We love mountains

My thoughts and experiences cycling, snowboarding and travelling around the world

Cycle touring New Zealand

The first trip I wanted to write about was cycle touring across New Zealand. This is a very popular trip due to the compact size and vast variation in landscapes. There is hardly a day of dull riding to get to the most spectacular parts.

We spent 3 months cycling from the northern most point to the far south. It is a deceptively long way and took the full 3 months to complete, saying that we didn’t take the most direct but rather the most scenic route.IMG_4300

North Island

We started by heading north west towards the originally named Northlands. The first stop was the west coast with its black volcanic sand beach providing a dramatic backdrop to the stormy weather that was rolling in.

Further north, we camped in the remote but beautiful MimiWhangata bay which is up a one way road before the Bay of Islands urban sprawl. On a bike tour one way roads heading downhill have to have something pretty amazing at the end and this one didn’t disappoint and we had the beach and park to our selves.

We then headed north to the famous bay of islands area. We camped next to a bay on an island with a name that is pretty hard to beat – Uruphukphuka, translates as yourcoolcool.

We next approached 60 mile beach which is a beach but isn’t 60 miles we did a bit of beach riding before reaching the Northern end of new Zealand, technically this was our start point! The weather was a bit dire so no symbolic photo was taken, just sheltering from the rain!

Next we made a bee line back down to Auckland. A short ferry ride took us to the quiet and rustic Coromandel Peninsula. We did a complete loop by taking the off-road section at the very top. The track at the top has a super steep hill and is hard work but worth the effort if just to prevent you retracing your steps.

 The route then took as down towards the Volcanoes and Lake Taupo. A scenic ride with loads of hot springs and flumes of steam in the fields all around. The roads in the centre were noticeably busier and we would probably stick further east next time. We cycled to National Park the town next to Tongariro Park, the Tongariro crossing is the famous trek which we did despite less than ideal weather. We climbed the peak Ngauguhoe (Mt Doom in lord of the rings!) after much slide on loose volcanic rock we reached the top in time for the clouds to clear allowing a perfect inversion. We could see across to Taranaki in the South West.

After leaving the parks we rode over to the Wanganui River which we followed all the way to the coast. I quiet and scenic ride a bit further out of the way.

A quick detour to Palmerston North to visit friends, the place is a bit of a hole. Unfortunately we we had car crash near Palmerston North enroute to some hiking (in a car not on a bike, there’s a lesson to be learnt there!) which delayed our journey by a few weeks. We stayed in Picton on the South Island while we recovered.

South Island

A far more wild and remote part of the country. We set off along the Queen Charlotte track which weaves in and out of the stunning bays and inlets that line the top of South Island. Then we carried on to Takkaka Hill a fearsome prospect for any cycle tourer. However the other side rewarded us with a long downhill and the remote and funky town of Nelson. From here we cycled up to the most northern point via a few beaches and Takaka Bay, all of which were spectacular and totally deserted. We tried to make it to a remote light house on the west coast. This section was probably my favourite of the entire tour, check out some of the pictures below.

From the West coast, we rode almost all the way across to the east. The next section was probably my favourite route, we cycled the Rainbow road all the way down into Hamner Springs. This off road route passes some amazing view points. Best of all no smelly cars and camper vans. Well the odd ambitious camper van that was getting in trouble but that’s another story!

From the Rainbow road we headed West again passing Lewis Pass. We called into some wild hot springs near the pass. First we were bombarded by sand flies then a group of sweaty smelly work men jumped in to join us. Kinda took the shine off them! Still worth a stop! One of the most eccentric stops was the visit to Black Ball and its ‘Hilton’ and the Croeseus track. In Black Ball we camped next to the most huanted house in NZ, it creaked all night and admittedly it’s remote setting made it feeling a little uncomfortable. Black Ball is a remote ghost town from an earlier mining era and pretty unusual place. http://www.blackballhilton.co.nz/

We were now on the west coast proper, and true to form it started raining  Strangely I didn’t mind, the scenery is more dramatic with the damp, green temperate rainforest obscured by wisps of mist and cloud.

After a week or so it was time to head East and away from the spectacularly wild west coast. We climbed Haast pass, struggled to the top only to be met by a chap in victorian clothing who doth-ed his cap at us and rode on astride his penny farthing. The only indication this was the 21st century was his plastic bottle mounts on the handle bars! 

Next stop Wanaka, then Queenstown and the far south.

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