Over the hills and far away

Whataroa RiverOn Friday morning we waved off an American couple on a tandem who’d also spent the night at Pine Grove. They were heading South and we were continuing North. It was grey and rainy again. We weren’t quite sure where we were headed for on Friday as we had contacted a warmshowers host and had potential but uncertain accommodation in Fox for Friday night. As we were on the outskirts of Fox Glacier we turned Adam’s phone on and had a message from Jules and Mark, the warmshowers hosts, that they could definitely host us after all – hooray. This turned out to be very lucky as the 35km ride in the rain was pretty miserable so we were happy to stop and take it easy for the rest of the day.

Saturday morning was a complete and utter contrast to the grey mis we’ve had the last few days – it was blue skies and sunny. We were aiming for Hari Hari about 85km away from Fox, but before getting anyway near that we had 3 biggish climbs to tackle on the way to Franz Josef. We had studied the elevation profile the night before and so we knew we had 200m gain/descent for the first two climbs. Not wanting to tire myself out I took the first climb pretty slowly. There was quite a bit of traffic coming towards us and some people pulled some shocked, but to me rather comedic expressions when they saw us twiddling up on our bikes; some elected to whoop and cheer us on. The second climb I seemed to find my legs and it seemed much easier. I was out of the saddle pushing a bigger gear quite a lot and I think I’ve really ridden into some fitness. But where was the third climb? I was expecting another climb up to close to 400m but we only got to 325m. I felt cheated. I needn’t have saved myself after all. Adam laughed that he had never heard me complain about there not being enough climbing before!

We arrived in Franz Josef and stocked up on food for the next few days. It felt a lot more populated from this point on. I say a lot more populated. I mean there were towns every now and then and a few houses here and there. Certainly not the remoteness as between Haast and Fox (to my relief – that had freaked me out a bit). We stopped for a coffee in Whataroa (and Adam saw his first goat which made him happy) and got chatting to a cyclist coming the other way. He recommended that if we had the miles in our legs to aim for a DOC campsite at Lake Ianthe, which he said was stunning. This was another 20km on from where we had planned to stop, so I said to Adam we would see how it went, and how I was feeling at Hari Hari.

Before this we had to tackle Mount Hercules (seriously). Adam had said there was another climb on the ride, but I had only remembered it as a blip on the profile so hadn’t given it any due consideration. Big mistake. It started off as a lovely climb, winding its way up through a lush forest. And then it got steeper and steeper and steeper. I had to make quite a few grunting noises (it helps!) to get me to the top, cheered on by some cyclists on an organised tour who had all been driven to the top in a sag wagon. CHEATERS! And that was pretty much all the climbing done for the day!

I was still feeling OK, so once we got to Hari Hari and refuelled with some orange fizz drink we decided to push on. Whilst consuming my sugary and delicious beverage we got chatting to a couple touring around in a campervan. They had also left Fox that morning and were at the same point on the road as us, despite us being on bikes. Yeah – we are THAT fast.

The additional 20km to Lake Ianthe (or, Ian the Lake as Adam now calls it) were well worth it. It was a glorious spot and as soon as we arrived we went for a swim in the fresh water lake. We pitched our tent right by the lake so woke up to stunning views with our morning cuppa. The only thing to spoil our little spot of heaven were the blasted sandflies, but they haven’t been as bad as I expected them to be, given all the hype (scratching at my many bites as I type this).

We were lucky enough to wake to clear skies again on Sunday morning. We had another long day in the saddle to Greymouth (nearly 100km) where we had another warmshowers host waiting for us. The ride was lovely up until about 20km outside Hokitika where we ended up on another of those very long, very straight, but not quite flat roads they seem to love here. The traffic had increased, and with the lack of bends, so had the speed. It’s fair to say I didn’t love that part of the ride. Once in Hokitika I had a disappointing lunch (an egg and bacon pie – sounds so good, but yet so disappointing) and with another 40km to Greymouth I asked at the i-site about alternative transportation to be told that the next bus was tomorrow. Sigh.

Thankfully after about 20km we picked up the West Coast Wilderness Trail, a cycle track at the side of the road, admittedly a bumpy gravel track, but it was a welcome relief. So we pottered up to Greymouth, found our warmshowers host (a keen audaxer, so Adam and Duncan spent a few hours talking about rides they had done, people they both knew) and went out for dinner. Another cyclist turned up later, Lauri from Finland, who has been cycling around the world for the last few years.

After 6 days on the road, including 200km in the last two days, we decided to take today, Monday, as a rest day, so cycled 15km down the road (how does that count as a rest day? Good question) to Rapahoe where we are camped pretty much on the beach, listening to the waves crash. We managed to leave all our electrical chargers and cables with Duncan, but he has very kindly offered to cycle them over this evening. Thanks!

Pine Grove to FoxFox to Lake Ianthe

Lake Ianthe to Greymouth

Greymouth to Rapahoe



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