Continuing up the west coast, we joined onto the West Coast Wilderness trail. First this was a lovely quiet rail trail, which soon turned into some fun bumpy single-track winding through the forest. These brief escapes from the traffic and roads are always great fun.
We stayed with another great warm showers host in Hokitika, before the rain really set in. We spent a wet day cycling through farmland and forest on a gravel backroad before starting the climb up to Arthur’s Pass. We took a bit of a detour to Inchbonnie to find a little cabin to stay in, courtesy of another warm showers host. It was lovely to sit in the warm and dry and watch the cows, and Carly brought us fresh milk which was delicious!
The next day the weather was worse. It was really stormy all night, and the rain was torrential. But the show must go on, and once we are soaked through it’s not too bad. The climb up Arthur’s Pass started off an easy gradual climb up the valley along the river. The little we could see through the thick clouds was beautiful. Near the top, the road got really steep as it wound along Otira Gorge, the torrential rain got heavier, and I had to push up a couple of sections which were 15%. Crossing the viaduct in the strong blustery winds and pouring rain was a challenge, but the rains had created waterfalls everywhere we looked, and we soon crawled up to the top of Arthur’s Pass (970m). A short downhill took us into Arthur’s Pass Village, where we managed to snag two of the last few beds in a hostel called The Sanctuary. The afternoon and evening was spent inside getting dry, playing scrabble, and watching the thunderstorm raging outside. At 9pm it suddenly stopped, and we had a walk around to see the waterfalls. The road was closed due to a rockslide, so we were lucky to have made it to the village.
The weather turned, and the next few days have been beautiful, sunny and hot. We descended halfway towards Christchurch, staying at a tiny DOC campsite in the forest. It was beautiful and quiet, although there were alot of sandflies!
We then climbed up to Kowai Pass, a gentle climb up through epic landscapes, we were surrounded by mountains and hills, and rewarded with a long descent all the way to the farm belonging to our warm showers hosts Gary and Vicki. We had an exceptionally amazing stay with them, as they are nearly entirely self sufficient, growing their own veg and fruit, keeping bees for honey, and raising sheep for milk and lambs for eating. We learnt all about their lifestyle, and we helped milk the 12 sheep.
Unfortunately we had to press on to Christchurch, but we had another fantastic warm showers arranged, where we stayed with the lovely Alec and Alison, and met 2 german cycle tourers, and a French family on a year’s tour. Alec and Alison were very generous and kind, not minding the horde of cycle tourists descending on them!
We had a brief explore of Christchurch, the botanical gardens, park and museum being highlights, and relaxed before going to the airport to pick up a camper van! We found a camper relocation deal so we could spend more time in the south island. And it was a great decision, we are now speeding towards Aukland, and we will have a few more days cycling round Northland before flying to Taiwan.
Jim’s words – Weka, Drizzle, Rain, Mistletoe, Sheep, Tires