Ride from Kaikoura to Arthur’s Pass is some 300+ km and we set off early – well, just before 9AM. Beautiful weather, although slightly nippy with wind picking up. Not long after news were repeating weather warnings “with occasional breaks of summer”. Gales up to 120 km/h on our route. Brunch after an hour’s ride at a very nice Waipara vineyard. Then some farm land again with Southern Alps at the horizon. Wind picking up… It is actually very good that helmet has a chin strap. Otherwise the hat would have been blown away! But we were blown away by the scenery. Again. The last hundred km to Arthur’s Pass was just magnificent. Some of the mountains were like the European Alps, some like Teletubbies meet Italian Dolomites. Some snow capped mountains to perfect the ride. We were lucky again weather wise and completed almost the entire ride in sunshine. Arthur’s Pass is a tiny village but has some of the most notorious inhabitants – the Kiwi birds! The birds are nocturnal and there is a slim chance of actually seeing any but they can be heard… There are however, the Keas, the mountain parrots chewing away bits of your bike or car, unless you are prepared. They left us in peace but they do look nice and colourful, as parrots should!
Franz Josef’s Glacier
Woke up several times during the night at Arthur’s Pass. News in the morning quoted wind speeds up to 140 km/h. But the morning was beautiful again after some early morning drizzle. Great ride to Franz Josef. A visit was due to the Glacier itself. De-ja-vu as we had all been to Franz Josef Glacier before – in Austria near Grossclockner.
Our accommodation at Franz Josef is a very comfortable Holly Homestead B&B. Must say that Kiwis know how to make a their B&Bs really comfortable.
Unbelievable how the scenery and climate changes in different parts of the island. We started off in a cool 13c sunshine and headed for the coast and then inland again.
We were completely unprepared for the snow capped mountains, lakes and a completely new landcape as we entered through Haast Pass, had lunch at Makarora and continued through the stretch of land between the lakes Wanaka and Hawea.
Suddenly the hills changed again, bare and beautiful, winding roads uphill and then quite without warning, the view to Queesntown opened from the top of the mountains. Queenstown is actually in a kettle surrounded by the mountains and Lake Wakatipu on one side. Terperature reached scorching 30c on arrival. Riding through the city, restaurants and lake side was very welcoming. Seemed like a really nice town. Check-in, arrival beers and a walk at the beach. Topping the evening with a great steak and local red wine. Nice. As we had a bit more time to sample Queestown, two restaurants stood out – Sasso for Italian and Wild Ginger for Asian fusion.
Actually… there are some straight roads in NZ. They lead from Queenstown to Mount Cook. But they are still fantastic with views to die for. Just (almost) no bends. The best way to describe the scenery is to say “too much of a good thing”. Just cannot take in it all. Still a great ride. Highlights include the gorges between the mountain ranges, most notably the Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge as the world’s first Bungy jump bridge! My favourite was Lake Pukaki with the most turquoise water I have ever seen. No photo can make it justice. The ride started at a low 13c, went down to 11c and we arrived to Mount Cook Hermitage hotel at a comfortable 17c. Overcast but no rain en route through fruit farms, sunny upon arrival. Great mountain views. The hotel also houses Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, The NZ explorer who amongst many of his heroic explorations first climbed Mount Everest.
The only straight roads in New Zealand – as far as we have seen – are indeed between Queenstown and Christchurch. Today we started our ride half way between the two towns from Mount Cook in glorious sunshine with the mountains majestically around us.
Some great views over the mountains and funny turquoise lakes. Most of the way to Christchurch the best way to describe the scenery might be prairie! Brown flats, green flats, sheep and cows. Occasional turn and a few hilly bits between the valleys, or gorges between the mountain ranges.
Approaching Christchurcs it became clear that we were heading to a bigger town. The traffic increased with many lorries on the road. Something we have not really seen on the roads we have been riding. The earthquake destroyed Christchurch some five years ago. The quake was one of the most violent in recorded history and it was very close to the surface. Consequences were catastrophic and the city is still today much in ruins and a very large building site. As the city centre was destroyed, a lot of temporary structures are in place. The city centre shopping mall for example is made of shipping containers.
Christchurch marks the end of our ride and we returned our bikes back to Baz at Bularangi. Now it is forwards on foot and exploring the town many, many memories richer…