After picking up the west coast in Haast six days ago we’ve pretty much followed the coastline northwards. Today, Tuesday, would effectively be our last day following the sea because tomorrow we’ll turn inland and head up the Buller Gorge and then over to Blenheim, where we’ll sample some wine and then get the ferry to Wellington. Our first day following the coastline was drizzly, overcast and fairly monotonous as we rode through the rainforest from Haast. Today was a total contrast, with blue skies, white topped waves, the sun scorching down and constantly changing views. We’re really thankful Duncan had told us to carry on up the coast and not to turn inland at Greymouth.
Half way between Rapahoe and Charleston we came to Punakaiki, which has some impressive geological formations and blowholes. We stopped, walked out to the cliffs and sat with our lunch. As it was a clear day we could look back down the coast and see the snow-capped mountains we’d ridden past four or five days ago, and even longer ago when we were up at Lake Tekapo. It’s quite amazingly how far it’s possible to travel by bicycle. Each individual day is never that far in the grand scheme of things, but the distances quickly tot up day after day. Since landing in Christchurch we’ve ridden around 1000 km. After ten months that number is going to be much larger.
This evening we’re in Charleston, which is marked on google maps, but it’s only a few houses and a campsite. Between Greymouth and Westport, a distance of 100 or so kilometres, there are no major towns, just occasional houses and farms spread along the road. We’ve not seen a single food shop. However, there’s still more habitation up here than there is between Haast and Fox. We both continue to be amazed at how rural and remote South Island is, although it shouldn’t be a surprise because there’s only about a million people on the island and nearly 400,000 live in Christchurch. The rest of the population are spread about the other major towns, such as Dunedin, Queenstown, Invercargill, Wanaka and Nelson. That leaves very few people in the remaining little towns.
The advantage of the west coast are the sunsets. I walked out to the cliffs this evening to watch the sun vanish into the Tasman Sea. It was 8.45 pm, which meant in London it was 7.45 Tuesday morning. (I didn’t know at the time, but my sister had just given birth to her first child, a few days earlier than expected, but we won’t meet the unnamed child until we are back in the UK, *sob*.) Had we not decided to come away I wouldn’t be sat on a cliff top on my own in shorts and t-shirt watching the sun vanish, but instead would be suited up and in school, probably complaining about a meeting that had taken place the previous evening, wondering what the day would throw at me, hoping Ofsted wouldn’t be turning up any time soon, praying no one noticed I was behind with some marking and counting down the days until February half term. At the end of the day I’d be hoping the CPD sessions wouldn’t go on too long so I could prepare lessons for the next day and get home with enough time to sort myself out before heading off to the athletics track at Mile End to spend an hour running around in circles as fast as possible as training for the London marathon. Instead I’m in New Zealand with Philippa and having a fantastic adventure. Life ain’t too bad at the moment!