Leg 4 – Nelson to Fox Glacier

Well! It’s been a very industrious week in terms of cycling. The Google map isn’t quite accurate, I don’t think. Though I have cycled 364 miles (ish) this week, I have climbed a massive 24578 feet (7491m). I definitely feel stronger – my legs feel like steel – and I have been feeling more positive generally! AND I HAVE HIT 1000 MILES!!! Hooray.

The overall feeling for Leg 4 is probably wet. I’m not sure I have really had any philosophical awakenings this week. Though I am now contemplating the possibility of short term Warmshowers/Couchsurfing hosts on my return to London while I try and work out where in the city I want to live… Maybe I’ll remember something super exciting as I am typing! It’s probably going to be a bit briefer than previous posts but some fun photos anyway 🙂 I did read this funny article about passing wind whilst running… work for cycling. If so, I should definitely keep eating the dried apricots…

Route Map

Day 16 – Nelson to Kaiteriteri – 36.7 miles

A nice easy day to ease back in after the joy of Nelson. I left quite late and it was so sad to say goodbye to Anna but it was time to get back to the bike.

I found it a little difficult to find the beginning of the Great Taste Trail but once I had found it, it was very easy to follow. Nelson winning again with its trails. It was, however, gravel – not like the smooth tarmac of the majority of Sustrans rides in the UK. It really does slow me down. I got to ride across cool platforms and wave at lots of cyclists on the way, though which was fun.

The best bit about the route is getting the ferry across to Mapua Harbour. My captain was great and gave me my trip money back to put towards Emilie’s Charities and a family of fellow passengers also gave me five dollars so that was awesome.

It was a fairly easy day but I didn’t like trying to climb the small hill into Kaiteriteri on the bike track next to the road. It just made me a bit nervous and I pushed in a few sections.

The views of the day were stunning, even if a little grey and the coarse yellow sand at Kaiteriteri Beach was beautiful to walk on. I took a stroll right along the cove before heading back up to the campsite.

I stayed at the Bethany Park Christian Camp, which also kindly waived the fee to go towards my fund raising – thank you so much! I do think I would have felt a little aggrieved if I had paid the full $25 – it’s a lot for a patch of grass and the facilities were not anything particularly special. I was particularly disappointed with the café who told me they would stay open until 8 but were definitely shut at quarter to, when I went to get my dinner. I was not happy.

I did have fun trying out a range of stretching exercises and seeing which were feasible in my coffin of a tent. I think this could be a fun workout video haha. Actually, I was quite surprised by how much was feasible!

That night it rained HARD, all night. It did keep me awake a little despite using my ear plugs so I was a little tired.

Day 17 – Kaiteriteri to Glenhope(ish) – 59.2 miles

This is where the wet began.

Actually, it wasn’t raining as I packed up but I had to give Peggy a clean, pack my wet things and get on the road. I probably managed about 20 miles before it started raining but once it started, it didn’t stop.

I really enjoyed the road along the West Bank of the Motueka River. The scenery was interesting and the cloud wisps gave an ethereal feel to the valley. I particularly enjoyed the forested hillsides and seeing where areas had been logged over the generations and seeing some of the regrowth projects. According to Andrew Marr, this idea of sustaining forests was a big difference between Japan and the UK back in the day. A particularly interesting chapter looking at how two countries which seemed very similar for a time ended up so radically different.

After leaving the village of Kaiteriteri, I didn’t even see a shop all day. It is such a peaceful route and it was great just to ride along listening to my book. There were a few cars and busses which passed but I think that most chose to take the State Highway which runs incredibly close, on the other side of the river.

I would, however, strongly advise against taking the Tadmor road, which is a right hand turn from SH6. This would then take you through Tapawera which has a shop and would allow you to avoid the most ridiculous gravel hill, in the soaking rain. Pahaha. There were rivers running down the side of the gravel and the road just dropped off. I think it would have been beautiful in the sunshine but it was pretty scary in that weather!

I turned up to Hu Ha Bikepackers completely sopping wet and was greeted by Jo and the baby goat, nibbles. I really liked the accommodation, though there was a problem with the shower, Jo would have let me use the other one if I had mentioned it sooner. I paid for my dinner there but I do think it would have been better to have just cooked as all the facilities were available. The bed was incredibly comfy and I had a great night’s sleep.

Here I met Harriet and Jakob who were also cycle touring as well as a couple travelling in their car. We all had a good laugh at Jakob’s solution to the rain… I think that it was even funnier when he was fastening himself into the jacket with a safety pin. It looked like a giant, all in one nappy.

Day 18 – Glenhope(ish) to Inangauha Junction – 58.7 miles

This time it was raining from the start.

The overall gradient was downhill for the day but it did feel quite tough! I actually did more climbing than the previous day – lots of lumps and bumps. I don’t think that it helped having my chain fall off on the way up one of the bumps but it gave me an excuse to stop at a café, warm up and have a pause whilst I got her all fixed up and running smoothly.

Birdsong finished as I was tinkering with the tension on the cables and checking the alignment of the derailleur. I really enjoyed the book. It was such a moving story and delivered in a clever way. Definitely not recommended for younger readers though as it has some very adult content! I should probably have a break between books so that I can reflect and think about the characters and where they are headed next or ponder over certain gaps in the stories but I am just enjoying being read to so much!

I pulled into Murchison just as the weather changed from raining to torrential downpour and was actually lucky enough to hide in the 4 Square, restock my food, shelter for a few minutes and then head off into the return to the drizzle.

The ride though the Buller Gorge is absolutely incredible. The vegetation is lush and vibrant and with all the recent rain, there were waterfalls cascading down the hillsides beside the road and everywhere felt and smelt very fresh. I was lucky that the rain eased off and I reached Inangahua in good time.

Unfortunately the shop was closed but the lovely lady, Lorraine, at the small backpackers’ places was very kind and gave me some courgette and fresh spinach out of the garden which I teamed up with a big bowl of Moroccan couscous. She also gave me $5 of the small fee back to put towards Emilie’s Charities. I definitely recommend this spot. It was so chilled out and would be great for families with three beds in a lovely self-contained annex to the main house.

Day 19 – Inangahua to Punakaiki – 55.9 miles

Wow. This was a tough day.

I set off late as I got caught up with some interesting emails from home and, though it was dry as I set off, it was soon raining again with a headwind that pushed the rain under my cap and hard into my face. This should have been the day where I was cycling along the coast again, loving the views but mostly I saw just the few inches in front of my tyre.

I just felt exhausted – possibly calorie deficit from the previous day. I suppose I hadn’t really eaten all that much. I did try and stuff extra food down my throat but I don’t really like to eat and cycle so it all added up to the whole ride taking an awful lot of time.

By the time it was coming up to 4pm, I was still 24 miles away from my destination and it just felt like it had been such a hard day. The headwind just has that extra sapping quality that makes every turn of the pedal feel so much harder. I looked at the distances for the next couple of days and decided that I could stop with anything less than 20 miles left and forced myself onwards.

Charleston was the next township, and I arrived there as the distance on my Garmin said 20.1 miles. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop – it didn’t mean the terms of the agreement I’d made with myself. There was a sign for a Gästhof in 4km and I pushed away the feeling inside that I’d seen a place with a similar name about 4km back.

Oh my word. I found the next bit tough. At least it had dried off but it was a decent hill. On my way up, I spotted a car which had obviously taken a tumble over the edge and it sent my heart fluttering. Thank goodness most of the cars seem in less of a hurry down here (as one of my commenters mentioned!)

It also became apparent that that sinking feeling I had pushed aside had been right… there was no accommodation 4km along this road.

Thankfully, after I grumbled all the way up the hill, down the false descent and up the next bit of the hill… I came to the coast again. It was dull, it was dreary but I could see the coast again! Hooray! It had been so long. The rolling section that followed was not too much of a challenge now that I had resigned myself to it (and I could see the sea!) so I pootled on and, stopping to have one of my last energy gels, I made it over the final hill without too much agony.

The Punakaiki Tavern where I had my meal was friendly enough but I am coming to terms with the fact that pub cuisine in New Zealand isn’t really comparable to England. Most places seem to be Wetherspoons quality but without the cheaper price tag to readjust your palette! It must be difficult with the reduced access to produce and the limited competition means that hungry mouths will not complain at what’s on offer.

After a quick chat with some backpackers and longboarders at the hostel, I got tucked in to (the last available) bed and tried to get some sleep. I was relieved when I checked my Strava for the day, seeing just how much climbing I had done…. I had worried that I was just being a bit pathetic!

The pathetic part was just how sunburned I had managed to get. In the rain. Hopefully the biting things don’t like cooked flesh!

Day 20 – Punakaiki to Hokitia – 55.4 miles

High tide was between 9am and 9:30am so for the first time, I was up, packed and on the road for 8:45am! Punakaiki is famed for its pancake rocks and blowholes which sometimes erupt at high tide and I was determined to give myself the best shot at seeing them. I even had time to chat with a lovely couple travelling with their family, who offered to host me at their Bed and Breakfast just outside of Dunedin which again made me smile at the generosity of the people living in this country. AND the owner of the hostel let me take a loaf of bread on the house. It weighed an absolute ton but looked delicious so I strapped it into my panniers and set off on my way.

The rocks area was a very short ride up a small hill and I easily reached it before 9:00am. It was absolutely stunning with the layers of rock stacked upon one another showing the interesting way in which they had been formed. I wasn’t lucky enough to see the blow holes but I enjoyed the little walk out and had a chat to another cyclist outside the café who was rearranging his equipment. I was very impressed to hear that he had tackled the Old Ghost Road but very pleased that I hadn’t attempted it on Peggy. We may not have lived to tell the tale! He was about to get rid of the milk crate he had mounted in front of his bars but I told him that would be sacrilege and hoped the crate would survive.

By then, I had spent so much time outside the café that I felt compelled to order eggs, which I ordered and then defended from the gulls by eating it at shovel pace.

The morning was easy riding, with a few inclines sweeping gradually out and over the headlands. It was lovely to be back by the coast even if the drizzle persisted.

When I got to Greymouth, I got a bit excited. There was a SUPERMARKET. I went in a bought a ridiculous amount of food – mostly chocolate and sugar based items… oops (as well as some sensible items to offer towards the evening meal at my warmshowers.org host’s house.) There, I met Thomas, a Scottish/Maltese cyclist. We had a great chat and it was interesting to see the different approaches to our trips. I also charitably offloaded by brick of bread. Thomas was also on his first tour but taking on some crazier roads/tracks than I had considered. He wasn’t constricted by any time frames and was happy to set up camp in the wilderness.

I think I am just enjoying the home comforts a little too much… I should really try and freedom camp at least once while I am here but… the hostel accommodation just isn’t that expensive usually and I really like getting clean, even if I do have to get back into my smelly clothes the next day and I know that my beautiful dreams of swimming in the lake to get clean would be dampened by being eaten by 1000 sandflies or inadvertently being discovered by a family trying to enjoy a hike and being confronted with my indecent exposure. Maybe I will try it.

After our chat, I was a bit later in setting off than I had anticipated and hoped my host wouldn’t mind too much. I decided to try the West Coast Wilderness Trail and enjoyed some of the stark industrial views of the port leaving Greymouth but found that the parts of the trail I would be using just ran alongside the road and were gravel tracks where I could be going much faster along the tarmac. There were sections which were stunning, where the tropical style hedgerows (which were lush and lovely but blocked any views in either direction) parted and you could see out to the sea again. I saw my blue t-shirted, milk crate friend overtaking me on the road and that was enough to make me quit the path and get back onto SH6.

The road was easy riding and I felt I was pushing myself to keep a bit of a better pace on the flats – I have been so laboriously slow. I also got to ride across the fun clip on bridge which opened on Christmas Eve and stopped me from being squashed by lots of traffic.

Despite the ride being less of a challenge than previous days, I was still very happy to arrive in Hokitika and was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening with my host for the evening, feeling quite tired as I hadn’t had a rest for a while!

Unfortunately, the experience wasn’t quite so. It was a lovely spot and the host was very genuine and hospitable but I found his company quite demanding. He clearly wanted some kind of intellectual stimulation and I felt that I was being judged and compared to his former dream guest who had stayed with him five years previously. At one point, it was even openly mentioned that this was the case. I feel incredibly grateful to have been hosted so generously but the stay did leave me wondering whether I would use warmshowers again but I had another spot booked for Fox Glacier and thought that might help me make a more informed decision.

Day 21 – Hokitika to Harihari – 44.4 miles – REACHING 1000 MILES!!! Woooooooooo!

The actual riding of the day seems fairly insignificant compared to the huge milestone it led me to.

I took a lovely gravel side road between Ross and Harihari which was fairly smooth and meant avoiding some of the traffic on the SH6.

Both my panniers broke the night before and I had to fix those before setting off – getting to be fairly standard procedure now.

I had a hot chocolate and a delicious venison pie at a cool motorbike café in Ross and took a photo of the giant sandfly attached to one building. Opposite was a faux guillotine… I didn’t dare get too close to that though. Not sure what was going on here. It felt like something more suited to Camden Market!

I also met a couple who had been travelling on their bikes for SIX YEARS. Now that is impressive! I didn’t chat with them for too long because I was really close to Harihari and the rain was starting again in earnest. I wanted to get under cover!

When I arrived, instead of sitting down to write my blog as I had intended, I spent a full hour in the bath (with one leg sticking out until the water had cooled enough because I was still that sore from my burn!) and then went and stuffed my face with food. There was lots of it and it tasted good. I did have to get the camembert heated through a little more as it was still a little frozen in the centre but it was exactly what I needed to get my energy up and was definitely one of the better meals I had eaten at a pub.

I just chilled out and enjoyed chatting with my Grandma on Skype before getting some shut eye.

Day 22 – Harihari to Fox Glacier – 53.3 miles

I went for breakfast with three cyclists I had bumped into briefly the night before and chatted with them about their trips. Hopefully they might be able to take part in the Cycle For Kate ride in May as they live in Brighton and would be able to travel easily to Winchester. This is the charity my friend Emily (not Emilie) cycled from Calais to Perpignan for last year.

The poor owner of the hotel had to come and cook us breakfast himself as the lady on reception the previous day had told us it was available but it is only usually served on weekdays. This he didn’t tell us until after we had all stuffed ourselves and I felt very bad about it. Then, when it came to paying my bill, he scrubbed out a number of items as complimentary. Thank you so much!

So. The riding began with a little climb and ended with a mammoth climb. Mount Hercules was a good warm up, I wasn’t feeling on the best form… too many dried apricots perhaps? Or bacon… I managed it though and enjoyed the descent though it was a little windy to really let go and pick up a lot of speed.

From there, it was gradual climbs and descents with some beautiful lakes, which I photographed badly and a gap in the trees on one of the hills which looked like a face which I made an even worse attempt at photographing. The real joy came when I saw the glacier for the first time! I knew I was going really slowly but I’d make it in reasonable time regardless.

At Franz Joseph, I picked up groceries for dinner and contemplated the climb ahead. The highest point is at over 400 metres. Definitely the highest I had ever conquered. I decided that I wanted to make at least one proper hill all the way to the top, fully loaded, without stopping. And I decided that this was going to be the one. And I did it. Ha! I was very proud. I even managed not to stop at the first false summit or at the mini descent before the real climb. Hooray! I did have a stop at the top there and then was forced into stopping again as I was exhausted, the hill took on a steeper gradient and there was a hairpin turn where busses and campers were straying onto both sides of the road to negotiate the angle. I thought I might just try and catch my breath and then go again but I chicken out and pushed around the corner before remounting.

Then, that was it! I pedalled and pedalled and pedalled and was rewarded with a view of the valley and a few drops of rain telling me to get going before I got wet. The last two miles were over pretty quickly, I have to say!

I couldn’t see the tell-tale signs outside the house as it was set so far back from the road but Mark came out and waved me in.

My faith in warmshowers was restored! Hooray!

We were joined by another cycling guest, who turned out to be none other than the milk tray man, who I now know to be Callum and we feasted on communal food and played rummikub until much later than my usual bedtime. It was bliss.

Jules and Mark actually cycled to New Zealand from London and their blog, which is receiving a fabulous rainy day makeover from Jules is well worth a look – abikeride.org there are some fantastic photos and videos which definitely put this babble of text to shame.

Rest DayS AGAIN!

Well. Nelson had me captivated with its special charm and Fox Glacier has held me hostage with its unbelievable propensity to rain. Thank goodness for Mark and Jules.

The next day we were joined by none other than Thomas the Scottish chap from Malta (the brick of bread was still giving) and we were invited to join in on the rainy day activities of bouldering!! And swimming. I already knew I was a bad swimmer but now I know I’m pretty rubbish at bouldering too but it was so much fun to try and lounge around on the foam crash mats and watch the folks with ability! I did make an improvement and managed to stop myself from ‘barn dooring’ every time but I definitely need to work on not letting my posterior stick out too much… Hey. I reached my little goal and that was enough for me!

Callum cooked for us that evening and we had absolutely delicious vegetable daal before another quick round of rummikub. This is a game that I like. We also had lots of chat about board games and I am desperate to get back into this kind of thing when I get back to London. I used to love it as a kid and meant to join my housemate so many times but it never seemed to work out in our busy London diaries. Dixit is high on the shopping list and I think it would be really good for school. Apparently there are second versions on eBay.

This enforced extra day of rest has been spent mostly doing some life admin, being lazy and writing this (which obviously turned out not to be so brief – surprise surprise – I’m useless!). BUT I did also decide to do a cull on my gear. I found out that it only costs $9 to send a bag full of stuff anywhere in New Zealand so I got in touch with the Auckland half of the Creamer gang who I met at Opunake and fed me. They’ve said it was okay to send some stuff their way so I got down to business.

In the end, I have only sent about 2kgs of possessions to Auckland but hopefully that will make a difference – it’s about half a pannier’s worth of clothes really. Probably the main difference it will make are that I will smell more and I will be wearing even fewer variations of jersey in my photos! I didn’t let myself keep the ‘We Can Do It’ top – it’s my favourite to look at but it’s dark so not the best in the sun, which I am hoping I will see again soon.

I wish that I had seen the glacier properly but the weather has just been so unforgiving. I’m just delighted that I got to spend this downtime with such a great group of people. It’s been like staying with friends and I’d love to be able to offer this kind of laid back awesomeness to warmshowers guests when I have a home of my own.

AND I get to celebrate Burns’ Night with some people of Scottish Heritage! WOOOOHOOOO!

Ooooh, I just got back and Callum led a little bit of house yoga for us, Thomas is cooking dinner and Mark is providing the perfect soundtrack and Linzer Torte for dessert. This is amazing. Happy days. THIS is what I need to find in a house share in London.

Pretty sure this must be getting a bit boring for you now and it’s time for a bit of Burns’ Night fun so I’ll sign off! xxx

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4 thoughts on “Leg 4 – Nelson to Fox Glacier

  1. Good on you Elisha…you are a long way South now! And on the Wet West Coast!! Interesting that you run into so many other fellow cyclists. Great that your legs are getting so strong, keep it up xx Tony O

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