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 stocked up on food and then headed out through Molesworth Station which is a 210km gravel road that runs through the largest farm in New Zealand. The farm, which was started in the 1860’s, is still in use today with over 10,000 cattle, fifty or sixty horses, and up to forty working dogs. They employ five seasonal ranglers who ride throughout the mountains finding the cows and bringing them to their next grazing area, while the overseer of the ranch (along with his family), the cook, and a few other full time employees live on the ranch full time. During the summer months they have opened up the area for recreational use (there is a 60km section you have to get through during daylight as they lock the gates at night) and it proved to be our kind of cycling, complete with clear beautiful rivers, gravel climbs on a quiet road, and jagged peaks all around. The photos really don’t do this place justice; the valleys and peaks were so much more all encompassing than a simple photo can show.
Something else we enjoyed along this route (and something we have enjoyed in general here) are the kiwis who, when they pass, roll down their window for a chat. More often than not they are middle aged or retired kiwis on a “gap year,” meaning they have taken a few months or a year off of work, or semi-retired, in order to travel around in their camper for an extended period of time (often with bikes and kayaks attached!). We had always heard that kiwis were friendly but that is a serious understatement.
After stocking up on food in the resort town of Hanmer Springs we spent a rest day by the Clarence river fishing, reading, and swimming, before beginning a true mountain bike trip along the St James Loop (which will be the next blog post).
And, for those who are interested, here is a link to our wedding photos from the blog of our photographer.
Moments after we got married we jumped on this sled and went down the hill!
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