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self designed & self supported bicycle tour adventures



New Zealand Daily Journal

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Meeting the tour group

Auckland to Whitianga

Whitianga to Rotorua

Rotorua to National Park

National Park to Wanganui

Wellington to Nelson

Nelson to Westport

Westport to Hokitika

Hokitika to Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier to Wanaka

Wanaka to Queenstown

Queenstown to Twizel

Twizel to Christchurch

Trip Experience















 New Zealand Adventure

car free adventure __________________


From the tour ad:  New Zealand offers a diversity of landscape from volcanoes, hot springs, fast flowing rivers, alluvial plains, native forests alive with the sound of native bird song, to impossibly rugged, snow covered Alps and deep, sheer sided fjords. Where else can you find such variety in a country roughly the size of Great Britain? As one client put it "Yesterday was amazing, I just couldn’t imagine today being better, yet it was!" (Dennis Hill) He was still saying that after 19 days!

New Zealand is sparsely populated, with only 4 million people. The roads are generally quiet and the scenery spectacular; a combination which makes it a perfect cycling destination. It is through this constantly changing, uncluttered countryside that you will cycle, your senses invigorated by the sights and sounds of your surroundings. A combined bus and cycle tour ensures that you can cycle the highlights of both Islands in a relatively short time. You will cycle approximately 700 km, however you are always welcome to ride in the support vehicle whenever you feel the need. Experience has taught us that it’s best not to overdo the first couple of days. Stop when you feel you have done enough. Over-doing those first few days could spoil your holiday!


From the tourist:  We decided to bicycle in New Zealand in 2007.  We had bicycled in Chile in 2006 discovering the whole world was available to the cyclist. 


Originally I planned to organize the trip myself but kept falling behind in the planning. Experience had shown that without sufficient up front planning it would be impossible to get folks to join us and without help driving a support car we would be subject to the will of nature.


We discussed the trip with bike clubs in New Zealand and with people who had been there.  Both said you have to see the west side of the south island.  The only problem is that it rains a lot on the west side of the south island.  I decided to punt and signed on with a tour. 


We selected a three week tour in November which takes in both islands.  As with most tours we have taken the activities include cycling and some off-bike activities as well.  We tracked the weather reports and the local highs have been in the 50's and it has rained almost every day.


What to wear is a concern.  We are allowed to take one suitcase on the trip.  Last year we bicycled in Vietnam and we were caught in the rain a couple of times but it was 80 degrees.  We also were lucky and had many days when it was warm and sunny.  I hope we are lucky again!


Carrying clothes for hot and cold, dry and rain and something to change into for the off bike days is difficult to pack in one suitcase. 


Our companions on the tour are German.  There are twelve of us on the tour and 10 are German.  I have been practicing my 3 words of German with the 15 words of English that I speak correctly to hopefully fit in.


 ..that's your bike outfit?  You think it will be that cold in New Zealand???


..I am ready to serve Barak Hans Obama..I will make you and America proud!


 ...I put my camera, computer, IPOD, noise canceling earphones, and associated chargers in my bag and I don't have any room left for clothes...





 ....the excitement of being on the bus....

 ..non-bicycling activities can be harmful..


From the tour description:  All tour members will meet at the hotel early afternoon. Participants arriving today (transfers are between 7am and 2pm only) will be picked up from the airport and transferred to their accommodation. Later in the afternoon we take you on a short sightseeing tour of ”The City of Sails", which has the largest population of New Zealand. The bike fitting (for those that hire bikes) will also be completed this afternoon. A stroll along the famous harbor may be a nice finish to the first day.  


Like Sydney, Auckland is dominated by the sea and by the hills.  If Rome was built on seven hills, Auckland was built on seven extinct sea-side volcanoes. On one side of the isthmus on which it is built is the Pacific Ocean; on the other the Tasman Sea. At its narrowest, this isthmus is only about a kilometer wide. The city, however, sprawls sideways along the shores of Waitemata and Manukau Harbours and along the Hauraki Gulf. Waitemata Harbor - Sea of Sparkling Waters - is dominated by Rangitoto Island.


This closeness to water has two results. First, everyone in Auckland is mad bonkers on sailing. There is one boat to every 16 people. Another effect is that Auckland has a very temperate climate.  Most of the rain falls in June, July and August and the coldest month, July, averages about 13 degrees Celsius during the day.


No Cycling!


Plan for the day - We were scheduled to meet with the tour group at the hotel at 5 PM.  We planned to spend the day shopping and roaming around the city and return to the hotel for the 5 o’clock meeting. 


Getting started - We consumed our “free breakfast” at the hotel, returned to our room and dressed for the street.  It was a bit wet and cold.  Bren’s choice of flying from the City Tower the day before under blue skies had been a good choice. We dressed warm and headed out to walk the city and shop.      


Today’s adventure - We spent the day shopping but we did not buy. The tour group meeting was approaching and we wanted to get the word back to the States about Bren’s Sky Tower adventure.  We located an internet café near the hotel and purchased an hour. It took the hour to get the word out.


When we got back to the hotel folks waited in the lobby but did not respond to our English inquires about the tour. We assumed they were not in our tour group.  We inquired at the desk and discovered that one of our bike buddies flight had been delayed and the meeting had been moved to 6.


At 6 a van arrived at the hotel.  A group exited the van with a fellow dressed in a shirt with the tour service name.  It was our tour guide, KR.  His name reminds me of a character from the movie “Silence of the Lambs.”    


The folks we had spoken to earlier were also part of our tour.  It appeared to be an interesting group ranging in age from 30 to us?  Bren had told me that we were the oldest.  Before the van had arrived we had met one of the younger members of our group who told us during the conversation that he was a news reporter for a TV station in a small town in Germany.  

He looked very fit.  When I discovered he was on the tour I told him that I did not mind being last.  He said don’t be sure you will be last.  He proved to be a lot of fun on the trip.


The fellow who was held up somewhere along the route to New Zealand did not arrive until late that night and his luggage did not arrive until the end of the first riding day.  He had been delayed for 8 hours due to mechanical problems.  We also learned that the flying time with layovers between Germany and Auckland was 36 hours!!


Today’s landscape - After a brief introduction our guide herded us into the van for a “quick” tour of the city.  We drove to a park above the city which I assume is located on a volcano since the landscape of Auckland consists of several volcanoes.  We walked around the site briefly taking pictures and then returned to the hotel.  It was a bit windy and cold.


Bicycling notes - No Cycling today!


Post ride activity - Our guide suggested we walk to the pier for a group dinner.  Along the way we were engaged in conversation with the Germans. I was unsure who could speak English and the names were difficult for me.  Everyone knew enough English to hold a conversation and we planned to put ourselves into a position to interact on the days ahead. The people we have met on our bicycling adventures are number one on the list of “why cycling is so interesting.”   


We had mussels for dinner.  We were in the home of the green-lip mussels which we often enjoy in LA.  I learned a great deal about what the Europeans thought of the politics in the US and about the West and East German interactions in Germany. The New Zealand attitudes on everything were explained by KR.  The discussions were very interesting to me.      


On the walk back my left leg was talking to me as it had on other walks around Auckland but did not get as bad as the day before.  Could have been the down hill walk from the park that caused the distress.  It is a concern what affect it may have on the cycling. 


We said goodnight and went to our room.  We exited Auckland the next day to start the cycling phase of our adventure.  We needed to repack our clothes and prepare to leave.  I was tired.  I packed a bit and went to bed.  Bren tried to select what should be carried for rain or no rain.  Tomorrow would be interesting.






..breakfast with the tour group in Auckland...

 ..trying out the rental bikes for the first time.. sky but its a bit "fresh," a thermal undershirt keeps me comfortable...

...gentle rollers, a two mile climb, then gentle rollers...


From the tour description:  After breakfast we head to Clevedon by bus. Here you start your first cycling day riding along the amazing coastal road to Miranda. From there we drive over the forest covered Coromandel range, where remnants of the beautiful Kauri trees that once covered the Peninsula can be found, to reach our destination of Whitianga.


Cycling from: Clevedon to Miranda

Cycling distance – 52km – 32 miles

Total distance - 251km – 176 miles

Miles in the van - 144 miles


Plan for the day - We drove 25 south east of Auckland on Road 1 turning east on Hill Road and following a varied selection of roads east to a park near Clevedon.  We would unload the bicycles in the park and begin the days ride to Miranda on the east coast of the North Island. 


We bicycled east along the Clevedon-Kawakawa road to Kawakawa Bay turning south onto Kawakawa-Orere road which climbs away from Kauraki Bay and then turns toward Orere.  We continued to bicycle south along the East Coast Road to the van pickup point Mirada and drove to our destination town Whitianga.


Getting started - We awoke and executed our “morning routine.”  Being our first day we were a bit slow and unorganized.  We dressed in our German cycling jerseys to impress our 10 German tour companions.  We went to the lobby, left our suitcases behind the counter and went to breakfast. 


One of our German companions was there and we sat down with him.  He was a bit uncomfortable with his English at first but soon we were into an interesting conversation.  Slowly the others arrived.  Our German shirts were a hit.  We practiced names and discussed the trip.   


After breakfast we executed the “van loading routine.”  We selected the front seat on the van. The front seat allowed me to put my feet into the isle providing a bit more room.  My large stuffed backpack was accepted and easily stowed next to our seat. 


Today’s adventure - We drove to a small park outside Clevedon.  Today we ride our rented bikes for the first time!  The “bike prep” was executed with each participant receiving their bike. 


KR removed the pedals from our bikes and installed the clips we brought from the States. We rode our bikes around the parking lot practicing changing the gears, clipping in and out and becoming familiar with the bike.  It took about an hour to prepare and we were off. 


We exited the parking lot and turned onto Clevedon-Kawakawa road.  The road undulated for several miles.  The hills were not difficult but the gearing on my bike was quite different and I struggled with selecting the correct gear to match the terrain.  I failed and found myself either in a gear that I had difficulty turning over or that I found myself spinning in.  Educating myself to the gear ratios on the bike was slow and I did not comfortably adapt to my bike until the third day of riding. 


On the road the group quickly broke into three groups with the four “kids or youngsters” out front followed by the “mature riders” separated into various groups.  We learned at breakfast that one of the “mature” German women had parachuted from an airplane and we found her to be a strong rider on the road.  She could select the group she wished to ride with. 


One of the young men wanted to take pictures of every experience along the road.  He stopped often and dropped behind to snap photos and then would catch up to us until the next picture opportunity was found.


After several miles of rolling hills we rode along Hauraki Gulf briefly before turning south to a difficult climb.  Bren stopped to take a photo and I continued on the climb.  I was unsure of the grade because I did not understand the gear ratios on my bike but I would guess it was at least 5% plus and 2 miles in length. 


I stopped to take a photo of turkeys near a barn and Bren rode pass me.  A few miles further our young photographer rode up to me and asked “where Bren was” and I told him she had dropped me which he found amusing.  We rode together for a few miles and caught up to Bren who had stopped to take photos.  The three of us continued together for a few kilometers and spotted our group setting at tables outside a small café. 


I had a cup of ice cream called “hokey pokey,” vanilla ice cream with caramel chunks, which I discovered in Auckland. It became a favorite during our trip through New Zealand.  I did not feel I needed more to eat but consumed a power bar I carried just in case. 


The young riders left and we followed a short time later.  Several miles down the road we passed a “Park Building.”  During our tour we discovered that New Zealand has developed a large number of national parks and we rode through some of them on our adventure.  Bren rode into the parking area to investigate if they had a gift shop.  She was shopping for a wide brim hat for protection against the New Zealand sun.  She found one and after a discussion about the color purchased one. 


We exited the parking lot as the van approached.  KR asked if all was ok.  He told us that the young group wanted to ride a bit further but the official load point was a few miles ahead.  He would wait for us there. 


We rode to the van, loaded our bikes and were off to pick up the young riders.  Afterward we drove to Whitianga.  As we drove KR indicated our next bicycle ride would follow part of the road we were traveling on in the van.  He also told us that several of our future climbs would be more difficult than today’s.  Oh joy!


Today’s landscapeThe landscape around the park outside Clevedon consisted of flat green lawns with large trees and smaller bushes in the background.  The road carved its way through small rolling hills with green farm land on either side.   Hauraki Gulf remained hidden from view by the hills and trees until we approached our turn onto Kawakawa-Orere Road.


We stopped briefly at the van along Hauraki Gulf and then continued onto the climb up from the Gulf.  We climbed through a dense forest of trees and underbrush immediately beside the road to the top.  The dense forest stayed with us down the other side returning again to rolling hills but they were thick with trees and scrubs for several kilometers.  The roadside returned again to farmland and the dense foliage receded from the road.  


Bicycling notesThe route was flat accept for the two mile, 5% plus climb of the day.  I was dressed for cold but I live in Los Angeles.  I did not overheat due to my outfit.  The skies were clear and there was no moisture or wind.  We had no bugs.  


New Zealand is a tough place to bicycle.  The roads follow the terrain.  The hills have “not” been cut through the hill to reduce the slope of the road.  If the hill side is 10%, the climb is 10%. 


My New Zealand “rented bike” experience reinforced my belief that I want to always bring my bike on “all” bicycle adventures.  The bike I rented was a TREK. The bike I ride at home is a TREK. I assumed accept for weight they would be very much the same.  I never felt comfortable on my bike the entire trip. 


Some of the group had rented bikes that did not provide adequately for the climbing and they were disappointed because they had to wait for the van to take them to the crest of the difficult climbs.  One tour member told me that it had ruined his vacation!


Post ride activity - We changed clothes and went to “dinner out.”  “Dinner out” consumed most of the free time in the evening but I enjoyed the conversation with the tour group.  I also appreciated that our German partners kept us in the conversation speaking “English.”


Returning from dinner we took advantage of a Jacuzzi tub located in our room.  TV was limited to a few channels.  Internet access was expensive everywhere we stayed in New Zealand and it was difficult to plan around our schedule to use it efficiently.  "Dinner out" consumed the evening and the mornings were busy.  I punted on using the web!


Tomorrow was a non-cycling day used for “off bicycle adventures” if you chose to participate.  We also could keep our bicycle and cycle around the small town and out into the countryside if we chose.







 ..not raining yet, but...

 .."red" bag cover worked..

 ...helmet cover was a savior.. coffee brings one back..


From the tour description: Eastwards from the Coromandel Peninsula lies the `Bay of Plenty’. The coastal road threads its way between the rugged Coromandel range to our right and the coast, littered with beautiful beaches on our left. We cycle from Tairua to Whiritoa through the Tairua Forest. At Tauranga we head inland and travel through the Kaimai - Mamaku Forest to the shores of Lake Rotorua.


Cycling from: Tairua to Whiritoa 

Cycling distance – 49km – 30 miles

Total distance - 245 km – 152 miles

Miles in the van -122 miles


Plan for the day - Our bicycle ride began 25 miles south of Whitianga from a park near Tauria.  We bicycle south 30 miles to Whiritoa on Road 25.  Road 25 begins to climb after the 25A junction for 2 plus miles followed by rollers into Whiritoa.  We finish the day with a 115 mile van ride to Rotorua.  The better riders planned to extend their ride by starting from the motel and catching “the mature riders” along the road.


Getting started – I dressed for “cold” to meet survival requirements for the day’s climate at 7AM followed by the “morning routine” and the “breakfast spread” at 8, a feast in KR’s room.  The “van loading routine” was executed after breakfast and the “mature riders” entered the van at 9 to drive to the designated start point for the day’s ride.


The Germans speak English making breakfast table talk interesting and enjoyable.  Bren understands and speaks German well enough to converse.  My struggle with English continues hoping someday to be conversant in the language.


Today’s adventure - At a small park outside Tairua KR executed “bike prep.”  The sky had been overcast all morning but I had been colder in Auckland. 


Before we started the skies were threatening rain.  I decided to ride in my Gortex Jacket and put my rain proof helmet cover over my helmet.  I remembered coming down off Vail Pass in Colorado into rain and being frozen before I could get warmer clothes on.


Within a mile of the start it was raining.  Not a downpour but a steady rain.  Without my clothes selection I would have been soaked.  The group stopped under trees along the roadside and put on rain gear.


Prepared the group returned to the road.  We knew from KR’s description we would ride about ten kilometers and turn left into a climb.  I had difficulty on our first ride and was apprehensive about the climb.  At the turn the van was waiting with the offer to take us to the top of the climb.  One person had taken that option and was setting in the van.  We began to climb.


I was a bit more prepared today.  Today I immediately geared down to the third sprocket on the front and adjusted the back to provide me with a comfortable spin.  It worked and I made the climb easily.  KR had said the climb would be steeper than the one the day before.   


The van was waiting at the top to greet us.  KR took a couple of pictures for us.  As we were leaving the first of the youngsters could be seen climbing up to us.  As we cruised down the hill he passed followed quickly by a second.  We cranked down the hill and entered a set of rollers taking us into town and the van for lunch.


It rained steadily.  A short discussion at the van convinced us to retreat to a shop in town to find something warm for lunch.  We bicycled back toward a round-about and a fellow cyclist flagged us into a bakery.  We bought coffee, tea and sandwiches and devoured all. 


The rain continued hard and KR suggested we not continue. There was only 10 kilometers remaining in the day’s ride.  Was it worth the grief?  Several years back I would have ridden to the end.  Now I know when to call it a day.


Today’s landscape - Rain reduces scenery observation but leaving the community of Tauria the roadside was thick with trees and bushes.  Once on the climb the tree population increased and foliage was very thick and green all the way to Whiritoa.  Riding in the van to Rotorua the landscape was lost but I am sure it is beautiful.  Scenery is difficult to record riding in a van. 


Bicycling notes – The helmet cover was a last minute purchase for me before the trip and I was dismayed because I had not included it in an earlier purchase and paid double mailing charges.  The helmet cover paid for itself the first day in the rain.  I left it on for the remainder of the trip.  The bright color made it easy for traffic to see and it blocked the cold wind onto my head.


We continued to ride at our maximum pace in the rain and did not experience any slipping of our tires on the road surface.  This was true both outside and inside the towns.  I saw no puddles anywhere along the road.

There was no wind and I did not get cold during the ride.  No bugs!


Post ride activity - In the van I removed as many wet clothes as possible.  KR got soaked loading the bikes.  He refused help because everything had to be done to code.  He would be responsible for any mishap.


We began the drive to Rotorua the location of our hotel for two nights.  I had some wet bike clothes that needed attention.  Reservations for “dinner out” had been arranged and we drove to dinner in Rotorua.  The “kids” ate with us.  Afterward our return to the room I watched TV and fell asleep. 







..suns out! Left to start climb..

 ..lookout halfway to the top..

 ..drama in New Zealand..

 ..our room at the ski lodge..


The tour description:  Driving south, we head toward New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo.  We follow its shores to Turangi, and start cycling at its southern end, before it takes us past Lake Rotoaira and up onto the Volcanic Plateau.  En route there are spectacular views of Lake Taupo to the North, and Mount Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu to the south.

In 1993 Tongariro became the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List under the revised cultural criteria describing cultural landscapes. The mountains at the heart of the park have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people and symbolize the spiritual links between this community and its environment. The park contains active and extinct volcanoes, a diverse range of ecosystems and highly scenic landscapes. 


Cycling from: Kakatahi to Wanganui

Cycling distance – 57 km – 35 miles

Total distance – 125 km – 78 miles

Miles in the van - 43 miles


Plan for the day - Our bicycle ride began 82 miles south of Rotorua in Turangi located on the southern edge of Lake Taupo.  We would bicycle 32 miles on Road 47 to the intersection with Road 4 and stay at a hotel located there.


The weather looked good.  KR said it would be “hot.”  KR ran around in shorts and a short sleeved shirt when it was raining and freezing cold!  I ignored him and dressed appropriately.


Getting startedI dressed for “cold.”   My “bike bag” carried my Gortex jacket.  After the “morning routine” we headed to the “breakfast spread” in the hotel’s Fern Room.  The conversation was fun and the food was very satisfying.  We participated in the cleanup and the “van loading routine” and boarded the van to drive to the start of our bicycle ride.   


Today’s adventure - We were stopped within a few miles of the start of the ride by a long line of traffic.  KR exited the van and discovered we had been stopped because of an auto accident on the bridge ahead.  We drove back a short distance to a small park we had passed to use the delay to eat lunch.  We had planned to eat lunch at an overlook located half way up the first climb.


The “lunch spread” was laid out.  The park was on a lake and a large black swan was floating near our location.  The swan came on land and someone dropped a bit of food which the swan picked up, dropped and then proceeded to graze on weeds. People food did not meet expectations. 


We consumed our various food selections, cleaned up after ourselves and left the park.  We rejoined the line of traffic just as the first cars were allowed to pass from the other side of the bridge.  Early lunch had been correct. 


After a brief wait we began to move but after a few miles we were stopped.  After a brief delay we began to move again.  The accident involved a cyclist being assisted along the side of the road (oops!).


We reached the drop off point for the start of the ride and the “bike prep” was executed.  The road was flat for 3.5 miles and then we began a 5 mile climb.  The van waited at the start of the climb to ask if we wanted to be driven to the top of the climb.  We said no and were off again.

It was a tough climb.  I do not know how steep the incline was but I estimated that we were climbing at a rate of about 5 to 6 miles an hour.  The “rental” bikes were not geared the way our bikes were at home but my guess would be the climb was 5, 6 or 7%.  I never felt I would have to quit but it was a haul. 


We took time to stop at the park where we had planned to eat our “lunch spread.”  It was located about half way to the top of the climb and KR said it provided a great view of the valley we had climbed up from.  We enjoyed the view and a couple who were there asked about the bicycling.  They had visited many places in the States.  They told us we had about 2.5 more miles of climbing left before we got to the top.


We left the park and continued the climb.  We got to the top and the van was waiting.  The folks that had taken the van to the top of the climb had already left on their bikes.  We took a couple of pictures to record our success and headed on.  We did not catch up with the others or see them until the end of the day. 


I thought it was cold but the sun was out and a few clouds began to form.  A woman approached on a bike on the opposite side of the road and asked if we thought it would rain.  We replied we didn’t know.  I am sure the accent gave us away as novices to the New Zealand weather.


We could see a mountain in the distance with snow on top.  We would be staying the night in a ski area.  After plowing along at a slow pace into the wind and cold we came upon the van parked along the side of the road. 


Bren reached the van about 25 yards ahead of me and when I arrived was informed that KR had told her it was time to load up.  We were only 3 miles from our goal for the day so I was a bit surprised that KR had pulled the plug.  We had executed the difficult part of the days ride so I punted and got into the van.


Today’s landscape – We rode through farmland until we turned onto the climb of the day.  The landscape changed abruptly on the climb.  Large trees and thick undergrowth were at the edge of the road.  Half way up the climb was a park with a beautiful panoramic view of the valley below.    


After the climb we continued to ride through thick foliage for several miles and then it began to recede replaced by large green fields populated with cows framed by low hills in the distance.  A large snow capped mountain was the background behind this scene.


Bicycling notes - I was not disappointed with my clothes selection for the ride.  I rode all day without getting hot and removing any of my “warm” clothes.  We encountered several climbs after topping the big climb of the day and the wind was strong in our face.  It was not “Utah wind” but it was enough to take the fun out of riding. 


Post ride activity - We drug our luggage up “flights” of stairs to our room.  Luggage which has wheels, a handle and a tough bottom surface to protect it while dragging it across step edges are a must at New Zealand hotels.  The only hotel that provided an elevator was our hotel in Auckland.  If I had brought a duffle bag or a suitcase without wheels to New Zealand I would have suffered.    


The hotel we were staying in served a ski area.  I have stayed in similar rooms on ski trips in Colorado.  Basic!!!  A shower removed the cold.  “Dinner out” was excellent.  Lamb, mashed potatoes, a carrot and onion dish.  Bren had chicken.  We shared a salad.   


KR and I discussed the US and New Zealand economies.  Agreeing on what was wrong and a proposed solution I left the restaurant.  Everyone else left long before. 


Bren was emailing via her I-Phone when I entered the room.  I had purchased a “web card” but it malfunctioned.  The “economy” had consumed my free time.  At the hotel desk I requested a refund and they complied.  Not bad!!!  I went to bed.  Fun can be exhausting!






..the "breakfast spread"..

..mandatory dishwashing..

 ..young woman cruising in New Zealand countryside...

 ...all living things exposed to the New Zealand wind must find a way to cope....


From the tour description: We ride along the western side of the Tongariro National Park, before leaving it behind at Raetihi. Here we follow the Mangawhero River to Wanganui, one of New Zealand's oldest towns. Nestled on the plains near the mouth of the river, which gave the city its name, Wanganui is famous for its many mature gardens, earning it the appropriate nickname the "Garden City".


The fabulous Wintergardens of Wanganui in the south of New Zealand's North Island are made up of parklands, the Virginia Lake and a spacious hothouse which boasts spectacular arrays of exotic flowering plants and vines.


Cycling from: Kakatahi to Wanganui

Cycling distance – 57 km – 35 miles

Total distance – 125 km – 78 miles

Miles in the van - 43 miles


Plan for the day - From the hotel in National Park we drive south along Road 4 for 43 miles to start the day’s bicycle adventure.  We would bicycle 35 miles along Road 4 to the hotel in Wanganui.  Wanganui is located on the southwest coast of the North Island on the Tasman Sea. 


Forecast is for a good riding day with sunshine and blue skies.   Some scattered clouds but a clear day in New Zealand.  KR predicted a hot day!  I put my thermal shirt away and dressed for a “cold” riding day.


Getting started - I crashed after returning from solving the world’s problems with KR and my clothes were all over the place.  It complicated my “morning routine.” We went down to the hotel dining area to enjoy the “breakfast spread.”  The ski area hotel provided a very large pleasant eating area for our breakfast.  After breakfast the “van loading routine” was executed, again with the luggage hassle on the stairs, and we boarded the van to drive to the start of the bicycle ride.   


Today’s adventure - I again confirmed the fact that when in a car one cannot be at one with the environment.  People fall asleep, read various things, have conversations, etc. but they are oblivious to their surroundings buzzing by outside the van.  When on a bicycle I am part of the environment and I enjoy the total experience.  It should be noted that capturing something on camera riding in a bus is an art I have not grasped as well.  The scene disappears quickly.  Note I carried a clip board and paper in my backpack and scribbled notes about the trip for computer entry that evening.


We reached the start location and disembarked.  We executed the “bike prep” routine and set off.  We started last which was typical.  The bikes were not removed from the top of the trailer in any particular order but the “young rider’s” were very efficient and were on the road quickly.  We always seemed to be adjusting clothes, filling water bottles, or getting directions to where we were to be picked up and usually got onto the road last.


When we did start riding I thought it was cold.  Not wearing my thermal shirt or my Gortex jacket may have explained my lack of tolerance to the temperature. 


We were to bicycle to the hotel and we were riding along the Wanganui River as we came into town.  We had been given directions and turned right at the first round-about to a bridge over the Wanganui River.  The bridge had an extension along the side for a bike path which was the only one I saw in New Zealand.


We made an error on the opposite side and continued on the bike path to the left along the River.  We should have continued straight.  Sensing we had made an error we stopped and asked a passer by for directions.  Lessons Learned from past route mistakes, always ask.  A few extra miles in the wrong direction can make for a long day.


With directions we rode back to the bridge and went straight. We made one more right and located three of our tour people standing in front of the hotel.  We were home for the evening.


Today’s landscape – As we prepared to board the van at the hotel we were treated to a beautiful view of the ski mountain.  Our mountain view kept us company for several miles as we drove through farmland to the start of our bicycle day.  The road climbed over some small rollers within a few miles of where we were dropped off but transitioned into a flat road for the rest of the way to Wanganui.  We entered a beautiful green, forested area before the route turned along the Wanganui River which we followed on our way into Wanganui.  It should be noted that New Zealand has a beautiful landscape and a population of only 4 million people to spoil it.


Bicycling notesThe profile of the route is basically flat and supports the consideration of bicycling from National Park to Wanganui.  For me Seventy eight miles is the upper limit for a riding day unless there is no place to stay along the route.  It did not rain and we had little or no wind which must be a consideration for the distance.  Did nature give us a break and should I be prepared to reduce the distance if I am planning this bike trip on my own?  The weather history for the region should be consulted. There were no bugs. 


Post ride activity - We checked in and I showered to warm up which had become a routine.  We kicked back and relaxed.  I entered data on my computer and Bren sent emails on her I-phone.  We dressed and joined the mature group for “dinner out.”  Afterward we returned to our room, watched a bit of TV and went to sleep.  It had been another good riding day in New Zealand.


 ...scenery along the route...

 .....the ski area....

     ..scenery along the route..






...tour guys on the ferry..water was a beautiful color...

..threatening gray clouds over Grove Arm.. 

....clearing over Mahakipawa Arm, and a bit greener...

...home on the road...


From the tour description: This morning we take a 3 hour ferry journey across Cook Strait and enter the South Island via Tory channel and Queen Charlotte Sound. From Picton we cycle along the beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock, which lies at the head of the Pelorous Sound.  From there we take the bus to Nelson, New Zealand's sunniest town, situated not far from the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.


Nelson – a pocket paradise nestled in the top northwest corner of the South Island. The entire area is said to resemble the prow of the waka (canoe) of Maui, an important figure in Maori mythology, and was known by the Maori as Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui (the tip of the nose of the canoe of Maui).  Our trademarks are stunning scenery and a diverse culture that has blossomed in this area of rich resources and easy climate.


You are never short of something to do in the Nelson region and you are ensured of encountering many original characters amongst a vital network of artists and craftspeople, Maori marae, farm and orchard settlements, alternative communities and adventurers - friendly folk happy to share their good life with you.


Cycling from: Picton to Havelock

Cycling distance – 34km - 21 miles

Total distance -105km - 65 miles

Miles in the van - 44 miles


Plan for the day - We take the ferry from Wellington across Cook Strait to the ferry landing at Picton on the South Island. The trip requires three hours.  Today’s destination is Nelson located 65 miles west of the ferry landing.  The bicycle ride for the day is 21 miles.   


On the South Island we exit the ferry in the van, locate Queen Charlotte Drive, turn west and stop at a location above Picton to start the bicycle ride. We bicycle west along Queen Charlotte Drive with Momorangi Bay to the north.  The shore of Momorangi Bay moves away to the north but we continue straight on Queen Charlotte Drive.  At the intersection of Road 6 and Havelock we load our bikes onto the van trailer and continue in the van on Road 6 to our hotel in Nelson. 


Getting started - We packed the suitcases the night before so we would just have to put on our riding clothes and exit the hotel.  No breakfast at the hotel.  We would eat on the ferry.  We were told to be at the van at 7 AM sharp.


It was overcast when I got up and it was cold.  I was not looking forward to taking the ferry across Cook Strait in dicey weather.  KR told us it would not rain.


We were at the bus a bit before 7 o’clock and the “young” Germans wanted to use the time to go to Starbucks.  Sounded like a good idea to me because coffee is my morning stable.  KR said we had time.  We gave him our luggage and joined the “youngsters” in their pursuit of coffee. 


We walked about a quarter mile to Starbucks and I had to wait for regular coffee to brew.  The delay ate up time and KR was a bit anxious by the time we got back to the van. 


We drove to the dock, checked in and parked waiting our turn to drive onto the ferry.   After a short wait we were waved forward.  Once onboard we exited the van taking what we needed to survive the trip across the Strait and climbed a couple of flights of stairs to the deck. 


Today’s adventure - The breakfast area was quite nice.  The food however was a bit basic.  Bren ordered a Mc Donald’s type “egg Mc Muffin” which we shared for breakfast.  We found a seat in the lounge adjacent to the breakfast tables.   


The ferry had pulled away from the dock and headed south.  We ate our “egg Mc Muffin” and I drank more coffee.  I decided to go outside to check the view for picture opportunities.  It was cold on deck.  Wellington was in a bit of fog.  Bren stayed to read the NZ newspaper from the hotel.  I returned after a few photos to read part of the newspaper.


The seas got rougher and the boat began to rock back and forth.  I became a bit nauseous years before on a rocking boat heading for a wedding on Catalina Island so I was a bit concerned.  I have not had a problem on bigger boats so I assumed I would be ok but that did not relieve my concern.


I finished the article I was reading and decided to go back out on deck.  I was feeling ok but I thought I would be better off on deck.  I had been told on other occasions to look at the horizon.  When I got on deck one of the “young” Germans was there and said he was fighting nausea.  He said he had a history also.  We made the crossing without trauma.  


We reached the dock on the south island, returned to the van and after a short wait drove off the ferry.  We drove a short distance out of the dock area along the road above the dock and executed “bike prep.” 


The ride began immediately with a climb but it was not as steep as those on our earlier rides or (a) we were getting used to our bicycles or (b) we were getting into shape for bicycling in New Zealand.  


We cranked out the first 8 miles and met the van and joined others at the “lunch spread.”  After a quick lunch we continued on until we reached the outskirts of Havelock and the bikes were loaded on the van.  From there we drove to Nelson and the hotel.


Today’s landscape- It looked like rain when we got up but the gray turned to blue with scattered clouds by the time we boarded the ferry to cross Cook Strait.  Looking back from the ferry, Wellington was in a light fog but we were in hazy sunshine as we exited the harbor.


Large hills were along each side of the bay. The hills were green but they were not densely populated with trees and the foliage was much closer to the ground and in many areas grass appeared to be the only inhabitant.  The water in the Strait was very blue and calm. 


We passed a series of islands and peninsulas as we worked our way to the harbor at Piction on the South Island.  Many of these land masses were covered with a dense forest of pine trees. Picton was surrounded by large hills but the trees were scattered along the hill sides with scrub brush in between.   


We began our ride above Picton along very steep hill sides populated with small trees, bushes and a touch of yellow provided by Scottish Broom.   After our short climb we rode along the north coast of the South Island, with Grove Arm and Mahakipawa Arm of the Tasman Sea to our right as we rode west.  We rode through a rough hilly area populated with scattered trees and low brush.  It was not the lush green that we had experienced in other areas we rode through in New Zealand.


Bicycling notes – We climbed away from the dock and then headed west across the north part of the South Island.  The climb was manageable and the road was basically flat after the climb all the way to Nelson.  We were not traveling on a main highway so traffic was light but the surface of the road was good for cycling. The total distance in the van and on the bike was 65 miles an average distance for a day’s bike ride. I don’t remember any wind even though we were riding in the middle of the day. There were no bugs!


Post ride activity - We informed KR of our plans to go to the Abel Tasman National Park the next day to participate in “a boat tour, hike and return by boat excursion.”  He had to schedule a pickup by the bus service that would take us to the park at the hotel.


My clothes were dirty.  We decided to blow off “dinner out” so I could wash clothes.  I asked about clothes washing facilities at the desk.  I purchased coins to activate the machine and bought detergent.  A clothes line was available across the driveway from the washer.  I washed my clothes and hung them on the line to dry.  Clothes pins were provided.  If it rained my clothes were exposed the elements!    


The hotel desk informed us we were several miles from a grocery store. A gas station with a selection was across the street.  We crossed the street to the station and spotted a pizza place and a Mac Donald’s down the block.  We bought pizza for the evening meal and Mc Donald’s for the hiking trip.  I returned later to the station for Hooky Pokey ice cream.  It was a perfect way to end a day in New Zealand.







 ..clear skies is a good omen...

 ...flat and green...

 ...lunch spread conversation, clouding up a bit...

 ...a bit warmer today, put my Gortex jacket in the "bike case"...


From the tour description:  Just before Lyell we may visit the longest swing bridge in New Zealand (entry fee is payable). From there we start cycling along the gorgeous Buller gorge, with its deep, slow flowing waters contrasting against the lush vegetation of the native forest. As you travel westwards note how the trees change, the forest becomes denser and damper and takes on a sub­tropical, rainforest look. After arriving in Westport (if time permits) we drive to Cape Foulwind to visit a small fur seal colony before checking into our Motel.


Cape Foulwind is a conservation area toward the northern end of the West Coast of the South Island. It's main feature is a breeding colony for the New Zeland Fur Seal, which is well worth a look, since you get an excellent view of the nursery area from the viewing platforms on the cliff above it.


Cycling from: Lyell to Westport

Cycling distance – 65km – 40 miles

Total distance - 230km - 143 miles

Miles in the van -  103 miles


Plan for the day - We drive 63 miles southwest on Road 6 from Nelson to Lyell.  We unload the bicycles in Lyell and continue southwest 40 miles by bike on Road 6 to Westport.  Westport is located on the west coast of the South Island where we spend the night. 


Getting started - We got up still thinking about our experience on our hiking adventure the day before.  The day had started out as a clear, sunny day and we were suddenly trapped without shelter in the cold and rain waiting for the boat to arrive.  We got up to clear skies but the forecast was for possible rain similar to what we had experienced the day before.  I went outside to check the temperature and it was “fresh.”


I had made the mistake the day before of waiting to put my Gortex jacket on until my shirt was damp.  When the wind started to blow hard I was cold immediately and did not recover fully even wearing my Gortex jacket.  Since we could have the same conditions in the afternoon today I prepared.  I dressed for “rain and cold.”


We executed the “morning routine” but today we would eat the breakfast prepared at the hotel.  We inquired if we could spilt the two egg breakfast offered on the menu, a typical choice in the States.  Yes and we could have juice and toast from the buffet.  The food arrived on two plates with a full order of bacon on each plate.  It made for a huge breakfast.  The bacon was the best I have ever eaten and there was sausage as well.  It was a great start to the day.


After breakfast we executed the “van loading routine” which included our bikes.  We had kept our bikes to ride on our free day.  We paid for breakfast at the hotel desk and boarded the bus to drive to Lyell to start the day’s ride. 


Today’s adventure - We drove for a couple of hours stopping to look back at Tasman Bay as we exited the area.  In Lyell we executed the “bike prep” routine and we were off. 


Bren and I stuck to our rule of getting on the road last.  We were to stop for lunch after 20 km and we had caught up to everyone but the “kids” before we reached the van.  We ate from the “lunch spread” laid out by KR to enjoy.  Today we did not terry and got back on the road to attempt to reach the hotel before the predicted rain began.


The route had a bit of climbing in the morning and then the road began to roll up and down for the remainder of the 67 km.  We stopped for photos a few times but we cranked the last 46 km in good time and beat the predicted rain.


Today’s landscape - We rode along the Inangahua River for the latter part of the trek.  There were huge green, forested hills on each side of the road.  It was difficult to understand how we would not have to climb somewhere to get out of the valley but the road followed the river through the hills and the route was rather flat but very scenic.  It was a pleasant view.   


Bicycling notes - The route was 143 miles or two days if I was designing my own “self-supported” bike trip.  The weather remained dicey so having van support would be welcome.  The climbing along Road 6 to Westport was not difficult using other rides as a standard.  The wind was not a factor today but I have been told that wind can be difficult on any ride in New Zealand and especially on the South Island.  The traffic was light and of course the roads have no shoulders.  The bugs did not appear.  They are reported to be worse on the South Island.  I did not see any other cyclists. 


Post ride activity - We arrived at the hotel, did our high 5’s and went to the desk to get our room key.  The van was gone but our suitcases were in the lobby.  We took our bikes to our room and returned for our suitcases.  We wanted a coke and found a 7-11 type market across from the hotel.  We selected our drink, returned and snacked on pistachios brought from America and drank the coke.  I entered trip data into the computer while Bren enjoyed the hot tub in the bathroom.


“Dinner out” was arranged at a “Yellow House” across the street from the hotel.  I cannot remember what we ordered but I do remember the food was very good.  KR told us that the owner was from the US.  We asked her what state she was from and she responded “New Jersey.”  She had lived in New Zealand for 7 years.






..bird hopped on bus..KR said looking for food, I think he was getting out of the cold

 ...getting a tan at pancake rocks....

 ...seal colony....

 ..bikes did not leave the trailer today...


From the tour description:  We visit the seal colony at Cape Foulwind this morning if there wasn’t time yesterday afternoon. Then it is an hours drive to Punakaiki where we stop to visit the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.


This area is famed for its blowholes and pancake rocks, and is so named because the sand and limestone formations look like, well stacked pancakes! This is a must-see when visiting the West Coast.


From Punakaiki you ride along the spectacular coastal road to Greymouth. Here we stop to visit a Greenstone factory, where you have the opportunity to buy jade carvings and jewellery at reasonable prices. The final 40km to Hokitika is by bus. In the evening enjoy a pleasant stroll along the beach and watch the sun set into the sea.


Greymouth is the gateway to the South Westland World Heritage National Park. The Arahura River, which enters the sea 8 kilometres north of Hokitika, is a traditional source of pounamu (greenstone) for the Maori people and still yields a large proportion of the Coast's continuing supply.


Cycling from: Punakaiki to Greymouth

Cycling distance – 45km - 29 miles

Total distance - 145km – 90 miles

Miles in the van - 61 miles


Plan for the day - Today we bicycle 29 miles along the west coast of the South Island on the Coastal Road, Road 6. We ride in the van 63 miles to Punakaiki and unload the bikes for the days ride along the Coast Road to Graymouth. 


Our off bike activities include a visit to the seal colony at Cape Foulwind and Pancake Rocks.  Stopping to visit rocks and seals is not part of my “personal” bicycling agenda.  I am on a bike tour and consider rock viewing and animal watching as post cycling activities.


Getting started – On the North Island I felt I was slipping from winter into early spring and back again daily.  Along the west coast of the South Island I was told I could experience all four seasons in one day!  It rained hard all night and we awoke to heavy overcast. 


Following the “morning routine” we crossed the street to the New Jersey lady’s “Yellow House” for Breakfast.  She provided a buffet of scrambled eggs and other goodies that I enjoy.  Breakfast being my favorite meal of day, it was a great start.  After breakfast we participated in the “van exit process.” It had rained during breakfast but stopped briefly allowing us to load the van and exit the hotel.  It began to rain again on the road.     


Today’s adventure It continued to rain off and on all morning.  When we stopped to look at the seals at Cape Foulwind, a very appropriate title for today’s weather, the rain had stopped.  As soon as we got back into the van it began to rain again. The same happened at Pancake Rocks.


Pancake Rocks was a pleasant surprise.  The rock formations are very unique and the ocean had cut tunnels under the rocks in places which added to the unique visual scene.  And remember this is with overcast skies and threatening rain.  In sunshine the area must be stunning.  Nothing else in the landscape matches them.  How were these formations created?


It continued to rain and the group elected to abandon cycling.  Those who still wanted to ride were told they could ride after we reached the hotel in Greymouth.  A circle route near the town was proposed. The rain continued and by the time we reached Greymouth everyone had tossed in the towel. It was Friday the 13th so what could you expect. 


Today’s landscapeThe terrain along the west coast of the South Island reminded me of the California coast.  Volcanic eruptions and sliding plates have pushed up cliffs that tower over the coast.  In many places there are no beaches at the base of the cliffs and the ocean beats against the rocks.  In other locations a beach appears below the cliffs.  In places the ocean and beach are at road level. The road follows the contour of the coast climbing and then returning again to water level.


The hillside along the road is steep and covered with a wide variety of green plants and trees.  The foliage is quite different from California.  The foliage along the California coast is sparse.  The South Island coast has a very thick, lush, green “jungle” landscape.  There are large ferns and a type of palm tree that gives the landscape the jungle appearance.    


Bicycling notes - When cycling the California coast there are several long difficult climbs.  The same is true along the New Zealand coast on the west side of the South Island between Westport and Hokitika.  As in California the climbing is not continuous but it would be noticed. There are many blind turns.  The road s has no shoulder but the traffic was moderate. It would be a great bicycle ride. 


Post ride activity - We arrived early in Greymouth and went to shop after we checked in.  Bren bought gloves made of “possum skin” and a pair of wool socks.  We visited “the” bike shop where I got an assessment of the “NZ motorist vs cyclist” from the owner.  Bren told me that she had read a story in the New Zealand newspaper about “many bike versus car accidents.” Oh joy!


We continued the hunt for the perfect jade necklace.  Jade is the native jewelry stone of New Zealand.  In Greymouth we found a shop that taught the art of polishing and forming a piece of jade into jewelry.  We were told 6 hours were required for planning, skill development and completion of a piece of jade.  There were experts on the premises to support the student.  The class would have been fun.  We did not have 6 hours!


“Dinner out” was at a French restaurant.  On the way we walked with another a couple to the beach front which we had missed because of our shopping spree.  After dinner Bren went with another adventurer and successfully located glow worms about half a mile from the hotel.





 lane bridge...

 ..cold, no rain, very green...

 ...a cappuccino to end the cycling day..

 ..dinner from the local market..


From the tour description:  A few kms south of Hokitika the flora begins to change, from open pastoral land to dense rainforest.


In Hari Hari we start cycling as the road twists and turns, seeking passage through this almost impenetrable forest and unforgiving, rugged countryside taking us to the township of Franz Josef. Continuing in the vehicle for the last 25km to Fox Glacier, we visit the Glacier Face before checking into our accommodation.


There may be time for an optional helicopter flight to the Glaciers (including landing) with spectacular views to Mt. Cook on a clear day.


Cycling from: Hari Hari to Franz Josef

Cycling distance – 62km - 39 miles

Total distance - 160km - 99 miles

Miles in the van - 60 miles


Plan for the day - Today we drive and bicycle along Road 6 as it meanders down the west coast of the South Island from Hokitika to Fox Glacier.  We take the van from the hotel in Hokitika to Hari Hari to begin the bike ride.  We bicycle 39 miles from Hari Hari to Franz Josef. We load up in Franz Josef and drive to our hotel in Fox Glacier.   


Getting started - We got up and executed the “morning routine” and “dressed for cold.” We went to the “breakfast spread” KR had laid out in his room.  We ate our special concoctions, and participated in the table talk.  We washed our dishes and executed the “van exit process.”  We got into the van and headed to the drop off point for the start of the day’s ride.


Today’s adventure - In the first 3 miles we climb 600 feet. We started the ride with the “kids” climbing the first set of hills. The rest of our peers stayed on the bus and were driven to the top of the climb.  We reached the top of the climb and the van was waiting.  We said hello and continued down the other side of the climb and into rollers the rest of the way to Franz Josef.


We were riding in the rain.  The rain stopped after 10 km and it began to get lighter but the clouds hung around and they were very dark on the horizon.  Fog hung along the top of the hills in places.  As the day wore on more bits of blue sky appeared.  The sky continued to clear and the overcast turned to white clouds.  The stories about “bad weather” along the west coast of the South Island made me realize that we were lucky. 


We ran into one of the “youngsters” busy taking photographs. We hooked up with him and rode to the lunch location.  KR had created the “lunch spread” in a park in the small town of Whataroa.  The picnic tables were under circular roofs on four posts. The tables were on cement floors.  A testament I am sure to the possible weather conditions.


When we got back on the road we passed another mature couple taking pictures.  The “kids” and one of our peers, the parachute lady, had demonstrated every day that we were not competitive with them.  As we approached Hawea dark clouds appeared ahead of us and it began to get very dark.  I assumed we were going to have rain before the finish.  We were lucky and made it into town without suffering more rain. 


We entered Franz Josef and located the van.  We left our bikes and walked to a restaurant across the street for coffee.  It was hot and we were a bit cold.  It hit the spot.   The last of the riders arrived at the van and went to the coffee shop for a post ride treat.  Afterward we returned to the van to drive to the hotel.  The van headed for Wanaka and the rain returned.  It rained very hard all night.


Today’s landscapeThe terrain along the road was very lush and green.  We rode through a thick forest on the climb.  The rest of the way we rode through what appeared to be an agriculture area with large flat fields of green but there were no cattle or crops to be seen.      


Bicycling notes - We continued to practice entering and exiting one lane bridges.  The roads have no shoulder and the surface just off the road cannot be guaranteed to support a bike tire.  There were fewer cars on today’s route.  The terrain was flat with a few rollers after the initial climb to begin the ride.  There was no wind of consequence today.  The bugs stayed home. 


We would plan a couple of days to bicycle 125 miles.  It was an easy route to bicycle but the weather would be the concern.  It was very overcast and raining when we began our ride and it was cold.  Having “dressed for cold and rain” I was prepared.  I did not get cold during the ride.


Post ride activity - After we checked into the hotel we changed clothes to support a visit to Fox Glazier.  We got into the van and headed to the Glazier. We walked about half a mile from where we had parked to the lookout near the Glazier.  The Glacier was much more interesting than I believed it would be.  A huge wall of snow could be seen from where we stood surrounded by very high steep canyon walls.  Water falls dropped down from the canyon walls in several places. The area to me was much too warm to support snow.


We declared a second “crash day” and did not do “dinner out.” KR dropped us in town on the way back from Fox Glacier and we went to the store to buy dinner.  The selection was poor.  We settled on soup, crackers and a couple of cheese spreads.  We heated our purchase in the microwave at the hotel.  We watched TV, entered data on the computer, did I-phone email to the States and sacked out.  







 ...its still very green....

 ..the "lunch spread"...

 ...Haast River...

 ..the climb was straight up!...


From the tour description: First thing this morning we suggest you take a walk to the picturesque Lake Matheson. After breakfast as we travel south, the journey becomes more spectacular, the Alps are higher, and the coast more rugged. The road snakes its way through dense rainforest, the Pakihi swamp and along the coast. Just before Haast we cross the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand. Haast is situated in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand's largest. Its world importance was recognised by UNESCO when it gave it "World Heritage" status. Much of the native bush here remains untouched. We spend a short time at the local Visitor’s Centre, which has excellent displays showing how the land has evolved.


We continue in the Bus following the Haast River inland - the road slowly steepening as we enter the Haast River valley, past Thunder Falls, and through the ‘Gates of Haast’ to Haast Pass (at 564m asl). This is a great place to start biking as you can enjoy an exhilarating downhill to the Blue Pools, where there may be time for a short walk.


In Makarora the dense native bush gives way to drier, more arid countryside as we pass Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Wanaka is a beautiful and very well known tourist destination, during summer and winter.


Here in the heart of the Southern Lakes, ringed by golden hills, snow-clad peaks, ancient forests, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, you’ll find time and space to truly enjoy yourself. The town acts as a magnet for New Zealanders and international visitors alike who want to return to sample the delights of a range of activities, cafes, shops & restaurants.


Cycling from: Pleasant Flat to Hawea

Cycling distance – 81km - 50 miles

Total distance - 264km - 164 miles

Miles in the van - 114 miles 


Plan for the day - We start in the van from Fox Glacier.  We drive 75 miles south on Road 6 to Haast where the road turns east to follow the Haast River.  At the top of Haast Pass we start the days bicycle adventure.  We bicycle 50 miles from Pleasant Flat at the top of Haast Pass to Lake Hawea.  From the town of Hawea we drive to Wanaka our destination town.


Getting started - The weather was not promising because it rained very hard all night. It was raining when we got up.  It continued to rain off and on throughout the morning. 


I dressed “for rain and cold.” We did our “morning routine” and went to breakfast.  KR laid out the "breakfast spread" in his room.  After breakfast we participated in the “van exit process” and began the drive to the start of the day’s ride at the top of Haast Pass. 


Today’s adventure – It began to rain hard when we turned to drive along Haast River to the start of the day's ride.  The wind began to blow and there was fog almost to ground level.  KR said we were missing the view because of the clouds.  I interpreted that to mean it is more beautiful when clear which I assume is obvious but the scenes we were exposed to were very impressive.


And, we were missing the insect pests that were discussed in all of the literature about cycling in New Zealand.  They reportedly had a painful bite that stayed with you after they exited and could disrupt one's day.


When we reached the drop off point to start the ride the rain had reduced to a drizzle.  The skies remained heavily overcast but the rain had almost stopped.  Visibility had improved but fog still hung low on the hills.


The terrain was very forgiving with a few rollers.  We were making good time.  The kids were out front and the other mature riders were behind us.  We came around a bend and there in the distance the road looked as if it was going straight up.  I pulled along side Bren and said "if that is the route I may have to walk?" 


We rode a couple of miles further and were at the bottom of the climb.  The climb appeared to be a mile in length and the grade must have been at least 10%.  I geared down and started the slog.  As we climbed a very welcome wind started to blow behind us.  The climb was still a bear but the wind behind us helped.  We made it to the top without getting off the bikes.


At the top I realized an error had been made in the conversion from kilometers to miles and we had 5 miles further to ride.  A “mileage error” always stresses the enthusiasm.  We cranked on into the outskirts of Hawea our destination town.  We passed one of the "youngsters" taking photos.  A bit further on we saw the van waiting for us.  We did a "high five" jester to signal our successful riding day and got onboard.       


Today’s landscape - After leaving Fox Glacier Road 6 wanders away from the coast and back again twice as we drove south before turning east into Haast Canyon 75 miles later. The foliage along the coast road looked like a jungle. Each side displayed a dense forest of ferns, palm trees, and brush.  It was very thick.  In a few areas along the coast there were fields with cattle or sheep but not many farms were evident. 


The green lush country side continued after we turned east along the Haast River.  The landscape was covered with trees with heavy undergrowth.  It was very green.  We stopped to take pictures of the Haast River falls and rapids. We continued to see waterfalls all along Haast Road dropping down hundreds of feet from the hills high above the river. 


The landscape began to change as we rode down from the top of Haast Pass.  The road side was not as lush as the western side and as we rode along the shore of Lake Wanaka the right side of the road remainded green but the heavy growth was missing.  Along Lake Hawea the vegetation remained green but reserved.  Riding along the lakes made the last part of the ride very scenic.


Bicycling notes - Note that we were in the van until we reached the top of Haast Pass. The terrain on Road 6 along the coast from Fox Glacier until it turned east would not be a challenge, accept for weather and wind.  Road 6 along the Haast River before Haast Pass would not be “physically” difficult with reasonable weather. The Pass itself did appear to be a difficult climb based on experience.  


The road down from Haast Pass is flat for most of the way.  We had the difficult climb between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea but the remainder was not difficult.  The wind was stiff but at our back blowing west to east.  It was a very pleasant ride.  The youngsters rode all the way to the hotel and appeared to be no worse for wear.  


Road 6 is narrow by US standards and has no shoulder.  I counted the cars that passed the van as we drove along the Haast River.  The tally was one car every minute.  A tad higher than I felt it was on the bike but not it was not horrible for the major artery from the west coast to Queenstown. 


The weather started out a bit dicey and today’s mileage was 162 miles.  We had van support.  If I planned to ride the full distance I would make this a two day trip stopping in one of the towns we passed along the coast.  We passed several Bed & Breakfast places cycling in New Zealand.  The west coast of the South Island would be the perfect place to give this a try.  


KR told me March or April would be the best months to bicycle in New Zealand.  February was very hot.  December and January the roads were filled with tourist.  November did not get a comment.  It must be touch and go.  The tour service we were using sponsors two tours in November?


Post ride activity - At the hotel in Wanaka we collected our suitcases and went to our room. We changed into something suitable for “dinner out” and went to dinner.  After dinner we enjoyed a bit of TV and then to bed.   






 ..climbing east through Haast Pass: the scenery has changed.. food at the rest stop (espresso & apple pie!)...

 ..looking down from the summit of Haast Pass..

 ..navigating the steep switchbacks into Arrowtown..


From the tour description:  Today’s journey takes you past the historic Cardrona Hotel, (a relic from the gold prospecting days) and over the Crown Range. From the saddle there is a great downhill ride to Arrowtown, an idyllic & preserved gold mining town with its lovely tree lined streets and fascinating shops.  After a short stroll we continue to Queenstown.


Cycling from: Wanaka to Arrowtown

Cycling distance – 51km - 32 miles

Total distance - 81km - 50 miles

Miles in the van - 18 miles


Plan for the day -Today would be a day on the bicycle.  The plan was to ride from Wanaka to Arrowtown, a suburb of Queenstown, on the Crown Range Road.  The distance of today’s ride would be 50 miles.


Getting started -We got up to sunshine. The sky was blue but a sufficient number of clouds were roaming about that made me uneasy.  I felt rain was a possibility.  Our guide said the weather report was for rain but in my opinion he always said possibility of rain to cover.  People were happier about a failure resulting in sunshine vs a failure that produces rain.  I dressed for “cold and rain.”


We executed our “morning routine” and went to breakfast.  The “breakfast spread” was laid out in KR’s motel room.  The room was small and left little room for people to sit down.  It was a bit fresh but the Germans ate outside in a small picnic area behind the hotel.  We put together a bit of food from the “breakfast spread” and carried it back to our room. 


Today’s adventure - Exiting Wanaka we encountered a steep climb of about 300 yards which I would estimate to be 8 to 9 percent.  After the climb out of town we rode on rollers which were not difficult for 20 km where we stopped at a small café in Cardrona for a bit of nourishment.


After the café stop the road was to become a bit more difficult culminating in a climb which was described by the KR as “very difficult.”  Bren and I discussed not riding the second half of the ride but decided it would be difficult to return to New Zealand a second time so let’s go for it. 


We were last on the road and the guide said that he would meet us at the bottom of the climb to determine if we wanted to continue.  We rode the 10 km to the start of the climb.  The wind was blowing in our face.  The hills were tough in places but nothing we had not seen before.  We reached the bottom of the climb and the van was not there.  We started the climb.


The van passed us in the opposite direction and slowed to tell us that the pickup was below us.  We continued our climb.  KR returned and pulled off the road.  He “told” us to get in the van.  The real climbing was ahead and it was assumed we could not climb it.  He would drive us and our bikes to the top of the pass and put us on the road again.


We turned the corner and saw the climb.  It looked like Loveland pass in Colorado which we had climbed.  We drove to the top took some pictures.  We decided why ride downhill on a bike when we did not ride up hill so we got back in the van.  We got out at the bottom and rode down some switch backs to a road which would take us into Arrowtown where we would meet the others. 


The bicycle ride for the day was concluded.  What made me more uncomfortable was the fact that we spent two hours in Arrowtown.  That would have been plenty of time for us to climb over the pass and meet the group in Arrowtown.


Today’s Landscape – The landscape began to change dramatically from the west coast of New Zealand.  The lush green hills were behind us.  The landscape became more and more barren as we rode.  By the time we reached Queenstown the hills were treeless and not totally barren but what growth and green existed was scattered.   


Bicycling - I did not remove any clothing during the day’s ride.  I was a bit warm at times on the climbs but never to the point that I was required to remove some clothing.  The sun went behind the clouds a few times for a short while making it a bit cold.  It was spitting snow in a few places and the showers I feared never materialized. The wind was stiff and in our faces on the ride.


I would compare the pass we did not climb before Queenstown to Loveland Pass in Colorado.  It appeared to be a constant 7 to 8 percent climb. The climb over Loveland Pass was 8 miles.  The climb we did not attempt was 2.5 miles.  We did not have wind on the climb over Loveland but the pass should not be a problem.


The ride down off the pass is a different story.  On the left side of the road is a sheer drop off without any guard rail and very little shoulder if any and the road is fast.  At the bottom on the way into Arrowtown approaching Queenstown the road runs through a series of steep switch backs with traffic that is interesting.    


We rode on Crown Range Road.  The traffic was very light and the road surface was good. 


Post ride activity - We checked into the hotel and it was like a Marriott.  We had a great room which looked directly out over the lake.  “Dinner out” was in the hotel.  The food was good.  Tomorrow was a free day so we could be sloppy about keeping the suitcases tidy.  Bummed out about my failure to climb the Pass I went to bed.  I knew how Lance felt coming in third at the Tour de France in August!  Maybe I should email him?  Oops!  Email access is not free in New Zealand!






.."come fly with me"...(the bungee jump bridge)

 ..what happened to the green?..

 ..."the lunch spread"...

 ..finding a "happy house"..


From the tour description:  Heading out of Queenstown we follow the Kawarau River through its gorge and past vineyards. After a brief stop at "Mama Jones" fruit stall, we travel north across Lake Dunstan and to the top of Lindis Pass.


Here we start cycling an amazing downhill ride. After the pass the ride is predominantly flat, however if the Norwest wind is blowing, watch out for strong gusts! In Omarama we stop for a lunch break before continuing to cycle to Twizel.


Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand's highest and largest mountain. Reaching a height of 3754 metres its shear size and massive bulk easily dwarf the surrounding peaks.


Cycling from: Lindis Pass to Twizel

Cycling distance – 61km - 38 miles

Total distance - 220km -137 miles

Miles in the van - 99 miles


Plan for the day - We exit Queenstown on Road 6A in the van and continue straight at the junction with Road 6.  At Cromwell we transition onto Road 8.  At the top of Lindis Pass we exit the van to begin today’s ride, 38 miles to Twizel. The ride profile indicates the ride will be downhill! 


Getting started – Standing on the hotel balcony it was cold with blue skies and a few clouds. Tourists told us it had rained four consecutive days before we arrived.  No rain during our stay.  Thank you Jack! 


I did my “skin prep” and dressed for “rain and cold.”  The “morning routine” was followed by the breakfast buffet in the hotel dining room.  We selected the full buffet which included scrambled eggs, potatoes and meat plus a large assortment of tasty breakfast treats.  I stuffed myself.  It was good but expensive.  After breakfast we executed the “van exit process” and headed for our Lindis Pass adventure. 


Today’s adventure - We stopped at the world famous “New Zealand bungee jumping” bridge or platform after exiting Queenstown.  After a brief walk through the grounds which included a stroll on the bridge itself we began the drive to Lindis Pass. The bungee jump location was interesting but not as spectacular as I had expected.


KR pointed out an old gold mining area we drove past.  A few small shacks the miners had lived in remained.  One mining technique used was to expose the gold using high presser hoses to wash away the river bank. Evidence of erosion along the river still exists.


At the top of Lindis Pass we executed the “van exit process.”   The kids were on an extended ride and had been dropped off earlier.  We bicycled down the pass experiencing a dicey bit of gravel in a stretch of road repair.  The scenery reminded me of Death Valley in California. Not much green.  Not much interest.  We cranked hard.


The kids caught up and Bren and I locked onto them as they passed.  We successfully drafted on them for a while cranking along at 20 to 25 miles an hour until I exhausted myself and fell off the pace taking Bren with me.


KR had put out the “lunch spread” in a small park outside the small town of Omarama where we joined the others for lunch.  A glider airport was located nearby providing entertainment.  Gliders could be seen roaming everywhere on the horizon.


We finished our lunch creations and returned to the road. I was a bit exhausted but we continued to maintain a good average.  The kids were back on the road ahead of us and we did not catch up to anyone on the way to Twizel.


Today’s landscape - As we exited Queensland along Lake Wakatipu the road was relatively flat with a few rollers. We drove through a river valley with very high hills on each side of the road.  The hills were not covered with lush, green foliage like the west coast of the South Island.  The land was much dryer on the eastern side with only a few scattered plants growing on the hill sides.


As we bicycled down the Pass the hills receded from the road and farms appeared.  The pastures were filled with sheep or cows.  On two occasions we passed fields populated with a herd of deer.  


Bicycling notes - We did not bicycle to the top of Lindis Pass but I am sure it would be tough.  The road to the Pass was flat and after the climb the road to Twizel is downhill with a few rollers. We experienced nominal wind.  There is “basically” no shoulder on the road.  The traffic was very light.  


Post ride activity - At the hotel in Twizel, we collected our luggage, our room key and dumped our suitcases in the room.  We headed back to the van to drive to a park just outside Twizel to view Mount Cook.  The mountain was covered with snow.  It was a spectacular view.  We returned to our room, cleaned up and participated in “dinner out” to complete our day.     







 ..home on the road..

..still wearing my warm clothes with the sun out...

 ...lost the green on the eastern side of the mountains..

..Lake Takaki and the Southern Alps..


From the tour description:  On a clear day you will be treated to magnificent views of New Zealand's highest mountain, Mt Cook, or Aoraki, the cloud piercer at the head of Lake Pukaki. From there we cycle along the Pukaki canal until reaching the turquoise glacier lake in Tekapo. The area is now famous for its Merino sheep and Hydro-Electric Power System, which consists of 6 lakes joined by canals. We leave the MacKenzie Basin over the 671m Burkes Pass and travel via Fairlie, Geraldine and Ashburton through the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.


Once in Christchurch we take a short sightseeing tour of the city, including the Port Hills and the ‘Sign of the Takahe’ with its magnificent views over the South Pacific and across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps.


Whatever the time of year, Christchurch is the perfect choice for a well-deserved short break, longer stay or even for just a few hours. Christchurch’s unique combination of fascinating heritage, beautiful coastline, peaceful rivers and spectacular natural harbour appeals to all ages and provides all the ingredients to make your visit extra special.


Christchurch Tourism - the Southern Alps provides a fantastic backdrop to the city. Perched on the coast, the city is the doorway to the Canterbury Plains, which spread westwards towards the mountains. To the south­east, Banks Peninsula, formed by two huge volcanic craters, extends into the Pacific Ocean. Nature has been kind to this part of New Zealand and it is nature that offers the richest rewards for the visitor.


Cycling from: Canal Rd Turnoff to Tekapo

Cycling distance - 33km – 21 miles

Total distance - 281km – 175 miles

Miles in the van – 154 miles 


Plan for the day - We drive in the van on Road 8 to the park at Lake Tekapo to begin the day’s ride.  We cycle along Hyman Road turning right onto Canal Road into a 1000 foot climb.  Surviving the climb we continue along Canal Road to the junction of Road 6 and turn north toward Tekapo.  The distance for the day is 21 miles. 


We get back into the van in Tekapo and drive on Road 8 to the intersection of the 79.  We turn onto 79 and drive to the intersection of Road 1.  We turn on road 1 and drive to Christchurch.


Getting started - It was “fresh” but clear.  Clear in New Zealand being partly cloudy.  I dressed for “cold.”  We enjoyed the “breakfast spread” in KR's room.  The room was small so those who did not have seats at the tables sat on the bed or stood.  I stood and munched my cereal and drank my morning staple, coffee.  We helped with cleanup and executed the “van loading routine” and drove to the start of the ride.


Today’s adventure - The “van exit process” was executed and we began to ride.  The kids started from the hotel.  We cycled along the Lake a few miles and turned to begin a “very” difficult climb away from the Lake.  A young rider passed as I slogged to the top in my "granny gear." I hoped the top was around a blind corner ahead but at the turn it continued up!  The road turned again to the left before reaching the top.  The grade had to be 10%! The distance approached a mile!


The ride was interrupted for two group photos.  After photo shoot 2 we were off again.  Delayed for the photos, the young riders started with us and two came up behind and began to push me to the delight of the others.  They provided us a lot of entertainment on the trip. 


As the “youngsters” passed we successfully began to draft behind them.  Doing quite well we lost “the shade in the wind” avoiding a problem in the pack. Unable to hook on again we reconciled ourselves to another day riding alone. My wife continued to draft behind me.


Road construction forced us to abandon Canal Road and complete our ride on Road 8 to the van.  Today was our last cycling day and everything belonging to the tour was returned.  The bikes and bike bags minus personal items were returned and we entered the van for the drive to Christchurch.


Today’s landscape - Our ride began from the north end of the park along Lake Tekapo where we had viewed Mt. Cook.  It was a beautiful backdrop to the start of the day.   The hills on our right looked very high.  The Lake on the opposite side was light blue as a result of “glazier flour,” or so we were told. 


Climbing away from the lake the terrain became basically flat and uninteresting.  The land might have been farmed but no crops were obvious.  The landscape reminded me of Southern California, brown.  Obviously there was less moisture on the eastern side of the mountains. Mt Cook and other snow covered peaks continued on our left.  They began to recede and were occasionally obscured behind foliage or distant low hills as we rode. 


Back in the van the drive to Christchurch seemed long.  As we drove north we passed crops with wind protecting trees planted along the edges.  Mt Cook could still be seen in the distance.  Further north were large fields filled with sheep or milk cows with empty fields located on either side of the field where a herd was located.  The animals must have been moved from field to field at regular intervals as the grass was consumed.  


Bicycling notes - The terrain on the eastern side of the South Island would be easy to bicycle.  We passed 2 cyclists carrying luggage on their bikes.  Although the terrain on this side is rather boring the riding difficulty would be less. The road was basically flat with a few rollers and climbs.  The most difficult climb along Road 8 was 200 yards of maybe 8%?  The remainder appeared to be 5% or less.  The road had little or no shoulder but traffic was light.  The sky was clear all day and it was the warmest day of the trip.  The wind was tough but manageable but has a reputation for much worse. 


Post ride activity - We drove immediately to the lookout over Christchurch once there. The topology of the area fooled me.  I assumed the land around Christchurch was flat.  Volcanoes had pushed up large hills along the ocean side of Christchurch.  The harbor itself was inside a volcano.  The volcano was open to the ocean on one side and the other three sides created the rugged New Zealand coast line.   


We saw several cyclists climbing the steep hill as we rode in the van to the lookout.  The grade must have been 8% or more.  A cyclist passed us on the way down and we never saw him again.  He was moving.


“Dinner out” was in the hotel dining room.  It was the last night together so everyone attended.  KR was compensated for his efforts.


We packed our bike gear for our return to California.  We did our "high 5" to congratulate ourselves for successfully cycling through New Zealand and turned in.  Tomorrow would be a long day.  We exited New Zealand at 3:30 PM on the 20th of November and arrived at LAX at 6:30 AM on the 20th of November.  I felt younger already!  





“Bike bag" - The tour provided us with a small case or bag that hung from the bicycle’s handle bars.   I typically dressed for cold in the morning in New Zealand.  I used the “bike bag” to carry other clothes I would change into if weather conditions changed during the ride.  Depending on the dress of the day I carried my windbreaker or my Gortex jacket in the “bike bag.” I also carried a pair of regular bike gloves, a pull over hat and two power bars in case I needed a quick boost during the ride. 


After the first riding day my case required little attention.  Accept for changing the riding jacket of the day the contents remained constant during the time we rode in New Zealand.  I carried two energy bars in my riding shirt which were consumed before I got to the stash in the bike bag.  


The tour also provided a tube and pump to repair a flat tire which was in the bag.  I thought this a bit odd since I assumed the guide was responsible for all problems with the rental bike.  This had been our experience on other tours.  But during the ride one of the women had a flat tire on the road and she had repaired it herself. New Zealand is not a place for the weak or the timid.


“body prep” – Web browsing disclosed that exposure to the New Zealand sun was to be avoided.  Each riding day, every day in fact, I applied a heavy dose of “50” sun screen before putting on my outfit for the day.  I used sun screen even though I wore layers of clothes for protection from the cold.  We did not get sunburned on our trip.


I did not bring my bike seat from the States, but my wife did.  I did not have a problem with the seat on the rental bike but I brought “Chamois Butter” with me and used it religiously everyday.  This tradition began after my first bicycling adventure in France.  I had a major problem with “saddle sores” which threatened to terminate my cycling early but using something at the time which was called “near skin” I made it through.  I learned never to ride unprotected again especially on an adventure I had invested money in.  


We were not attacked by “insects” in New Zealand the entire trip!  I had been told by a fellow cyclist that he had been attacked by bugs while riding in New Zealand.  He told me that the bites continued to itch and became irritated making him uncomfortable during his trip.  I investigated on the web and carried bug repellant with me to New Zealand.  KR warned us on a couple of the days to be prepared for bugs but we did not have a problem.  November does have the advantage that even the bugs stay home.


“breakfast or lunch spread” – Our guide had suggested that we put money into a “kitty” to buy food to be eaten at breakfast and lunch by the cyclist.  The group of 12 gave our guide 80 NZ dollars apiece to purchase food that would allow us to create our own thing for breakfast at the hotel in the morning and lunch along the road. 


The cost was about 120 dollars US for the two of us. The cost per meal averaged about $5 per person per meal but the convenience makes it even more attractive. We have done this before on other bicycling tours and it is a great idea.  It is convenient, quick and I find the food very good.  


The "lunch spread" supports my cycling need to get back on the road as soon as possible.  The “lunch spread” offers the option of skipping lunch all together and keep riding or stopping to eat.  I also have the option to eat quickly and get back on my bike and return to the road, or if I chose instead to spend time and talk with the others or just be a bit lazy before starting out again I can.  It offers many options that stopping at a restaurant does not.  It also beats the power bars we eat for lunch on our self-designed trips.  


The “breakfast spread” selection consisted of cereal, juice, toast, jam, honey, peanut butter, coffee, tea, milk, apples, bananas, kiwi fruit, carrots, grapes, tomatoes, crackers, various spreads, cheeses, lunch meats, etc.  It was a good spread and made for a good breakfast.  The “lunch spread” consists of the same thing but the cereal is not presented at noon and toast cannot be made.


I always find the sandwiches at lunch to be very creative.  Part of the entertainment is producing combinations that I would never put together at home.  Many of these become my favorites after I return home. On this trip my creations were mild in comparison to the creativity of my fellow cyclist!      


“cold” – My dress for “cold” was a long sleeve riding shirt, riding pants, leg warmers and a wind breaker.  I wore a stocking cap that covered my ears under my helmet.  I wore full gloves on my hands to complete my outfit.  I wore a thermal shirt under my riding shirt if there was even a hint of a cold riding day.


The rain cover I had used on the first day remained on my helmet after the first use to shield my head from the cold wind.  I also believed the bright green color would alert motorist to my location making me an easier target. 


“cold and rain” - I made one change to my outfit for “cold and rain.”   I swapped my windbreaker for my “rain proof” Gortex Jacket.  I cheated occasionally and wore my Gortex jacket even if I did not think it would rain.  My riding shirt wicks sweat away from my body and when I am wearing my Gortex jacket it somehow suspends the moisture inside making me cooler.  I realize this after climbing a hill and riding in the wind down the opposite side when there is a cooling but not cold effect.  The thermal shirt was always worn on possible "rain" days.


 “dinner out – On the day we got together in Auckland KR asked that everyone get together for dinner in the evening after each riding day.  He would make reservations for the group at a restaurant typically near the hotel and we would walk together to the hotel for dinner. 


The younger folks begged off.  They did make a few of the dinners but for the most part it was the mature riders at dinner in the evening.  I understood.  Listening to old people talk can be boring even for old people. 


“Dinner out” consumed about 4 hours in the evening.  We would take off the bike outfit, shower and dress in our dinner best. The restaurant could be a couple blocks or half a mile from the hotel.  A couple of times we ate in the hotel.  Time was consumed walking and conversing to and from the hotel.


Once at the restaurant, we would study the menu, make a selection, the waitress would return and we would order our meal.  Time added. 


The food arrived a bit slow.  But that should not have been a surprise because we would arrive at a restaurant, order from a diverse selection of meals and somehow the chief would be able to create all of these diverse dishes before the sun came up the next day.  The food served was excellent.   


On our other trips the food was included in the tour fees so I do not know what our meals cost.  On the New Zealand tour we paid for the cost of the meals.  The meals were expensive and much more than the meals we typically eat on our “self-designed” bicycle trips.  But, the food was also much better on the New Zealand trip.  


“off bicycle adventure” – The tour set aside several days to visit sites along our route through New Zealand which I assume had proven to be of interest to other tourists who had taken the tour, or were sites the tour “worked” with along the route. 


KR would  begin the morning before a “free day" was planned by handing out literature describing the options available for the next day with the warning that he must know that evening who wanted to partake so he could schedule the transportation to the event.  That afternoon before leaving the bus the same warning was given and for those who chose to participate arrangements were made for an “off bicycle adventure” for the following day. 


Bren and I signed up for the boat tour along the Tasman Sea shore followed by a three mile hike back along the shore where we were picked up again by the boat and returned to the location where we caught the bus back to the hotel.  Bren also signed on to Kayak in Whitianga and during our stay in Queenstown flew to Milford Sound to visit the seal colony.    




“morning routine” – The New Zealand “morning routine” on bicycling days was to get up around "7 ish" and select and dress in the bike outfit for the day.  Afterward I would pack my suitcase.  The volume of clothes that had to be returned to the suitcase depended on how late I got to bed the night before or how lazy I had been the night before.


We were only allowed to have one suitcase on the tour and we were on the road for almost three weeks.  The suitcases were stuffed.  I attempted and basically succeeded in organizing my suitcase so clothes that were used quite often were on top and those waiting to be chosen were at the bottom.  Keeping it organized in that manner took some attention.


The bike clothes had to be easy to get to.  The clothes I had slept in and my toilet kit went on top.  My electronics that did not fit in the backpack had to be accessible.  The street clothes to be worn to "dinner out" must be reasonably available.  By the third day I had the "morning routine" down to a science. 




“ride prep” - Our bicycles were transported in a rack on the top of the trailer that was pulled by the tour van.  The front wheel of each bike was removed and the fork was set into the rack to hold it in place with the front wheel stashed beside the bike.  Once we reached the location where the bicycle ride was to begin, bike reassembly took place. 


The bike was taken from the rack, the wheel returned to the fork and the bike was ready for the road.  The name of each rider was taped to the cross bars of the rented bike.   


The tour gave us a souvenir water bottle.  The trailer carried a large container filled with water the riders used to fill their water bottles before the start of each days ride.  Energy bars were also available.  Experience had taught me to always carry at least two energy bars in my riding shirt pocket.  





“van loading routine”- KR asked that we be at the van with our "stuff" 15 minutes before our scheduled departure at 9 AM.  We brought our luggage,

 backpacks, and bike trunks to the van.  KR loaded the suitcases into the trailer for the day making the contents unavailable for the remainder of the day.  We carried our bike bags and backpacks, or carry on luggage, onto the van.  


Our bike trunks fit in the overhead rack on the van.  The backpack sat in the isle next to our seat when the van was moving and in the seat when we were not in the van. 


Note that the trip instructions we had received from the tour indicted we could only bring one suitcase.  There was no mention of a carry on bag. My backpack is rather large, it was stuffed and I was not sure if it would be considered a suitcase. It was accepted without comment. 




The bike bags contained bike gear and clothing needed to support while on the bike.  The backpack contained additional clothing we believed would be needed for weather protection when we exited the van for a scheduled or unscheduled "off-bike adventure"  activity along our route.  For example I carried a wide brimmed rain hat in my backpack which I used to protect my face from sun and keep me out of the rain on stops during the van ride. 


I also brought pencil and paper and reading material to entertain myself during the van trek.  Bren carried a bag which served the same purpose.  I also carried snacks which had shown in the past to come in handy especially after the completion of the ride heading for the hotel in the van.


Bren copied news, emails and current events into her I-phone when she was on the hotel web interface which she read as we drove to the start of our bicycle day.  She also created the text to respond to the emails to be sent back to the States or wherever that night at the hotel.      



























































New Zealand

car-free adventure _____________________________________________________________


Experiences from the bicycle trip "down under"  

No matter how good or long the planning phase for a bicycle adventure are there are always unexpected situations on the road that require some thought and attention for future trips.  Most trip experiences add to the enjoyment of bicycling but a few reinforce the need for the detailed planning effort.  I catalog our trip experiences and modify my trip planning "to do list" to include both the unexpected successes and the unexpected failures. 


INTERNET ACCESS – Don’t leave home without it


My plan was to post on my blog at the end of each day during the ride in New Zealand. I failed for two reasons, time and cost. When we arrived in Auckland I assumed the hotel would provide wireless internet access as has been our experience on other bicycle trips. At the very least I assumed the cost would be $3 for the evening which was the cost in Vietnam and in most places where we stayed internet access was provided free by the hotel. I assumed New Zealand would be a step ahead of Vietnam.


The purchase of internet access was acerbated by the schedule of the tour days. We were busy. Our mornings and evenings were consumed. Expensive 1 hour or 2 hour internet purchases had to be worked into that schedule and finding two hours out of a daily charge for internet success did not meet my frugal disposition. We punted.


I still need to earn my “blog merit badge” so I plan to post the “journal days” on my website and write a blog note about various facets of the New Zealand adventure in the coming weeks. 




QANTAS AIRLINES – The flight to Auckland


The flight to New Zealand was all about Qantas Airlines. I had not flown on Qantas before, the airlines are struggling and I assumed we would be on the Greyhound bus to New Zealand. I was pleasantly surprised.


The goodness began when we discovered that Qantas was quartered in the terminal adjacent to the Bradley International terminal at LAX. Finding your flight in the Bradley Terminal is equivalent to boarding a flight from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It’s a zoo!


Next door, we went directly to the counter, everything went smoothly and when we went to x-ray we were alone. Our good experience ended at the waiting room where we sat on the floor because the flight was full, a 747. But I thought what the hell I am gong to New Zealand for a bicycle adventure!


When the flight was called I thought now it begins but we walked quickly onto the plane, the isles were not filled with people and to my amazement the overhead bins were empty!


My wife had reserved one of the two person seats with window near the rear of the 747. The legroom and no bags under the seat in front of me allowed me to stretch my legs out. We took off, I put my noise canceling head phones on and 8 hours later I woke up to breakfast.


The food was good, there was plenty of it and they handed out all of these freebies like a kit with sleep masks, warm socks, tooth brush and paste. Dinner was served before I crashed and the wine was free! There was a bag of goodies and water to take with us as we exited the plane. The service was “cheerful” and expert. Qantas turned a boring tedious 11 hour flight into a very pleasant experience. It was a good way to start our trip.




HOTELS – Living in the old West!


“Lessons Learned” early in our bicycling adventures taught us to find a relaxing place in the “start town” to recover from a long airplane flight. In fact we plan at least one day on the way in and one day on the way home. It eliminates or reduces the fatigue that can reduce the enjoyment of a bicycle adventure. It is worth the added cost.


Our tour service booked our hotels for the bicycle ride. We could not find our hotel of choice in Auckland so we acquiesced to the tour service. The hotel room in Auckland was disappointing. We had reserved the “deluxe room” and it was less than basic. We asked for a change and they told us all they had was the regular. We looked at it, it was very small but we took it.


On the road my routine is to get up early in the morning, slip out of the room with my computer and consume “free” coffee in the lobby. The hotel offered breakfast at a price and no complimentary coffee in the lobby. Breakfast was a buffet, good selection but cold. Internet service was expensive. But I came to New Zealand to see the country not to visit a hotel in Auckland. We spent our days on the streets of Auckland.


The places we stayed in on the road were equal to or better than those we stay in when on the road in the States. The big difference is they do not provide “any” creature comforts free. No free breakfast. Most do not have restaurants. No free internet and the purchased internet service may be poor. Hotel transportation is non existent. They do not have elevators. Luggage has to be drug up the stairs to the room. TV is limited. In short do not expect anything more than a shower and a bed.


One of the most interesting aspects of our stay was that we washed our own dishes. All of the hotels we stayed in have kitchenettes. I would make instant coffee (this is not coffee to me) soiling a few dishes in the morning. I did not wash them until in one hotel a sign indicated we would be charged if dirty dishes were found! We washed them but how well? What about the people who washed my coffee cup? This was a bit scary because of the S1N1 flu and New Zealand had been hit hard by the flu!


The initial hotel experience in Auckland was the first indicator that New Zealand is still “cowboy” country. The attitude is much like the old west in the US when the philosophy is “God helps those who help themselves!”


“Lessons Learned” don’t trust the tour service to find a place where I want to stay because they are on a budget. Email the hotel and find out what they offer. If the hotel email indicates nothing is provided look around to see if I can afford a hotel that offers a “morning” cup of coffee.




LUGGAGE – Lessons Learned, bag it!


Luggage was a problem. The NZ Tour Agency allowed one suitcase. The suitcase I selected had a handle and rollers so I could get through the airport easily. I also choose a suitcase that provided one, “large” area for clothes.


Typically we stayed one night in each hotel. After a days ride we showered and dressed for dinner. After dinner we dressed for bed. The next morning I dressed in bike clothes and the “evening” clothes were returned to the suitcase. The task became how to organize the suitcase to allow clothes needed to support each day's activities to be found without unloading and loading the suitcase each day!


I decided to use nylon string tie bags of various sizes to pack my suitcase. I already used a three compartment, zipper bag to organize my electronics (camera charger, 115 to 220 converter, computer power cord, mouse, USB port, etc.). I had a black bag for my toilet kit.


I located a nylon bag large enough for my bike shirts, bike pants, long johns, rain pants, windbreaker, etc. I had a second “net” bag which I used for smaller bike gear; socks, leg warmers, arm warmers, wristbands, sweatband, sunscreen, Chamois Butter, etc. which I put inside the larger “bike clothes” bag. The net bag was easy to see into and, easy to see or feel in the larger bag. Once I developed the discipline to return everything I did not use back into the bike bags when I dressed for the cycling day each morning the arrangement was flawless.


I did not have bags large enough to separate my “dinner out” clothes from my PJs and I decided not to buy them until I had tested the idea. I packed my “dinner out” clothes along the bottom of the suitcase moving those being used to the top until they needed to be washed. The dirty items were rotated into a plastic laundry bag which I picked up from the first hotel in Auckland.


I packed my PJs on top each morning and removed them first each night to prevent any sleep deprivation. My shoes lived in plastic bags at the bottom of the suitcase were they were easily recognized my sight or feel.


The “bag separation idea” worked very well. It was easy to locate what was needed at night and organize the suitcase each morning. I plan to purchase nylon bags of various sizes for every “packing” category including laundry to support future trips.






Motorists are not bike friendly in the cities.  The streets are simply too narrow for the inclusion of a bike lane or a bike on the edge of the street in the cities.  Traffic can be heavy and a motorist is quickly frustrated by the speed and interference of the bike along the edge of the street. 


Bike lanes exist along the shoulder of a few city streets but they are rare and cannot be depended upon.  The width of the lane varies greatly and changes often.  It disappears suddenly on some streets.  The bike lane stops and becomes the car turn lane at an intersection.  The cyclist is expected to continue along the white line which marks the street side of the turn lane at the light. 


Most bridges in the city are narrow but they are two lane.  Or, at least all the bridges that I bicycled across had two lanes.  There is no bike lane because the lanes on the bridge are only wide enough for one car.  The bridges have “no” shoulder.  Cyclist and automobiles are expected to compete for the road. 


In Rotorua we asked a cyclist leaving the Kiwi habitat about the proper procedure to use to cross a bridge.  She was going our way and said “follow me.”  The habitat was on the outskirts of Rotorua and a bike path was provided to the bridge where it disappeared.  Riding behind the NZ native on her bike she moved to the center of the lane as we approached the bridge and crossed.  I assumed from her behavior that a cyclist is expected to seize control of the road when it is too narrow for both car and bike.  Note that the traffic was not heavy when we approached and took control of our lane on the bridge.  In heavy traffic this would be more interesting.


I saw no “one lane” streets in the cities.  Crosswalks could be half a mile apart. The option of “J” walking across a busy street with my bike was frustrating.  “J” walking with my bike across a street that was not busy was interesting.


The parking concept selected in most cities reduces the street width that could support a bike lane.  Parking on most streets is perpendicular to the street.  The driver cannot see the street from a parked car in the driver’s seat.  When backing out of a parking spot the left hand side of the road is consumed before a driver can see a bike on the street.  If the bike is close to the exit parking spot it can be a bit dicey.  On streets that did have parallel parking the street was too narrow to include a bike lane. 


Christchurch was the only city where I saw a number of cyclists on the streets.  I saw few cyclists in other places we stayed.  A few is defined as 0 or 1.  In Christchurch we saw 10 on the hill we climbed to view the city from the afternoon we arrived.  The next day 5 more cyclist were counted along the street driving to the airport.   






New Zealand created a road system to allow automobiles to travel on paved roads to reach “most areas” of the country.  During this infrastructure improvement the construction included only what was absolutely necessary to support the local population and the transport of goods and services in the country.  Bicycle considerations were not part of the plan.  The same happened in the states but we have been at it a few more years and the roads have evolved a bit more to make them bicycle friendly. This evolution is still in its infancy in New Zealand. 


The roads are narrow and most do not have “any” shoulder.  I would estimate 40% of turns do not have a shoulder and typically in undulating terrain on blind corners the shoulder is missing altogether.  In most places the edge of the road enters immediately into a ditch, soft sand or is rough.  The edge of the road cannot be expected to support a bike.  I would ride in New Zealand assuming that when I need the shoulder it will not be available and be prepared if a car appears.


Seventy-five percent of the bridges in the countryside are single lane.  Our tour guide told us “to ride in the middle of the bridge when we crossed.”  Do not give the motorist the idea that the car can squeeze by the bike on the bridge.  I am sure this is experience talking.


New Zealand is “cowboy country.” The New Zealand motorists are not friendly to cyclist.  The roads are narrow and bikes are in the way.  Cars do not move half-way across the center line to pass even when they can see that the road is clear some distance ahead.  Typically the cars only move to the center line and the narrow road leaves about 6 feet for cars and 3 feet for trucks to pass a bicycle on the edge of the road.  This is an uncomfortable distance.  


But New Zealand is a beautiful place to bicycle.  The country has paved roads to most of the areas I want to see.  I talked with a bike shop owner who told me the government and the New Zealand cyclist were discussing what could be done and many bike routes have been proposed and they were being funded.  New Zealand is worth seeing by bike.  Just be careful.   




 Bike Rental – Our New Zealand experience

We try hard to take the bicycles we train on at home with us on a bicycle ride. The cost of shipping our bicycles is offset by the possibility of spending the tour in the van because of physical problems created by a rental bike. 

I broke my rule for the New Zealand adventure because of the complexity and expense of shipping my bike. We rented the bikes from a bike shop recommended by the tour group we used for the New Zealand adventure.

We received an email which listed the bicycles available for rent. One option was a Trek. My bicycle is a trek. We read the technical information supplied in the email. We rented the Trek bicycles.

Another rule we follow is to take our clips and seats from the bicycles we train on with us on an adventure. My experience riding on the seat of a rental bike has been unpleasant and a bike seat can be easily carried in my luggage. My bike shoes require clips. Clips must be matched to bike shoes. Clips and shoes become compatible with use. A major cause of falling on a bicycle is the failure to clip out easily.

When we began our ride in New Zealand I found my Trek was not what I had expected. The bike was quite different. There was some difficult climbing on our route in New Zealand. It took two days to “begin” to understand the gear ratios so I was in the correct gear on a climb. Until I gained experience I was spinning in a low gear, or having to stand up in a high gear on a climb.

Luckily for me I had successfully coped with the learning curve after a few days and I was able to relax and enjoy New Zealand. And, equally important I made it through our 3 week trip without developing any physical problems.

Others on the tour who had not expected the climbing or did not understand the bikes they were renting did not select bikes to match the terrain and were forced to get off their bikes and ride up the hills in the van. As can be expected they were very unhappy.


Trip Insurance – Accident coverage for New Zealand Tourists

I have been concerned about “my” medical insurance coverage since we began bicycling overseas in 2000. We belong to an HMO located in California and I have been concerned if we would receive "immediate" medical treatment if we experienced a medical emergency.  And, what “costs” of the care we received would be covered by our HMO.  

We had a serious injury on our New Zealand adventure which provided us with a look at their national accident coverage for tourists. A young woman who was a member of our tour group suffered a serious injury on the third day of our tour in Rotorua. While taking pictures of one of the boiling pools in a park in the city her foot slipped into one of the hot pools. She was severely burned and lost most of the skin off the top of her foot. After partially covering her foot she and our guide pedaled back to the hotel and drove to the doctor.  

When we saw her at the end of the day her foot was bandaged and she was on crutches. The injury was serious enough that she could not ride but she did not want to go home. She had been given pain killers but attempted to hold off taking the medication until the pain became too great. 

Our guide told us as we continued our adventure that tourist in New Zealand are covered under a national health plan. I understood from the conversations that the service was free to tourist. Our guide told us that the health services would attempt to recover some of the cost for the treatment from the tourist’s medical plan but did not aggressively pursue reimbursement and most importantly did not hold off on immediate treatment.

We were on our third tour day when the injury occurred and she was taken to the doctor almost every day after completing our ride for treatment for the remainder of the trip. When we reached Wellington, the capitol, she went to the doctor to determine if she could continue on the trip. The doctors left it up to her and she opted to continue. 

She reported after her visits that she received excellent care. She had been in pain the first several days but slowly recovered to be able to ride briefly the last two days. After this experience I am now interested to find out how we handle tourist injuries in the US, both for tourist from other countries injured here and if I am injured when I am out of the US.  I also plan to follow up and inquire if the young woman injured in New Zealand was billed when she got back to Germany.


Month to Bicycle - When to ride in New Zealand 

My trip planning is driven by what is the cheapest deal I can get. But thrift should not be used to select the month for a bicycle ride. Comfort is the first rule for the selection of time of year. I have learned from experience that once the “best time to bicycle” is determined then savings come from early trip development and attention to detail. 

The best time to cycle is when the majority of the time the sun will be out and the temperature is not hot but tolerable, in the 70’s. I want to avoid the crowds or rather not be there when everyone else is in New Zealand because the number of cars on the road will be tolerable for cycling and I can compete for a place to stay at a reasonable price.  

I selected November for my New Zealand trip because the airfare was cheap. It is the last month of spring in New Zealand and being that close to summer should be dryer. Note that this may be true in west in the US but in the east rain can be guaranteed in June. After riding in New Zealand in November and talking with the locals about the weather I believe there are better choices.   

On our adventure we only lost one full day to rain. We had a bit of rain on two others days. On one of those days the ride was terminated. We were frozen by a rain storm on an off bike day when we were hiking. We were on the trip for 19 days so our trip was affected by rain about 15% of the time.

Note however that we did not have the experience of the bugs that I had read about on the web that were a nuisance. There is a lot of climbing in New Zealand and heat was not a problem in November. We had a great time and the country is beautiful and worth a visit. 

I asked our guide what he considered to be the best months to ride in New Zealand. He told me that December and January are filled with local and foreign tourist. He agreed with me and suggested they should be avoided. He said that February was New Zealand’s hottest months and the insects would be out in full force.

He suggested that March and April are the best months for the folks on a budget because the tourists have gone home and the weather is still supporting bicycling. I would take our guides advice and plan my trip for middle of March to the middle of April.


Lessons Learned – Learn by doing!  

After we return from a bicycle trip we make a list of the good and bad experiences to guide planning for the next adventure. The items addressed are about planning ones own New Zealand adventure verses hiring a New Zealand Tour.  

(a) New Zealand takes more than three weeks to visit. I would suggest 3 weeks for the North Island and three for the South Island. There is that much to see and experience and having flown all this way I want to experience it.

(b) I scheduled only the one afternoon in Christchurch. In that short time the atmosphere of Christchurch struck a cord with me. The number of cyclist I saw on the streets was very appealing. I am ignorant of sites to visit in the city but it deserves more than an afternoon. 

(c) Lessons Learned from an early trip was not to buy the airfare until the trip is fully planned. I should have followed this rule. I bought the airfare because of a great deal Qantas was running then finalized the planning. The plan forced me to change the dates of my purchased airfare and the cost for someone who is as frugal (cheap) as I am put a bit of a hole in my pride! Also the route plan did not allow us take our bicycles with us which is to be avoided.  

(d) We purchased a Tour to support our ride through New Zealand. But, (1) I believe three weeks are needed on each Island and no Tour Company can support that schedule because the cost to the folks who took the tour would be prohibitive. (2) We spent more time on the bus than on the bike. That was caused again by the fact that there was too much ground to cover and the Tour was racing to fit both islands into three weeks. (3) The Tour supplied “off bike” days to explore the sites in New Zealand. I was disappointed that the exploring took away from the cycling but I am sure that the Tour is populated with a number of folks who would rather site see than bicycle.   

(e) Because of (d) I believe that we should have planned our own Bike Tour of New Zealand

   (1) I know after my experience that it would be possible to plan one’s own bike adventure through New Zealand. I would start with the Lonely Planet book and put their routes together into a path that would allow me to bicycle through both islands.

   (2) Typically we use Tours only in places where we believe people who speak English will not be found when needed. New Zealand obviously does not present that problem.

  (3) The country is selling everything it can to tourist just like the rest of the world and trip expenses add up due to ignorance of what is being promoted. I would study the country and develop a plan of what to pay to see during the visit. There are numerous very interesting and free sites to visit in New Zealand. There is a “bit” of overselling sites which I did not find worth it.



"car free adventure"