New Zealand is beautiful; white sandy beaches, tall majestic mountains, and crystal clear rivers around nearly every bend, so, without further ado, here it is in photos!
Fresh fish smoked over the fire and a sunset overlooking a huge lake in the Fiordlands turned out to be one of the most amazing evenings we have ever had.
After putting our bikes back together and strapping our Alpacka packrafts to the back we cycled away from the ocean along a quiet country road before arriving to the boardland road – a 50km gravel road which goes through the Fiordlands before ending at Lake Manapouri where we planned to put the boats back in the water.
Packrafting down the Waiau proved to be the best thing we have done in New Zealand. We got to wild camp every night, enjoyed our long days on the water, and best of all, with our boats on our bikes and then our bikes on our boats we got to enjoy the self sufficiency and solitude we have so been craving. Somehow, the fine line between uncomfortable (wet and slightly cold due to our not so waterproof rain gear) and comfort (always having a dry warm sleeping bag at night) seems to be where we have the most fun.
We strategically camped twenty kilometres away from Queenstown (in Arrowtown) where I was able to spend an evening trail running completely alone on beautiful trails before we rode a mountain bike route into town the next morning. We were able to get a boat ride across the lake – on a steam powered boat – right away, and so after just half an hour in the craziness of Queenstown we were able to escape to the other side where we found two days of solitude, dirt roads, and beautiful scenery.
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.
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.