New Zealand (part 3) – Fjordlands, South Coast, and too much wind

We rolled south from Te Anau, on the outskirts of Fjordlands national park. The pedal down was beautiful, including this lovely beach.

TopoFusion users might recognize this photo, which became 2017’s splash screen on the Pro version of the software. TopoFusion is on sale this weekend, for Small Biz Saturday through Cyber Monday, too…

So many cool rocks in the world. Ez loves to collect.

We paid a few bucks to have a local bloke ferry us across the river. Apparently I say my name incorrectly, because no matter how many times I said it, or how I tried to enunciate it, he couldn’t understand me. Finally he got it and I thought back to the couple we met from Invercargil. Down south the Kiwi accent is a little bit Scottish, and there is definitely a Scottish way to say “Scott”. I didn’t really think there were too many ways to pronounce my name, but I was wrong!

On the other side were tramping trails and a hut we wanted to stay at.

NZ is a geologically young place, which shows in the steepness and unstable nature of the mountains. These trees, soil and grass were curiously melting off the hill, seemingly before our eyes.

A beach walk along lake Manipouri was called for. As the night attempted to descend (long days!) more and more people started to show up at the hut. We naively thought it would be empty since you can only access it by water. A tramping club was the bulk of the group and they were quite interesting to talk to. We got a little beta on DOC camping and other rules.

They got a huge fire going on the beach (we didn’t realize that was legal) and though we all got many sandfly bites, it was a special evening. A japanese musician played us some tunes, and one in the tramping club got so worked up over Trump getting elected he had to take a walk to cool off. It was hilarious, and quite the night.

Always take the boat ride. This was generally a return trip ride, but they’ll sell you a one way ticket because there is a sneaky way to exit on a bike and not a boat.

Always take the free coffee.

We didn’t see any mice on the road over to the Doubtful Sound. With no bears or large mammals, critters aren’t much of a worry in NZ.

A hefty climb (unloaded since it’s out/back) took us to a stunning and misty view of Doubtful.

Then it was time to retrieve our luggage from the bush and commence a massive climb out of the valley and up to ‘the tops.’

Why is there a road in this ridiculously steep and beautiful country? Certainly a dubious place for what was a pretty decent road.

Pylons! Lake Manipouri generates power through giant underground tunnel, something I’d never heard of. The water ends up in the Doubtful Sound, which is 10km away, dropping 750 feet on the way.

The problem? See where I’m taking the photo from? And where the next pylons are? Yeah, there’s no road. They didn’t need to build it, instead using a huuuuuge run of cable between pylons.

No problem, have bikes, will carry. I would really like to know who the first mountain bikers were that saw this connection and decided it was a good idea to attempt. Kindred spirits of mine, surely.

Navigating a steep section just on the edge of a slip. Loaded bikes were not ideal, but not so bad either.

Success, road base again! What a beautiful connection.

We spent another couple days riding out of there and camping in what felt like an incredibly remote area.

When we finally emerged back on pavement the wind was absolutely ripping. Any indecision about which way we were going was over.

Done and dusted, wind at our backs, we took the free ride to Tuatapere.

My Redpoint had been given the name “Sausage” earlier in the trip, so I had to. Tuatapere may have been the sausage capital, but we sure loved the town, or rather the quirky holiday park we spent a few nights at. They had incredible food, good wifi and lots of room.

Somehow I talked Eszter into doing the Humpridge Track, which we had seen advertised all over the south island. We were able to book one night at the fancy hut and use our hut pass for the second. There was apparently no other way to see it (without paying a night and supporting the trust of the trail).

This sketchy swingbridge said it was damaged and had been downgraded from ‘max 4 people’ to ‘max 1 person’.

Tramping on the beach? Yes please.

Despite the luxury billing on this tramp, the climb is no joke! It worked us over good.

I’ve always been fascinated by places you can stay that don’t have roads, and this was by far the fanciest one I’ve seen. Everything is helicoptered in. The ‘hut’ is perched just at treeline, in quite a spot.

Coastal alpine. Stunning. This is the day hike you can do above the hut.

The Luxury hut thing doesn’t seem to be working out for them. They could sleep 48, but there were only four of us so we almost had the place to ourselves. The dad and daughter from Australia that we shared it with were quite fun, even if the daughter had trouble understanding us!

As we sat in the dining room, looking out the huge window, the wind started blowing columns of snow in. It was something to see, and assuaged our guilt at splurging on ‘luxury’ just a slight bit.

South coast forest, wow.

Our next night was anything but luxury — it was in this little schoolhouse. It was the only building that remained after a boomtown logging operation went bust 100 years or so ago. We had walked on the line and over trestles that had briefly transported trees out of the bush.

Somehow we crammed 30 or 40 people, many in their teens, into that little ‘hut.’ The bulk of them were a christian school group. The best part was when they played a highly censored version of Cards against Humanity. Quite entertaining, and with earplugs we slept well.

Hey look, a photo of both of us, how rare.

Endless entertainment as the waves crashed into rocks and cliffs. We looked for dolphins and penguins, only seeing the former.

Thick bush along the coastline. Beautiful.

We retrieved our bikes from said thick bush at the end of the track and commenced a long and somewhat ill-advised ride back north. We wanted to make it to Wanaka to spend Christmas with Eszter’s brother. But no good routes were really presenting themselves. Just lots of pavement on farm roads.

sheeps! so many sheeps!

Normally that wouldn’t be so bad, and indeed most of the roads we found for the next several days were low traffic.

But… the wind. We’d ridden it south after Manipouri, but now were paying the piper trying to get back north. Grass pollen had started to be an issue for both of us. Too much time spent out in the wind.

The town of Lumsden allows free camping in the town park. So cool. And we were ready to get on the ‘Round the Mountains’ cycle route, back on dirt, the next day!

But… the wind. We set up our tent on the lee side of the train, which was the only thing giving shelter in the park. That worked pretty well until 1 or 2 AM when the direction shifted ever so much, and we had the classic ‘tent to the face’ type of situation on our hands. Our solution, since it wasn’t cold or storming, was to take down the tent and simply sleep on it. That worked, but it was a miserable night.

We noticed cracks in a few places on our tent poles the next day. Tape, yeah, tape should take care of that right?

Round the Mountains was a relief to rejoin, especially when we got to ride *inside* hedges. Much of the farmland in NZ has planned hedges of trees, so we’d seen them everywhere. When oriented correctly they provide good wind blocks, but this was the first time we got to go inside them!

Round the Mountains is an NZ cycle trail, and the time/effort/money that went into it shows. This was only one of many giant bridges on the route. A little accommodation we stayed at (indoors, out of the pollen and wind!) even had a cute children’s book written about riding the route.

It’s cool when you have routes just for you (touring cyclists). We really love and appreciate the NZ cycle trail program.

From Round the Mountain we transitioned into the more central part of the South Island, which is drier and almost desert-like in places. As it became summer, the weather also improved. It was time to ride high and head on to Wanaka!

1 comment to New Zealand (part 3) – Fjordlands, South Coast, and too much wind

  • “Thick bush along the coastline.” Yep, you are getting the lingo right!
    An amazing little country and great to read about it through your eyes. Keep the write-ups coming please. 😉

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