swim.

At the Tourist Info in Oamaru, an extremely helpful assistant, Ingrid, helped us to book a bus. She managed to get the night bus to take us and all three bikes. They said that they could only take two bikes, and weren't allowed to put a bike inside the bus, but she persuaded them to tie one on top. She was a marvel. David and I were very relieved, Georg gave the impression that he hadn't really understood how tough these last days could be. However, we all felt a lot more human after some food and a freshen up in the swimming pool, and a relaxing time in the park. Later we go to see the yellow-eyed penguins before catching the bus to Chch. Fortunately the weather is good - sunny, no clouds - hope it stays dry, so that we can wrap up a dry tent ... it did stay dry, and what's more, there was no dew!

I'm a bit late writing this diary entry because of the night bus which we caught at the end of the day, but here goes. Basically it was, as I believe the Americans say, a "pay-back" day. All the advantages which we had enjoyed from the tail wind on the previous day on the way to Palmerston had to be repaid. We had a head wind all day. The wind wasn't as strong as two days ago on the way to Wedderburn, i.e. it wasn't particularly dangerous, but it was definitely tiresome. Added to this was the pressure that we were under to do about 300 km to Chch in 6 days at most to catch our flight home.

We started by getting up early, too early in fact, to get ready for the 08:30 InterCity bus to Chch. As seems to be the norm in NZ, it's at the driver's discretion as to whether bicycles get taken or not. This time he said "No". The driver of the Atomic Shuttle bus, 15 minutes later, also said "No", so we had to pedal.

Oamaru was 58 km away with the possibility of another InterCity bus at 15:00. This was our goal with the proviso that, if there was another driver's "No", we must do a further 20 km afterwards to comfortably stay on schedule.

The road was the SH1, with lots of heavy and/or fast traffic - very unpleasant, even with a strip to the left of the white line to cycle on. The going was hard, but not too slow to feel as though one was standing still as it did on the stretch to Wedderburn or on the stretches with long, steep hills.

We met a NZ family of four from Dunedin on two tandems over a coffee and ice cream in Hampden, who were clearly biking fans, and they advised us to take the coastal road after Waianakarua (a place name with 5 "a"s, by the way). This was really beautifully scenic with glorious seascapes, but it did have a few steep climbs and a dreadful head wind. But the lack of traffic compensated enormously.

Eventually, though, we reached Oamaru, and headed for the I-Site tourist office to re-check the bus situation. We had the best possible luck in being served by Ingrid. She phoned up InterCity and Atomic Shuttle to no avail, and then tried the night bus, KnightRider. She moved heaven and earth to get them to take us and three bicycles on their 23:30 bus to Chch. Many thanks, Ingrid.

We had some 8 hours to kill. We went to the swimming pool for a swim, but mainly for a shower and change of clothes; sat in the town park for a while, which is delightful; shopped for a picnic supper; and went to visit the yellow-eyed penguin colony in the evening. This is apparently the time when they return ashore to feed their chicks.

This involved a horrendous push up a steep hill to get to Bushy Beach, and a long wait in a hide eating our picnic waiting for action. In the end, we saw a few penguins a long, long way away. At least they were penguins in their natural habitat.

The return to the town down the steep hill was tense, and there was still 90 minutes to wait for the bus. Eventually it turned up, the bikes and bags were loaded somehow or other, and we set off for Chch. It was a bone-shaking, nerve-wracking journey, fortunately without incident, but reminiscent of our worst bus rides in India.

We were dropped off at a camp-site in Templeton, a suburb of Chch, at 03:00. Ingrid had already phoned the site to warn them of our arrival. It only remained to put up the tents by the light of our inadequate torches and get into bed. It was 04:15 before we were showered and in bed.

Friday, 24th December


0 km

Templeton, Chch


10.0 km

Chch Airport


22.0 km

Ibis Hotel, Chch centre


66.6 km

Alpha Motel, Riccarton, Chch

I managed to sleep on the bus and also at the camp-site, which was very basic for people in tents. After a very late start, 11:30, we cycled to the next shopping centre for breakfast. After which, we first checked out the airport, which is only 10 km out of town. Then we checked out the Hotel Ibis to see if we could stay there two nights instead on one - they wanted too much money, so we found a cheaper motel. Then the fun started.

We had three days to spare. David wanted to go to Banks Peninsula, but all the information in LP and PP said that there was no accommodation where he wanted to go - would he believe me - no! His thinking was that, if a place was on the signpost, something had to be there. Before we got there, we asked someone in Tai Tapu, a town where we were hoping to buy food, if there was any accommodation - there wasn't, and the only shop shut at 15:00. It was now 17:00. So we headed back towards Chch via Lincoln, a town where there was a shop still open, even though it was 6 km off the road, did our shopping, and decided to stay at the first motel on the way back to Chch. There wasn't one until we got practically to the centre of Chch. One of David's better plans!

However, the first motel was very good, and the best part is that we are staying here for three nights! Georg fried the meat for our supper - it was a good meal.

By the time that we were up and packed, it was 11:30. We called in at the nearest shopping centre for a brunch before heading out to the airport to reconnoitre the bicycle-packing problem for next Wednesday. With a tail wind we were there in no time.

From the airport we went into town to find the Ibis hotel, where we have a reservation for next Tuesday, to see if we could extend our stay for a day. When they quoted us NZ$ 280 for the extra night, we declined, and retired to their bar for a beer and to decide how to spend our time in Chch.

We decided to cycle out to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, staying in Motukarara for the night. On the way out of town, we booked into the Addington City Motel for next Monday for a mere NZ$ 160. There's a certain tension in our plans since it's Christmas Day tomorrow and we're not sure what will be open, if anything.

Anyway, we decided to stop at a supermarket to buy food for an evening meal, then continue to find a motel along the way to Akaroa. We wanted to delay shopping as long as possible to reduce the carrying load. As a result, we decided to shop in Tai Tapu, a reasonably sized looking town on the map. Our plans all fell apart when we got to Tai Tapu after a seemingly endless, though not too hard, 16 km to find that it was a hamlet with no shops. After searching the village for someone to talk to, we further discovered that there was going to be nothing much until Akaroa, still 50 km or more away.

We therefore turned through 90°, headed to a New World supermarket in Lincoln, and back towards Chch to find a motel. It was another 15 km from the supermarket to the first accommodation, the Alpha Motel in the suburb of Riccarton. It's very nice though, and we've decided to stay three nights to end our accommodation problems. Georg cooked us a superb rib-eye steak and fried potatoes for supper. We had some NZ-style mince pies for afters.

By the way, according to my cycle computer, we need to do just another 7 km to complete 2000 km in 120 hours of cycling time, giving an average of 16.6 kph.

Saturday, 25th December     Christmas Day

Had a lazy start to the day - did a load of washing. Cycled into the centre and did some sight-seeing. Tried to hire a punt - that was a "no-go". But the punts were of a de-luxe model and looked very new compared to the old battered things at Cambridge. Walked around the Botanical Gardens through which the River Avon runs - it looked just like the "Backs" in Cambridge. Lots of place names come from Britain - it made me feel quite homesick. Then we just ambled around. Had a crêpe for lunch, and came back to the motel for a coffee.

Took the bus out to New Brighton, a suburb of Chch, but no one could tell us for how long the buses would run, it being Christmas Day - one said 22:00, but the timetable said 18:00 - so, just to be on the safe side, we came back on an earlier bus (none of us fancied the 20 km walk back to Chch) thus making our stay there only 20 mins. It has a beautiful beach, stretching a long way, and looked to be very litter-free. One or two people were kite surfing - it looked fun, but not many were on the beach or in the water, the wind being rather strong. Would have liked to stay longer.

Had a Chinese take-away, eaten at the restaurant, for Christmas meal - it was the only restaurant we found that was open. Even the other Asian places were closed.

We did a total of 15 km by bicycle today going into Chch and back.

Christmas Day away from home in a country with an Anglo-Saxon tradition is really not a lot of fun. Everything apart from one or two cafés in the heart of the tourist areas and some oriental establishments is closed.

After breakfast and laundry, we cycled the 5 km from the motel into the city centre. On the way, we passed the punt hire place on the River Avon, and tried to hire a punt. However, they were not self-drive, and since there was no way that anyone from Cambridge would allow themselves to be punted, we abandoned the idea. From there it was a long, slow amble through the Botanical Gardens, which are magnificent, and through the streets around Cathedral Square.

By the time we got around to having our morning coffee, it was too late. The few cafés which were open had switched into "restaurant mode", and were only selling expensive meals, which we didn't want. Eventually, after a Bratwurst from a street stall (Kari had a crêpe), we cycled back to the motel for coffee and toast, and a long afternoon of sitting around and relaxing.

I was hoping to go for a swim in the ocean on Christmas Day, just for the novelty, but it was further than we wanted to cycle. Fortunately, the bus past the motel goes all the way to New Brighton for a NZ$ 3.20 fare. We went to catch it, and had an hour's ride to the sea. Unfortunately it was turned 17:00 by the time that we got there, and the bus timetable said that buses stopped at 18:00 on Christmas Day. The bus driver didn't think so, but we were so unsure that we decided not to risk it. The wind was too cold, despite the sunshine, to really tempt one into the sea, despite its beautiful appearance. We just had a quick walk onto the pier and caught the next bus back to the motel.

Evening meal was the cheapest Christmas meal that I have ever had - NZ$ 32 for three people. The price reflected the quality and ambiance, but we were almost beggars regarding the choice of open restaurants, so we couldn't be choosy. We had the meal sitting at a bare table in a Chinese take-away, whilst there was a continual queue of people waiting to pick up their orders.

We're hoping to rent a car tomorrow (Boxing Day) for two days. I tried via telephone to rent a car this evening, but it was not easy because of it being Christmas Day and tomorrow being a Sunday. We plan to go to the airport in the morning and try to do it over the counter. There's also a motel just up the road offering a buffet breakfast. We're going to give that a try too.

Sunday, 26th December

Woke up at 02:00 to go to the loo. Shortly after felt two earthquakes - low rumble and the bed shook. Felt another smaller one at 08:00. On the way to the airport to see about car hire, there was another at 4.8 on the Richter scale. It damaged a few buildings.

We managed to get a car and, in the end, brought all our bikes back to the motel rather than leave them at the airport. We set off to Banks Peninsula. I'm very pleased that we visited it by car - by bike would have been tougher than tough. It was extremely hilly, and there would have been lots of height metres. We saw a couple riding - she looked exhausted. As we had a car, we drove over to the northern side of the peninsula on the side roads. They were a lot steeper and narrower than the main circuit. Some 15 km of the road was dirt road - very steep, very narrow, very beautiful.

The main town, Akaroa, was quite large, founded by the French, now a holiday resort for sailing.

If David had had his way, and there had been accommodation at Motukarara, and we had tried to do the round trip to Akaroa, I think we would have all died in the attempt, or given up somewhere along the line!

The buffet breakfast was worth its NZ$ 15, and was definitely better than what one gets on a ColorLine ferry for more money. We all cycled out to the airport with full stomachs, and we managed to rent a Toyota Corolla automatic from Budget for about NZ$ 300 for two days. Rather than leaving the bikes locked up at the airport for two days, we managed to get Kari's bike into the car, which I drove back to the motel, and Georg and Kari cycled the other bikes back again. It was only about 8 km with no hills and not much wind. The car outing for the day was to follow the route of our attempted cycle ride to Akaroa and Banks Peninsula.

It was much further, and would have been much harder, than our various guide books had led us to understand though, with hindsight and having studied the books again, the books do describe the route correctly. The problem is really that we have not invested in adequate maps for complicated topographical areas such as the Banks Peninsula.

The drive to Akaroa via the SH75, followed by the hilly and partially gravel road return via the so-called "Summit Road", Pigeon's Bay, Diamond Bay, and the Littleton Tunnel was 191 km, with lots and lots of elevation gain. The gravel section was worthy of the Canadian Yukon. I had a couple of very tense passengers by the time that we got back onto tarmac again at Port Levy.

Our evening meal was a very rich aelpler macaroni by Georg, which was excellent as usual.

During the day there have been 5 earthquakes here in the Chch area. Because of being on the road, we missed the last two, one of which was of strength 4.9, which has caused more damage in the city centre, and has caused some streets and buildings to be cordoned off. The first two earthquakes were at about 02:00. The first had a strength of 4.8 and woke us up. At first, I thought it was Kari tossing and turning until the second one happened a couple of minutes later. A third bump happened whilst sitting at the table having breakfast, but it was only a shudder. Perhaps we should sleep with our clothes on tonight.

Monday, 27th December

Had a trip out to Hanmer Springs, 160 km away. We were being proper tourists. It felt as if we were cheating by not cycling. One really does miss a lot of the countryside being inside a car - no smells, no twittering of birds, no wind to either enjoy or not.

Hanmer Springs was very touristy - we went to the baths - lots of different hot pools, and one to cool off in. Also lots of people - but it was expensive. It was a day out, but marred by the fact that someone damaged the hire car. This has to be sorted out tomorrow with the hire company. Went into Chch for supper. Chch was very dead due to another earthquake, which had damaged quite a few buildings. Fortunately our hotel for tomorrow is still standing - it's most likely got earthquake foundations.

Earthquakes are in everybody's mind here in Chch. We've just (Monday evening at 21:00) come back from the town centre, where we had pizzas in a pub for evening meal. There is damage everywhere. Streets and buildings are cordoned off; there's broken glass and bricks on the streets; and lots of businesses are closed. Almost next to our hotel for tomorrow night, the Ibis on Hereford Street, there's a collapsed house and the road is cordoned off.

This morning, however, we were not aware of the damage so we proceeded as planned. First we had to move motel, but it was only 3 km so it was easy. Then we went off for a day trip in the car to Hanmer Springs, about 130 km to the north on the edge of the mountains, where there is a thermal baths.

The countryside on the way was very like the Wanaka area, parched, steep hills with V-shaped valleys looking like a scene out of a cowboy western.

When we got there, the place turned out to be extremely touristy. We found an Internet terminal and tried to check-in for Wednesday's flight, but the Website wouldn't let us. So, after an ice cream, we went bathing. It wasn't too expensive, NZ$ 13 for OAPs, but it was packed. They were doing really good trade. It was just like Aquarena in Schinznach or the thermal bath in Zurzach in other respects. There was really nothing to do except wallow around in the hot water, and that quickly gets rather dull.

The drive home went well, until we went to the airport to return the car having driven some 270 km today. The car has received a small scuff on a door, which I wanted to have checked by the Budget staff before depositing the car. But it was too late - Chch airport closes down very early in the evening. So I'll have to go back with the car in the morning.

As already mentioned, the choice of places to eat in town is very limited as a result of the earth tremors. We had a modest pub meal. We've managed to reserve our seats on Wednesday's flights from an Internet café in town.

Tuesday, 28th December

Woke up to heavy rain, as forecast. After crumpets for breakfast, David set off to the airport to take the car back - still no one to show the damaged door to, but at least he didn't have to fill in a damage report form, which he was asked to do last night.

Georg and I made our way to the hotel in town between showers, and David came later in the dry. There had been yet another earthquake of strength 4.9 on Boxing Day morning, which we were unaware of because we were cycling at the time. It did a lot of damage to Chch centre. Many areas are closed - big cracks in the buildings.

Did some shopping with our last NZ$ - bought some nice souvenirs. Head off home tomorrow.

This was our last full day in NZ. We only had a few crumpets available for breakfast, and it was pouring down. I then drove to the airport with my bike and all my bags to return the rental car. I missed a turn on the way, so it took longer than it should have. Budget had no one in the car park to certify the state of returned cars, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that everything will be OK.

By the time that I had sorted out and put my bike back together, it had pretty well stopped raining for the cycle ride into town. Georg and Kari were already at the hotel.

After a short rest to get sorted out in our room, we went out for a flat white and something to eat. We parted company with Georg to do some independent souvenir shopping, and to go back to the hotel to sort out our bags for tomorrow.

The more time that one spends in the city centre, the more one notices the damage from the Boxing Day earthquakes. So many buildings are cordoned off, even part of the cathedral. It was still open for visitors, though, and we could climb the tower. There's not much of a view because it's only a mini-cathedral and the surrounding blocks cut off the view.

We went to Bailey's pub/restaurant, which Georg had found on his wanderings, and had the best steak meal of the holiday. We had to go for a walk in the Botanical Gardens afterwards, which were much fresher and alive with scents and bird song since the rain, to help it all settle.

Wednesday, 29th December

We were up at 06:20 for a shower, cup of milk, and a granola bar, before loading up the bikes and cycling the 10 km to the airport. With everything packed into 3 bags rather than 4, it felt a little unbalanced. Fortunately it was sunny, if cool, with a tail wind.

At the airport, we had the performance of trying to pack the bikes without any cardboard boxes. We took off the front wheel, wrapped the back-end as best we could in a roll of rubbish bags and sticky tape, which took us about an hour, and proceeded to check-in. We had to sign a liability release form for any damage. Let's hope that they arrive safely.

Now we just have to sit out the 10 hour flight to Singapore (the plane is a completely full Boeing 777), an 8 hour wait on the ground, and a 13 hour flight to Zurich, to arrive there at 07:30 on Thursday morning.

Our total distance in NZ on the bicycles was 2061 km.

Thursday, 30th December

The 10 hour flight to Singapore passed eventually, and the 8 hours at the airport were spent by having a swim in the airport's swimming pool and by inflating the camping mattresses and having a sleep. The flight to Zurich in an Airbus 380 was also uneventful, and quite empty. The time was whiled away watching in-flight movies and dozing.

Georg was met at the airport by his step-son-in-law, so we didn't have to re-assemble his bicycle completely, only enough to push it through customs.

Our bikes suffered some damage - my front mudguard and Kari's front pannier carriers, but they were good enough to carry our bags to the train, and from Brugg station up to Riniken. We were home for 10:00. There's snow on the ground, and, because of the fog, we didn't see the ground when landing until the plane actually touched down. It was quite amazing.

The End