Saturday, December 29, 2007

Out of the Fryingpan and Into the Fire

Day 96
Tapawera to Nelson Lakes National Park
Time: 5:15:00
Distance: 70.26 k
Avg Speed: 13.3
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 41˚ 48’ 27.2” S, 172˚ 50’ 52” E

Not much to report today. We had a short respite from the crowds last evening. Tonight we’re back in the fray. Hope everyone is having a great holiday season.
LK

The Promised Land

Day: 96
Motueka to Tapawera
Time: 3:12
Distance: 48.95
Avg Speed: 15.2
Terrain: Uphill (barely)
Location:

We headed out early and fast from Motueka this morning. The thought of spending any more time with our new 500 or so neighbors didn’t please us at all. We got our breakfast eaten and packed up by 8:30 and were off. The road out of Motueka follows the Motueka River valley towards the Northern end of the southern Alps. The river valley is quite fertile and we were able to enjoy a morning snack of fresh blueberries and plums.
We rolled along past vineyards, kiwi, plum and cherry orchards as well as acres and acres of hops. The hops fields were really interesting since they are grown on vines which go from the ground straight up 15’ to overhead wires. We even passed the processing kiln where the hops are dried before being sent off to the brewers. I only know this from the Speights brewery tour we took earlier in the trip. We also passed by several DOC angler access roads to the river. I was able to take a peak at the river at one point and caught a glimpse of a nice trout cruising the shallows.
We arrived at camp in the early afternoon and took it easy the rest of the day. Our main dilemma was whether or not eat the stir fry we had brought or hit the pub for a take-away meal. The pub won out due to the kitchen being full with several families cooking what appeared to be a full holiday dinner.
Leslie and I have both decided that small towns with clean campgrounds are by far the best and most interesting places we have stayed. Whether it was the rail trail, the Northlands or this part of the island we have been lucky to be off the beaten track and spend some time with small town NZ.
CK

Friday, December 28, 2007

Packed In Like Sardines

Day 94
Marahau to Motueka
Time: 1:21:00
Distance: 21.25 k
Avg Speed: 14.1 kph
Terrain: Seaside Hills
Location: 41˚ 6’ 18.9” S, 173˚ 0’ 48.7” E

Who said there is no culture in New Zealand?

Today we reluctantly checked out of the Ocean View Chalets and rode our bikes back to Motueka. We were here about a week ago before we headed to “our Christmas place”. We rolled into the same campervan park as before, only it looked much different than last week. All I could say was “Oh my gosh!” Luckily, there was one tent site left. Otherwise, everything was booked. It’s wall to wall people and not a blade of glass or a square of pavement has been left uncovered. It’s full on vacation season in New Zealand and I’m starting to think that the Kiwis wrote the book on holiday making. It’s not like they just drive in for the weekend, “set” up a tent and roast a few marshmallows by the fire. They actually “construct” a small dwelling that includes sleeping quarters, a lounge and kitchen. Construction takes a matter of hours and requires a trailer to transport the materials to the campervan park. All afternoon we listened to the sound of rebar stakes being pounded into the ground. Our little tent can’t hold a candle to any of the stylish canvas dwellings surrounding us.
Tents aren’t the only way to sleep here. From campervans to caravans to cabins, you can “camp” in any kind of space and any kind of style.
Dinner was, to say the least, a parade of woks and frying pans, sausages and potatoes. For two hours there was a frenzy of food. We had a big lunch and quickly ate our salad, cheese and crackers - I’m sure we got some looks. Then the dishwashing brigade began and the suds were a flyin’. The crazy thing is that everyone just works through the progression of the evening meal. We’ve been spoiled so far with quiet campgrounds.
As we returned to the tent we saw that there are four new tents in our area. After looking at the map we found that there are 187 campsites (which doesn’t include the cabins and motel rooms). We figure that we’re literally camping with 500 to 1,000 of our closest Kiwi friends. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Flossy the Clown and the Balloon Man will be providing entertainment tomorrow at 4:30pm. Certainly, we don’t want to miss that.
LK

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hot Date with My Honey


Day: 93
Marahau Party Day 5
Time: 3.5 hours
Distance: 10 k
Avg Speed: slow
Terrain: flat

We decided that we were going to get away for a little hike early this morning. The day started clear and bright, so after a little coffee, a little cereal, and a lot of toast (I am on a toast kick this week) we were out the door. The Abel Tasman track starts about a kilometer from where we are staying. It is really convenient to run over there for some hiking or beach time. We didn’t want to go out real far today so we hiked for an hour and a half to Apple Tree Bay and spent a little while sitting in the sand watching the tide come in. The ocean is mesmerizing. I think I stared at the same spot of sand for 10 minutes until it disappeared under the green waters of the Tasman Bay. We then hiked out swimming upstream of the tour bus hikers and all the other people coming out for an afternoon stroll.
The rest of the day centered on laundry, lunch, reading, re-packing our panniers and getting ready for dinner.
We had made reservations at the only restaurant in town for tonight. I was glad that we did since the hostess was really giving people hell for not making reservations. The dinner was nice. We had a great conversation (which we do most of the time) and ate some wonderful food. We were celebrating our Christmas together as well as reaching our quarterly review stage. It was cool to get dressed up in our flying clothes and go have a nice meal together. It is funny to have one decent outfit for flying, eating out, trains, and any other outing that requires dress beyond shorts and a t-shirt. It does make getting dressed easy though. You just have to find the right stuff sack.
We are out of our fresh Christmas digs tomorrow and off to Motueka for our first night back in the tent.
Hope everyone had a great holiday and is looking forward to a great New Year.
CK

A New Plan


Day 92
Marahau

As some of you may know, we have been revising our travel plans over the last few weeks. We knew in the beginning that a 2+ year trip was going to be hard to plan. However, you have to start somewhere and then work through the details. In the beginning, we set a date, chose a method of transport, drew a line on a map and went from there. After 92 days we finally have a pretty good idea of where we’re headed. I like to think of it in terms of having a new job and getting through the 90 day review. First impressions can be meaningful, but you have to give something new a little time.
Ok – enough of the philosophical. Here’s the new plan…
Instead of 2+ years on the road, we’ll probably end up with 15 months under our belt. Given our budget and what we’ve spent so far, we’ll be coming home at the end of 2008. No worries – it suits us fine. We looked at the goals for our original plan very carefully and decided what was most important in this grand adventure. We still want to travel around the world and we still like riding our bikes. So we’re moving forward with that in mind.
We fly to Melbourne, Australia on January 10th. We’ll tour the Great Ocean Rd and then take the ferry to Tasmania (“Tassie”) towards the end of the month. We’ll visit with some friends and then tour until mid to late February.
The next stop will be Southeast Asia and we hope to spend 3-4 months traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and maybe Laos. Some of where we go depends on the monsoon season and the amount of time we can get on our Chinese visa. Less time in China means more time in SE Asia.
That brings us to China. It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time. The Far East has always been a part of the plan, but we just didn’t have a particular route in mind. One day in Wanaka we were having a discussion about it - where should we start, how much of the country could we really see, etc. Coincidently, that same day we got an email from a friend with the title “Tibet 2008?” At first I thought it was a joke and then I blinked a few times. I quickly read the email and said to Chris “you won’t believe the email we got from Anne…” OK – now I can get to the point. We’ll be riding from Lhasa to Kathmandu in September. We’ll be part of a tour and are actually looking forward to someone else carrying our gear for a month. We thought it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up – how often does a friend invite you to go on a bike trip in a region of the world that you happen to be traveling through? Enough said. Now we just have to figure out where to ride from June to the first part of September.
From Kathmandu we hope to fly to Europe. Our finances are likely to be very depleted at this point, but we should be able to enjoy a few more weeks on the road. There has been a lot of talk about France and Spain.
Then we’ll be home for a short break at Thanksgiving before heading to Hawaii to spend Christmas with Chris’ family.
Of course, all of this is subject to change. If it doesn’t, we’ll all be disappointed.
Keeping it real,
LK

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Southeast Asia and the Queen’s Christmas Address

Day: 89 and 91
Marahau
Time: Not at all important
Distance:
Avg Speed:
Terrain:
Location:

I took a day off of blogging on Sunday. I really didn’t do it on purpose, I think I just fell asleep. We didn’t do anything exciting by any means. We did laundry (long overdue), slept in and went to the beach. Nothing like a vacation from your vacation. The laundry was particularly interesting since we really hadn’t done any for about 10 days. This wouldn’t be too bad, but all of our clothes fit into two small stuff sacks. Can you say stinky!!
My up to date blog is taking place on Christmas. We didn’t do anything really exciting. Leslie gave me a new toothbrush and two (count them two [2]) chocolate bars. I gave her a toothbrush and two (count them two [2]) packs of mentos. It is amazing what you really need and what you really want. We both needed new toothbrushes and we really like candy. Merry Christmas to us. Our second order of business was a hike along the Tasman coast where we enjoyed warm weather (80˚ F) and plenty of sunshine. Our third order of business was laying out a rough map for our route in southeast Asia and China. We have a rough idea of where we are going and timeline to match. We shall see how close we are to that plan. We ended the day with my lovely wife cooking a traditional (somewhere I think) dinner of pasta with pesto and a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad.
We did get to see the fiftieth anniversary of televised Christmas Addresses by the Queen of England. The message was one of family and helping out fellow mankind. The message was very simple and coming from the queen very eloquent.
Family is important in our lives. They give us connection to what life is all about. They give us gifts of love and support.
That is all one needs in life (along with mentos, chocolate and toothbrushes).
Merry Christmas to all.
CK

Monday, December 24, 2007

I’m Dreaming of a Blue Christmas



Day 90
Bark Bay to Marahau
Time: All Day
Distance: 11 k
Avg Speed: Paddling
Terrain: Water
Location: Abel Tasman National Park

We spent the day sea kayaking along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park. We thought it would be a fun thing to do on Christmas Eve. I booked in with a tour company to make it easy. They have quite a system here since kayaking is probably just as popular as hiking. Every morning there is a flurry of activity to transport people to the tour base and then along the coastline to various starting points. The main method of transport is the tractor. Around here tractors are not just used for farm implements, they are also used for pulling people, water taxis and sea kayaks to and from the beach.
After getting a briefing for the day and suiting up in a dry top and life vest, we found ourselves skimming and bumping along the water to Bark Bay. This was our starting point for making our way back to Marahau. We had some quick instructions on the finer points of paddling and safety, and then launched from the beach. Chris and I were together in a double kayak and he sat in the back as captain. Normally, you would think nothing of this, but Chris has a history with boats, steering and rocks. Ask him about it sometime…
Anyway, we slowly paddled along the shore of Bark Bay past a few different beaches. We saw many people in various stages of their adventures. Some were packing their boats while others were filling their packs. The park plays host to several campsites and huts. It may be the smallest national park in New Zealand, but it’s probably one of the most popular.
For the rest of the day we traded our time between the small rolling waves of the open water and the calm glass of sheltered lagoons. We paddled through the Mad Mile and visited Te Puketea Beach and Fisherman Island. Sometimes I was so concentrated on paddling I forgot to look up and take in my surroundings. When I did, I was amazed once again by the landscapes that this country provides. I was excited to be witnessing this natural beauty from the water.
Wishing you peace on earth,
LK

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day 88: Motueka to Marahau


Time: 1:26:59
Distance: 19.75 k
Avg Speed: 13.6 kph
Terrain: One big hill
Location: 41˚ 00’ 2.7” S, 173˚ 00’ 3.9” E


For once I was the first one awake and moving today. I’m sure it was because we were headed to Marahau and a one week stay on our own cabin. We booked the accommodation back in June after much debate about what we should do for Christmas. Now after three months on the road, we are very happy that we decided to do it.
Our ride was quite short and we didn’t mind the big hill we had to ride up and over to get to Marahau. We arrived at the Ocean View Chalets just before lunch and had some tea while we waited for our room. Robert, our host, is very cool and has been following our website a bit. We chatted about Nepal and his trip there this past fall. We’ll be riding from Lhasa to Kathmandu next September and were very interesting in his perspectives on that part of the world.
Robert led us to our cabin as we pushed our bikes up the driveway. The cabins are set up on some hills above a few acres of hayfields and have a nice view of the ocean. As he opened the door we saw a stack of boxes from home. For the next hour or so we forgot about everything else and enjoyed all sorts of goodies from our friends and family. I thought it would be the sun to recharge me, but I think it will also be from reading cards and letters and hearing familiar voices. Thanks to everyone who sent something. You don’t know how much we appreciate it and someday we will definitely “pay it forward”.

Marahau is a small village on the north side of the South Island. It is part of the Tasman District which happens to be one of the fastest growing places in New Zealand. The district covers about 9800 sq kilometers and had almost 48,000 people. Most of the population lives in and around the urban area of Richmond. Marahau is somewhat removed and sits along Tasman Bay near the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. With sparkling blue water surrounded by lush green mountains, it’s hard to deny that this place won’t feel the pressure of development at some point in the future. For now it plays host to a laid back tourist getaway.
LK

Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 87: Nelson to Motueka


Time: 3:15
Distance: 51.95 km
Avg Speed: 15.9 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 41˚ 6’ 18.9” S, 173˚ 0’ 48.7” E

We headed out quite slowly this morning from Nelson. We got up early but ended up chatting with an older English gentleman. He is in his seventies and decided that he was going to head to New Zealand and tour the country on a motorbike. Long story short, he put the bike down in some gravel near Coromandel and ended up scraping his hands up and spraining his left rotator cuff. He figured he had a couple more weeks of recovery and then he was heading back to get his bike and finish his tour. He was one of those little surprises that you get. He grew up in England during WWII and was laughing at the fact that people only spend 9% of their income on food and complain that food is too expensive.
“What about all those DVD’s and electronics that you have to have?” He asked.
He came here last year as well. He has only his government retirement (like Social Security) and had to save for 2 ½ years to get enough to come here. He wanted to buy a bicycle and tour when he arrived here, but a host at a backpacker talked him out of it. He ended up touring by bus and staying in backpackers and was worried the whole time about his budget of £15 a day (about $45 NZD or $30 USD). He ended up getting back home and averaging £14.96/day!
He was a delight to talk to and one of those people you meet that seems to put it all into perspective for you.
One little bit of info that I did glean from him was what a stone weighs. A stone is an old English measurement of weight. They still use it down here to describe what a person weighs. 1 stone=14 lbs. Our little English friend weighed a whopping 6 ½ stones (you can do the math, but he was a little bulldog for sure).
Well not much else going on. We do have a short day tomorrow, but we will be loaded down with a weeks worth of groceries. We do have a fridge and full kitchen where we are staying next week so we have decided to not eat anything that we normally eat while cycling. The panniers will be bursting at the seams with yumminess.
Hope all is well where you are at.
CK

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Day 85: Havelock to Nelson

Time: 4:43:39
Distance: 73.26 k
Avg Speed: 15.4 kph
Terrain: Big Hills and Big Descents
Location: 41 16’ 39.0” S, 173 17’ 6.3” E

I think it must be the holiday season or something – the traffic was insane today. I had planned to write a scathing blog tonight, but I’ve since calmed down. We’ve both been restrained in our past comments about New Zealand drivers. I’m not sure we can do that anymore. They drive way too fast and don’t give a “you know what” about anyone else on the road. I guess we’re in for a rude awaking if we encounter any worse on the rest of our travels.
We’re back on the coastal roads and found ourselves riding through hilly terrain. We’ve come a long way from the first hills we climbed almost three months ago. Our average speed is faster now – we must finally be in shape.
The end of the road today was Nelson. The largest city on the northern South Island, Nelson is very popular. It has a great climate and is a good jumping off point for many different activities. Tonight we’re camped out on the lawn in the garden of a backpackers hostel. We’ve found that the backpackers are a bit cozier than the holiday parks and are full interesting travelers.
We’re headed west again tomorrow and one day closer to a place at the beach. I am really looking forward to a bed and my own bathroom.
LK

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wet and Wild


Day: 87
Picton to Havelock
Time: 2:41
Distance: 35.32 km
Avg Speed: 13.1
Terrain: Hilly and wet
Location: 173 45' 50" E, 41 17' 18" S

We rolled into Picton yesterday to be greeted by sideways rain. When we left Picton this morning it had at least slowed down to mere vertical. We donned our rain gear before heading out this morning and rode all day in a steady rain. It never came down hard, but it was enough to get you wet. Our rain gear is pretty good, so we were wet from our sweat only. Nothing like climbing hills wearing little greenhouses.
We arrived in Havelock resembling drowned rats so we decided that instead of pushing on we should get a backpacker room here and dry out a little. Leslie had no back brakes left after the descents so I had some mechanic duties ahead of me. Her back brakes were getting worn a bit anyway and it only took a wet descent or two to throw enough grit on the rim to finish the pads. We had a spare set so it wasn’t an emergency by any means. I guess we are riding our bikes and these things happen.
I am reading a book written in 1973 about a British attempt on Everest via the then unclimbed southwest face. It is written by the expedition manager, Chris Bonington, and details all the grimy details of an expedition of that magnitude. It is quite a good read. While we were riding the train to Picton, Leslie and I were discussing our trip plans and any logistics we needed to take care of in the immediate future. I announced ‘that as expedition manager’ I thought we ought to do this or that. Leslie in her unwavering charm looked at me and said ‘if you are expedition manager than I must be expedition director.’ We now boss each other around and wave our self appointed titles in each others face.
Leslie and I are rather content with what we are doing right now. We no longer remember or dwell on things unpleasant and are content to live this trip day by day and minute by minute. Chris Bonington sums it up best describing the act of planning out an expedition immediately after returning home from one:
"Part of the reason is the shortness of human memory for things unpleasant, part the speed of a change of mood in self or surroundings; the elation of the good days’ climbing, when the route is forced out another thousand feet or so; the impact of a golden sunset; the reward of the ever-expanding scene as we gain height; the satisfaction of facing up adversity and overcoming it-all are there."
I think that this is also true for us in the sense that even though our journey is far from complete, we have a short term memory for things such as rain, wind, loneliness, hunger. Our memories are full of the good things we have seen, felt, and touched. All are there.
Take care.
CK

Monday, December 17, 2007

TranzCoastal Journey


Day 84
Christchurch to Picton via the Tranzcoastal Railway
Time: 5:00:00
Distance: 347 k
Avg Speed: Train Speed
Terrain: Flat with rails
Location: 41 17’ 27.8” S, 174 00’ 20.1” E

“Herein, I think, is the chief attraction of railway travel. The speed is so easy, and the train disturbs so little the scenes through which it takes, that our hearts become full of the placidity and stillness of the country; and while the body is being borne forward in the flying chain of carriages, the thoughts alight, as the humour moves them, at unfrequented stations…” – Robert Louis Stevenson from Ordered South

We took the train from Christchurch to Picton today. We’re on a pretty short timeline to get north for Christmas and we figured the train would be more interesting than a bus. Our half day journey took us along the northeast coast and through new territory. We’ve now been able to complete our loop of the South Island. Besides cycling, I think I’ve found a new favorite way to travel. There must be some nostalgia and excitement in taking the train, I’m definitely hooked. I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s just that you don’t feel like a caged animal.
The quote above just happens to be from the book I’m currently reading, The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. Isn’t that funny? How convenient. Theroux (or Mr. Thorax as some have called him) is one of my favorite authors and I was excited to make the find in a Dunedin used bookshop. The book is a series of rail journeys that Theroux takes across Europe and Asia to the Far East. He starts in London, finds his way to Southeast Asia, and returns across Russia by way of Japan. I’ve read bits and pieces in the past, but I wanted to do some research on the routes from Singapore to Bangkok and up the coast of Vietnam. We’re considering traveling by train as part of our new route plan.
Tomorrow we head west along the Marlborough Sounds. Rain or shine we’ll be turning our pedals.
Keeping it real,
LK

Prison Bus

Day: 83
Dunedin to Christchurch
Time: 5:00:00
Distance: 360 km
Avg Speed: At least 100 kph
Terrain: hilly and bus-like
Location: 172 37' 31" E, 43 31' 39" S


We got out of dodge early this morning. We caught the bus from Dunedin to Christchurch today. The bus left at 7:45 this morning so we had to get up early and get on the road to the bus station. We had thought about riding to Christchurch, but SH 1 is not the road for the faint of heart. It is a two lane road connecting the two biggest cities on the south island and sees a lot of traffic. Riding your bike on it, even though it is done, is taking your life in your hands, and hoping that all those motorists have there head on the road and not somewhere else.
The bus is always fun, and here the buses are comfortable and clean. The drivers pull over a couple times for nature breaks and coffee stops. Today’s ride was pretty uneventful except for the little chicky next to Leslie and I having a fight over her cell phone. Classic Kiwi.
We arrived in Christchurch this afternoon and ran the gauntlet through town to our accommodations near the train station. We are staying at a historical jail house turned backpackers (www.jail.co.nz). We are in cell 9. When I say cell 9, I do mean cell 9. The room is 6’ x 15’ and the walls are 60 cm thick. The door to the room is the original heavy iron door, except it locks on the inside. The jail was built in 1874 and stands today as an example of gothic revival architecture. It is rather surreal to walk through the gate into the yard to check in. It is all in fun, and the wardens (hostel staff) have fun at their job.
We are off tomorrow on the train to Picton. It should be fun.
I would also like to give a shout out to my sister and her husband. They welcomed two little girls into the world the other day. All is well and the mom and the babies are doing fine.
Sayonara from cell block D
CK

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Gods Must Be Crazy


Day 82
Dunedin: Another Rest Day

Messages come at random times and in all shapes and sizes. You can never really know what lies ahead. That’s what life is all about sometimes; random events that really do mean something…

Today we met a new friend and we met him in the strangest place – on the road in a right hand turn lane. Chris and I were had just made a dash across two lanes to make a right hand turn when a van in front of us was straddling the turn lane and the straight lane. I thought to myself “Great, another Kiwi driver…”. Then window rolled down and a guy started to lean out. “This should be interesting…” was my next thought. I rolled up next to the guy and he was smiling and said something like “you’re riding your bikes around?”. I replied and then he started to chat as the light turned green. He talked at bit more and then looked behind him and said “The Kiwis are getting mad” and then signaled that he was going to turn and pull over. We pulled over with him and then chatted for the next forty five minutes. He was an avid cyclist himself and a kindred outdoor spirit. We talked about everything from bicycles to New Zealand culture to environmental sustainability. This guy was full of life and passion – he’s the most energetic person we have met in New Zealand.
After saying goodbye we did an urban tour of Dunedin on our bikes. We found the bus station, toured the University campus and ate sub sandwiches at the local pizza joint. The whole time I kept thinking about our chance meeting with Eden. There was something more to it than just a random interaction. I guess I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but it was refreshing.
The afternoon was spent repacking our panniers for the road ahead. By Wednesday we’ll be at the top of the South Island riding towards Abel Tasman National Park. Towards evening we walked the beach and on the way back we ran into Eden again. He was on his way to the pool. We chatted for awhile once more and then invited him to stop by for some beers. Chris and I haven’t done any entertaining since we left home so we were a bit nervous about having a guest. Sounds funny, but when you spend so much time in a foreign country where everyone does their own thing, you get used to just having one other person to talk with. Anyway, Eden stopped by a bit later and we talked for hours like we were old friends.
We said goodbye and hope to keep in touch. Perhaps we’ll see Eden again - I hope so. Perhaps the meeting today was more than just chance.
LK

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 79: Dunedin Rest Day 2

Time: Slow
Distance: Not Far
Avg Speed: Walking
Terrain: Flat and wet

We woke up to the sounds of rain on the fly this morning so we snuggled back into our sleeping bags and decided to have a leisurely breakfast. We had planned on heading into the city today by bike, but with the weather we opted for the drier option. We have gotten better at the public buses while traveling. One of our first forays was in Quito, Ecuador where we didn’t really know where the bus was going, we just knew it cost a quarter and was heading back to our hotel. It was that first experience that taught us to move with a purpose and watch what the locals are doing. One time in London Leslie didn’t watch the locals to see where they were recovering their subway passes on the other side of the style. It was no big deal, but right then we were labeled as tourists and not as some other Londoner heading home for the day. Fast forward to this trip. We find out the bus schedule, figure out the times and always let someone else go first if we can. The bus drivers are always nice and point to the dish where we are supposed to drop our money in and tell us to grab our ticket out of the machine. Earlier in this leg of the trip some passengers in Wellington even figured out that we were about to miss our stop and signaled the driver for us. I guess three people and a 6’8” guy looking clueless always tips people off to the tourist thing.
Dunedin is very interesting city. We killed time by going to a very cool used bookstore and finding a couple of gems to send home. We were laughing because two used books were the first things we had bought for ourselves to send home on this trip. We then headed over to the Otago Settlers Museum to check it out. It helped that it was free. We ended up spending quite a bit of time there checking out the bicycle and motorcycle collection and display. They even had a penny-farthing bicycle set up for people to sit on and check out. A penny-farthing is actually a brand name of the bicycles that had a big wheel up front and a little wheel in back. I think that those would have been difficult contraptions to master, let alone ride. Leslie looked quite at home on it though.
We ended up our trip downtown with a visit to the Monteith Craft Brewery restaurant where we devoured two dishes of appetizers and a couple of yummy beers. The rain really never ceased to fall all day so we caught the bus back and have spent the rest of the day hanging out in the kitchen. We did manage to catch the news where a male news caster sat in front of a blown of photo of David Beckham wearing nothing but his tighty whities. The news caster never cracked a smile as he reported the world’s buzz about what exactly was in those shorts and that some felt that David looked like a page three tart. Leslie and I were on the floor laughing since: A) this made the news, B) the newsman never cracked a smile, and C) that David looked like a page three tart. You just can’t make this stuff up.
See you
CK

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Edinburgh of the South


Day 78
St Kilda Beach to St Clair Beach and back
Time: About an hour or so
Distance: Not important
Avg Speed: Walking
Terrain: Sand

After eight days in a row of riding we’re happy to have our first rest day in Dunedin. I think we’re planning a few more. We found a very nice holiday park by the beach and seem to be content to explore the area from here. We should have a variety of things to see and do. Tomorrow we’re headed to the city centre to run some errands and do the café thing.
Dunedin is a very cool city – one we had a chance to visit when my parents were here. Our time was limited and we saw just enough to make us return. At one time Dunedin was the largest city in New Zealand, the result of the gold rush in the late 19th century. During its heyday, this very Victorian city was the center of the richest and most influential region in the country.
Dunedin gets its name (Gaelic for Edinburgh) from Scottish roots. The Scots were the first Europeans to settle the area in 1848 and the city stills maintains a strong Scottish heritage. Robert Burns is immortalized in a large statue in the center of the city at the Octagon.
Perhaps Dunedin gets a lot of its character from the University of Otago. Founded in 1869, the university is regarded as the epicenter of higher education in New Zealand.
The location of the city has a dramatic landscape and is surrounded by lush green hills and the Southern Pacific Ocean. To this east of the city lies the Otago Peninsula. We hope to do a day trip there and look for some of the area’s world renowned wildlife.
We ended the day with a nice walk along St Kilda Beach to St Clair Beach. We watched the surf and the surf riders; looks like we’ll need a good wetsuit if we decide to join in.
Hang Loose,
LK

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bikes and Trains DO Mix


Day: 77
Middlemarch to Dunedin
Time: 1:54
Distance: 26.8 km
Avg Speed: 14.1 kph
Terrain: rolling
Location: 45 52’ 36.0” E, 170 30’ 30.3” N

We headed on out of Blind Billy’s Holiday Camp in Middlemarch early this morning. We had train to catch at 11:45 in a town called Pukerangi and didn’t want to miss it. Before I tell you about our ride let me tell you a little bit about life in holiday camps in New Zealand. We didn’t plan on staying in them as much as we have, but due to circumstance we have ended up free camping a lot less than we had planned. New Zealand is set up for camping, but usually it is in DOC (Dept. of Conservation) camps or in holiday camps. The difference between the two is the DOC camp is bare bones with usually a pit toilet and maybe water, whereas the holiday camps are more like hostel for tents and campervans. We have opted for the hostel atmosphere since we can get by with carrying less.
We usually roll into town before the campervan crusade gets there and have the office and the campground to ourselves for an hour or two. You are generally charged the same as a campervan since you are taking up the same space one would. We fail to see the logic in this, but we make sure to take longer showers and use all the free stuff we can. TV has been a favorite as of late (Hell’s Kitchen is particularly intriguing). We get the tent set up and all of our things inside and then take turns hanging out while the other showers. We then either go to the store, the pub, the take-away or the kitchen for first round of food. Leslie catches us up on the pictures and, if we have internet, the blog and picture sites. I usually start dinner around 6:00 or so and this is so we can catch the weather at 6:50 on the news. The sports run from 6:30 to 6:50 every night so we can usually time it just right. Leslie does the dishes, we watch a little more TV and then off to bed where we blog, journal, read, stretch, listen to music or sleep. Anyone bored out of their gourds yet? We sometimes have people who will strike up a conversation with us, but being the introverts we are it is rarely the other way around. All in all very exciting. The morning is pretty much the same in reverse. Get up, get dressed, pack up the inside of the tent, eat, pack our panniers, break down the tent and get on the road. If we are in a hurry, or if the bugs are bad we can do all that in around an hour and a half. We usually aren’t in a hurry, so we take around two to two and a half hours to get on the road. Exciting stuff…but wait there is more. We then pedal for around an hour and a half before we take our first real break. From that point on it is how we feel, or what is available to us in towns. Parks are nice, as are cafés so we usually will stop at those if presented with one at an opportune time.
We ended up getting to Pukerangi on time and caught the Taieri Gorge Limited into Dunedin. It was quite a nice ride along the old rail line through a narrow gorge above the Taieri River. We were several hundred feet above the river, but you could see the bottom of it through the clear water. Leslie and I had the dining car to ourselves (of course it was the dining car) and switched sides every time we crossed a bridge or viaduct. We made it to Dunedin right as the rain let up and got our tent up just as the rain started again. We laughed how we had sunny, nice weather for the past eight days of touring and when we decided to take a day or two off the bike, the rains came. The sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s butt every day, but we sure did get our share of rays.
Hope all is well where ever are.
CK

Monday, December 10, 2007

The End of the Trail


Day 76
Daisybank to Middlemarch
Time: 2:36:00
Distance: 37.8 k
Avg Speed: 14.5 kph
Terrain: Flat
Location: 45 30’ 32.3” S, 170 07’ 23.9” E

We awoke to raindrops on our tent this morning. I guess it was the end to the hot dry weather we’ve had for the last week. We certainly enjoyed our bush camp for the night – a real treat. The sheep and lambs looked on curiously as we packed up camp.
With no television to watch this morning we were on the road by 9am. The rain had stopped but we kept our jackets very accessible. Two and a half hours later (and several clothes changes later) we arrived in Middlemarch and the end of the Otago Rail Trail.
We enjoyed our journey tremendously. Not only did we have a nice break from the roads, we really felt like we got to “see” this area of Central Otago in detail. I’m quite certain that this part of New Zealand is not on the tourist track. Lucky for us – we had the time to ramble through. As we made progress forward each day, we were able to let our minds travel back in time.
Over 10,000 people enjoy the rail trail each year. It is managed by the DOC (Department of Conservation) and was opened in 2000. The project was modeled after other Rails to Trails Projects already completed. The route follows the former Otago Central Branch Railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde which ran for 83 years. It was an important link between Dunedin and the communities throughout this region. Tomorrow we’ll finish the remaining kilometers of the historic route on the Taieri Gorge Scenic Railway.
LK

Fruit Cake Oatmeal


Day: 75
Naseby to Daisybank
Time: 2:35
Distance: 38.9 km
Avg Speed: 15.0 kph
Terrain: F-L-A-T
Location: 45 14 46.5 S, 170 16 34.0 E

Ahh…what a way to start a day. We had some oatmeal left over from our backpack a couple of weeks ago and since we were out of our regular breakfast cereal, we ate it. I knew our menu was coming to this so while on Oturehua I had bought some mixed dried fruit to spice things up a little bit. We got the coffee made this morning in the process of getting the oatmeal ready to go I noticed that the dried fruit was actually a fruit cake mix. I am not a fan of fruit cake by any means, and the thought of having candied orange and lemon peels along with “artificial” dried fruit didn’t excite me too much. I was hungry though, and I ate it as long as I could. Leslie and I could only half laugh and half groan as we ate the oatmeal down this morning. We were glad that we had planned a little café stop later that morning when we passed through Ranfurly. I guess I really need to read labels more carefully!
We got back on the rail trail in Ranfurly and headed towards our bush camping destination of Daisybank. The camp really isn’t in Daisybank itself, but further down near the Red Dwarf Ganger Shed. I thought that was too long for the destination line, so I left it as Daisybank. We are actually staying in our first bush camp in New Zealand. We had thought that we would do it a lot more, but with all the holiday parks in this country the DOC and the Government do a good job of keeping the bush camping sites to a minimum. The site we have is right near the river and we are surrounded by a couple hundred of our wooly friends. They have kept us at a distance for now. Hopefully it remains that way.
We ate a little dinner and had some candy bars for dessert. We ended the evening with a rousing game of skipping stones down by the river. Leslie had the best skips by far, but I attribute that to my height and the poor interface angle of rock and water. Oh well, it doesn’t really matter that much, I just enjoyed spending some fun time with my lady friend.
I have been working on a book while on the trip. I haven’t come up with a title yet, but it is about the introduction of possums to New Zealand for the fur trade. It is centers on the breeding female Charlotte and her two suitors, Hector and Anthony. I see it as a cross between Dr, Seuss and Edward Grimm. The first part is the demise of the first couple of litters due to various accidents. Did I mention that Hector and Anthony aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed? Here is a short excerpt:
Georgia the beauty was shot with a bow
Howard the strong one was hacked with a hoe
Ian the dolt was nabbed by a seal
Julia his equal became a poor farmer’s meal
Kermit the clumsy one fell out of a tree
Lucinda the serene one was allergic to a bee
Mason the curious one went one step too far
Neil the sickly one was crushed with a bar

You get the picture. I have an entire alphabet of names and fates, but this is just a taster. Any comments would be welcome.
That is all for now.
CK

Rural Art Deco


Day 74
Oturehua to Naseby
Time: 2:59:20
Distance: 39.40 k
Avg Speed: 13.1 kph
Terrain: Flat
Location: 45 01’ 18.5” S, 170 08’ 29.1” E

Rural Art Deco. It’s so New Zealand.

Day 4 on the Rail Trail. We saw and heard it all today. We left Oturehua at the usual time (10am) with full bellies and minimal cash in our wallets. We came up with a financial strategy for the rest of the rail trail based on the services at our intended stopping point for the day - Ranfurly.
The first part of the ride took us north and south of the 45 parallel in the span of a few kilometers. Being the geography geek that I am, I whipped out the camera and made us pose for a self portrait. Chris, being the wonderful person that he is, has become accustom to this behavior.
From there we passed through Wedderburn, another town on the rail line. I cannot remember the town’s claim to fame. However, I do remember that the word “wedder” refers to a sheep that has been castrated. Ponder that.
We stopped again before Ranfurly at one of the many enlightening kiosks found along the trail. They call them Gangers’ Sheds. We busted out some apples and read through the history of the upcoming towns. After reading the description for a town called Naseby, we decided to extend our day a little bit instead of resting in Ranfurly; assuming that we could get some money.
We arrived in Ranfurly and immediately went on the hunt for cash. It didn’t take long to figure out that the bank was closed and the supermarket wasn’t able to give out extra currency. We tracked down the information center and they directed us to the hotel. Don’t worry, it sounds like we were running all over town, but this all happened within two blocks on the main drag.
We rolled our bikes over to the Ranfurly Hotel and I walked inside to procure some cash. I found the reception desk and asked the question. The man asked where I was from and when I said “Colorado” he was eager to share that he was originally from Indiana. And then, he told me his life story.
He had been in New Zealand for 26 years and came here after serving in the Navy during the late 1960s. He was part of “Operation Deep Freeze” that flew planes from McMurdo Airbase in Antarctica. He flew on a C47 which is like a DC3. Then he explained the structure of the plane and how it needed some sort of apparatus to get up in the air. Apparently, this apparatus was then dropped before flying off on the mission. As he told me his story he went along with my transaction. Somewhere in the middle of all of this he whipped out his Naval ID card from 1967. He paused to give me the money and I took the opportunity to ask him questions. I figured that had to wear down suits while they flew. He nodded yes and then described how they all wore beards and mustaches and how the icicles formed below their noses from breathing. Then he chuckled and shared how “you really had dinner twice, once to eat and then another time from all of the food stuck in your beard”. I didn’t need to try to visualize that.
I loved his story and thanked him for the time and then ran outside to write everything in my journal. I then pulled out the camera and took a picture of the 1930s, rural art deco style, Ranfurly Hotel.
Boy am I glad we ran out of cash.
LK

Friday, December 07, 2007

Day 73: Ophir to Oturehua


Time: 2:47
Distance: 34.09 km
Avg Speed: 12.1 km/h
Terrain: dark, high and flat
Location: 45 00 33.0 S, 169 54 48.9 E

We did the leisure tour thing again this morning and rolled out at the crack of 10:00. The town of Ophir is a little old gold mining town whose claim to fame these days is having the oldest post office in New Zealand (1886). All the buildings are old stone houses and there is even a walking tour where the history of each house is pointed out. We stayed at the Flannery Lodge last night. The place has both rooms and a tent area along with the common ablutions area that everyone shares. The owners were extremely nice, along with the property and to top it all off, we had the place to ourselves.
Today’s section of the rail trail contained the longest (110.6 meters) and highest (37 meters high) bridges on the trail along with two tunnels through the cliffs. The tunnels proved to be not as exciting as I had hoped. They suggest that you walk your bike through them, and being the safety conscience crew we are we adhered to that advice on the first one. The second one we threw caution to the wind and rode through without headlamps!! After we descended into the Ida Valley we were greeted with long (and I mean long) straight-aways that lulled us until we pulled into Oturehua.
Oturehua’s claim to fame is recording both the highest and lowest temperatures in New Zealand. In fact they have a big curling tournament on the frozen reservoirs each winter. We had read that there was tent camping site in Oturehua, but to our dismay it was still closed for the season. We ended up inquiring at the tavern if they had any rooms available, but to our dismay they did not. As luck would have it though we were able to get a room at a B&B across from the tavern and next to the general store (hence the name; The Old Shop B&B). Goodbye budget, hello luxury! We bought sandwiches for dinner at the store and spent time in our little oasis of a room. The trail we are on really hits some awesome little towns on the south island. The key word being little. They are the gems that really make a landscape shine, but you really have to plan ahead to make sure you have all you need while you are here. The B&B has a few little characters for pets running around. The collie, Meg, barked a little at us when we arrived, but hasn’t raised her eyebrows at us since. She even lay right by my chair while Leslie and I ate dinner on the lawn. She was probably begging, but she was very subtle and cute about it. The little Persian cat, Elmo, is a glutton for attention and every time Leslie would squat down to take her picture, she would get up to be petted. The tabby cat, Ralph, is like the gray ghost. Now you see her and now you don’t. It is funny how pets can mellow you out and really make the world not seem like such a big place.
CK

King Solomon's Mines



Day 72
Alexandra to Ophir
Time: 3:03:00
Distance: 41.53
Avg Speed: 13.5
Terrain: Flat
Location: 45 6’ 38.4” S, 169 36’ 17.7” E

Ophir, a small town in Central Otago, was named for the gold mine cited in the Bible where the Queen of Sheba obtained gold for King Solomon. This town is a world away from that mine (in present day Ethiopia) but it yielded the same precious metals.
We spent our first full day on the rail trail. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be off the road. Chris and I were able to ride side by side and have a normal conversation. Usually one of us is shouting back to the other into the wind and traffic noise. The usual response is “what was that?” The dialogue is most often repeated several times taking multiple kilometers to get the point across.
We are in full-on leisure mode. We don’t have to be in Dunedin until the end of next week and we only have 20-30 kilometers to ride each day. We vowed to soak in the history of this area. Departure time today was a tardy 10am. After stumbling upon a freeride park along the trail we rolled off to the northeast.
The landscape is quite barren – very dry hills with rock outcroppings of dark schist. There were several mountain ranges in the distance with a clear blue sky as a backdrop. It was hard not picture the scene without a train clicking along the tracks that once laid below our tires. Perhaps it was easy to imagine since we do a lot of clicking and clacking ourselves with all of our gear. We crossed a few of the many bridges and rode through several sections of trail that were carved through hillsides.
We wasted enough of the day to arrive in Ophir in mid afternoon. We read about it in the guidebook and decided to give it a look. It’s a very small town with big character. Gold was discovered here in 1863 and the town, then called Blacks, went through the typical boom and bust period that most gold rush towns experienced. Fortunately, many of the buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s have been preserved or restored. This afternoon I had the delight of reading about the town’s history and tomorrow we’ll get out and see it firsthand.
Enjoy this poem that I read on the back of the Historic Ophir booklet:

So laugh with me now or cry with me now
As you tramp those memoried tracks
For they all lead down to Ophir Town
And the old time town of Blacks
(Todd Symonds)

LK

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Day 71: Cromwell to Alexandra



Time: 2:37
Distance: 38.82 km
Avg Speed: 14.80
Terrain: Flat w/ mix of asphalt and gravel
Location: 45 14 59.6 S, 169 23 52.2 E

We headed out of the fruit metropolis of Cromwell this morning at the crack of 9:30. We have really slowed down. We still had the magical 2 hours to get ready, fed, packed and rolling as before, we just slept in a little. With shorter days on the horizon, I think that will become the norm. We started the first stage of the Otago Rail Trail today. It started about 20 km outside of Cromwell in a little town called Clyde. We rode the first 10 km of the trail to the next little hamlet…Alexandra. We were a little leery about staying at the holiday park here, but being cheapskates we decided that it would be ok. It actually is quite nice, just really industrial. We were able to wash off the 10 km of dirt in the swimming hole in the river near our tent. Not bad at all.
We ran into town for some groceries and saw the touring bikes that make ours look like racers. They had more packed on a bicycle than I thought was possible, let alone operable. We never knew exactly who the couple was, but we figured it was the duo with a cart full of bread and bananas. Whenever we are feeling heavy we can take a look at their photo. Amazing.
We have 150 km of rail trail total. There are 62 bridges and 2 tunnels to go through. We will need to keep our head torches out. We crossed 1 bridge today, so only 61 to go!
We are off to the even tinier hamlet of Ophir tomorrow where we will take a lunch break with a new found favorite of marmite bread (the dough is slathered with marmite or vegemite and then baked). Salty yummy goodness!
See you
CK

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Otago Gold


Day 70
Queenstown to Cromwell
Time: 3:58:00
Distance: 63.5 k
Avg Speed: 15.8 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 45 02 27.7 S, 169 12 51.0 E

We’ve been traveling in the Otago District for the last two weeks. We entered it back in Omarama and will go through it all the way to Dunedin. Gold was discovered in the region in the late 1800s and was once the richest district in New Zealand. Dunedin was the center of this wealth and was once a very influential city. The gold rush lasted for 40 years and miners came from all around the world.
Today we left Queenstown and made our way to Cromwell, one of the towns that sprung up during the gold years. With those days gone, Cromwell now relies heavily on fruit production. In fact, we were greeted by giant sized fruit as we entered town. See photo.
Cromwell has not escaped the wide spread hydro schemes in New Zealand. In 1993 part of the original town site was flooded when the Clyde Dam was built.
We’re now headed to Dunedin via the Otago Rail Trail. We definitely enjoyed our time in and among the mountains. There were a lot of similarities to Eagle County, from the laid back outdoor atmosphere right down to the booming construction. It made us feel right at home.
LK

Monday, December 03, 2007

Queenstown rest day 2

Day: 69 dude
Time: none
Distance: none
Avg Speed: none
Terrain: none
Location: Creeksyde Campervan Park

We awoke late again today and were forced to leave the room we had stayed in by the cleaning crew. We are back in the tent for the next couple of weeks. We spent the day taking care of little details for the remainder of our stay in New Zealand and looking into bigger details in Australia and Southeast Asia. Leslie constantly amazes me how she can have 10 things cooking at once on the computer and actually get some things done.
We didn’t do much today except a haircut/beard-cut for me and some grocery shopping. The barber probably loved me when I asked him to cut my beard off to a goatee. There was a pound of grey beard hair on the floor when he was finished. I finished another book during this rest period. I picked up The City of Joy during our last rest period in Wanaka. It is a true story about a slum in Calcutta, India and focuses on a family from the countryside forced to live there, a catholic priest determined to live among the people he is trying to help and serve and an American doctor trying to make a difference. If you haven’t read the book I highly recommend it. In it there was an inscription from Mother Teresa that summed up her philosophy on life that really has stuck with me:

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it!
--Mother Teresa

CK

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Queenstown Rest Day

Day 68

Sleeping, eating, laundry…and ice cream.
LK

Day 64-67 Greenstone/Caples Track

Time: 4 Days
Distance: 53 k
Avg Speed: walking
Terrain: Two river valleys, one high pass in between

Day 1: Car Park to Greentstone Hut
We started the day and the trip with an early rise to get the bikes and panniers into storage before we caught the bus to Glenorchy. Leslie and I were both really excited to get some hiking in and some time off of the bikes. The bus dropped us off at a small store/campground/bus stop in Glenorchy where we caught a smaller bus that took us to the dock. We had an exciting boat ride across Lake Wakatipu where we caught yet another bus that took us to the trailhead. We finally got hiking around 10:30 or so and were in awe from that point forward. We had a great hike along crystal clear rivers in the shadow of snow capped peaks. We got to the hut about the same time as a hiking group from the north island. They were out hiking another track and returning to the trailhead in the opposite direction we were going. The evening took a turn towards the interesting when they insisted that Leslie and I play a couple of rounds of male vs. female charades. I somehow had to go first for our team and drew the movie Deliverance. I was thankful that I didn’t have to act out ‘squeal like a pig’. My team got it at canoes and drawing a bow. Leslie, being the CSI fan that she is, drew non-other than CSI. You can’t make this stuff up.
CK

Day 2: Greenstone Hut to McKellar Hut
After a night of synchronized snoring we rose early and brewed some coffee. We had about 15k to cover up the Greenstone Valley and rain was predicted towards the middle of the day. We were out the door by 8am. We rounded the bend and found our old friend, the headwind, greeting us with cold air and drizzle. We stopped to take in the views every once in awhile, but for the most part we put our heads down and trudged forward. By 1pm we had reached the McKellar Hut. While much smaller and older than the Greenstone Hut, this DOC cabin had lots of character and some nice views. Chris fixed some soup and we spent the rest of the afternoon resting in preparation for the next day’s trek over McKellar Pass. Toward evening we were joined by a group a European guys, 2 Germans, 1 Austrian and 1 French. They told us that they decided to speak English to each other because of the French guy…Anyway, they had great camaraderie and really seemed to be enjoying life in general.

Day 3: McKellar Hut to Mid Caples Hut via McKellar Saddle
We had nice night sleep in the hut, with everyone being quiet when we went to sleep and us trying to be quiet when we got up. We got on the trail pretty early and had a wet hike along Lake McKellar towards the saddle. We had an hour long scramble up wet rocks and roots to the clear views from the saddle. The beautiful Mt. Lyttle loomed in the background. If you were to picture a glacier covered mountain you would come up with Mt. Lyttle…awesome. The top of the saddle is a marshland from the runoff on the two surrounding peaks. We were glad to find a 2 foot wide boardwalk about 500 meters long over the wet areas. We had a rooty rocky descent down to the Caples river valley. The valley bottom appeared suddenly and twenty minutes later we got to the upper hut. There was a young couple inside when we got there. We had decided to get some water there and as soon as we sat down our packs the guy came out to chat. We ended up staying thirty minutes there chatting with them. The couple was excited to have some new people to talk to for awhile. We kind of recognized where they were coming from. Sometimes it is nice to have different people to tell your same stories to. We had an uneventful walk down the valley to the mid-Caples hut where I managed to snore out my wife and Leslie and I had two honeymooners in our room. Thank goodness they weren’t amorous, or at least very discreet.
CK

Day 4: Mid Caples hut to Car Park
After saying goodbye to our Aussie friends we enjoyed a leisurely stroll to the car park – only about 7k. From the hut we crossed another deep gorge section of the Caples River and then walked down the right side of the valley. We reached the trailhead with plenty of time to spare before the Backpacker Bus came to pick us up. We chatted with our British friend that we met two nights before at the McKellar Hut. He was very well traveled and we picked his brain to see what kinds of interesting places he’s visited.
In true Kiwi fashion, the shuttle arrived right on time and whisked us away to the boat dock for the exciting boat ride back across Lake Wakatipu. From there we took another shuttle back to Queenstown. All in all, it was a great trip and a relaxing way to spend time off the bike.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ready to Walk

Day 63
Queenstown

There is not much to report today. Chris is immersered in his latest book, so I will be the guest blogger tonight. Ha, ha.
We spent the day setting up the logistics for the track we want to hike. It's another "must do" on our list while we're in New Zealand. Tomorrow we set off for the Greenstone/Caples route. Our little backpacks are jammed packed - they were not built for multi-day adventures. No problem, we can forgo a little comfort for a good walk. The packs will get lighter each day as we eat all of the instant food we've stuffed inside. I did talk Chris into bringing a bottle of wine and some chocolate bars to change it up a bit. We are notoriously lame when it comes to backpacking food. As some of our friends can attest, we've been known bring minimal food on pack trips and then stare at them as they eat their good food.
It will be quite a change to go without the bikes for a few days. We haven't done that since we've arrived.
See you,
LK

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pole, Pole


Day 62
Wanaka to Queenstown via Crown Range
Time: 5:23:53
Distance: 72.75 k
Avg Speed: 13.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling/Crown Range Summit(1074m)
Location: 45 1 43.9 S, 168 38 37.2 E


In Swahili “pole, pole” means “slow, slow”. We heard the term frequently from our Kilimanjaro guides early this year. It was the best way to climb the mountain. Today I thought of those words as I crept up to the Crown Range Summit on my bike. I wasn’t making myself go slow – I was going as fast as I could. As I turned the pedals I realized that I’ve never pedaled slower in my life. Then I remembered climbing in Africa...”pole, pole”.
Today we rode the Crown Range Road from Wanaka to Queenstown. The road has the honor of being the highest sealed road in New Zealand. First gravel and now asphalt, this route has seen plenty of history in its day. In the late 1800s the pass saw a variety of activities including livestock drives, gold seekers and tourists in horse drawn wagons. Today the road is a major tourist route which connects the communities of Wanaka and Queenstown.
We had lunch at the summit and bundled up for the winding ride down. We had awesome views of Lake Wakitipu, Queenstown and the surrounding mountains.
We’ll be in Queenstown and the surrounding area for awhile. We’re planning to go tramping (trekking) for 4-5 days. It’s one of the things we really wanted to do in New Zealand. We’ll spend tomorrow getting our huts tickets and booking a shuttle to take us to the beginning of the track (trail).Luckily, we can store our gear for the days we’re gone and travel a bit lighter.
LK

Wanaka Rest Day 2


Day 61
Time: some
Distance: a little
Avg Speed: barely moving
Terrain: hilly and windy

We are hanging out in Wanaka resting and waiting out some low pressure systems plaguing the South Island. The weather reports called for gale force westerly winds all day. They are actually a little out of the northwest, but gale force none the less. We rode into town this morning to go for a little hike on Mt. Iron. The trail took us to the top of the mountain where, amid wind gusts we enjoyed superb views of Mt. Aspiring national park to the west and the beautiful Cadrona Valley to the east. We were brow beaten by the winds on the way up the mountain, but ended up on a wind sheltered trail coming down the other side.
The time spent here has been taken up with planning other parts of the trip. Leslie is doing the lion’s share of the work and is always so organized in doing so. She has taken turns swiping at big chunks like visas for Southeast Asia and China and toiling away on little things like train tickets around Christmas time and maps for next weeks backpack. She is really the grease that keeps this trip going and from running way off track. Her budget spread sheet would make the government bean counters green with envy. Our travel relationship is not typical like you would see in other traveling couples. I generally do the man stuff like set up the tent and work on the bikes, but I also elbow my way in the kitchen with the women to get dinner up for us. Leslie is always a good sport about what I cook for dinner. I haven’t scared her too much yet, but we are really limited on what we can carry and cook. If there is a store around I always try and get her to shop with me, because she can get me to lose my tunnel vision and cook up some new things. We had a salad for tonight and ventured into the store for something to cook with it. I was looking at some cheap steaks and she had grabbed some pre-made bacon and pineapple balls. I imagine that they will be quite good.
Talk to you later.
CK

New Brakes


Day 60
Wanaka Rest Day #2

We’ve had our first gear casualty of the trip – Chris’ rear brakes. He was limited to his front brakes on our last ride a couple of days ago. A few times he forgot that he couldn’t use the rear and had to stop his bike and manually pull apart the brake arms. With another high pass to climb on Monday there was no choice but to replace them.
Last evening we found a real bike shop in town and made plans to return this morning. We rode into town early and Chris headed off to the bike shop while I visited the DOC (Dept of Conservation) Visitor Center. I was getting more information about our upcoming backpacking trip. I found Chris later at the bike shop where he had made himself at home in the mechanic’s area. He was installing his new brakes himself.
Apparently he wasn’t invited back there, but asked politely and then went to work. I guess you have to do what you have to do.
We spent the next half hour chatting with one of the mechanics. He was probably tired of my endless questions about life in Wanaka and all of the biking here. Luckily, he patiently answered each question. We came to find out that life in Wanaka was very similar to life in any mountain resort town. He said “most people move here and they’re focused on one sport, but after a matter of time they end up doing all kind of things, really”. We also learned that he was a dedicated racer who worked hard and trained harder. He shared that he had taken a break last year but found himself back at it. Once a racer, always a racer I guess.
One question he asked us was “after doing all the biking you have done, how do you find riding at such a slow pace?” My answer: “I’m working on finding my patience…”
LK

Day 59 Wanaka Rest Day

Time: 0:00
Distance: 16 k (coffee and dinner run)
Avg Speed: Negligible
Terrain: Downhill

We celebrated Thanksgiving along with the rest of the U.S. today. We started off the morning by calling the families back in the states. We spoke to almost everyone and it was good to hear some voices. The phone calls from NZ to the States have been interesting to say the least. We bought a calling card here based on good rates and the ability to charge it up and use it anywhere in the world. It is called a Yabba card and always trips me out when the computer voice on the other end is a computerized male with a kiwi accent-‘Welcome to Yabba’. The rate we get is based on using a regular phone to make the calls from. We are always around pay phones and in the tiny print they deem it necessary to tack on another $0.30/minute if you are calling on one. It is always the fine print that gets you.
We spoke to half the family and then got ready to go into town. When you are staying at a campervan park you have to time you ablutions carefully. Everyone does the same thing at the same time and if you can wait or be opposite you generally never have to wait in line. We decided to shower after check out today since we figured all the other campers would be gone doing their thing. We had the bathrooms to our selves, but we just had to wait for the cleaning people to finish up. Minor compared to waiting in line for a shower. We headed over for a coffee and muffin to help squelch the hunger before we went food shopping. We always buy the craziest stuff when we are hungry, so eating before is always good (ex. Eggs, sausages, chapattis, and salad all at once for lunch???). We did our shopping and headed back to camp for another round of calls and another snack.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was at 5:00 so we killed a little time reading in the tent. The tent area was all ours except for the guy doing laps on the riding lawnmower around our tent. There is now a little island of uncut grass beneath it. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of pad thai and red curry salmon. MMM, just like mom used to make (just kidding, my mom never cooked pad thai on Thanksgiving, or any other time I am aware of). We spent the post dinner hour looking at the mountains over Lake Wanaka. It was actually the best Thanksgiving I could have. I was with family in my heart and mind. I ate yummy food. I spent it with my best friend and partner in crime.
Like I have said before…life is good.
CK

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Christmas – Address for Letters and Cards

Some of our friends and family have asked if they can send us letters or cards at Christmas. We will be spending the week around Christmas at the Ocean View Chalets (Dec 22-28). We talked with the hosts and found out that we can receive mail there. If you are so inclined, you can send things to:

Ocean View Chalets
c/o Chris and Leslie Kehmeier
305 Sandy Bay Marahau Road
Marahau
Motueka 7197
New Zealand

Your best bet would be to send anything by Dec 1 or sooner.

Please, please, don’t feel obligated to send anything. Just keep the emails and blog comments coming…
Happy Holidays,
CK&LK

Giving Thanks


Day 58
Omarama to Wanaka
Time: 7:41:37
Distance: 117.05 k
Avg Speed: 15.2 kph
Terrain: Rolling plus Lindis Pass (965m)
Location: 44 35’ 22.9” S, 169 38’ 43.2” E

Today it is Thursday which to us means Thanksgiving. To celebrate we rode our longest day yet and ate cheese, crackers and peanut butter sandwiches. Don’t worry – we’re going to eat a proper meal tomorrow.
The day was pretty much spent riding, so I’d like to take the opportunity to share what I’m thankful for.
First and most important, I am thankful for Chris. He is my solid foundation, my best friend and the love of my life. His adventurous spirit and kindness give me strength. I’m so glad we’re doing this journey together.
Next, I’m thankful for all of our family and friends. Their love and support have meant so much to us and give us inspiration everyday. We always realized how lucky we are to have special people in our lives and this trip proves it.
Finally, I’m thankful for my health and the ability to attempt this big, fat, hairy goal of riding a bike around (and through) the world.
We hope everyone has a lovely holiday!
Happy Turkey (or whatever you eat),
LK

Ps – Happy 90th Birthday to my Grandma Ruth. I love you and miss you. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Summer Camp


Day: 58
Glentanner to Omarama
Time: 3:54
Distance: 72.25 k
Avg Speed: 18.3 kph
Terrain: flat
Location:

We got out of Glentanner with a reasonable nights sleep and our sanity with us. The schools here have a week long field trip for the 6th grade classes out into the countryside. We had been around two other groups before in Dunedin and Christchurch. The group that rolled into Glentanner was of a different breed.
The 5 or 6 vans rolled in around 6:30pm last night and the little holiday camp was besieged by 50 kids and about 8 adults. They always seem to roll in at dinner time so I decided that I had better get dinner going while I still had a chance. I ended up chatting with the male chaperons while they cooked dinner for 50 (frozen pizzas, french fries and salad) and I cooked dinner for two (instant pasta with sausage). The chaperons were all real nice and I had a good feeling that they were going to keep some sort of reigns on the kids. We made the mistake of pitching our tent next to the trampoline, which just a day earlier hadn’t seen any jumping for quite some time. To make a long story short, the trampoline was used until 10 last night and resumed at 5:30 this morning. The chaperons hadn’t gotten any sleep and it was obvious the kids hadn’t. They had quite the meeting this morning and we were even apologized to by the schools teacher. I am sure we pedaled out a little too fast this morning, but we were really glad to get on the road again.
We had our first really warm day riding since arriving here and Leslie took the plunge first with the sandals. We both ended up riding the day with our sandals on and loving every minute of it. Tomorrow is the third Thursday of the month here. I think we are going to wait until Friday here to celebrate turkey day. Hopefully there is someplace that actually serves turkey. It isn’t the most popular meat down here. We hope everyone’s turkey day is thankful.
CK

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Day 56
Mt Cook – Hooker Lake Hike
Time: 4:10:00
Distance: A Long Walk
Terrain: Glacial Moraine
Location: 43 41' 21"S, 170 05' 59.3"E

“I am in these mountains, I am in these stars, I am all around you, always near, not far.”

We spent the day hiking the Hooker Valley, about 15 kilometers from the summit of New Zealand’s highest mountain. It was another clear day and we feel very lucky. Apparently, there is usually only 1 clear day in five. We’ve enjoyed four in a row.
Mt. Cook (3754m) saw its first ascent on Christmas Day in 1894 by three Kiwi climbers. The first woman, Freda de Faur, reached the summit in 1913. The mountain is part of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park which encompasses over 70,000 hectares of majestic mountains and was named after the famous English explorer James Cook. The Maori name for the mountain, Aoraki, translates to “Cloud Piercer”.
We felt at home amongst the mountains. The relief was quite dramatic and reminded us of the Andes of Peru. Mt. Sefton dominates the lower end of the valley and holds several glaciers in various stages of recession. More than once we heard ice calving off and thundering into the valley below. It’s hard not to believe in global warming after visiting a place like this. Most of the day our eyes gazed toward Mt. Cook and our minds imagined how it would be to climb to the top.
The quote above was printed on a plaque on the Alpine Memorial at the base of the valley. The monument was erected to commemorate those who have perished while exploring the mountains.
Climb safe,
LK

Taking it all in




Day: 55
Twizel to Glentanner
Distance: 44 k
Time: 2:45
Avg Speed: 16.3kph
Terrain: Flat
Location: 43 54 56.3 S, 170 7 26.9 E


We had a pretty ride today. We always get a bit of a slow start after a rest day and this day was no exception. We knew that we just had 45 kilometers or so of riding and really weren’t setting any records. I could write on and on about the scenery today, but I decided to just add a picture or two.
We feel very fortunate to be in this valley with the weather the way it is. The views take your breath away every where you look. Enjoy the photos. They don’t do it justice.
CK

Soaking Up the Sun


Day 54
Twizel Rest Day


Not much to report today so I’ll keep it short. Hope everyone at home is doing well.
After such a long day yesterday we decided to take a rest day. We’re working on longer distances, but we’ve decided to keep our three days on one day off routine. Really, I just enjoy a day when Chris’ alarm doesn’t go off.
The sun was out again today and I took advantage by turning my sleeping pad into a sun tanning mat. I slathered on some sunscreen, turned on the iPod and soaked up some rays for a few hours. I figured I need to cache some good vibes for the cloudy and rainy days ahead.
We’re off to see Mt. Cook tomorrow.
LK

Boots’ Mate


Day: 53 11.17.2007
Fairlie to Twizel
Distance: 101
Time: 6:12
Avg Speed: 16.4 Kph
Terrain: Hilly to Flat
Location: 44 15 13.6 S, 170 05 58.1 E


We rolled out of Fairlie around 9:00 this morning. The sky was clear for the first time in about 5 days. The southerly wind had ended and left a nice fresh sky for us to ride under. The ride today was a two parter. The first section was 44 kilometers over Burke Pass and into the Lake Tekapo area. When we rolled into the town of Burke Pass (which is right before the actual pass) we were flagged down by a little nice lady who wanted to make sure we visited the town Catholic Church and the cemetery. The church was a small old wooden church full of Scottish tartans. Did I mention that we are in Mackenzie Country? The cemetery was up the road and is the final resting place for a lot of settlers, locals and climbers who died. We were told that the famous Kiwi climber Gary Ball had a grave marker there. Ball died while climbing in Nepal, but his friends and family erected a grave marker for him in Burke Pass. While we were looking for his grave site, an older southern man drove up in his vehicle. We heard him laughing as he approached us since he was ‘surprised to see two cyclists in a cemetery’. He was there to visit his mate Boots, who had passed away recently in a logging accident. He told us about his friend and went over all the things left on his gravesite. He was particularly proud to point out the Speight’s ale setting next to Boots’ old boots. We talked a little bit about the weather, NZ and Australia. On his departure he remarked that visiting cemeteries tended to put a person in their place and ‘strip away the BS’. Today that was too true.
We finally got over Burke Pass, the pass, and the whole skyline erupted with some of the most beautiful mountains I think I have ever seen. The Southern Alps came into full view and Leslie and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. They remained in our sights for the rest of the ride. We descended into Lake Tekapo and took a coffee and sandwich break, since we had another 55k left to Twizel. We rode along the canal from Lake Tekapo to some lower lakes for more than 30k. The road was empty, so we had plenty of opportunity to swerve about staring at the magnificent mountains.
The sight of mountains seems to have an inspiring and calming effect for both Leslie and I. We feel a lot closer to our goal and the land riding among them. We are taking a day off tomorrow and on Monday we are off to Mt. Cook village to spend some time among the mountain. Life is good.
Happy Birthday Mom!!!
CK

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mackenzie Country

Day 52
Geraldine to Fairlie
Distance: 45.07 k
Time: 3:05:23
Avg Speed: 14.5 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 44 05 59.2 S, 170 49 58.6 E

I’m a McKenzie myself and I had a little smile on my face when we crossed into the Mackenzie District today. You bet I’ll have a picture by a sign before we leave. Check out this cool website for more info on the area. http://www.teara.govt.nz/Places/SouthCanterbury/SouthCanterbury/11/en
Our friend Jennie sent us the link. The website is chock full of interesting New Zealand information.
Today we rode one step closer to our latest goal, Mt Cook. We want to at least make to the village even if we won’t be doing any climbing. We’re hoping to spend a few days in the area soaking up the mountain ambiance.
The ride today was a bit shorter than our last few days. Chris has a little cold and I feel one coming on. We’re taking it slow to see what develops. The weather has been cold and rainy all week and tomorrow it’s finally supposed to improve. The traffic was very busy today and definitely frustrating. We were honked at several times. So far, neither one of us is impressed with the driving style of the Kiwis. We found out as we checked into the campground that the inhabitants of Christchurch have a long holiday weekend. I guess we just got caught up in the frenzy to get out of the city.
We were lucky enough to score free wireless at our campground tonight. As I was firing up the computer to check email, I realized how far technology has come. We’re able to keep up with all of our family and friends via email, write a daily journal on-line, and watch our favorite tv shows (more CSI downloads). I figured that it wouldn’t be so important to me, but it helps me feel more connected to home and that makes me happy.
LK

Flat and Cold


Day 51
Methven to Geraldine
Distance: 77.5 k
Time: 3:57
Avg Speed: 19.5 kph
Terrain: flat as flat can be
Location: 44 05’ 45” S, 171 14’ 39.7” E


We left the comfort of our little hostel in Methven this morning. It is always interesting hanging out at those places. One of the guests there was taking a class at the Pudding Hill Parachute School on how to become a parachute photographer. I asked how many jumps he had under his belt figuring it would be less than 50, but to my surprise he replied that he had about 320 jumps and needed to get around 500 to be a competent photographer. He added that one of the instructors, who is the premier parachute photographer in the world, had about 26,000 jumps to his credit. I don’t even think I have been in a car 26,000 separate times and this guy has jumped out of a plane that many times. I now know all I have ever wanted to know about parachute photography and video.
The road was flat as can be and except for the breeze we created by riding it was calm as can be. The weather was quite crisp the entire day and we were bundled up the entire time. I thought we were being wussies, but we ran into a Dutch cycle touring couple and they had just as many clothes on as we did. They have been in New Zealand for as long as we had and we were the first cycle tourists they had seen. They were numbers 4 and 5 for us. Not that we are keeping track though. We saw number 6 tonight while eating dinner in camp. It is a regular epidemic.
We sped across the farmlands today both as a result of the topography, but also out of a need to get out of the weather. The low last night was around 34˚ F and it didn’t get too much above that as we rode. We made it to Geraldine around 1:00 pm and while drinking hot coffee the sun came out and the whole place warmed a bit. It didn’t last long, just long enough to for the weather to thumb its nose at us. We are heading into the mountains tomorrow so our average should get out of the high teens and back down where it belongs. We shall see how saucy we are.
We are both pretty knackered tonight from the ride today. The first day back after a rest day is always the hardest. We should be raring to go tomorrow. We have sultana scones to eat on the road so we have to ride hard so we can eat those. I’ll let you know next time how the scones were if I remember.
Until next time.
CK

Happy GIS Day

Day 50
Methven Rest Day

Today we awoke to snow…in the mountains. The snow line was very low and the cold southerly was blowing. Why move on?
On another note: Happy GIS Day! What the ? – what is GIS Day? Well, sit back, relax and I will tell you all about it.
GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. In simpler terms, GIS is computerized mapping. It combines the study of Geography and the technology of computers and software. GIS has the ability to make maps and analyze data. Before we decided to go bicycle touring I was “doing” GIS as a profession. I worked for a county government (Eagle County) in the mountains of Central Colorado. I was part of a top-notch department that mapped everything from property boundaries to mountain bike trails and analyzed things like water and transportation. To me, GIS has been a very exciting career and I hope to continue when we return. In the meantime, I’ve been incorporating GIS into our travels. Using a GPS unit and ArcMap software, I have been tracking our progress and compiling data at the end of each day. In the long run I hope to create a multi media presentation of our journey.
People celebrate GIS Day by hosting and taking part in different kinds of events. Some people go to schools and teach children about GIS, some businesses open their doors to the public to show how this technology is used in their daily routine.
So… GIS Day is a day to celebrate geography and GIS technology and its utility in the world.
LK
ps – yes, I am a geek.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Taupo Bungy Video

Here's the Taupo Bungy video - enjoy!

Long Haul Trucking


Day 49

Ashley Gorge to Methven

Distance: 85.4 kilometers
Time: 5:35
Avg Speed: 15.4
Terrain: Flat to Gorge Like
Location: 43 38’ 09.1 S, 171 38’ 40.8” E

We are doing a tour from the book so we are trying to stay on task and do the mileage prescribed. Our book prescribed to us to ride around 85 k and warned us that if a northwesterly or a southerly was blowing that we should wait. With that said, we had both a northwesterly and a southerly today.
This morning we started out from Ashley Gorge with calm skies and sunny weather. We waved to the kids waiting for the bus and stopped in nearby Oxford for some vittles for the road. When we turned out of Oxford the northwesterly picked up. Finally, though we had a northwesterly that worked with us, rather than against us. We covered 44 kilometers in just over 2 hours. I was singing songs, Leslie was daydreaming and we both were just humming along. We rolled into Glentunnel and took a water and food break. We then changed directions and were heading with the northwesterly coming from the side. The singing stopped, the daydreaming ceased and we went from humming to grinding. We were glad that we decided to push through to Methven, because when the wind went crazy it went wild. We turned the corner again and the wind turned into a southerly. Beautiful. We rode into the wind and actually had our attention drawn to the amazing scenery and the great white rain heading our way. Luckily we swung around the rain and only encountered a few sprinkles on the way into the quite stunning Rakaia Gorge. The rain stopped in the gorge and we snapped a few pictures. The remaining 25k was pretty non-remarkable, but with 5k left the skies opened up. We decided last night that it was ok if we didn’t stay on budget. The camping area in town looked a little shady and we didn’t have to twist each other’s arms to not set the tent up in the rain. We settled at a little hostel that is very clean and way laid back, plus breakfast is included. Need I say more?
We had a bit of a pity party for ourselves last night and after a good nights sleep last night we took on today with fresh eyes, fresh attitudes and some smiles. As hard as today seemed, we trucked on through and ended more refreshed and relaxed than I can remember. Now, if it doesn’t snow like it is supposed to tonight we will be rocking.
Good Bye
CK