After a few nights in and around Wanaka we cycled up to Aspiring National Park, a one way 50km road which then led us to a 10km trekking path we were allowed to cycle on. The path lead to Aspiring hut, where forty people were packed inside the hut meant for half the number, and it also lead, two hundred meters away from the hut, to a quiet camp spot where we were able to enjoy a few nights as we hiked and I trail ran the surrounding areas. There were some impressive glaciers on the surrounding mountains, and, as always here in New Zealand, the rivers were simply perfect.
I haven’t written in a while because I haven’t been taking pictures. And I haven’t been taking pictures because it didn’t feel as if I would be telling the whole story. A week along the west coast of New Zealand represented an accumulation of frustrations that we have experienced throughout the country – a lack of dirt roads or alternatives to busy highways, crowded camping, and the sheer numbers of tourists absolutely everywhere – and though the region was geologically fascinating, with glacier covered mountains just meters away from the sea, we had a hard time enjoying it.
The St James Trail is an 100km mountain bike loop that New Zealand opened in 2010 in order to allow cyclists, hikers, and horseback riders a chance to experience the beauty of the old St James Station (farm). “With no roads, no shops, and no cell phone coverage, this trail is all about the basic desire to get away from it all,” the route description said, and that’s exactly what we were able to do.
We have had an amazing first week in the South Island. After the ferry ride we started out on a 60km detour along the coast which included four steep climbs (half of which were on gravel) along a very quiet road – the sort of road with only a car or two an hour. It also included our first penguin sighting, an afternoon sipping tea with two kiwis in their amazing 1950’s bus, and an evening exploring little bays and beaches.
After two rainy days at a campsite with a lovely cycling couple from the UK (who are also on their honeymoon!) we spent two days along the “forgotten highway,” a quiet road which ceased to be a main road years ago and is now one of the most popular cycling routes in the country. The route went up and down these small furry hills and passed through a small republic which has “claimed” independence, before ending on the coast.
We arrived in Auckland with one less bag; a pannier with our stove and potset, my rain pants and jacket, as well as items such as our travel towel and my running shoes and light jacket. After two days with our warmshowers kiwi hosts, the airline still had no idea where the bag was so we decided to replace the essentials and start pedaling on anyways. Though over the years we have collected some of the highest end gear for cycling touring (such as our brand new Primus stove we bought after we finished our last trip), to replace our lost gear, we went to second hand shops. It was a good reminder that you don’t have to have the highest dollar items in order to make a tour work.
“Let the dream devour your life so that the life does not devour your dream.”
Kevin and I are currently sitting at the airport in Sydney waiting for our final flight of the day which will bring us to Auckland, New Zealand, where we will begin our three month cycle touring honeymoon. We left straight from our two-day wedding campout – which took place around a huge campfire in a ranch at Silver Falls State Park – and can’t wait to begin life as a married couple on our bikes enjoying the absolute freedom that cycle touring brings.
It has been a while, and now that we are just three weeks away from our next cycle tour (a three-month honeymoon through New Zealand!) I’ve decided to catch those of you who are interested up as we have received quite a few emails asking why its been so quiet on our end.
This past year – in particular, these past six months – have turned into some of the best times for us as we have both been able to pursue our dream jobs. Kevin got on with a Forest Service repel crew (in Eastern Oregon) so he spent the summer repelling out of helicopters all over the US in order to fight wildland forest fires.
I got a job working in wilderness therapy which means that for eight days and nights at a time (with six days off in between) I get to live outside with teenagers who are sent to the program to learn healthy communication and coping skills after substantial self-harm, drug/alcohol abuse, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms that they have used to deal with underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I absolutely love the job; I love the people I work with, the environment we create out there, the six-day off shifts that leave enough time for my own personal adventures, and the fact that I get to cook over a real fire, poop in the woods, and sleep under a tarp more days than I have to sleep in a bed.
This green and very hilly route will take you up and over two 4,700m passes as well as over smaller ones in the almost jungle-like vegetation for a total of 10,000m of elevation gain. The people are friendly and welcoming, and the villages are picturesque as they sit atop hills for as far as the eye can see all over the various valleys. We found this route to be difficult due to the heat and humidity, though it was a nice change from the high altitude cold nights.