NZ | Westport - Greymouth - Arthur's Pass - Hokitika - Haast - Wanaka | 10th Jan '15 - 16th Jan '15 | 3380km
“See you in Kyrgyzstan!”
With very little persuasion, we stayed an extra night with a family in Westport, the Kiwi Mum and Brummie Dad who were about to leave on a similar journey to ours, but from the UK back to NZ. Rough, beer fuelled calculations had us on course to rendezvous somewhere in Kyrgyzstan, which gives us something to look forward to!
Day one of the West coast was a teaser of what was to come, but not before a jaunt inland to take on Arthurs Pass, the highest road over the Southern Alps. We ditched our kit and set off at sunrise for an early morning assault. The naked bikes were a novelty but soon felt heavy again as the road went skywards. We made it back to the kit four hours later, feeling smug, and ready for breakfast.
Back to the coast and Highway 6, there is only one road to follow. The number of camper vans and selfie sticks increased and for the first time we began to pass multiple cyclists each day. We were still riding with Jon, Mexican food specialist and country music DJ (some of these photos are his). One afternoon we were caught by Julian, a German chap in a Red Hot Chilli Peppers vest, piss pot helmet and what, from a distance, looked like a cape (sadly it was just a long cardigan). He was very enthusiastic, adept at fixing things to his bike with steel wire and going the same way as us - engage team time trail mode!
Since the stop start progress of the festive period, with no map reading necessary, we covered successive 100k days. Low cloud made for an amiable riding temperature but also obscured the entirety of the Southern Alps from view. Being told ‘on a clear day, you have a great view of Mount cook from here', was the best we got, so we just tried to imagine it.
Around the Franz and Fox glaciers, we heard the intermittent whirring of helicopters shipping people up and over the icy attractions. We doubted you’d get your money back on cloudy days and didn’t fancy taking out a mortgage to test the theory. That said, we imagine that New Zealand would be a fantastic country to see from the air, if you have the means.
We had West coast camping sussed - long sleeves and insect repellent (which mixes wonderfully with suncream) on as soon as you stop. Tent erection with all zips sealed and a strict one entry per night policy - any flaunting of the rules meant a canvas full of thirsty insects. One of the photos below, illustrates how we left our stuff tidy and ready to go as soon as we vacated - the flies were at their worst in the mornings.
At Haast, there wasn’t much going on. Rain felt imminent and we wanted a crack at the pass that led us up, over and away from the coast. Powered by a bag of cookies and tin of rice pudding (Luke) we set off, wind assisted, towards the climb. As we pitched that night, the rain came in. We managed to keep everything dry and the following morning shuttled our gear into the only covered area, along with the few people that hadn’t already jumped into their campers and made for distant blue sky. We were increasingly pleased with how we’d handled the downpour, until someone spilt a fresh flask of milky earl grey into Luke's open, previously dry, pannier. Teeth gritted, we sealed up our tea flavoured possessions and rode away from the rain, to the first clear skies since Westport. The ride to Wanaka showed us what the clouds had been hiding...
There were a lot of scenic shots from this section, which we’ve tried to thin down, so we’ll let them take it from here.