January 1 – 6
Year!! We biked from Carter’s Beach yesterday, towards Charleston .. a short
lovely ride. But Larry’s trailer hitch broke, so it wasn’t so lovely after
all. He bungied it on and walked for awhile. Shortly there were signs for
camping and food, so we turned in to Jack’s Gasthaus .. which looked like
there would be nothing there .. but turned out to be a wonderful throwback
alternative type place with great pizza and some Southern Comfort. A nice
young couple from Holland greeted us and chatted much, as did a couple of
German fellows. We ordered a pizza and drinks, and as Larry was analyzing
things, a lady offered to take the trailer and bag to Charleston for us. So
we packed them into their boot, enjoyed our pizza and got to Charleston some
time later. We asked at the Motor Camp if a bike trailer had been dropped
off. No. So we picked out a spot, went to the nearby Dairy for a milkshake
and the trailer arrived soon after we returned. We could not describe the
car nor the people nor the license number, so we were happy to see it
arrive. Many fireworks right near our tent throughout the night.
Off to Punakaki via Perpendicular Point on New Years Day. Larry used a
discarded fan belt to attach his trailer and off we went. We thought we
might have to layby a day and bus to Greymouth for new parts. But
ever-clever Larry found a way. Enjoyed the beach, dinner at the Punakaki
Tavern and the 2 German fellows from near Cologne were there too and we
shared some beers. We walked up to the Pancake Rocks before bed and were
glad we did. It was getting close to high tide and we saw some of the
blowhole action. The next morning at high tide it was less exciting.
Pancakes first at the West Coast Café across the street where screaming
gulls with red beaks and feet dive for any unguarded food. I had a bloodtest
done in Westport Monday (for $5 NZ) and am anxious for the results so maybe
I can drink again sometime .. but the clinic in Wellington where the results
will be phoned is closed til Jan 6. Wahhhhhh…
Next off to Rapahoe, again a short hilly ride .. 21 miles I think. We’re
stopping here because the barkeep in Nelson said his Mom tends the flowers
here and it’s a nice place. We book for 3 nights, planning to bike into
Greymouth for a day and relax for a day. But we’ve told Barb and Jane … our
Madison friends who are coming to NZ .. that we’ll meet them at Fox Glacier
on Jan 22 .. so we have time to kill and decide to just relax for 2 days and
spend a few in Greymouth. We enjoy the beach and the pub, with Larry having
2 jugs as Jan 3 is his official retirement date. Yeah!!! We’ve had no rain
for a week, the stars are amazing and not many sandflies here. Life is
Saturday we bike 3km to Runanga where there’s a store/dairy. We get some
groceries at a small place where the proprietor is from Belfast. We ask if
there’s a place with pub food and he directs us to the Runanga Working’s Men
Club. That’s a trip … so a handle or two but no food. So back to the Dairy
on the main road and we have wonderful cheeseburgers and a scoop of chips. A
burger/cheeseburger comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, a slice of beet(root)
and catsup/tomato sauce. All are wrapped in newspaper. Usually tomato sauce
is $.30 for the little container we get free at McDonalds. So I got a small
fliptop can of it for $1.20. As we headed back to camp, the Holland couple
we now know as Hiram and Tess were going by so we had a great reunion like
old friends. They are catching a train tomorrow in Greymouth and heading
towards Christchurch but not that far .. I forget. They will check out
Pubtopub and we will visit them when we’re in Holland … 2005??
January 13 – 25
It finally cleared up and we moved on. Easy ride to Ross so we pushed on to
Pukekura. This is a village of 2 people … Peter and Justine. They run the
Puke Pub (rhymes with Rookie), the Wild Food Restaurant and the Bushman
Center which has a GIANT sandfly hanging outside. Rory was already well into
a jug when I arrived. Some bloke there for gold rushing was looking for a
ginger beer for me. The place was a hoot. Setup like a Bushman’s cabin. The
original part was very old and moved from down by the river. We enjoyed a
hot pool behind the place, then had venison and wild boar schnitzel from the
Wild Food Restaurant and it was wonderful. Somehow we resisted the Possum.
The Possum is an evil creature here, introduced by those nasty Europeaners
years back .. I think to eat the rabbits they introduced earlier .. or that
may have been the stoats. But instead it likes the eggs of the Kiwi birds
and the farmers crops. There is a big killing project using chemical 1080
costing $$$millions each year. We only see them as roadkill .. like big
fluffy brown/black cats with a nasty face and claws.
Justine made us wonderful pancakes the next morning with bits of bacon and
banana. Bikers with PedalTours stopped in .. from CA, a NM woman last name
Badger originally from Janesville.
Off to Hari Hari and another hot tub. We saw a couple from Holland on
recumbants. When they took off, we saw him strap his feet under him and push
off pedaling with his hands/arms. We were shocked and wish we had a picture.
A Japanese student named Akinobu camped next to us and was happy to meet his
first Americans in NZ. He is doing some student teaching work with a high
school in Picton.
Over Mount Hercules with a wonderful 4k downhill through rainforest
preserve, then farmland with snowcapped peaks getting closer. We wanted to
get to Okarito to get better Mt. Cook views, but were pretty bushed and
stayed at Whataroa. More PedalTour folks passed us. We chatted with a guy
from Port Huron, MI who knows Graham Fleming. He was pretty interesting and
chatted all about their NZ tour and gourmet meals and a similar trip to
Australia a few years back. We don’t remember if he said he will go on next
years Vietnam trip that Graham is leading. We also chatted with a couple on
Bike Fridays and saw what the newer models look like. We enjoyed the evening
lamb roast dinner at the Hotel and met a NZ couple and their daughter who
just moved to Australia. We are getting excited about our Australia visit.
Later in the pub we met a couple who are running an Inn in Fox Glacier visit
who said to drop in when we go through. Both couples passed us twice the
next day and we saw the Australia folks again at Franz Josef village.
We took an 8-hour glacier walk that was the most adventurous thing we’ve
ever done … and maybe one of the craziest. We climbed and descended and
crossed crevaces and climbed ladders and ladder plank bridges and crawled
through an ice cave and in a crevice that you shouldn’t fit in. Very scary,
exciting, WOW!!! We were issued leather boots, NZ wool socks, Talonz
crampons for ice walking and an ice axe. Weather was nice though .. not
rainy like today. We wouldn’t want to be up there in the rain. They divided
our busload into fast, medium and National Geographic groups. Larry and I
were the first to volunteer for the NG group but all were happy to be there
at the end. 75 year old Kurt from Munich fared better than we did. 2 funny
guys from UK, a woman from Cornwall (also UK) and a woman from Korea. We
really enjoyed the pizza and beer/ginger beers afterwards and we bought a
handle for our guide and for the UK guy who helped me up and down many icy
situations. We rented time in the hot tub at the nearby motel and assuaged
our weary muscles. Just sore toes and knees today and a continuous WOWWW ..
we did THAT??
Off tomorrow to Fox Glacier Village where we’ll link up with Barb and Jane
from Madison. Yeahhh!!
The 13 miles to Fox was he!!. The 3 hills were doozys and we walked and
walked. Got a late start as we had to dry things out after the rain. But we
got off after noon and it took til after 4 to cover the distance. It was a
beautiful 13 miles. Before we left, 2 young women from the Czech Republic
and Slovakia talked to us about our bikes and were very excited for us. They
are thinking of going to back go Brataslava in Slovakia and starting a
backpackers hostel. Good on them. We said we’ll visit in 2005. On the ride
an older man from the Bavaria region of Germany passed but stopped to take
our picture because he was happy to see someone with more kit than he had …
and he had plenty. His bike was loaded and he was pulling a BOB type trailer
but it was custom made in Germany and had a large bag attached. He pumped
right up a major switchback that we had to push up. He was thinking of
pushing on to Haast after reaching Fox, and Haast is another 120km.
We stopped to see our new friends Pam and Mark that we met in the pub at
Whataroa last week, but they had another day off. Later that night as we
were enjoying a great meal at the Cook Saddle Restaurant, they came out of
it and we had a nice visit. I really wanted a haircut but there are salons
only in larger cities, so I was pleased to see a notice at the General Store
that Dayla would cut my hair for $10 at the Ivory Towers Backpacker Hostel.
We found her in room 4 and she set me up in a retro bright yellow chair on a
step on the veranda and gave me a fine cut. She grew up in Federal Way, WA
.. next door to Kent where Deirdre lives. She now is a hairdresser on Maui.
It was a fitting first cut after the fun years we’ve had going to Gerry
Meicher at New Attitudes in Middleton and the beers and fun we’ve shared
with Gerry and Jodie Englestad after our cuts. Later we called Barb Brown
and Jane Greischer, friends from Madison, who we will see on Wednesday. Jane
got sick on the plane and isn’t up to par.
Tuesday we biked to Lake Matheson where on a really fine day, Mounts Cook
and Tasman are reflected. But not today. We hiked and had a grand breakfast
at the Lake Matheson Café and later had nice long chats with Heidi and
Deirdre. It rained most of Wednesday, as predicted, so we were happy we were
in a cabin for a few days. Barb and Jane arrived after 3 and we spend a
great evening with them and enjoyed another meal at the Cook Saddle. We
tried to visit a seal colony, but after Barb drove 11k of nasty windy gravel
narrow road, the trip was 3 hour return and it was too late and too rainy.
Pretty rainy again on Thursday, we so re-uped at the cabin and biked to the
Glacier View, then back to the village to see Barb and Jane return from a
half-day glacier walk and had lunch with them. Many thanks to Jane for hand
delivering 6 months worth of Tamoxifen and my thyroid medicine. What great
service Community Pharmacy provides!! They also brought us an extension cord
and a cutting board we requested and got us fuel in Greymouth, as Franz
Josef and Fox were all out. Go figure!! More rain, so we read all afternoon,
then cooked up some great steak mince and beans and 4-bean salad. Yummm.
Fine spells on Friday, but we stay yet another day because we sleep late and
don’t think we can be out by 10. We’ll try to capture that postcard perfect
reflection view at Lake Matheson today.
Jan 26 – 31
Of course we never got that postcard view of Lake
Matheson. We asked a local at the pub if they EVER see Mt. Cook clearly and
he said he saw it at 6am that day. So we set the alarm and got up .. and the
view was the best we’d seen, but not a good time for photos. By the time the
sun was up the mountains were shrouded in clouds once again. But we packed
up and prepared to bike to Jacobs River or Lake Paringa. Once again our
bikes generated a lot of interest. Some mountaineers from the North Island,
some parasailers from Germany and Sean (?) Quinn from Denver who takes a 3
month bike trip every 2 years and has done Istanbul to Paris several times
and has crossed Wisconsin several times and finds the WI folks very
hospitable. He definitely recommends a railtrail from Clyde to Middlemarch.
Some days it’s hard to get going just from all the chat with fun folks.
It was in the 60s and overcast and great biking. We continued on past Jacobs
River and at Bruce Bay we see the Tasman Sea once again. It’s been awhile
and it seems like an old friend .. soooo beautiful. It is very windy now and
there is a charming little caravan selling takeaway food .. so we have a ham
and cheese filled roll and a Coke. We don’t want to ruin our appetite for
dinner at the Salmon Farm Café, but Larry says not to worry. We continue on
over the undulating road and beautiful countryside. We get to the Café at 5
.. just as it is closing. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh They give us a free scone with
cream and raspberry jelly piled on top. Yummmm. They do let me buy some
smoked salmon, salmon pate, Coke and OJ to take along. Lots of sandflies
here. Lake Paringa isn’t far, we think, but it takes til 6:00 to get there.
There’s a free DOC campground somewhere nearby, but it’s been a long day and
we decide on a motel unit. The Café where we can rent is now closing, but
Larry buys 4 bottles of beer. Both these places have entrees that cost $22.
Isn’t that dinner prices?? We shower, kill all the sandflies, and dine on
the salmon, pate, smoked cheddar and crackers. We have a TV, but nothing
comes in. It is beautiful outside and the pretty lake right over there ..
but those damned sandflies hold us captive inside with doors and windows
shut. After they clean cabins and motel rooms, they leave doors and windows
open, so the sandflies move in at dusk, just before we do.
On the next morning, still 60s and overcast and more undulating terrain plus
3 bitchin’ hills, including Knight’s Point named after the dog of the
surveyor of this part of the road, that was just completed in 1960. Every
day we see buses in both directions that include the Kiwi Experience,
Intercity, Magic Bus and the Atomic Shuttle. The Shuttle is waiting at
Knights Point for another bus to exchange drivers, so there’s a lot of
waiting around. I ask the driver if he’s seen us plodding along for many
days now .. and he says Yes and that each time he sees us he thinks how hard
it must be biking with those little wheels. I assure him that the wheels are
NOT the problem .. we are just very slow and carry a lot of stuff. Another
rest stop at Ships Creek Cove and we try to snack, but the sandflies are all
over us, even on the beach. They are just soooo friendly.
Yuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. On to Haast. Haast is very spread out so we take the
first accommodation we find, at the World Heritage Hotel. We get a nice room
with queen bed and TV with 6 stations that include repeating movies on 4
channels. We do laundry and dine at the Pub .. very nice food and not
pricey. A giant burger and chips and fish and chips. Then we watch Iris,
with Judy Denche .. about getting dementia. Two days of rain follow, so we
stay in our cozy room and watch lots of TV. We do bike 2 miles to town
center of Haast, but it’s not too exciting and we’re happy with where we
are. More good meals at the Pub and more movies.
Finally the weather looks stable for a few days and we pack up. After
pancakes in Haast, we’re off to a DOC campsite at Pleasant Flat .. the last
place to camp before going over Haast Pass, the lowest of the 3 or 4 passes
over the Southern Alps. We just get set up there and in comes a couple on
Bike Fridays and trailers. Mr. Quinn from Denver mentioned seeing a couple
from Alaska on Fridays, so I ask if they’re from Alaska. Yes they are .. and
they’d heard about us too. They camp near us and we start trading stories.
Shortly I notice that she is calling him Rory. Is he Rory? Yes .. and we
tell him about Larry’s Irish Rory name. You’re not Jan, she asks? No .. but
Jean. And Rory is from Wauwatosa and Jan from Ann Arbor. The next morning we
take group pictures and we even have the same Olympus digital camera. Tooo
Off and over the Haast Pass .. a day I’ve been dreading. It was supposed to
be 1k of steep hill, then 5.5k gentle rolling and 1k more of steep. Well ..
there was 2k at the beginning, one with a downhill truck sign and the 2nd
with a runaway vehicle road. We walk and we push and we sweat. But all the
rest was easy and wonderful and beautiful and lots of waterfalls and pretty
creeks and rivers. Phewwww. We stop at a DOC campsite at Cameron Flats and
have lunch and decide if we’ll stay. Too many sandflies yet. The day is hot
and beautiful so we push on to Makarora Motor Camp so we can have a shower
and beer and soda and eggs and stuff. Good choice. A tailwind pushed there
in less than an hour. We meet a biker from Utah named Laynee who we run into
several times again in Wanaka.
The wind howls all night and some rain and the next morning we’re wondering
if we should stay another day. But it clears and we move on. Well .. there’s
a fierce tailwind that pushes us along beautiful blue Lake Wanaka, over the
Neck to beautiful glacial green Lake Hawea .. up and down steeeeep hills
that we would normally be pushing up. It was a marvelous biking day .. in
the 70s maybe. The Hawea Motor Camp looks grim, and I’m wanting some real
food and town is way over therrreeee. So we decide on a motel room. We had
to turn left and a half mile or so into town and the wind about knocked us
over. We had to walk the bikes and that was even hard. We chose a beautiful
motel room overlooking the lake .. over bunk beds in a dorm setting at half
the price. And great food at the dining room .. again with gorgeous views
and the wind howling outside. More TV and Mel Gibson’s What Women Think or
Want or whatever. Wind, rain all night. We made a good choice. Our tent
wouldn’t like that kind of wind.
On the next day to Wanaka. A little tailwind, but we had to push up the
hills today. Beautiful little town and the motor camp is a short block from
the lake. And NOOOO sandflies. Dry and hot and wonderful on this side of the
mountains. Groceries, try to make dinner at lakeside but the wind is too
much for the stove. I called Mei Lian, Sean’s Mom, who gave us her # at
Hokitika. She invites us for lunch tomorrow.
Up and get cute and bike downtown for Danish and coffee and enjoy the lake.
We buy Sean 2 little wind-up construction toys and bike over for lunch. We
have a great afternoon with Steve, Mei Lian, Sean and their new student Fay
from China who just studied English for 8 months in Auckland and is now
going to the local college. It was in the 90s and clear blue sky. Larry and
I sat in the sun, didn’t burn and didn’t even feel hot. No humidity .. it
was great. Mei Lian says we must go to the Cinema here. We have Jan and
Rory’s map and they did have the Cinema marked and we wondered why. So on
the way back to camp, we stop in. A movie is in progress, but we enjoy
popcorn and beer/ginger beer on the Cape Cod chairs outside. Many people
drive by to check out what’s playing for the week. At intermission we peek
into the small theater and see old chairs and couches, some theater seats, a
vintage yellow car for seats. Funky. Later we decide to see Last Orders
tomorrow night as it is a funny British comedy.
Rory and Jan recommended we rent a car to see lower Otago as the biking is
boring and there are many deadend gravel roads to the sea that are worth
seeing. We’re deciding how to do that. Bike to Queensland that has mucho
traffic one way and a big hill the other .. or take the railtrail to Dunedin
and get the car there? There is a car rental associated with the motor camp,
so I inquire. We can get a car for $200NZ a week. Jan and Rory paid $45 per
day and Barb and Jane about $100 per day. Hmmmm … guess it’s a deal. We can
even store our bikes and trailers .. so we’ll be renting a car for 2 weeks.
The first retirement check will be deposited soon. Hurrah!! We spent $110NZ
a day in December and $124 in January. So we are living within our means and
should have a few $$$ left over for a cushion and future plane fares and
such. Every day we chuckle that we get to just keep playing. It is soooooo