New Zealand by Bike (with Deuter bags)
Check out this trip report we received from Rocky Reifenstuhl about his New Zealand bike trip!
Leaving Hanmer Springs we roll onto chipseal Kiwi pavement, after 150km of dirt and gravel road. Brutal headwinds of 20 to 30 mph assault every sense. Wide glacial valleys with braided steams and low, sparse vegetation offer no protection; nor do the 2,500 feet of climbing into the headwinds. And what's with the constant10-12% roads?!
Even the south island shows it's restless youth with hot springs everywhere. So we camp near an undeveloped hot springs. Disrobing & immersion is a race against ravenous sand flies – so far the only place we have had to deal with that menace. New Zealanders call it their bird of prey.
Lewis pass, Springs Junction, another pass, then the long drop to the west coast. The landscape changed dramatically to beech forests with luxuriant undergrowth prehistoric fern trees. The Kiwi sprinkler system gets us again.drenched us on the way down to Reefton.
Reefton was the first city in the S. Hemisphere to have electric lights due to the prosperity of gold mining and abundant hydro potential. Gold mining has resumed, but tourism must be bigger. We stayed at a great family campground right next to a worldclass bike/skate park, where we enjoyed watching the rad bike tricks. The campground was hopping on New Year’s Eve. The Kiwi’s get 4 day weekends for both Christmas and New Years and anyone who has to work those days gets paid time-an-a-half, AND accrue a day of leave. Minimum wage here is $12/hr! Their dollar is worth around .75 of ours, but it is still a country friendlier to the wage earner than the business owner, unlike the U.S.
Another day, and 78km of riding, and finally the Tasman Sea is before us. Greymouth is not gray, in bright late evening sun, but the rains begin that night and hurry us south down the coast with a great tailwind.
After 1,500km biked total so far, we are in Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island & serious rains have trapped us again. We have retreated to a cabin at one of the Camper Parks & are sharing kitchen & bath facilities with a very large group of kayakers who are quite unhappy because the rivers are too high to run & the weather is too bad for the helicopters to take them out & drop them off on the rivers (not sure who sponsors these young people!) Hokitika is noted for its jade, and you can have the carving attached for $5,000.
We also visited a “sock factory” where they have a working 70 year old English machine that would completely shame Rube Goldberg. The yarn is a merino wool/possum mixture. The Kiwi’s hate the possum, which was introduced & is out-competing native wildlife, so love a reason to kill them, but the fur can be spun into yarn which is very soft, warm and attractive (if you try not to think of the splattered ones on the road). Kiwis call possum, 'road bumps'.
Definitely fewer bikers and bike tourists on the wet... west coast.
Hope your weather is dryer than ours!!
Happy New Year to all!