Being the tight Scotsman I am, I grabbed a $2 holiday camp shower and cooked some dinner on the beach as the sun went down. Once it was starting to get dark, I managed to find somewhere to camp – at the bottom of Kaiteriteri Mountain bike park. I got chatting to a guy who was out with his 2 young girls on mountain bikes. He suggested I should test out the pump track on my bike, which I obviously couldn’t resist, even though it was fully laden with 4 panniers, a bar bag and tent. The father timed me, and his 9 year old daughter took great pleasure in beating my time by 3 seconds. It wasn’t the 3 seconds I was worried about though – I managed to break one of my front pannier racks what with the rough track bouncing the bags about. So now I need to find someone who can weld aluminium before it totally falls to bits….
The next morning I set off up my first big hill of New Zealand – 800m above sea level (where I was camping). Close to the bottom, I met Jim, a rock climber laden down with all his ropes and whatnot in a rucksack, riding a bike. It can’t have been easy, as he had run out of gears, and therefore standing up stamping on the pedals for most of the 15km climb with his rucksack swinging side to side. He was good company though, and the climb breezed by. It was a fantastic 10km freewheel (slightly worrisome though due to my half broken rack and a tyre on the verge of exploding, held together with a Singapore $2 note) down the other side towards Takaka which is a bit of a hippy town, especially just now, due to the ‘Luminate festival’. Still feeling good, and after the obligatory ice-cream stop, I carried on to a backpacker hostel just south of Collingwood, which has an apparently fantastic pub which brews it’s own ales, and has live music quite often. I’ll be staying here 2 nights then. I also stayed here because it’s a fantastic view of the sea (there was apparently a mini-tsunami here today, but I missed it), and I wanted to head right up to the north of the island, Farewell Spit. I’ve made a conscious decision to stay in more hostels, many of which allow you to pitch tents, as it’s much more social, not to mention the fact that a sofa is much more comfy than a lumpy patch of grass!
Yesterday, I made it up to Farewell Split and back to the hostel, riding the bike for the first time without panniers (much faster, with twitchy steering). The public can’t get to the end of Farewell Split without buying a seat on a tour bus costing over $100 which is a shame, though the area is apparently a twichers dream. As I had run out of cash, and was heading north for the day where there are no banks at all, I made the (brave? stupid?) decision to entrust my bank card and pin with Liv, a German backpacker I had only just met hours before at the hostel. She and another couple of girls were heading south for the day past a bank so could help me out. It was all a bit strange later on that night in the pub receiving $100 cash from someone I hardly knew – I felt like I was a drug dealer or something!! Anyhow, now with cash in my pocket, a good night was had with a bunch from the hostel watching live music, drinking local beers.
This morning was a cracking clear morning, giving clear views all the way up to Farewell Spit from the decking at the front of the hostal (Shambhala, 10km south of Collingwood). I had booked a place on a bus however, so had to move on, and caught up with Liv and Blanca, a Spanish girl at Motueka for a bite to eat and much needed coffee. Though it’s great meeting all these wonderful new people, I often find it hard saying goodbye to the people I get on with, only having met them a day or so earlier in most cases. It’s all part of being on the backpacker circuit I guess.
I’m now a few km out of Mokueka at a genuinely free campsite, which even has drinking water from a tap, a toilet, and get this – free electricity! Fantastic. I’ll be heading south west tomorrow, towards the west coast, which I understand is much more remote.