Wednesday, May 3, 2017

More Photos

My adventure didn't start here, but it did go through it.

Sorry for the lack of updating. Its been a hectic couple of weeks. I've been riding with my brother and neglecting my journal. We have managed to get to Auckland and get him safely on a flight back home. I've managed to put in a few hours of work as well. Now time to get back on the road and reach Cape Reinga and return to Wellington before the end of the month.

It has been brought to my attention that I've not posted photos lately. I've been busy posting some to Instagram, but here are links to the unedited albums.

North Island Fun
South Island Part 2

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pie Ride: Rest of the South Island

*Rest Day*
Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 2 (technically I saw them last night, but after journal was done as they rolled in well past sunset)

Plans for today:
Breakfast: I ate at Big Fig. It was very good. I had a Gozleme, a little flat bread with spiced lamb, pine nuts, and spinach
Massage: 1 hour of body work to loosen my tight muscles
Bike Store: brighter red flasher
Laundry: wash and dry my stinky clothes
Grocery: Get some supplies for the next few days
Exercise: Walk around the lake front - didn't happen
Blog: posted blog post and images
Bike Maintenance: cleaned drive train and inspected bolts and tires

It was good to rest, but the body wanted to ride!

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 4

Left Wanaka early knowing I had a big day out. 140km and a big hill. The early kms ticked by as my legs felt great. While heading around Lake Hawea a headwind came out. This made it a little difficult on some of the climbs. Being mainly tourist drivers I was given a wide berth by most. I had a shouting conversation with the 1st cycle tourist I saw over the road for 10 minutes. He had been riding for 19 days for the 1st time in 15 years. He was also wearing a huge tramping bag. Lake Wanaka was nice from the other end and I pulled into Makarora to determine if I was going to continue riding or stopping for the day. As it was not yet noon, I determined to press on. I ate lunch, talked to an American Tour group, and their bus driver. He warned me about the Haast Pass descent and the hill between Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. He also recommended I tell other riders not to dress like ninjas and to get a mirror. The change from Otago to West Coast couldn't be more striking. Went from a grassland to a land of lush dense green vegetation. Haast Pass wasn't that bad and the summit was a car park for a lookout, some 30 minutes away. The initial descent was fine and I passed 2 German cycle tourists coming up. The later descent is terrifying. Super steep and brakes got a good workout. I could smell them as I fluttered the pressure. I ran into another cycle tourist, Adam, on the road to Haast. I rode beside him for a bit. We chatted about riding and living in New Zealand. He has been here for 4 weeks and has ridden most of the South Island. He only has a 6 month tourist visa so he is making the most of it. I then dropped him and put it back in the big ring. Time to hammer the last 30km to Haast. Strange little town with no mobile coverage. So I didn't know exactly where Beth booked me. SO I went into the 1st backpackers I saw and asked if they had a booking for me. My assumption was correct. I bought some data and could communicate via email and instant messenger with Beth about tomorrow's plan. Which is Fox Glacier, 120km away. There is about 900m of climb over the day, but it doesn't look that bad. The weather is supposed to turn later in the day so an early start is warranted.

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 2
Hitch Hikers: 2

Haast is a lazy town, but it has some cool things going for it. Lots of tracks and its on the edge of Aspiring National Park. The ride was a wet one. There was headwinds most of the day. Some mist. Some showers. All overcast. Ran into some Americans at Knight Point. I guessed Texas by accent, but from Alabama. The woman in the group called me fit as I'm cycling. I said or 'Insane'. The day was blotted with misty mountains and the occasional view of the coast. There were lots of tourists driving around and one wanker didn't yield when I was on the one lane bridge. After that I pulled into a cafe (60km) for lunch as my oatmeal has been burned off by then. They specialized in hot smoked salmon. It was very tasty. As I was leaving, there were 2 cyclists coming in. As it was pouring, I wanted to keep moving to get warm and they probably wanted some shelter and food. The road proceeded to gently climb for the remainder of the day I think. I stopped off at Lake Parangia and saw 7 Land Cruisers filled with camera happy Asians. Who then ran about taking photos. I don't know how they all fit in there. I ended up doing over 120km today and Beth booked a hostel for me as it is still raining. I'm going to look at the weather for tomorrow and may leave later if it helps. Otherwise, I was trying for Ross (130km) to start the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

I don't know the guy, but I'm aware of him (Mike Hall). He was killed during a cycle race across Australia yesterday. Just made me think about close calls with vehicles here. Man vs Car, the car wins. I've been tentative around logging trucks but today I ended up riding off the shoulder a few times to give more room. Or just pulled over all together. My feeds were filled with the news and I couldn't help but thinking of him all day. He was instrumental in endurance cycling and can be see in 'Inspired to Ride'.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 8
Hitch Hikers: 2

The hostel was funny as there are dirt bags who hitch hike and won't contribute to fuel, but asked me about skydiving and bungee jumping. The gall of some people. The eggs benedict @hobnail was especially good. The caramel slice was lacking a good slice/crust bit. The ride out of Fox was ugly. There was 3 climbs, that I was working hard to get to the top. Then I was scared on the descents as the roads were wet, curvy, and there was sun glare off the roads. It took 1:30 to reach the first sign for Franz Joseph then 1:40 to reach the town. The bus driver, from the day before, said it takes him an hour. I ran into 2 cyclists from Holland and he happened to break his brake pad on the last descent. He probably can't get a replacement until Greymouth. Which means, he'll have to be careful on Mt. Hercules, which was just brutal after my previous couple days. My legs can hammer the flats, but for the climbs my legs just feel dead. I passed through Wharatoa which seemed interesting, but Hari Hari had a cool tile showcase and a unique craft store. I'm camping at Lake Ianthe with the sand flies. The sunset was amazing. Tomorrow its onto Ross and then part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail before finally ending up in Greymouth then onto Barrytown, to make a knife. The campsite has 2 other cyclists and a couple camper vans at it. More cyclists showed up at twilight. It is time to stretch and get ready for sleep. Tomorrow I should get up early and head out as bad weather is on the horizon (3 days away).
Dad's Pie from 4 Square was ok.

Pie Count: 2
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 2
Hitch Hikers: 0

Packed up early from Lake Ianthe and started me way to Ross. Few little hills to wake the legs up a long with some mist to start the morning. Got into Ross and searched for food. Had a pastie and a peppercorn steak pie. Meh. Not enough filling and the crust was hard. Stopped by Roddy Cafe and Museum afterwards for a 2nd pie, steak and cheese. Didn't taste any cheese and the filling reminded me of spag. sauce. Not a winner. Wondered the museum for a few. It was mainly Harley Davidson stuff. Then onto the West Coast Wilderness Trail. Just have to look out for the orange signs. From Ross to Hokitika, it was a combination of paved and gravel roads with some trails and a boardwalk. Not all that enjoyable. Grabbed a photo on the beach with the Hokitika sign then got fluids at New World, where I ran into 2 Brits heading out on the trail. Never saw them again. The trail from Hokitika to Kumara (where I'm staying in the Undertakers backpackers, it was the residence of the town's undertakers) was more gravel than paved roads with some trail. It was a warm affair. The sun was out and you were pretty exposed. This was more fun as there was some flow to the track and would be fun at speed on an unloaded bike. I'm sure the mtb riders, I saw thoguht I was nuts rolling past Cowboy Paradise loaded up as they were eating and drinking. I got bad news that the knife making in Barrytown wasn't going to happen, but there is another place in Wakefield that we are contacting for a Friday Session. If all goes to plan, I will be in Wellington by Sunday. Just seems like I just started riding down here, I guess it will be over 2 weeks of riding with a couple days off. Tomorrow I head to Reefton. No longer going to Westport as the knife making isn't going to happen.

Pie Count: 2
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 0

Left Kumara after some oats and a good sleep. A German mom and daughter showed up late, but I ended up chatting for a bit in the morning over breakfast. The trail to Greymouth wasn't all that fun. Just wandering through industrial parts and the wind was awful. It was a crosswind coming from the East, which would later become a headwind once I turned toward Reefton. The beach looked drab as well. Greymouth had a decent pie even though the girl didn't recommend the Nacho Pie, when I ordered it. Stop in to Do Duck in Bakery. The Nacho Pie reminded me of the mad mex pie from One Tree Bakery in Mt Maunganui. I wandered around town for a bit then left, but not before I bought some new brake pads, as I knew it would be a struggle today. High winds out of the East, no shoulder, and lots of trucks. I slagged through it. I did manage to stop at a few places, an old mill site, a rest area with a train engine, and the most amazing campsite, Slab Hut. It had a wood fire oven and 2 wood BBQ. Right next to a stream which you can gold panning at. Beth stalked me when I diverted to the campsite to go to the bathroom. I was already booked at the Old Bakery Hostel. This place is ran by a busy fellow who also likes to chat. He was running around all day as he's a reporter. He recommended the bar down the street for food. I got a good feed for $52: soup, garlic bread, T-bone steak with fries & salad, a ginger beer, and a cream freeze sundae. I got a few weird looks as I was ordering. After that I came back and swapped out the front brake pad. It was worn down and glazed pretty bad. Tomorrow I'm off to Murchison then Glenhope then Nelson. Hopefully the rain will come late. Just going to eat in the morning and get back on the road.

Pie Count: 2
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 0

The stay at the Old Bakery Hostel was good. Only 1 other guest and she was being sponsored by the Council as her Council flat needed fixing. I had a 3 person room to myself and free wi-fi for $25. So I ended up watching/listening to youtube most of the night instead of my mp3 player. The fire kept the building surprisingly warm all night even with the backdoor open all night. I rode into the main street and had a pie for breakfast. It was ok. Then it was on to the 85km ride to Murchison. The road started with a little hill then a long downhill section. No so many trucks out this morning. It was just a bit cool so leggings were on and after not too long so were the sleeves. The scenery was a blend of hills and farming. I stopped for a long time in Inangahua at the General Store and Cafe. I had a slice which was ok and a tea. I got to talking to the owners about pies and pie ride and they said that there is a place in Havelock known for their mussel pies. So I've got to find it. They then said theirs are World Famous as well. I had to admit that their sausage roll threw me for a cinnamon roll when I first walked in. So I went back up to the counter for another tea, a steak and cheese pie, and a sausage roll. The pie was very good. The filling was flavorful and the pasty held up and was still flaky. I would have liked the pasty to have been cooked a little more as it was a little doughy. However, the sausage roll shaped like a cinnamon roll, and not like a log, with BBQ sauce is a winner. I'm not typically a fan as its ration of meat to pastry is off in my opinion. This felt right. I could have eaten a dozen. The owner said that truckers will call ahead to have them save rolls in the back for them as they sell out. After leaving there I passed Lyell cemetery, which over looks the gorge. Very nice final place. Then Chubby had to tease me by posing with the Old Ghost Road trail sign. I would have loved to ridden it right now, Greta and Thomas from Taupo are riding it tomorrow, but better suited for a lighter loaded and a different bike. The ride through the gorge was pretty bad. Lots of trucks and no shoulders. Almost had an incident with a truck on a descent. He had given me room, but then an oncoming van made him reclaim the lane. I hit the brakes at 60kph and put it in the grass shoulder. I was a bit shaken but had to continue to Murchinson. This is the type of ride that ages you. The gorge being beautiful but probably ride when fewer cars are expected. The turn off to Murchison picked up more traffic and I spent a lot of time pulled over to let people pass. Then there was construction so long queues. The Lazy Cow is a quaint little hostel on the edge of town had a homey feel. I made use of the jacuzzi tub to massage my weary muscles. The dorm has 2 Germans and 2 yanks. Ben is from Oregon and finished the TA recently having taken over 4 months. The pizzas there are pretty good. I would recommend them. Tomorrow is a shortish day to Glenhope about 40km. I have to bring all my food as there is nothing out there but it is a mecca for bike packers. Then its 80+ km to Nelson. The weather held out today, but was a little chilly.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 0
Hitch Hikers: 1

Talked to 2 guys this morning. Both live in Texas, but one was born and raised in Blenheim. They are scouting out spots for their scout troops. So they asked for track recommendations. I said Great Walks for beginners and then start looking at Hollyford or Copeland for more experienced groups. Then the Dusty (doubtful sounds area) for advanced. We then talked BBQ for a long time. So Bri got accepted to Grad School. The American guy, Ben, mentioned he got in as well. So I was giving him the pros/cons of MN.
I ate at the local Tea House in Murchison and the pie was awesome. Big chunks of meat, flaky yet portable crust. It ticked all the boxes. The stack of blueberry pancakes were pretty awesome as well. It fueled my short distance, but lengthy ride. I ended up pulling over for traffic a lot and I stopped at all look outs to see what was there. The Hu Ha Farmstay is pretty cool. Big open floor with a couple rooms with various bunk configurations. There is a friendly dog and wandering chickens. It being a farm, there are other animals, but they are fenced in. At the moment, I'm the only person booked in. Tomorrow I got 84+ km ride to Nelson then on to Picton. Lets hope the weather and traffic cooperate.

Chatting with Martin as he is doing the TA2018 and asked about my setup. I typed up an email about the bike. I'll be able to give a better review at the end of the next month as I'll have done a lot of the course in reverse. So far the bike is handling everything I've thrown at it without a problem. If I were to do the TA I would opt for a frame bag and maybe a seat post bag to centralize the weight and minimize the width bulk. Doing this would also limit the amount of stuff you could carry. So you can't just bring it just because. The bike setup is not that good for single track as its too wide.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourist: 0

Woke up on a cool farm stay, where I ended up the only person there. I listened to several of their records the night before and stretched in front of the fire. I heard them adding a log to the fire this morning at roughly 6am. This let me get going early on the chilly morning. It was probably 9 degrees in the shade and probably 5 more degrees in the sun. My legs felt great right out the gate. It was a combination of short distances and then stretching and massage. The first test was a 200+ meter climb to Hope Saddle. I seemed to fly up it and then I was able to hammer at a much more road pace then my previous days. The kms just flew by, but I slowed down as the area started to smell like autumn. The road became the Great Taste Trail right before a big hill and I got to rip gravel again and go through the 5th longest tunnel. You need to have a light as its 1300+ m long. After that the trail bounces back and forth across the road and even disappears all together. I think I would opt to ride the road if I did this again. I stopped in Wakefield for a pie and a slice. The pie was stuffed, but it fell apart after the first bite. The slice was bad. No blend of flavors, just a thick slice. I talked to Jake for a while about his trip in a couple weeks. He is going to have the bike sent to Taupo for pick-up rather than trying to bus with it. We are still talking about some logistics, but I'll be back in Wellington this weekend and we'll hammer them out. Nelson has some cool cycle ways around town, but just picking one I ended up having to Google directions as signage wasn't always thaty great. I'm sure if I rode them more, they would make sense. That being said, there are a ton of bikers here. Anything from commuters, roadies, mtb, kids, recumbent, and just errand runners. I ate at Catalina's Cantina and it was tasty. I would definitely go there again. Tomorrow's plan is to ride to Havelock and then decide whether or not I'm going to push on through to Picton that afternoon. The ride should be just over 110km with about 1300m of elevation. Today I sat in a 'hot' tub and massaged my legs for a good while. Hopefully tomorrow they will feel like they did today!

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 4
Hitch Hikers: 2

Woke up early in Nelson and was rewarded with re-breaking my toe. I originally did this dodging a Banu hug before Northern Circuit. I did it this morning by kicking the kitchen bench while making breakfast. Ouch. I felt sorry for an English girl this morning. There was some sleazy dude, who called himself 'monsieur chocolat' or Mister Chocolate and put on a British accent. He even told her it was fake and that it was a bit rude to do so. He asked for her name so he could Google here. When he finally left, I said that was a bit creepy. I then talked to a Belgian kid who is traveling around named Witze. He'll soon be following my adventures via Strava. He is a triathlete and is contemplating cycle touring here for a bit. After my 8 slices of toast I hit the road just after 7 am. The first few kms felt really good then the big climb sprung up. I just kept spinning and spinning. If I stood up my toe throbbed. Body was sweating hard and my clothes were soaked by the time I got to the top. Now they were damp and cold and the descent was awful. I had to switch to a wool top and ride glove-less. The views were of mainly pine trees but also of logging and construction. I stopped off in Rai Valley for a quick bite to eat and then continued up the climbs. Having pulled into Havelock, I looked for the mussel pie, but didn't find it so I opted for a burger. The waiter was from Indiana and asked about the Surly. I made the decision to push on to Picton as it was roughly noon. The ferry was scheduled to leave at 6:45. Plenty of time to hit the Queen Charlotte Scenic Route. The 2nd time hitting the road was so much better. No car sickness. Of course, I wasn't being whipped around turns by Lance (from the dive trip). I hit a lot of look out points to snap pics. At one, I talked to an older lady, who happened to live on Whites Line East before getting married. Her son still lives in the area though. Then 2 French cyclists popped up. They were heading to Havelock so I gave them some info. Oh that reminds me I met 5 people from Colorado doing the TA Northbound. I talked to them for a bit and they wanted to know more about the trucker as they want to give cycle touring a go next. I received a message from Constantine about 'saving' a bed for me at a hostel in Picton, but broke the news that I would be sleeping at home tonight. I've offered our couch to him tomorrow night though. While waiting for the ferry I had a chin wag with the workers loading the rail freight. On the ferry, a girl, Holly, and her mom, Laurie, asked to sit across from me. We talked the entire ride about life and travel. They are/were from Michigan. Holly having just worked in Melbourne. I recommended a few things to do and gave me contact details in case they had questions. I've got a 15km ride home. Where a shower, shave, Beth, and a bed await. The next couple of days are filled with tuning up the bike, job interview, eating, repacking, laundry, and resting up the body. The next leg will be solo up to Taupo where Beth might take me gear and travel with me over Easter weekend. Then it will be 2 weeks with my brother, Jake.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Photos are coming

I'm adding photos that aren't on Instagram to the link in the upper right, but to whet your whistle:
NZ South Island Pie Ride Part 1 I've got more images than can go into an album and I've got to modify the backup folders as I've gotten duplicates with items that have been posted to Instagram.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pie Ride Week 1 Recap

Pie Ride 2017! Recap
Riding from Bluff to Cape Reinga. How hard can it be? Its only roughly 3,000 km across 2 islands that are nothing alike. There will be paved & gravel roads as well as off road trails that will transport me across plains, mountains, National Parks, beaches, and a couple ferry rides just for good measure.
Excitement is definitely creeping into my last few days of work. People seem shocked that I don't have a job lined up and that I'll be setting out next week to cycle the country. It has been funny to tell people and watch their reactions when I tell them I'll be cycling the length of NZ when they ask me what I'll be doing next. You have to do these things when you have the means either physical, mental, or financial. As you never know when the opportunity will come again. Who knows maybe I'll start organizing, ok Beth would organize, and leading back road tours around this amazing country filled with quite back roads and stunning views.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 4

The flight from Auckland to Invercargill was fine even though I had to rearrange my bags and bike box. Too much weight in one. Should have been a sign. I've been thinking of naming the disc trucker "Chubby Side Action." She has a wide backside and takes a lot to get up the hills. Nothing close to any of my other bikes. Putting the bike together was straight forward, as I only removed seat post, pedals, handlebars, and front wheel. Getting the bags weighted and set up too longer. I ended up riding around town getting supplies: food, gas, money, and used a pump from local bike shop. Then set out on a harrowing 30km filled with poor visibility, cold rain, and a ton of logging trucks that didn't want to give you any space. I got to Bluff a little shaken. I think that this was the worst section of road I've ever ridden.

I cruised down to the campground. It looked fairly meh. Wide open space on a slant and a not any tents on site. I continued past to Sterling Point and talked to 2 kids from the US on a working holiday visa. I then found a backpackers for the same cost as camping. So I had a roof over my head instead of nylon. Met some interesting fellows: 1 from Germany, who just completed the Te Araroa, and 2 guys from Canada, but 1 is a dual citizen. The other being Kiwi. They are doing a farewell circuit as he is moving to Brisbane to work and be close to his boy.

This morning I was up around 6 and expected some sun to pop up around 7. Nope, it was 8. So I packed the bike and headed back to Sterling Point. I then stopped for pancakes before leaving town. Highway 1 wasn't bad and only about 10 trucks passed me. Then I turned off and the GPS told me to take some gravel roads that ended with fences. All in all I think I rode 30km of gravel today. Thankfully my tires have a little squish to them. Good old Chubby Side Action! The road meanders through several farms and the animals typically answered my calls. (As Beth can attest to, I talk to all sorts of animals) There were definitely some cool locations like Lignite Pit Cafe. They had a walking garden that looked cool, but it would take hours and cost money. So I opted for their Steak, Onion, and Guiness Pie. Which was very tasty and a particularly flaky crust. However the cow puff pastry put it over the top. The roasted potatoes were very good as well.

Slope Point is lots of gravel and some climbing. The backpackers is nice and the dorm slept 4, but is located off the kitchen and lounge. I may ride some of the day with an 18 year old German kid, Constantine, tomorrow. I have passed him twice already. Slope Point is scenic and today was very cold as there was a windchill. However, sitting at the table the sun is now out in earnest, something I've not seen in days. Tomorrow's plan is to head toward Balclutha, but may pull up short to do some exploring in the Catlins if we see some accessible trails.

FYI: if you stay at the backpackers, which is changing its type of accommodation in April, don't pet the cat unless you like getting swatted once you stop. The cat thinks it owns you afterwards. You've been warned.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourist: 0

Constantine and I left Slope Point around 8:30 after a pretty good sleep. The French guy in the dorm was fascinated with the TV Series Arrow and watched it into the night. He left well after us as he was just getting up when we hit the gravel. We worked our way back up the gravel hill to be passed by a tourist bus. We then went to Curio Baywhere we caught our first glimpse of the sun. It wouldn't make an appearance again until the cycle day was basically over. We stopped at Niagra Cafe and had a warm drink to take the chill off but the sweat got cold. The blueberry muffin was awesome though. The frosting was just like Toaster Strudles. We continued on the windy scenic road and were treated with some steep climbs and blind corner descents. The highlight of the day would have to be seeing 2 ladies at 4 Square, a supermarket chain, who said they passed us 3 times today and they kept wondering how we were keeping ahead of them. Simple we didn't go to every lookout point. The SPOT Tracker is fun because Beth keeps texting when I stop or if there is a big hill we are working on. Tomorrow I'm heading to Lawrence in order to break up the travel to Middlemarch. I've reached out to 2 Warmshowers hosts. One for tomorrow and one for 4 days from now at the end of the Otago Rail Trail. How does Sofiane travel so light? I know I could dump the computer, cook set, possibly a layer or 2. Then there is the tent and sleeping gear. Maybe travel in warmer times of year. Autumn in New Zealand is chilly. Wind all day and maybe cracking 12 degrees by 4pm. Then it drops right off at dusk. Will be interesting camping tonight.

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourist: 0

We left the camp ground fairly early and made our way to Kaka Point. The sun was peeking out and the coast looked pretty spectacular. We opted for this route as it was a little less climbing, but a couple of km longer. Constatine was making a solid push to Dunedin. My plans changed as well as adding 30km to the ride to Middlemarch would have been crazy, since a good portion is steep, steep gravel. So I went to Lawrence instead and was treated to 40km of gravel grinding. The views from up top were pretty but you get to see how the land is used. Lots of farming and logging. I ran into a lady by Greenfield who asked if I needed help. I was just taking a picture of a random monument. I said nope. I'm heading to Lawrence down this way. She said I must be pretty keen then as its all gravel. I said I knew. I saw a few cars on the gravel, but it reminded me of the gravel ride Bri and I did a few years back. I almost got stung by a bee too! I made sure to zip up my jersey all the way after that. I made a stupid mistake and didn't fill my water bottles when I had the chance. I rationed my last bottle until 30 minutes before I was back in a town. Wouldn't have been an issue, bu the sun came out this afternoon and I was sweating pretty good. However, the wind still cut through your layers. So I kept my vest on and would open it up during the many climbs and zip up for descents and flats.

I'm at a little holiday park in Lawrence for $14 a night. I grabbed a hot shower and hand washed my bibs. Hopefully they are dry in the morning. If I wanted to piss people off there is a fire going in the kitchen that would possibly dry them right quick (I ended up drying them over the fireplace). There is a Warmshowers host in town, but was unable to host on short notice. I did contact another at the other end of the ORT, but still haven't heard back. The plan for tomorrow is to wake up early and do some gravel grinding. The nice lady at the i-site (on my 2nd visit) told me to watch out on the gravel road during the week because of logging trucks. Tomorrow being Sunday I should be golden. Then I grab the highway and meander into Middlemarch. Then I decide 1 or 2 days on the ORT. It depends a bit on the host really. Otherwise, there is a campsite just outside Clyde, where Constantine used to live. He recommends the seared beef at Paulina's, where he used to work. We'll see how that goes.

Oh the GoPro mount broke this morning and the lens on the case got scratched pretty good.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 3 (albiet in Middlemarch)

Talked to an interesting guy last night at the holiday park. It is leaps and bounds better than Middlemarch's Holiday Park. He and his wife bring their caravan over for 6 months out of the year. They are thinking of relocating to Lawrence from Gore. It is a little town with lots of quirks. Statues of people all over the place that look like Fisher Price toys. He happens to do interiors. So he has worked on almost all the buildings in town. I would have to say that the amount of hills, tramping, and other things in the area it would be a cool place to visit for longer. Had a nice little breakfast at the only open cafe. I opted for banana french toast with bacon and a mince pie. Constantine had asked about the pie ride and how I rate pies. It comes down to portability: does your crust handle well, i.e. not break apart. The taste of the pastry and is it flaky, but will sufficient body to hold the contents. Does the top stay on? Filling: No gaps between filling and crust. Tasty as? Thinking of a 5 pie rating that will be flushed out over the coming weeks. Something similar for caramel slices.

Today's ride was bound to be wet. The weather forecast didn't look pretty and it didn't disappoint. It started hard about 6km into the 80km ride and didn't let up. Just so happened to rain when my Garmin ran out of juice and I ran out of sealed road. Thankfully it was Sunday and no logging trucks were zipping around. I think you could put a point to point gravel grinder and it would go gang busters as its a challenging area. The area was a blend of forestry, farming, and a big lake. I was rather excited to ride over the lake as I saw it from the plane the other day. Then once I got back to paved road, I was able to ride a little faster, but I did end up pushing my bike up another steep hill. The texts from Beth said things like character building, but I was not amused at the time with the weather and steep roads. A total of 4 times I had to push my bike. It was slow going while riding around Lake Mahinerangi. I did manage to spot a small fishing village that hired out lodges. Perfect for Peter. I went from Clutha to Dunedin Region and the colors on the trees changed to Autumn. I stopped at Clark's Junction for a bite to eat. I had been in the saddle for 6 hours and chilled to the bone. I had managed to drink only 1 bottle, nibble 2 squares of chocolate, and 2 mouthfuls of scroggin. So I was hungry and cold. I ended up sitting next to the fire and placing my rain gear next to it to dry out as well. I had a massive steak sandwich, hot chocolate, and a ginger beer. After that it was 30m to Middlemarch. Only 597m of descent and 273m of climbing left for the day. Would be fun not fully loaded and on dry roads. However, the scenery changed once again and I was busy pulling over snapping photos. The landscape is dotted with rock formations and the clouds were low while I was descending into Otago. Beth saved the day by booking me accommodation as I didn't want to tent in the rain when I've been wet all day. The place is what they describe as rustic. That is an understatement to say the least. Room doesn't have a heater, but I had 4 blankets and it was dry. I'm washing and drying my clothes so they'll be fresh for the next couple days. Tomorrow I'm staying in Lauder (108km) in an old school. They have a spa which will feel nice. Then on Tuesday, I'm actually using Warmshowers as a guest. Then its on to Wanaka where I have to look at VodaFone in getting my number back. Well that is about it. Body is feeling a little sore, but I've been stretching at night and massaging my legs. Most kms I've done in awhile but enjoying all of it as its just part of the experience. You know riding New Zealand by bike, back roads, and I'm challenging myself. As Beth said "Character Building. The tough days just make you stronger."

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: Too many. It being an awesome time of year.

Woke up last night to my motion detector light and noises outside. Does someone want my clean clothes? Well have fun getting over my bike which is in front of the door. I'm pretty sure some animal ran past the sensor and then the horses next door were making noises. Either way I was up for 30 minutes listening to nothing happening. The holiday park was dry, but the 'cabin' slept 4 which would be pushing it unless you were really close. There wasn't a heater, but with 4 blankets I didn't get cold. Beth booked this on my ride and the owner had to run to Dunedin. So I never saw anyone or paid. Beth just did a bank transfer to them, which works for me. I was out early as I knew I had a longer day in the saddle ahead of me. It the winds played up a really long day. I ate at Kissing Gate Cafe again, the last time being in January, and had a large breakfast. Most days I'm only really eating twice. Something small on the ride, but haven't been that hungry. Too cold typically to stop.

The morning started out with some mist and a slight breeze. I thought to myself to snap some photos to ask Irish Rachel if this reminds her of home. The km's flew by and I passed a couple who were eating at the cafe when I arrived. He commented 'I wondered when you would pass.' It was maybe an hour into the ride. Starting in February, there has been an Arts on the Rail Trail happening. This means that it wasn't the exact same ride as January. Which was nice! There is a new permanent sculpture of the planetary system along the trail. Before half way the sun came out and I got to remove my layers. Yeah for warm sun! I pulled into Waipiata for a quick snack of Ginger Beer and 2 lamb kebab skewers while refilling my bottles. I really only wanted fluids but thought I should have some food as well. Beth and I texted at the stop. She told me only 28km then down hill. Sometimes it is nice to have someone relaying logistics to you. I'm typically a play it by ear kind of guy. Like the last 2 days I was pretty sure there were gravel roads as Google didn't list them for car directions. It all worked out. Even at the Lauder School B&B, which is awesome by the way, the host was amazed that I went over the hill from Lawrence. Time to capitalize on back road riding!

There were too many groups of cyclists today to count, but it is proof that the seasons don't stop people from riding the trail. I actually preferred this time. Not very hot. Leaves changing colors. Autumn smells and apples in the trees/on the ground. I also got to the high point of the trail without much effort. I had just passed the lodge that I recalled being by the high point. Then I cam across 2 Aussies snapping photos at the marker. I snapped a few for them and proceeded to bomb down the hill. I stopped in a cafe in Lauder for a drink and a quick snack while asking for directions to tonight's accommodations. Turns out the Warmshowers host is a teacher who taught Esme's kids years ago. Small world New Zealand strikes again.

My room is the play hut. It sleeps 2 and the spa is right around the corner. It was a welcomed treat after the beating I've been giving my body. The plan for tomorrow is to ride to Alexandra and to stay with Kevin and Jenny from Warmshowrers. It will be my first time staying with a host. Esme said that Jenny is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to cycling. I may want to ride further on a different trail if their schedule doesn't work out and I need to show up later. Then it is on to Wanaka to sort out VodaFone and possibly some body work over the 2 nights I plan on staying before heading over to the West Coast.

I'm debating sending some stuff back home as I've not used it yet. I figured if I've not used it next week, it is either getting sent back or removed when I go through Wellington. I know for sure I can remove the 3rd water bottle mount unless I start carrying stubby bottles. My adventure tires rub the bottle top. The bike is handling better but I've had to repack the bags more evenly. In the left, I have books, cook gear and food, and warm/rain gear. In the right I have my clothes, toiletries, and electronics. Then sleeping gear minus the bag in a dry sack across the top of the rack. The sleeping bag and daily essentials are on the handlebars. I've taken to stashing 2 filled water bottles on the top of the panniers as I ran out the other day. Then for emergencies, I have 2 liters in the tent dry bag.

The key to riding daily is nightly stretching and adjusting body position throughout the day. Today I even stopped for 10 minutes to stretch out my hamstrings, hip flexors, back, and glutes. At night I put my legs up in the air for a spell and do rotational stretches as well as calf and quad stretches.

So Kiwi: A bloke opens the door to the pub and states "So there are 20-30 sheep on the main road." The owner grabs the phone book, "we'll get it sorted". He mutters to himself "who lives down there? His name is Steven? James? What is his surname? Oh Ross." The cook calls the number as the owner manages the bar. She explains the situation about the sheep on the loose and ends the call with "If they aren't yours can you call further down the road?"

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: Too many

Woke up and talked to Bruce, the other half of the Lauder School B&B. Talked more about the area and what to expect for the day's ride. The ride to Alexandra was fairly quick. Views were a little different than January and  Bruce said that April/May is the best time to ride and stop by vineyards for Autumn colors. I did a little shopping in Alexandra before heading out on the 1st 3rd of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. It follows the Clutha River and has massive steep walls almost as soon as you leave town. The 2nd 3rd is a boat ride down the river to the last section that then joins the Clutha Gold Trail to Lawrence. It would be fun to come do these as a circuit of trail rides. My legs were ready for more tomorrow, but my bum has finally started getting sore. So it will be good to take a day off in Wanaka. I'll get a massage, sort my phone, and do some laundry. I also road parts of the River Trail, which is a different path from Alexandra to Clyde, which is more technical than the flat rail trail.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 1 (@ camp ground none on the road)

Woke up early at Jenny and Kevin's as they were going to be out the door by 8. However, their plans changed and they kept feeding me more food. Its not often that I turn down food, but I was stuffed at dinner and at breakfast. This wasn't as bad as Ravi, but was more than I was comfortable with. They snapped a quick photo for their guest book and I was off. Speaking of their guest book, they ask for recommendations from their guests. Something I'll add to ours. I took the back roads to Clyde and went past a cemetery, which looked cool in the fog. So I took a couple pictures. The road to Cromwell was really foggy. I say visibility was about 10m, so I opted to stay off the highway for a bit. I stopped at a cafe and had a forgettable slice, but their carrot cake muffin was tasty. The road to Cromwell cleared up so I left. The road travels past the dam and Lake Dunestan and gently climbs before arriving at Cromwell. It was rather picturesque today with the fall colors, remaining mist, and still lake. A professional photographer was going up and down the road taking photos even.

I asked in Cromwell at the i-site which was the best route to Wanaka. Google said that 8a was a little longer, but less elevation. She said 6 as the shoulder and road were very nice and didn't have confusing turns. So I went down 6 and I was able to stop in Luggate for a late lunch. It was a small pub only about 15km away from Wanaka. The views from Cromwell to Wanaka were a mix of orchards, vineyards, and mountains. It was easy to get distracted. Luckily there was very little traffic. The pictures I grabbed don't do it justice. Wanaka still makes me angry though. Upon entering the Holiday Park, I heard an out of tune ukelele right where I'm supposed to pitch my tent. Don't push your crappy music on us bro. It didn't help that I spent most of the afternoon getting my phone sorted. I still wasn't authorized to take my number back even though the SIM card I gave them as now active with my number. A quick email got them to call support, which only put it in the notes field. I then had to sign up to a plan, only to cancel it, to go to prepay. Ugh. I hate phones. However, it been a good week of riding, but its time to push a bit, not that I'm on the road.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Update from the pie ride

I'm in Lawrence which wasn't planned nor was riding with Constantine, a German guy, I passed twice.  So on day 2 and the morning of 3 we rode together.  Meant my pace was slower and his faster. It also meant I didn't get to Balclutha until this morning.  Then the long ride to middlemarch didn't seem feasible on new touring legs.  So I went for a stunning gravel ride to Lawrence leaving me about 80km to Middlemarch. Then onto the Otago Rail Trail.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Destination Unknown

I'm sitting in the Christchurch airport waiting for my connecting flight.  Then it's time to assemble the bike and head through town getting the last few supplies and then off to Bluff.

Then it's time to get comfortable with the unknown and embrace the adventure as it unfolds. Hope those following will get a little sense of the adventure as I am able to share it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Logistics of Pie Ride 2017

The logistics of Pie Ride 2017 are coming along with just a few final details to iron out over the next week. How am I doing this? Well, I've been pouring over books (Pedallers' Paradise, Classic New Zealand Cycle trails, and Lonely Planet Cycling New Zealand) and maps, researching trails, and making sure to include places that I've wanted to ride. So I'll be heading from South to North and  I've now mapped out the majority of my course. Why? Well this will allow me to chase the fleeting Autumn weather instead of running face first into Winter on the South Island. This will also allow me to meet up with my brother in Taupo and ride through 3 of the places that we've lived in so far. This being Kinloch, Thames, and Auckland. We'll be missing Mt Maunganui and Wellington. However, he'll get to experience some great places that have a lot to offer​. We'll be able to tackle things at a little slower pace and I'll play tour guide for an area that I know pretty well. We are planning on doing some hiking, sailing, bonding, and of course lots of cycling. As one of my of cycling friends said 'You are mad and should be locked up'. So lots of cycling is to be had. Not to mention pies!

I'll be adding the planned route on the bottom of the post. Just so you know I've not added up the distances of the planned course as it is based off the road distances and I'll be on some trails that deviate from the road and will cause the total distance to be longer. The journey should take roughly 2 months, but I do have to be back in Auckland for an obstacle race at the end of May. Who knows, maybe I'll ride back from Cape Reinga to Wellington instead of hopping a flight or ride. This won't be strictly riding every day. There will be days off the bike to explore the amazing countryside. As well as my eldest brother coming over to join in on some of the adventure. It will be his first time over to New Zealand and I'm sure he won't soon forget the experience. Hopefully, we'll get to see some sheep roaming the road or possibly a sunset over Lake Taupo.

Even though I'm spending a lot of time route planning, I've also been busy getting my bike and gear ready while trying to get through my last few weeks at work. That in itself is a mission. My bike is at the shop getting a tune-up. It had to make a 2nd trip as not everything was completed the first time around. I wonder how often this type of thing occurs. I've got all my planned gear strewn about my office floor. It is almost all there. I've got a couple things in the the mail. I've got a custom cycling cap from No 16 Cycle Caps out of Australia and a Chrome book. I've got to pick up some front bags from Stealth Bags, a local Wellingtonian bag maker, that I'm having made. If you are interested in what I plan on carrying let me know and I can post it up. I'll definitely not be clean everyday, but I plan on doing some laundry along the way. Or at least hand washing things at campsites or hostels.

So I'm setting off from Auckland, on the 22nd, flying to Invercargill right after my last day at work. From there I'll be assembling my bike at the airport and then riding to Bluff after getting some supplies. In Bluff, I'll camp out overnight and then officially start the ride at Stirling Point on the 23rd of March. Then the craziness of the adventure takes over. The following will be a loose template of the adventure.

Official start from Stirling Point to Slope Point (lowest point of South Island) 91km
Slope Point to Balclutha 121km
Balclutha to Middlemarch 121km
Middlemarch to Waipiata 53km
Waipiata to Champagne Gully 108km
Champagne Gully to Makaroa Tourist Center 120km
Makaroa to Haast (78km) or Paringa 131km
Paringa to Otto/McDonald's camping area 103km
Otto to Empire Hotel 116km
Empire Hotel to Ikamatua 95km via West Coast Wilderness Trail and Pioneer Heritage Trail
Ikamatua to Spring Junction (??) to St Arnaud 170km
St Arnaud to Picton 128km (NZTA recommends that non-motorized traffic take the route North through Nelson, but when we were down in St Arnaud the traffic from the earthquake wasn't bad).

Take Ferry to Wellington and spend some time at home. Do laundry. Change out any gear that I need to. Check over bike and take to shop if necessary.

Wellington to Martinborough 77km
Martinborough via Alfredton to Ashhurt 106km
Ashhurt to Mangaweka 100km
Mangaweka via Taihape to Ohakune 117km
Ohakune to Ongarue 102km
Ongarue to Pureora (Timber Trail) 85km
Pureora to Taupo 58km

Taupo via Atiamuri Dam to Whakamaru Dam 68km or Taupo via Kinloch to Whakamaru Dam 59km (go past our old place and maybe say hi to the neighbors and friends)
Whakamaru Dam to Jones Landing/Arapuni 67km
Arapuni via Piarere to Matamata 35km. There is the Hobbiton set nearby that we can bus out to. I saw it several years ago, but may interest my brother.
Matamata to Te Aroha: 44km, Wairere Falls (on the way is worth a visit on a good day) and hot pools at Te Aroha to soak weary bodies.
Te Aroha to Thames 55km: See where we used to live and meet some friends. Hike the Pinnacles Track and possibly take a ride on the MTB that I helped build.

Depending on the day:
Thames to Coromandel 54km then a 2 hr ferry to Auckland but leaves at 4:30 on Sat/Sun as far as I can tell this far out
Thames to Orere Point 66km
Orere Point to Flat Bush 48km (Going to contact Shiv about staying with him as he lives out there)
Once in Auckland, contact my friends to see we can't go sailing with them or charter a boat.
Out of Auckland, the path will follow the Tour Aotearoa path for the portion through the rest of the North Island.
Then depending on time, energy, and Beth's patience, I may ride the course in reverse back to Auckland for O Rock and possibly Wellington.

How can you follow along? Well this blog of course. As it will be updated from the road. Strava will have my ride information uploaded when I have internet. Quick photos will be on Instagram, @viewswhileriding, and photo album(s) will be found by following the link on the upper right. The SPOT tracker will be on for the trip, while I have batteries, and the link can be found on the upper right to watch real-time progress. Well that about sums up what I've been doing for the last couple weeks as this has been getting planned out. Hopefully I'll get to put a few more miles in my legs and ride the trucker loaded before I set off.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Up Next: Pie Ride 2017!

What is this? Well we sold our house. I quit my job. I got a (temporary) sugar mamma. I've got my bike ride to do. I'll be riding from Bluff to Cape Reinga. This is the opposite direction of what is typically done. There are 2 reasons for this. 1: winter is a factor and I want to get over the Southern Alps with less chance of snow and cold weather. 2: my brother is going to join me for a segment of the ride. I've got just under a month until I kick off the ride. I'm busy trying to wind down work while getting my gear and route sorted. So here is what I've dubbed Pie Ride 2017. I plan on fueling the ride with pies the occasional slice while trying to find the best of both. Well maybe not too many pies. I am after all taking my tramping cook kit and a vegetarian on this adventure. Do they even make vegetarian pies? I don't know as I generally go for a nice Steak and Cheese or a choice Pork and Kumara.

First, I've brushed off the old touring post and started to review what I was planning to do several years ago. My tentative path has changed quite a bit. As I'm not leaving from Tauranga. Rather I'll be flying to Invercargill from Auckland and then riding to Bluff to officially start the journey at Stirling Point. From there I'll be biking back up toward Invercargill before turning off on the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins with a stop at Slope Point (Southern most point of South Island) then up to Middlemarch. From there, I'll be riding most of the Otago Rail Trail before turning off towards Wanaka. Then I'll be riding down the West Coast. There are some tracks to get me off the highway, but I'll be on Hw 6 for long stretches. I'm still debating adding in Old Ghost Road, but I'll see how I feel and how my bike is handling the trails around that point. Otherwise its on to St Arnaud and then to Picton either via Nelson or Blenheim. I'm researching the pros and cons of each. There is an adventurous trail for mountain bikes from Picton that I was thinking of taking, but the reviews make it look hard as. Then you have to deal with crazy traffic with several one lane bridges. Then take the ferry back to Wellington. Stop in at the house and regroup and possibly swap our gear as needed.

I'll type up the North Island in the next post as that is a little more fluid once I'm past Auckland and prior to Taupo. This is because I don't know how long my brother is now coming over for and I want to show him some stuff off the bike as well. However, I do have to be back in Auckland the weekend of the 27th of May as we are running an obstacle course called O-Rock that weekend.

What am I riding? Well my disc trucker that I got from my friend Bri of course. I'll be rocking some new Soma Cazadero tires with 2 rear panniers. As well as the recently purchased handlebar bags from, a local Wellingtonian bag maker, Stealth Bike Bags. I have already picked up a top tube bag of his off of TradeMe prior to our cycle trip over the holidays and it worked pretty slick. I kept my wallet, phone, light, and snacks in it. Right now I'm revising my gear list and I've sent my brother several maps from Google with the course as best as I can determine. Then we have to finalize when he is going to arrive so I can make sure to meet up with him in Taupo. Then it will be back through my old stomping grounds.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Is it really almost March?

So a lot has happened since the last post. We went to the South Island for about a month. Bill unfortunately broke his leg the day before leaving. He didn't go to the doctor right away and instead was seen in Hawaii. So we had to rush around and make alternate plans for him. It being the busy season here, we were lucky to secure him lodging while we were busy in the bush.

Beth and I started our journey a little early. We had to look for a place to move to in the Wellington area. Beth's work was looking for her to transition from Kinloch to the area sooner than later. So we looked at a few places and they were pretty bad. We found a little place on the end of the street. Next to a cricket field and a multi-use track, that has just been completed. Almost every place we've lived in New Zealand so far has been at the end of the road. A few of them have been at the base or top of a big climb. However, now its a choice to ride to the top of the hill. Not a necessity to get home.

We boarded the ferry and tried to grab some sleep on the deck chairs. Not the most fun or the most sleep I've ever gotten. Our friend Gina can't keep her days straight and was on our ferry to the South Island. She had told us she would be on the next day's ferry. She had a couple friends from the UK over and they were road tripping it down to Queenstown. We didn't drive straight to Queenstown, but it was a pretty quick trip down as we had to pick up Beth's folks at the airport. We had one night at Fox Glacier, where we walked out as far as we could to see it. We then had one day in Queenstown to grab some supplies for the tramp and grab our hut passes and get a refund for Bill's.

We grabbed a ferry out of Te Anau Downs to the beginning of the Milford Track. Where we would spend the next 4 days covering roughly 53kms. The ferry ride is about an hour long with little detours and educational insights of the area. I was too busy trying to ignore the guided walkers, who pay a crap ton, talking about they should be fine because they run the occasional 5km. Their last day was 21km. The walk is luckily segregated based guided or self-guided with the huts being far apart from each other. The numbers allowed on the track are closely monitored and only some many people can be on the track at any given time. So we were with the same 40 people for the next 3 nights.

The first day was a short walk of just over an hour. We scurried to find a bunk and were able to get 2 tops and a bottom bunk that were close to each other. This being Christmas Day, a group actually brought in roast pork, pavlova, salad greens, and a can of whip cream. We played our new tramping card game 'Quick Wits' which I funded on KickStarter. The game is a lot of fun and we even introduced a couple families from Christchurch to the game. There are however some adult cards that should be removed before playing with younglings. Also there are cards directly related to the older generation as the kids didn't know who Chevy Chase was. The 2nd day we walked up a valley and towards the end had to walk over some large rock slides. There was a very refreshing lake at this hut. Beth and I almost got all the way in. It was colder than any polar bear dip I've ever done. There were sharp pin pain shooting into my feet and legs right upon entering. That night we started to get the rain that was predicted earlier in the week. We woke up later thinking that the rain might break in the morning. It didn't we left in the rain, but being in the bush the rain wasn't coming through the canopy as much as it could have been. This ended up causing lots of waterfalls to spring up along the valley walls and to have some water rushing across the track. By the time we got to the tree line, the rain had ceased and we were treated to views of the clouds receding and the waterfalls gushing down the valley walls. We had a little further to go before we started our decent to our last hut. However, we made a stop at the most scenic toilet in New Zealand and ate a quick lunch at the shelter it was next to. The final hut was about 18km from the end, where we would have to grab another ferry back into civilization. Then it was a couple hour bus ride back to Te Anau.

Back in Te Anau, we joined back up with Bill and we made our way to Bluff, where we would be boarded yet another ferry to take us to Stewart Island. Once off the ferry, we were picked up by the AirBnB host that was renting to Bill and she drove us to DOC to get our hut passes and to the trail head. We were warned of the knee deep mud by the DOC staff, but found out by a guy just exiting the track to expect only ankle deep mud. The first day passed quickly with a smattering of bridges over little outlets that dropped you on to a beach. It reminded me a little of Abel Tasman in that regard. The first hut on the Rakiura Track that we stayed at was Port Williams Hut. We were told that there were Kiwi around the area, but I only saw possums. If you were in dire need, there just so happened to be one spot that got mobile service. We happened to see the same woman going over there numerous times. I for one was glad to be disconnected for most of the trip. The track to North Arm Hut was a bit trickier to navigate than the previous day. We got some rain and the track was muddy in a lot of sections. I had opted not to wear my boots this tramp and instead wore my trail running shoes. I'm always running through puddles and mud in them so I know that I can just rinse them in the ocean to get them looking clean. My socks didn't end up making it through the tramp though. Some grit got stuck between my heel and the sock and wore a whole in my shoe padding and my socks. Needless to say I'm not very happy as those were basically new shoes. This evening was raining and the toilet was up a long hill. We just played games in the hut as the sand flies and rain kept us inside. There was an Irish couple that looked like the most ill prepared trampers ever. They were wearing jeans, stylish jumpers, and hand carrying a bunch of crap. Their back packs looked like it might fit a couple books, but not enough gear for 3 days out in the bush. They ended up having a full sized game of Monopoly. A special Cork Edition none the less. They also contributed the best quote of the trip: While staring at the bottle of wine she utters "Its a shame we have to drink this out of plastic glasses." Who brings 2 glass bottles of wine on a 2 night tramp? The Irish! They also carried a handled grocery bag with a whole roast chicken, but didn't eat it until the 2nd night. The next day was still muddy. Betsy's knee was really bothering her. We came across only a couple people walking into the track as we were exiting. The last bit of the tramp is easy going, but its not over yet. You have to walk back into town along the side of the road for a couple kilometers. Once back in town, we went right to the ocean to get the mud off of us. We also ran into Bill who had previously checked to see if the rooms were available. They weren't when he first went in, but now they were. We were starving so we went to a French Cafe down the street, where they wanted $50 per pizza to dine in, but only $20 for take away. So we ate back in our room.

Now back on the ferry heading to Bluff, we had a date with Middlemarch and tackling the Otago Rail Trail.We had a quick pie and then picked up Betsy's bike and then started our journey. We had about 60km of gravel trail to ride to get to Peter's Farm Lodge, located just outside of Waipiata. This ride was fairly flat, but we looked at the different little shelters and trail signs. These are things that the Hauraki Rail Trail could take a lesson from. There was also some little metal sculptures on the side of the trail. It makes it more of a destination rather than just come ride our trail. Upon riding up to his lodge, we encountered the wild sheep of New Zealand. Ok. Maybe that is an exaggeration as Peter's brother runs a farm next door and the sheep graze where ever. Including all around the lodge.
Unfortunately we didn't confirm the BBQ that Peter puts on and we cooked our own food. This did separate us from the other groups at the lodge as they shared sirloin steaks, salad, roasted potatoes, salted caramel ice cream, and apple cobbler. Granted Beth wouldn't have eaten much of it. Right after we ate, I ended up starting to get a fever and chills for the rest of the night. I woke up the next morning feeling awesome. Betsy not so much. She decided to spend the day with Bill. I put her bike on the roof rack and Beth and I set out to Lauder. This was going to be a trying day. We were bashed by a steady, cold head wind all day. While going up hill and occasionally getting hit with rain. By the time we pulled into a town for lunch, we were wearing all the clothes we had brought in the pannier. We even grabbed more clothes once Beth's parents showed up at the cafe. We continued on and got to go through a tunnel and over a really long bridge. It ended up taking us like 8 hours to go 64kms that day. Once again, shortly after getting off the bike I was hit with fever and chills. I ate dinner and then went to bed. The next morning I felt great again. So we set off for the last little bit of the trail. It was a quick ride, as we were treated with a sunny, windless day while mainly going downhill or remaining flat.

We proceeded to drop off Betsy's bike in a depot and then drove back to Queenstown. We had one last night with her folks. Then we had a few more things to tick off the list. After dropping them off at the airport, I decided with my recent bout of feeling like crap I wouldn't be running the Routeburn. Rather I would rest up for our 2 day Kepler adventure. Instead I ended up reading a lot of books. We drove back out to Te Anau prior to our 2 day trek around Kepler. We decided to go clockwise with the weather forecast as our first day had gale winds and rain along the ridge. Instead we took to the dense bush for the first day and saved a sharp climb and a long exposed ridge for the 2nd day. The sand flies were particularly bad here. We passed the first hut on the track  while a few day trippers turned around here. We pressed on for another several hours to the Iris Burn Hut. This hut was set up in a weird way and we had to jockey for table space as they had seats but no tables for everyone. The next morning it was a 3 hour switchback fest to get out of the bush. Then we had another 40 minutes to the first shelter. Then the rest of the day was basically spent on the ridge. We were treated to amazing views the entire day and I was glad not to be up there in high winds and rain. It did mean that we had a long day with lots of elevation. The final 5km we were doing the death march. We saw the campground and thought it was about over, but no. I ended up getting some wicked blisters on my little toes. I ended up switching to my hut shoes, a pair of slip on sandals. This made the rest of the walk more enjoyable. Beth unfortunately went really lite for the overnight and didn't take a pair of hut shoes. We were both hurting at the end of the walk, but we were also starving. So back in to Te Anau to grab something to eat before starting to head back up to Kinloch. We did this over several days where we had planned on camping, but it was unseasonably cold and wet.

The following week Beth started our shift to Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt. This transition would take us 3 weeks. For one weekend, Waitangi Weekend, our group did the Northern Circuit. Then it was the final push to Lower Hutt, but before we left we hosted a couple different sets of friends over for dinner and the MTB club did one last ride and said our see you laters.

Now we are in Lower Hutt.