Escape • Explore • Enjoy

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

Category: Cycle Touring

9/1/2019 Millers Flat to Roxburgh Dam & Return – 58 kms

It was 19.4 kms to the township of Roxburgh. Deserved of a pie from Jimmy’s Pie Shop that is reknown for making pretty good pies. Weren’t bad neither – Claire consuming a lambshank one, me a mutton one.

That’s after we each ate a Mince and Cheese pastry one each beforehand!

The trail is very doable for novice and children. We met a family from Auckland who were chaperoning their two young boys and they were loving it. We left them at the pie shop where they had two bags full of pies! Fatties!

And if you think you are aged and worn out, the e-bike is the way to go. The number of elderly (or younger) who over took us or we neared having a head on was just inspiring to see.

We are still of the mindset that our bodies are capable of still doing the hard yards. And just love the feeling at the end of a ride that we know we have pushed the body under our own steam.

The remains of an old river dredge from last century.
History still hangs onto dear life on the Clutha.
The Clutha Dam

It makes for a weary body better nights sleep.

Except if you are on the ground!

Bumping into a 2nd cousin who was staying at the campground was a genuine way to catch up on life in general. Her donating us some apricots was humbling.

Three each on top of the two pies earlier, hmmmmmmm!

8/1/19 Millers Flat to Beaumont & Return – 49.4 kms

It was a shorter drive from Lawrence to Millers Flat where we parked up the car to ride the longer distance backwards to return riding forwards!

By the end of this adventure and how we are doing it, we will have ridden both the Clutha Gold Trail and Roxburgh Gorge Trail twice!

The mighty Clutha River … you could be in Canada.
The bridge across the Clutha to Millers Flat

Out came the tent for a night under canvas.

Unfortunately, one of us slept deflated and it wasn’t Claire. One of the self-inflated mattresses hissed air after a huff and a puff to blow it up. Pin pricks of holes can do that. Notwithstanding, the thing’s we do for lov e!

I had the better hair do in the morning though!

Already hard to get shut eye from being deflated, I think I did an all nighter because of the snoring that came from the fella in the next door tent. Jeez Wayne!

Except his name wasn’t Wayne (and we know a Wayne from next door who could snore).

His name was also Brent.

At least on of us was inflated!!!!!!!

7/1/19 Lawrence to Beaumont

Thinking I was transferring water from a plastic water bottle into my bike drinking bottle, it had a weird smell.

I thought Claire had taken a swig from the plastic water bottle and that her lip balm had tainted the stuff.

Apparently not.

I had tipped her vodka into my drink bottle by mistake.

Diluting her vodka in the process.

Ops!

Lawrence to Beaumont was a lovely meander for 19 odd kms and return. Thousands of sheep dot the landscape, the the trail is easy and the smell of poisonous hemlock abundunt. Meeting a couple of fellow cyclists on our return was very inspiring – the Canadian was cycling on a three speed Raleigh Sports built in 1960 (and she was 57 yrs old); the second couple were a father and son. They were so loaded, we couldn’t lift the dad’s bike off the ground – creature comforts not to be forsaken!

Remember to take a torch though. The Big Hill Tunnel is just under 500 metres in length and, really really dark in the middle. Meaning if you scrap the walls, you have veered off centre.

Just stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel and try not to get too freaked out at what might be growing or living on the walls.

A sip of vodka wouldn’t have gone astray neither.

The Big Hill Tunnel

6/1/19 Our Way Of Defragging After The Loss Of A Loved One

Back over the Rakaia River brigde we went today, once again heading south since we returned back to Chch 9 days ago!

Our step-Mum Marlene passed away after a long health battle. To be with family so as to comfort, support, grieve and celebrate her life was paramount. Our original intention to circumnavigate the guts of the South Island by tandem, postponed indefinitely. We simply didn’t have the time to complete the bums on seat distance after the memorial service in the time we had remaining, before we had to return to work.

So, we drove with mountain bikes on the racks back over the Rakaia River Bridge. Destination, Central Otago and a shortened micro-adventure to cycle the Clutha Gold Trail.

It straddles the mighty Clutha Mata-au River. It’s history is steeped with remnants of a ‘ureka’ gold rush bygone era that once blazened the river banks. And hopefully no Chinese ghosts who once panned for the glistening stuff too.

Our way of defragging after the loss of a loved one.

Best intentions were to tent however, we drove into inclement weather going in the opposite direction so have upgraded to more permanent walls.

We wouldn’t have done this if we were on the tandem. Just hardened up and canvassed it.

Yeah, nup.

RIP Marlene, loved and will be fondly remembered in our hearts.

16/11/18 Waiuta Untouched

Up the back drops of Reefton, exists the history of an old gold mining town called Waiuta.

On the way to Waiuta …
The Old Blackwater School House
Class is in …
The dot marks the spot.

1,578,755 tonnes of quarz containing 732,907 ounces of gold was mined from beneath the surface, where the Prohibition Shaft at 879 metres, was worked to 300 metres below sea level.

The population reached up to 600 citizens during the 1930’s however, a mine collapse during 1951 meant the demise of the extraction and consequently, the end of Waiuta.

Now, remains of what was once a hustle and bustle place, rests at peace.

Remnants of yesteryear also RIP where they have fallen from the weathers of age.

It made for an amazing mountain bike ride up to and around it’s surrounds.

Where the colour of rust thrives.

Untouched.

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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