Bike Tour Days 1-3

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kaikoura, Waiau, Amberley, Christchurch

Welcome to number one of six blog posts on my (and Ryan's) first big bike tour! In total we biked 20 days out of 26 and covered 1100 kilometers of New Zealand's beautiful South Island. We started at Jacqui and Scott's home in Kaikoura, and following the incredibly useful Pedaller's Paradise guidebook, took the scenic inland Alpine Pacific Triangle route headed South. For each of these posts, you'll find a map and an elevation profile at the top left describing the current segment (okay, I'm a bit of a nerd). First day's destination: Mt. Lyford!

We set out at the crack of 10 following an enormous breakfast of banana- and nutella-filled crèpes. With fresh legs and first-day eagerness, we sailed up hill after hill, swooping around switchbacks and learning to deal with 75+ pounds of loaded bike. We stopped for a break after about 30 km, and I pulled out my camera to record the beautiful mountain scenery, only to find that I'd left the battery on the charger back in Kaikoura. Oops.

Sadly camera-less, we plugged on until lunch became necessary. We were sitting by the side of the road marvelling at the lack of traffic when we saw a colourful van chugging up the hill towards us. Fortunately, Jacqui and Scott had realized my mistake and had driven down the road to find us! They covered our 4-hour journey in about half an hour, and brought popsicles in addition to the camera battery. Yummy! You can read their version of the day at their blog :)

I don't know why Ryan looks so upset in this picture

The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, with beautiful sunshine and perfect quiet roads.

Peace and Quiet
Ryan looking at sheep

We arrived at Mt. Lyford lodge after about 60 kilometers. The sign advertised a spa (hot tub), in addition to hot food and a place to sleep - perfect! My knees were starting to feel the combined strain of the weight and the hills, and we were just plain tired after doing physical activity for the first time in an embarassing while. We pulled in to the driveway and found a chain across the parking lot entrance. I was too sad to even take a picture.

After the disappointment of Mt. Lyford, we pressed on the next 23 km to Waiau, which supposedly had a hotel and a motor camp (or "holiday park" - basically campground/cabin/shower/kitchen complexes that you can find throughout New Zealand). We rolled in to town just as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains, only to find that the holiday park was also closed! Apparently travelling in the off season has its downsides.

Next we tried the Waiau hotel, which was open, but didn't have any rooms. Apparently hotel can mean "pub". The bartender sent us back to the holiday park, where we fortunately found someone to talk to. The guy that was looking after the owners' dogs unlocked the showers and let us set up camp! With a fair bit of relief we set up camp, showered, and went back to the pub for burgers and chips.

Camping at Waiau Motor Camp - cold!

After Waiau we merged on to the main highway and encountered more than our share of logging trucks and milk trucks. It was a fairly stressful ride after the previous day, and sore muscles, sore knees, and general tiredness from sleeping in the cold didn't help. However, it was still a gorgeous summery day, and we saw some fun stuff along the way to Amberley, like Frog Rock:

Frog Rock. This is actually marked as a feature in the guidebook.
Ryan is happy now, see?

We arrived in Amberley feeling somewhat better, as most of the trip was downhill and it was only about 60 km. Ryan even felt so good that he went for a run! I did not. We stayed at another nondescript motor camp, this time right on the side of the main highway. Oh, and also train tracks.

Sleeping next to trucks and trains.

The last day of our first leg was a short 40-something kilometer trip into Christchurch. We biked along the main highway until it turned into a "motorway" (no bikes allowed), and then we negotiated the pothole-laden streets of earthquake-stricken Christchurch. I wish I'd gotten a chance to take pictures of the downtown "red zone" - it's really quite a sight - but we were too stressed out by the traffic and the difficulty following maps that were no longer relevant. We finally found the bus depot, booked a ticket for the following morning to Dunedin (skipping the flat and traffic-filled Canterbury plains), and splurged on a hotel room for the night.

I don't feel that we got a very good idea of what Christchurch is all about, due to everything being destroyed and re-created in temporary buildings. Bars were relocated to trailers, the bus depot was set up in a shed, and the convenient bike paths led to nowhere. However, we did find some surprisingly delicious Indian food in a repurposed gas station, and I finally had a chance to take a picture:


And so the adventure begins in earnest. Next up: Dunedin, castles, chocolate, beer, and penguins!

1 comment:

  1. looks like you're having fun! Great to hear you've put down a couple days and experienced the ups and downs of it all.


    p.s. don't worry about planning, it all works out anyway.