Avoiding the sandflies; South Island tour

I started out with no particular plan for the South Island, except knowing that I wanted to ride through the Southern Alps. But there were a few people I wanted to call in to visit, so that set me up for the first week, then I could see how I felt after that:-

DAY 1: Pukerua Bay to Upper Moutere
The day after the Karapoti, it was time to head off again - I might have given myself a day to recover first, but Wendy and Andi were catching the ferry to the South Island today, so it made sense to travel across with them. I was up in the dark at 6am, which was far too early. But I said thanks and goodbye to Jez and Andrea and rolled off at 6:55, with dawn just about broken. Eight miles to Whitby to meet the campervan at Andi's cousin's, and into the van to drive to the ferry. I had to buy a foot passenger ticket, but at least the bike went for free by being in the van. Fortunately a calm crossing, and I was able to doze a bit before enjoying the view coming through the straights into Picton.
We landed at 12:30, and at 12:45 I was pedalling again, knowing I had a ways to go despite the late start to riding. The route started off on the pretty back roads to Haverlock, with the first 35km taking about one and a half hours. My legs weren't too bad, or actually quite good, considering the effort of doing the Karapoti yesterday! There was a bit of a headwind, which got stronger as I left Haverlock, with about 25km on the flat to Peloms Bridge. The weather wasn't looking great ahead, and I saw two tourists coming out of the hills with rain jackets on. In fact I saw more cycle tourists today than in twelve days in the North Island! I escaped with only the very slightest of drizzle as I began to climb. I reached the top quicker than I expected, then descended into the valley a ways before climbing once more. Unfortunately a logging truck passed me right at the summit, which meant I was stuck on his tail all the way down, without being able to go quite fast enough to overtake. It was still a cracking descent though, and then as I hit the coast towards Nelson I picked up a tailwind, marvellous. I paused at a garage at Nelson for a quick drink and bite to eat, then pushed on for the final leg - it was 6:15 by now, so I couldn't hang around, as the sun would be going down soon. At Richmond a few miles on I caught a roadie, and rode with him for about five miles, which was nice to have a bit of company, before I turned off for the last eight or nine miles to Moutere Hills Vineyard where fellow-BHPCer (British Human Power Club) Richard Middleton was living. A shower followed by a very fine feed were very much appreciated, as I was feeling pretty knackered by then.
98 miles in 6:39, 14.7mph av, 41.0mph max 1324m climbed

DAY 2: Upper Moutere
I was staying two nights with Richard, so no need to get back into the daily packing up ritual just yet. I was up a bit after 7am, and after scrambling myself some home-laid eggs for breakfast, I put Bike Friday in Richard's van and went with him and the kids to Motuka. After dropping the children at school we went on to the new house that they are getting ready to move into. We talked bikes for a bit, then I went off to ride Takaka hill, a nice climb of 800m in nine miles. I made it up in 50 minutes, but sadly there were no views because of the cloud. Very fun ride down though, all over in 19 minutes! Richard then let me have a ride on his Penny-Farthing, something I have wanted to try for ages. Not that difficult, just important to step down before slowing down too much! I also tried his recumbent trike, which was a comfy ride, for a short spin down the road to the coast. A pleasent evening home comforts and good company, but not too late to bed - back on the road tomorrow.....
29 miles in 2:04, 13.9mph av, 36.5mph max 1122m climbed

DAY 3: Upper Moutere to Murchison
I had a very restless night, sneezing and waking up a lot. But nothing doing; up at 7:30, a very good breakfast of eggs, toast and cereal, then it was goodbye and thanks to Richard and off down the road. Recovery day today, so a bit tedious going that slowly, but only 130km to do. Pretty little roads, with a fair bit of climbing, but a lovely day - some cloud but nice sunshine, apart from light drizzle in the last 10km and then some showers on and off at the campsite. Counting Crows on the stereo today, chilling out. Last 35km was downstream, so mostly downhill, to Murchison. Where to my surprise I met the German couple on Birdys that I had previously seen in the middle of nowhere in Australia! They have another four months travelling to go yet - next stop LA, then onto South America. Cool. The guy was carrying most of the weight, and had had lots of punctures with the huge load on his poor little bike. Plus trouble with overheating the rims on the 16" wheels. He took a quick spin on my bike to contrast and compare. At the campsite I thankfully just got the tent up before the rain started. I was camped next to a Dutch girl who has been touring NZ for six months, with only six weeks of that on the North Island. I wouldn't have thought there were enough roads.... There was also a semi-alcoholic Brit, who's touring seemed mostly fueled by wine. Chatted to him and suggested some routes up to Abel Tasman while dining on beans and toast and muffins and yogurt. Then an early night. Still raining......
81 miles in 5:52, 13.8mph av, 45.0mph max 1233m climbed

DAY 4: Murchison to Moana
I was awake early, so despite the cold and dark at 6:30, I got myself up. There had been a pause in the rain, so I took the opportunity to pack up and drop the (very wet) tent in case it started again during breakfast. Fueled up on oatmeal and toast, then was ready to roll out at 8:10. Heavy roads - in theory heading downstream, but the road was up and down quite steeply. Combined with rain on and off, a temperature of only 10 degrees, and not great legs made for not the most fun start to the day. After 33 miles I turned towards Reefton, long, draggy roads with a nagging headwind. I just engaged a big gear and kept it turning until I hit the town for lunch. My picnic on the pavement (undercover from the rain) was joined by a Canadian couple heading in the opposite direction (with a tailwind, lucky them!). After the chat, the food and the hour off, I felt more refreshed, which was a good thing, as the next 40 miles were into an increasingly strong block headwind on pan flat roads. The first half motored past easily, but the second 20 miles were hard: head down and get on with it. But then I made another turn, so had less wind for the final 15 miles to Moana. Today I got my first taste of the dreaded sandflies - I'd been hearing tales of these beasties from other travellers, and, as ever, my attraction to bugs, and bad reaction to their bites stayed true. I had arm and knee warmers on, but the small amount of exposed flesh from my ankles to mid-calf got badly bitten - and just from the small opportunity the flies had when I stopped to pee! They predominate on the West coast - for this reason I had decided not to take that route; today was the closet I would get to that side of the country, and based on the result I had no interest in getting any closer! At the campsite I was able to borrow a pan from a fellow camper, and so cooked up a tasty dinner of eggs and noodles.
109 miles in 7:40, 14.1mph av, 41.0mph max 1580m climbed

DAY 5: Moana to Springfield
After another wet night, I didn't wake up properly until after 7am. I finished off the last of the oatmeal, and six slices of toast for breakfast, before again packing up a wet tent and heading off at 8:45. Once again only 10 degrees and low clouds, but the sun was coming, and it looked like a good day would follow. I was very slow and lethargic the first 20 miles to Jackson, despite not much wind or climbing. My legs didn't want to wake up! I stopped there briefly to eat and take my knee warmers off. Then on. It took ages to get to the Arthurs Pass climb, over very draggy roads with the apprehension of the climb to come. Almost a relief to finally get to the start of it. A quick pause to take off helmet and arm warmers, before attacking my sweating way up the 16% slopes at about 4mph! And that gradient went on for about four miles, full power needed just to keep the loaded bike moving. Buses and camper vans came past, also struggling and not going much quicker! But fantastic views and an impressive viaduct along the way. Once over the top I had a few kilometres downhill to the Arthurs Pass village. Lunched sitting in the sunshine, with a HUGE icecream - three massive scoops balanced precariously on top of one another, for the bargin price of $2.50! Then on again, with a tailwind to start with. Rolling roads but some nice downhill sections, and cracking views straight out of The Lord of the Rings.
But then the roads straightened out, long straight drags, which became very slow and tedious and BORING! And to add to the general unfunness of the situation, the wind swung into a Southerly, right in my face and very cold. Cue short busts of loud swearing as I suffered a major sense of humour failure. So I was very happy to finally clear the last pass and have 10 miles of downhill to Springfield. I tracked down the campsite behind the pub, although mine was the only tent - they also had some rooms. I shared the kitchen with a young German couple. More scrambled eggs and a very substantial portion of chips from the pub. I turned in at about 9:30, as it was getting really cold already. Very noisy people moving from the pub to the backpackers, until 3:30am! But I wasn't sleeping well anyway, partly as it got really bloody cold - my sleeping bag was only just warm enough.
94 miles in 7:10, 13.0mph av, 48.0mph max 1897m climbed

DAY 6: Springfield to Geraldine
Having been awake on and off for a while, when 6:30 came around I decided I might as well just get up. It was freezing though - literally, the condensation on the flysheet had frozen! Never seen that before, no wonder I had a chilly night with my 500g sleeping bag! I put all my clothes on before emerging. I had left my shorts and towel drying on the rack in the kitchen - when I went in at 7am the towel was missing. Fortunately I found it on the floor of the bedroom after it's drunken inhabitants had vacated. Meanwhile I cooked my remaining two eggs, and followed up with six slices of toast. I was in no hurry to go out in the cold, so waited for the sun to get a bit higher. I packed up indoors, including the soaking flysheet, and headed off at 8:35, although it was still only 5 degrees! Gloves, overshoes, fleece. What happened to summer? The first 12 miles or so lulled me into a false sense of ease as I cruised easily at 17-18mph. But after that it got pretty draggy to the gorge. Lovely little descent, then I took my jacket, hat and helmet off for the climb back out again. I had decided to stop at Mt. Hutt after 40 miles, and had been contemplating a hot chocolate, but there was nothing much there, so I just sat in the sunshine at the roadside and ate a succession of sandwiches - marmite, jam and honey. Then followed periods of lethargy and then of spinning nicely at 20mph. It had turned into a beautiful clear day, but the air was still quite cold. Although I was able to remove knee warmers, gloves and overshoes, my arm warmers and thermal stayed on all day. At 50 miles there was a little store/cafe, so despite having only been going again for 10 miles, I took the chance whilst it was there for a hot chocolate and a snickers bar. Pushing on again the road was mostly straight and fairly fast - I was trying to hold 20mph where I could. One last stop at Mayfield, where there was a large crowd at the horse show, for ice-cream, before hitting the final 20 miles - on the drops and keeping the speed up. Geraldine proved a nice little town, with a well appointed campsite, and a decent size supermarket, which gave more choice for food, although my cravings called for crunchy-nut-cornflakes and soy milk for dinner and breakfast!
86 miles in 5:25, 15.7mph av, 39.0mph max 502m climbed

DAY 7: Geraldine to Omarama
I had a better night's sleep, apart from waking up in the middle drenched in sweat, which was unpleasent. I woke up just before 7am, and it wasn't too cold - about 8 degrees. For once a pretty much dry tent to pack away; got myself sorted out and set off just after 8:20. Nice early morning sunshine, but threatening skies over the mountains. I cleared the 29 heavy miles to Fairlie without getting rained on, with my legs actually feeling pretty good. Once there I paused for banana and nutela stuffed pitta breads. Mmmmm. A German cyclist rolled up from the direction I was headed - front panniers and a BOB trailer on the ubitiquous mountain bike (whatever happened to the touring bike anyway?). He had had aerobars on, but crashed doing 55mph on them (!), so took them off..... I was in the mood for riding, so didn't chat long, and pushed on towards Burkes Pass and Lake Tekapo. The rain started, lightly at first, but increasing, so I paused at the Pass village to don overshoes. The rain got heavier before it eased off again over the top. Fairly easy climb, then some more draggy bits up to the lake. But I caught the patch of blue sky I had been chasing, to enjoy some glorious sunshine! 56 miles done, 1pm, time for lunch. Bought a toasted sandwich and chips and sat in the sun to eat. Warm enough to loose my knee warmers and cap, then back on the road. I was following the canal for the next 20 miles, so dead flat and straight. Was there a little bit of headwind? Or was it that just couldn't go as fast as I might have liked? The canal (I found out later it is for the hydro-electric scheme) is an amazing piece of engineering, cut dead straight on the high mountain plain. Must have cost a fortune to build. Would be perfect for rowing, but nothing on the water on a sunny Saturday afternoon, so perhaps they aren't allowed.
Splendid views of the lake and mountains, amazing colour water. Sadly Mount Cook was in cloud, but never mind, the rest of the range is still awesome - the first sighting after Burkes Pass literally made me gasp. Twizel was a possible stop for the night, but it was a real nothing town, and almost felt threatening in a semi-deserted council estate kind of way. So I just had a snack and pushed on another 20 miles to Omarama. Cleared it at over 19mph, helped by a very slight downhill and straight roads. Despite it now being past 5pm, this was the hottest part of the day, and I was finally able to take my armwarmers off as it got to 26 degrees.
111 miles in 7:28, 14.8mph av, 45.0mph max 1755m climbed

DAY 8: Omarama to Wanaka
A good night's sleep, then up at 7am and off at 8:30. Overcast, low cloud and only 10 degrees - not inspiring! I started out towards Lindis Pass on long draggy roads - only climbing 300m in the first 18 miles, so a bit tedious. Lots of mini-cairns along the sides of the road, and I mean lots! Some very spindly and cool, but who built them all? And why? Very Scottish-like over the pass; open windswept moorland. The last two miles to the Pass got steeper as I gained another 200m or so. A plaque at the top commemerated importing 7 Scottish red deer in 1871 - now they have had to cull them for years! Although I got hot and sweaty climbing, it was still only 11 degrees, so I got a bit chilly on the 50mph descent. Eventually I got my legs turning again and pedalled on to Tarras at 50 miles, with the sun thankfully making an appearance at last! I stopped for an early lunch at midday, then just had a nice leisurely 20 miles down the valley to Wanaka, with only a couple of short climbs on the way. On the lakeshore in Wanaka I picked up a map at the tourist information to find out where my friends' house was - and had the fun of finishing with a 15% grade up to their drive! Great views from there though, so worth it!
73 miles in 4:46, 15.2mph av, 50.0mph max 927m climbed

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