New Zealand Tour

Day 9 -Tokomaru Bay to Gisborne – 93 kms

Tokomaru Bay from the top of Tokomaru Hill

Tokomaru Bay from the top of Tokomaru Hill

 Not a bad ride today, the winds abated and I was even surprised by some tailwinds for a while. Only three big lumps in the road today, but lots of small ones again. The biggest lump was (I should have figured) Tokomaru Hill, right after Tokomaru Bay! But all in all a good ride which was mostly inland; especially good for the last 25 kms when I re-found the coast again. Beautiful ocean beaches on the way into Gisborne – big surf and quite a few surfers taking advantage of the waves in that area.
I also passed a Sperm Whale gravesite at Wainui Beach, where fifty-nine of them beached themselves in 1970 – there were some roadside interpretation signboards with some interesting facts about the incident and other whale related information.

Whale Grave

Whale Grave

Spectacular Beaches on the way to Gisborne…

"Fine" Beach

“Fine” Beach

I was pleasantly surprised to find this motor camp, which is practically in downtown Gisborne, but on the beachfront. I even splurged on a cabin tonight, very basic, just two bunks, a table and a couple of chairs – but only NZ$20.00 – not a bad deal to save putting up the tent for one night. I have to get up early anyway, as I made the decision and am booked for the bus shuttle to Wellington tomorrow morning. I want to have a good look around Wellington, so I’m planning on a rest day there on Sunday. I found digs for Sunday night, but as yet I still have to pin down somewhere for tomorrow (Saturday, here). Monday morning I’ll be catching the ferry to the South Island and I’ll resume cycling from the landfall of Picton. I can see that I’ll probably have to put a few miles in while in Wellington though, especially if I have to scrounge around for accommodation – it might be tough too, there’s some Cuban Mardi-Gras thing going on! – Wish me luck!

Find your way Home!

Find your way Home!

I heard that there’s heavy rains forecast for this area on Sunday night, so it’s just as well that I vamoose to another part of New Zealand. In fact, the last weather report warned of a cyclone heading for the coast of the North Island, somewhere around Auckland.

Rough Roadways!

Rough Roadways!

Have I mentioned the road surfaces here? Well I have to say that there is definitely a diverse mix of roadway. I think that it all starts out as heavy chip and tar, but the traffic smoothes it out over time, most noticeably where the vehicles’ tires track. The new stuff is quite rough to ride on, but (or should that be “butt”?”) thankfully my sprung saddle smoothes out the worst stuff. Nevertheless, the strange part is that none of the stretches of surface are very long – kind of the like the road maintenance people decide to fix 2 kms here and then another 2 kms, 6 kms down the road. No big repaving jobs here! So it goes from rough to smooth to mediocre and so on – but for the most part it has been paved. When I’ve hit road works, it’s really rough – especially if there’s a hill involved.

Anyhow, I’m heading out to forage in downtown Gisborne for some eats – and drinks!

Day 10 -Gisborne to Wellington – on the bus! – 5 kms (Riding for a Bed!)

A grey rainy morning in Gisborne which is continuing during this bus trip to Wellington – it would have been a poor day to ride. So much for Gisborne being the first place in the world to see the sun! – not even a glimmer this morning! So apart from the fact that I’m still unsure of where I’ll be staying tonight, the bus was a good option. There was no problem loading my bike into the bus’ hold – I just had to remove all the baggage and cover the chain. I did have to change buses in Napier though and the second driver was not as accommodating as the first fellow – he kind of grumbled that my handlebars were too high or something, but I helped load the bike into the hold and he was OK after that. I did book the space for my bike in advance, as I had heard that some bus drivers will not take a bike without a reservation.
We just left Napier on our way to Hastings and eventually Wellington. The bus driver reports that a detour is necessary around a gorge that lost it’s bridge in the recent flooding – so later still into Wellington! The road from Gisborne travelled through Wairoa; from Wairoa to Napier we crossed some deep gorges which left the road clinging, twisting and turning along some very steep hillsides – it would have been a challenging ride indeed! I swear that the bus driver has a death wish – driving over these roads at maximum speed – this bus trip is more like a hairy roller-coaster ride at the fair!

I discovered yesterday evening that Gisborne was actually the first landfall of Captain Cook in 1769, as per a monument to that effect. I also discovered some great seafood that I had for a leisurely dinner after a stroll around the town. After some of the small towns that I have been through in the past few days, the variety of stores and restaurants in downtown Gisborne was positively mesmerising!

For you beer connoisseurs…
So far, “Tui, India Pale Ale” is my favourite beer, but the locals seem to favour “Lion Red,” surprising really, as it’s more of a lager beer. I would have thought the British influence would have produced something more traditional. They do have some stuff called “DH Bitter,” but it’s still pretty “plain Jane.”

The landscape’s getting flatter now with nothing special for scenery. I did read that this section was quite boring for cycling. Anyhow, time for a nap – this bus is making me sleepy!

Later this day…
The last two hours on the bus were through heavy rain going past waterlogged and flooded fields – bang goes plan A – which entailed heading for a motor camp which is 11 Kms northwest of the city.

I finally arrived downtown just before 7:00 p.m. – I was getting antsy by then – no digs, pissing down rain and windy to boot! I re-packed the bike, then went over to the Downtown Backpackers place – no dice – but the young lady at the desk got the yellow pages out and did some dialling for me, after I’d tried on the payphone and reached answering machines at numerous places – ever wanted to rip a phone out of the wall? Anyhow, I found a place – highly overpriced – but beggars can’t be choosers, right? Very nice place though, very new, about 3 kms from the bus depot near the hospital. Fortunately, I didn’t hear ambulances all night – slept real good – clean sheets, soft bed – lovely!

This morning…
Great breakfast – I just heard confirmation on the news of the hurricane/cyclone/bad storm heading for Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, where I was. Hopefully it doesn’t track south to here.
After a day in Wellington today, and CONFIRMED digs at the hostel, I’m on the ferry to the South Island tomorrow a.m.

Day 12 -Wellington to Blenheim – Ferry + 35 kms

Downtown Wellington

Downtown Wellington

A grand day off in Wellington yesterday (Day 11) – the International Festival was in full swing after getting rained out on Saturday. So in fact it wasn’t a Cuban Festival, but rather an International Festival on Cuba Street! Regardless, after checking into the Backpackers hostel and securing the bike there, I rubbernecked thoroughly and sampled the wares of many food vendors – Yum, tasty treats!
After that, I did the tour of the National Museum, Te Papa, had a quick look in the Maritime Museum and then finished off with a really quick tour of the Wellington Brewery – two pints of their Sassy Red Bitter completed the tourism for the day!

Today, Cook Strait was surprisingly calm for the ferry-crossing – it’s usually a fairly rough voyage. The ferry is a good size though, with many car decks and even railcars in the lowest deck – which is also the bicycle deck – go figure!
The 48 km crossing takes three hours and, when compared to BC Ferries, is very expensive – a car and driver would be in the region of C$180.00. So I guess that after all we get a pretty good deal back home!

Nice Day for a Cruise!

Nice Day for a Cruise!

Once in Marlborough Sound, the scenery from the ferry is amazingly akin to our own Active Pass and Gulf Island vistas. Even the ride from the ferry terminal was very much a la BC!

After disembarking at Picton on the South Island, I did a bit of shopping and then it was an easy ride on SH 1 to the motor camp here in Blenheim. “Fine” weather coupled with a beautiful tailwind pushed me almost the whole way here! Let’s hope that it continues for tomorrow’s ride down the Kaikoura coast. I counted six or seven cyclists heading the other way on that short stretch of road – so I really do expect to see more cyclists here. The roads are here are quieter, have a decent shoulder and even the traffic seems to be a little calmer – let’s hope that continues for the rest of my ventures on the South Island.

Day 13 -Blenheim to Kaikoura – 132 kms

Rain last night left me to fold up a wet tent and hoping for a chance to dry it off later – ha, ha – I should know better!

After my quick breaky at the camp, I started to head south on SH 1 passing many wineries and vineyards that this area is known for. Before long the sun came out – quite pleasant, I thought to myself. There was a 6.5 km climb to start the day followed by a couple of others – not really a big deal. So by the time I had pedalled 50 kms and reached the town of Ward (there’s an easy name for you to spit out!), I was more than ready for my second breaky – together with a nice pot of tea. After the few seconds to devour that, I was ready for the off again. It was actually hot and sunny, so before I set off again, I put on the old sun-screen.
Ya know, I’m sure that that shit, sunscreen that is, attracts rain! No more than another 5 kms down the road, a headwind kicks in, gentle at first, then building up to the New Zealand norm. Then I spot the familiar greyish-black cloud pouring over the hilltops. Yep, the rain starts – again! Well the weather forecast did call for some showers on the coast, I thought to myself. Showers – right! This was a full fledged rain squall, that stopped and started for the rest of my ride to Kaikoura. I’ll swear that the wind (and rain) was blowing at least 40 kms/hr into my face for the whole remaining sixty or so kilometres. In short, without sugar-coating things too much – the weather was crappy!
Talk about tired when I got here, I was exhausted. So with an already wet tent, that had no chance of drying, as it was still raining when I arrived, I rented a small sleeper cabin at the motor camp. It’s full of my wet crap now that I spread out and left to dry there while I make dinner.

It’s sure handy having these kitchens at the motor camps. At least I can stay dry when I cook, and they are a great place to interact with other travellers. Travellers – did I see any other cyclists? No, there was only one fool on the road today – riding the wrong way as usual! – No fool like an old fool they say, eh?

Black Sand Beaches

Black Sand Beaches

Nevertheless, there was some great coastal and inland scenery. On the Kaikoura coast the black sand beaches began, followed by rock beaches and offshore rock outcrops. It was at these rocky sections that I saw hundreds of seals – normally I would say basking in the sun – today they were cowering in the wind and rain! Anyhow I did manage to snap a photo before the wind whipped the camera away and it washed away in a flash flood – just kidding! Nice to see some real wildlife here though, apart from a variety of birds, dead hedgehogs, dead possums and caged deer, there isn’t that much other wildlife around.

Cycling the Kaikoura Coast…

Heading for the hills in nice weather!

Heading for the hills in nice weather!

Bad Weather Imminent!

Bad Weather Imminent!

Find the Seals!

Find the Seals!

I sure hope that this weather improves though – last night on the news, I heard that this February in New Zealand was four times wetter than average. And it was the wettest February on record, since recording began – whenever! I picked this year to come here – go figure!

Well at least it can’t get much worse – can it? More sad tales tomorrow…

Continued on Page 4…

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