Category Archives: Uncategorized

Disappointed not to find Fox’s Glacier Mints @ Fox Glacier.

Standard

IMG_4517 IMG_4490 IMG_4497 IMG_4501 IMG_4505 IMG_4508 The day from Haast turned out to be a fantastic day, passing through thick temperate rain forest almost the entire day.  The rest of the time, I was passing remote deserted beaches with waves lapping gently from the (ususally rough) Tazman Sea.  I say rain forest, there wasn’t much rain, and hasn’t been for months by the looks of it.  When leaving Haast, the owner of the hostel said not to worry about water ‘loads of it up the west coast’ he said.  The reality was somewhat different.  Most of the streams and rivers have dried up completely, often leaving a trickle of stagnant water, the only rivers with water being the main ones. 

I overtook a number of cyclists also touring (many of which over 60) and passed several coming the other way, including a French gentleman who wouldn’t stop talking and a 21 year old German lad, who looked even younger than I did at that age…  Anyhow, it turns out this section of the west coast is pretty flat, so I pressed on to Fox Glacier, breaking my distance record in NZ by a whole 0.2km! (123.7km)  The hostel at Fox Glacier is another corker – it has hot tub and sauna, which I made full use of today, taking a day off.  I also popped up to the Fox Glacier itself.  It was interesting cycling up the valley seeing the trees get smaller, indicating I was getting closer to where the retreating glacier now sits (as obviously large trees don’t grow overnight). The last 1/2 mile up to the face of the glacier was strewn with rocks and no vegetation at all.

IMG_4551 IMG_4560 IMG_4519 IMG_4527 IMG_4532 IMG_4537

Today, I made my way further north to the town of Franz Josef, which being on the backpacker bus circuit had a funky coffee shop with everyone plugged into their laptops/smart phones.  Not quite the wild west coast!  A little further north, I turned off the main highway, down to Okarito, which was recommended to me by a friend back home (thanks Jo!).  It takes relaxed to a totally different level.  There’s not much there in the way of services, but the fresh water lagoon and fantastic empty beach more than make up for it.  Apparently it was a bit of a boom town back in the gold rush days with over 30 hotels and 2 banks.  There is now only 1 hostel, a community run campsite and a canoe hire business which looks like it’s recently branched out and is now starting to make people cups of coffee too.  It’s quite busy in the campsite though – at least 20 people.  We’ve doubled the population of the village by the looks of it!

Advertisements

A tough, but happy day on the road.

Standard

Lake Wanaka on a sunny day.

Lake Wanaka on a sunny day.

View from last night's camp site at Cameron Flats

View from last night’s camp site at Cameron Flats

Another beautiful day - Lake  Wanaka

Another beautiful day – Lake Wanaka

So this is what happens when you get aluminium pannier racks... Steel next time then...

So this is what happens when you get aluminium pannier racks… Steel next time then…

Yes, they sandflies were that bad....

Yes, they sandflies were that bad….

From Wanaka, I headed north on highway 6, where the traffic eased significantly. Wanaka was hosting the Kiwi equivalent of the British Royal Highland Show the day I was there which might have something to do with the heavy traffic. Now the roads are mostly campervans and backpackers in cars, and therefore driving slower taking in the view, which cheers me up no end. In the past 24 hours I’ve met several cycle tourists, most of whom were over 60. And when I say that, they look over 60, so being cyclists, they are probably over 70!

I made it to little used D.O.C. site by the name of Cameron Flats to stay the night. In the last 20km of the day, the scenery changed from grassy scrubland, to dense rainforest, the only problem being that it’s not rained here for several weeks. I’m appreciating the dry spell at the moment, even if the trees aren’t.. Cameron Flats sits just south of the Haast Pass. I mentioned it doesn’t get used much, and for good reason too – the sandflies where shocking – ‘little bastards’ to quote one follower of my blog. They were so bad, I spent half an hour trying to sweep them out of my tent with a small blanket I have. After I thought I had successfully squashed/removed them, I zipped my self into the tent for the night, and read my book for a while. Finally, I spread out the blanket as I do every night when in the tent, which released dozens of sandflies than had been wrapped up for the previous half hour. The sandfly eradication continued…. There were so many flies outside, it sounded like it was raining, what with the damn flies hitting the outside of my tent.

The next morning I prepared by covering every bit of exposed skin before exiting the tent. It was all going fine until I had to go for the ‘final ‘trousers off, cycling shorts & shoes on’ before leaving the camp. A mad dash in a fit of rage ensued.

I cycled up the Haast Pass (thankfully faster than sandflies can fly) which is only 500 or so meters high, and down the other side and proceeded to have 2 separate punctures and one of my front racks collapse. Oh, and a button fell out of my shirt (more important than you might think given the sandflies). The punctures were straightforward enough but the rack required a splint made out of a spanner from my tool kit, a jubilee clip and copious amounts of duck tape. I won’t mention how the sandflies affected the process of repairs….

Later on, I stopped and spent a good half hour picking blackberries – must have a good half kilo of them!! They are now sitting in the fridge in a huge bowl at the hostel I’m at here at Wilderness Backpackers in Haast.

So, as you can see not the easiest of days, but spirits are still high as there is little traffic on the road and it’s not raining (still only cycled one day in the rain in the last 4 months!)

Goodbye Queenstown, Hello Wanaka.

Standard

IMG_4450 IMG_4452 IMG_4432 IMG_4445 IMG_4448 IMG_4449 The concert last night was quite the experience.  I love looking at the audience of a gig beforehand to try and gauge what the atmosphere is going to be like.  There was a mix of middle aged folky types (you know, the ones with patches stitched on the elbows of their jackets), a few pensioners, and a handful of the stereotypical Queenstown 20 something adventure seekers.  I guess I fall into that bracket (yes, I know I’m 35 and therefore not in my 20s, but I still look 25, so it’s fine by me).  The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra  were quite the mix of folk.  There were a couple of big beards, a skinny geeky looking guy, 2 large Kiwi women (with personalities that were even larger), a glamorous Kiwi woman who was sporting gigantic decorative ginger eye-lashes and a thigh slapping woman in hotpants.  Oh, and the big burly gay guy wearing rainbow socks and big fluffy sweat bands (taking centre stage of course).  I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a collection of eccentric social misfits in my life.  Recipe for some fantastic live music I say. 

I wasn’t disappointed either – the ukulele is an instrument which somehow I (and most of the audience last night) can’t take seriously, with outbursts of laughter from the crowd a frequent occurrence.  This, combined with renditions some classic hits such as Africa by Toto, as well as Salt’n’Pepper’s Push it, made for an extraordinary experience. The next song would start, and out of the blue, the quiet guy in the corner with the big beard would burst into song, leaving the audience looking at each other wondering what just happened.

As well as the ‘Orchestra’ (more like collection of mates), there was also James Hill – known for being the best ukulele player in the world.  And right enough – he had the crowd whooping and cheering within a couple of minutes of getting on stage.  Quite simply remarkable stuff.  I made a point of hanging about in Queenstown to see it, and I’m glad I did.

Today however, I was back on the bike, over the Crown Range to Wanaka which involved a 10km climb up to the top of the pass (the highest sealed road in NZ).  I’m glad to be back on the road in a way, wheeling into new towns, seeing new sights and people.  The hostel in Wanaka is another cracker, with fantastic views over the lake, and the hostel is fantastic.  I’d stay longer, but I want to complete the west coast, so I’ll be off tomorrow.

Long live the Ukulele….

Standard

I saw the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra last night. As a special treat, they brought along a guy called James Hill Anne Davison. He’s only the best ukulele player in the world…… he even managed to make a drum n’bass tune out of a ukulele using chopsticks….

Quite simply some of the best live music I’ve ever seen. This guy is so talented… Click here

Almost time to move on again. Johnny has itchy feet!

Standard
Lazy slacklining.

Lazy slacklining.

Singletrack mountain biking doesn't get much better than this...

Singletrack mountain biking doesn’t get much better than this…

More slack lining.

More slack lining.

I've been blown away by the skies here in NZ.

I’ve been blown away by the skies here in NZ.

Skippers canyon.  'Epic' doesn't quite cover it.

Skippers canyon. ‘Epic’ doesn’t quite cover it.

OK, we get the message...

OK, we get the message…

The reason for the rather strangely named track - Rude Rock

The reason for the rather strangely named track – Rude Rock

So I’ve been continuing my mountain biking here in Queenstown. One particular day took me up to the Coronet Peak ski area, and down a number of tracks including ‘Rude Rock’ (which also has another name, starting with ‘C’ – I’ll let you work it out), Skippers Canyon, and Zoot. Quite simply some of the best mountain biking I’ve ever done. It was quite a big day, which was confirmed to me when I returned the bike the next day at the bike shop with a few eyebrows being raised. I guess the months I’ve been on the bike have make quite a difference. Yesterday I hired a downhill bike and took it on a few runs of the gondola and downhill trails here. Given I’ve not ridden a downhill bike for a while, it took some getting used to, though by the end of the day I was really getting into it. So much so in fact that I stopped prematurely for fear of crashing, as I was getting faster every run (another sign I’m getting old). It was easily the steepest hill I’ve ever biked on, which made it interesting and given I’m not sure I had insurance for mountain biking, I decided to quit while I was ahead!

I’m off to see the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra tonight, then get back on my touring bike to head over the Crown mountain range to Wanaka tomorrow, then onward to the west coast. I’ve just armed myself with an anti-sandfly cream which apparently works (the west coast is notorious for sandflies).

Not much more to say today, so I’ve included some more mountain biking pictures… Over and out.

Off the road, into the hills.

Standard

Gorge road jump park

Away from the crazy party scene of Queenstown.

Away from the crazy party scene of Queenstown.

This is where the screams came from...

This is where the screams came from…

Red Bull roast it gorge road jump park

Red Bull Roast It

A hi-tech video camera used to film dirt jumpers from above.

A hi-tech video camera used to film dirt jumpers from above.

Look carefully at this one....

Look carefully at this one….

Spectators at the Roast It jump session.

Spectators at the Roast It jump session.

A few days ago after a bit of a late night, I did absolutely nothing – I didn’t even leave the hostel until the evening and I have to say it was great to recharge the batteries. I went to the cinema for the first time in months and saw Django Unchained. I’m not the biggest Quentin Tarantino fan, but I have to say it was a great flick – go watch it! At the end (about 11.30pm), I saw Queenstown’s other side as I walked back to the hostel through the streets – a party scene for 18-25 year olds, which I have to admit to feeling a bit old for. Most people tend to come to Queenstown for a couple of days or so and move on after they get their fix of bungee, gorge swing, paragliding, jet boating etc etc.. People like myself hiring a bike for over a week are not the norm, but there is such a huge network of trails out there to be explored, I couldn’t resist seeing more. Most of it is really good single track cut out of the steep hillside, either by sheep, or by volunteers keen to put something back into the sport, which makes them much more fun to ride than many of the trails back in the UK.

One of my pedals into the hills took me round Ben Lomond, though it felt at times that I was going up most of it due to the steep climbs, though this was rewarded with pointing down some fantastic singletrack sheep tracks – the sort where falling off your bike is not an option. About 2/3 way round, the huge gorge of the Shotover river appeared. All of a sudden the feeling of being along in such a remote place made me back off a bit and not do anything silly. Whilst stopping to admire the view, I heard an almighty scream of a woman, which echoed around the valley. A bit concerned, I continued on round the hill to hear another long scream (think this one was a bloke, but if it was, he was screaming like a girl). I turned round to see a man swinging through the canyon – think of that rope swing you played on as a kid, make it 100 times bigger and imagine starting your swing with a vertical drop before continuing through the arc of the swing – you get the idea. Not so remote after all. Only if I fell, I wouldn’t have a rope to stop me plummeting to certain death!!

I’m afraid the blog is not so exciting at the moment, given I’m not on the move just now. For some reason, really interesting things worth writing about only seem to happen when I’m on the road, with all my clobber. Give it another week or so and all will be back to normal, as I plan to cycle up the west coast of the south island. In the mean time, Iv’e included a few pictures of the Red Bull Roast It competition (I have no idea what it means either – think I’m from the wrong generation) I saw part of last weekend at Queenstown Dirt Jump Park.