Escape • Explore • Enjoy

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Category: Cycle Touring

New Zealand Land Bats

Our next guest to be hosted at the Rurus was this fella Eric, from the US.

We had received an email from another FB friend whom we had met travelling in Vietnam to ask if we could connect to share our wisdom of adventuring Aotearoa by bike.  Hell yes, and so we did.

It doesn’t take much to inflate an air bed, set an extra plate at the table, put laundry through the washer, nor share shampoo and soap.  Especially when you have an opportunity to press the flesh with like minded adventurists and spend an evening swapping stories from the bike seat.

Eric touched down in Auckland, then headed north to Cape Reinga at the top of our islands.  His route after that was to follow a Te Araroa Trail designed for two wheels.

It didn’t take us long to be laughing with him as he described descending from the light house on a track that we had taken when we stepped off on our TA adventure, where the track stopped at the bottom of the first decent and then we had to bush bash versus tempt a beach skirt run in-between unforgiving waves.

Huh, Eric did too!  Pushing his mode of transport through soft sand speedily so as not to be sucked out into the Tasman Sea, took some effort and time.  Once Eric reached 90 Mile Beach, he decided to ride under the cover of darkness.

The eyes reflecting from his bike light and head torch had him on edge.  He knew that New Zealand had two mammals, referring to our bats. However, Eric had never ever seen ‘land bats’ before.  Nor whether they were the blood sucking vampire types.

Neither have we.  Ever seen land bats.

And thank god we don’t as well.

They were the furry pest, the opossum!

Our time with Eric was full of tales and banter and laughter, as those sitting around the camp fire telling stories should be like.  Except it was our dining room table.

His first long distance cycle ride was across the US when he moved from the West Coast to the East, just over 7,000 kms taking 2.5-3 months.  It was his way of leaving behind an old life to start a fresh new one.  We were drawn into it having the merit of ‘what was’ instead of ‘what is’.

We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be inspired by global citizens the likes of Eric.  It keeps our passion to explore our planet more while we still have our health.  And marbles.

His favourite section of the landscape, the Old Ghost Road on the West Coast of the South Island. The trail itself keeps you in the present; it’s majestic scenery takes you to adrenalin heights of emotions literally. Awe and then some.  We have yet to do it.  Later this year before it becomes a coca cola track.  His words of advice, don’t carry the shit he did.  Travel light.

Ironically, his other thoughts on his travels of New Zealand – he wished he had of learnt German before he came down under and, who the f..k invented the #8 wire to fence off the landscape.  It made it nigh impossible lifting his bike up and over!

“It’s our wall to prevent tourists coming to our shores and falling in love with it that they want to come live here” was the response.  Jokingly naturally. It keeps the bigger mammals in their place.

Imagine night riding along 90 Mile Beach and the reflective eyes you encounter in your head light are at shoulder height or taller, versus what you did experience?

Taniwha’s aren’t something you would want to be biking into.  In the dark.  That’s for sure!

BIKING THE GREAT COAST ROAD – Part 2: Punakaiki to Greymouth

The room looked like a laundry mat drying room except for one difference, nothing had been washed.  Wet apparel was a combination of perspiration and mother nature.  The quicker you drifted off into sub-consciousness, the faster you weren’t sucking in the fumes of stench.  Keeping a window open invited the nightly blood sucking monsters and somewhere amongst it, we gained an hour of shut eye through day light saving!  All part and parcel of ‘life on the road.’

WP98 - 050415 Sunrise at PunakaikiWatching the sunrise on the West Coast in reality is more about watching the moon set.  A fellow backpacker aged 10 years rose early to share the experience.  That and a couple of games of Genga with BClaire before other souls fronted.

 

Short sleeves, sun block and shades were the barometer for the days ride ahead.  More insect goo to hide the pleasant smell of clothes re-worn.

WP108 Punakaiki is a must destination to visit on a travel itinerary.  30 million year old towering limestone formations form the renown giant Pancake Rocks.  Dolomite Point gives the best views and when the tide is at highest ebb, the blowholes shoot sea spray metres into the air similar to a whale exhaling air.

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Shags with wings spanned open to catch the rays and dry feathers, rest before they swoop and plunge into the ocean swell.  I wonder if they stink if their cloaks don’t dry properly?!

The approach to carrying and eating meals went wonky after the first spoonful of soup touched the taste buds the day before.  So keeping with tradition, eggs and bacon from the cafe opposite the pancakes were gobbled down as we witnessed the hordes of tourist traffic arrive and depart.  This meant contending with passing buses on the narrow road south with similar coastline ridden, also as the day before.

WP144The Barrytown settlement (population 15) had an old pub turned backpackers for sale.  Photo’s of nudity and frolicking collaged walls not leaving much to the imagination.  A Fantail bird flying around the rafters made for uneasiness, Maori folklore would have one believe it signals death.

WP147Coal mining surpassed gold mining to sustain the economy on the West Coast and for a small part of the year, the Tasman sea is awash with the scrumptious delicacy – whitebait.  Transparent beady eyed 2inch fish when cooked in batter turn white and when dipped in tomato sauce, turn the colour of yum!

 

WP155Runanga was the last township cycled through before we hopped off the bikes for the last time.  Another coal mining township, a coal bucket statue pays tribute to the many that have forged deep into mountainsides or down mine shafts to extricate the black gold.  There was something reflective about the smell of coal burning wafting through the air bringing back childhood memories of an open fire, a red glow and hot heat.  Runanga too has had its share of being a hot spot – it was the last place in the South Island to execute a convicted killer by way of hanging; and in 1967, 19 miners lost their lives due to a mine explosion.

The Great Coast Road has so much more to offer – caving and tramping, horse trekking, surfing, gemstone hunting, heritage sites, art and craft activities, glow worms and gold panning to name but a few.  Attractions left open for a future time.

WP163And although Greymouth was our destination, we peddled a few more kilometres to Dobson where friends Lloyd and Vivien hosted us at their batch they are renovating.  Before the tools were downed and the cork of a wine popped to salute the two days bums on seats, Lloyd cut and nailed a bed together for Alannah.  It was positioned in the kitchen beside the stove, a nice way for Alannah to switch back into suburbia the next day.

We too started the transition; the dozen sausages carried by BClaire from Westport to Greymouth by bike, were at last eaten.

BIKING THE GREAT COAST ROAD – Part 1: Westport to Punakaiki

WP15The chap draped in gold wearing stubby shorts and cowboy boots reminiscent of an 80’s porn star had two sentences of advice for us, as we exited the New World supermarket .  “If you can’t see the mountains, it’s already raining.  If you can see the mountains, it’s about to rain.”

And damn it, he was right.

Laden with worldly belongings for the two days cycle touring, it was only a matter of pedal rotations before the heavens opened up and down came the moisture from above.  The vehicle spray creep slowly into the abyss of our butt cracks yet as a threesome, we grimaced the landscape undulation to reach Charleston some 25kms later.

 

WP41Biking from Westport to Greymouth seemed a great idea by our friend Alannah who knew we would be up for the adventure.  I could only imagine what was going through her mind as we sat hovered over hot soup and toasted bread peering through the blurred glass windows at the torrential rain.  But we knew that the conditions were a test of stamina … resist a third bowl of soup; re-cloth in the wet clothes; and re-saddle to keep going.

WP57The Lonely Planet describes the stretch of road we were traveling as one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world.  The Paparoa National Park didn’t disappoint with rainforest at times coming right down to the sea.

 

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The beaches that skirmish the foreshore is home to the world’s smallest penguin however, our attention was on safety so as not join the road kill frequently evidenced atop our bike seats – opossum, pukeko and weka.  Oh, and the hedgehog of course.  Nikau Palms, the type you see in desert oasis are dotted across the landscape in their hundreds of thousands, lush and green.  We did wish the sand flies were too only found in the desert as well.  When we stopped to absorb the view or rest after a climb, they were unrelenting at feeding off any bare skin not covered or lathered in Bushman’s 80% Deet repellent.

WP94The grind up to Irimahuwhero Lookout gave the greatest views of the raw rugged coastline, both north from where we had originated, to the south and our destination Punakaiki.  The distance covered was only 51kms, a fair and reasonable start to getting back on the bike after the bike crash last year and for Alannah’s introduction to cycle touring.

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We often believe that some our best conversations have been had in a backpackers except we ventured some more to frequent the tavern and meet some locals.WP97a Not once did we meet anyone who was born and bred on the Coast with extra body parts that is often rumoured.

The weatherman porn star earlier in the day wearing his cowboy boots did stride kind of weird though.

Perhaps the weight from all his gold?  Or the tightness of his stubby shorts?  Or an extra couple of toes!

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