Cycling New Zealand Part 4: Sandfly-Territory

Haast Pass

Haast Pass

Cycling New Zealand Part 4: Sandfly-Territory

Country: New Zealand

From Luggate to Haast

Lesson learned: If you want to see green rainforest, you have to suffer rain

Laughed about: A daytrip for a burger

Most wonderful miracle: Plenty of other travel cyclists

Greatest challenge: The rollercoaster to Queenstown

Days on the bike: 3

Kilometers cycled: 166.7

Average Kilometers per day: 55.57

Total Kilometers cycled till Luggate: 17.787

As much as we enjoyed the cheap camping in Luggate, we were not quite impressed with the behavior of some of the ruthless campers. Next to our tent, the walls of empty beer boxes, thrown chairs and half empty wine bottles grew with every night. Party was on day and night. Nevertheless we stayed for two nights, because Roberto wanted to go to Queenstown. The reason for his visit was neither the beautiful landscape, nor the thousands of outdoor activities, but a hamburger restaurant. We had tried the Fergburger on a previous visit and Roberto, who spent half his childhood in the USA, has claimed their burgers as the best ones, he had ever eaten.

Hitching a Ride to Burger Heaven

Hitching a Ride to Burger Heaven

But neither Roberto nor I felt like cycling a high pass twice with a total of 140 kilometers, so we decided to leave the bikes and hitch a ride. A nice roofer named Andy took us to the big crossroad, where a large motorhome stopped. It was filled with young Brazilian students who spent their spring break in New Zealand. None of the girls had ever driven such a big vehicle, so Marianna, the bravest, is chosen to be learning by doing. It was a wild trip. The water canisters swept from one side of the caravan to the other, drawers opened and closed themselves and a ladder nearly fell of the wall, before we had even reached the highest point.

I tried to stare out of the window to avoid travel sickness. The girls turned up the music, sang, laughed and chatted. It was a happy and fun ride, but also a bit scary. More fun than fear. Just like in a rollercoaster. When we drove down the tight zigzag, two of the girls decided that it was time for a snack. They got up and walked around the moving motorhome and opened all cupboard doors in search for the muesli bars.

Despite their great energy and enthusiasm I was happy when we all reached Queenstown alive.

30 Minutes Line NO PROBLEM

30 Minutes Line NO PROBLEM

During our ride we had convinced the girls and also the caravan of young Brazilian men, that drove jut behind us, to join the 45 minute queue with us and try a burger.

Fergburger Order

Fergburger Order

Our taste buds assured us, that this was worth the effort. After a short walk through town, we hiked up six kilometers to the crossroad with the main road, where Anna stopped for us. She lived with her husband and three kids in Albert Town, very close to Luggate, and asked if we were keen to take the scenic route through Cromwell, as the little car might have troubles with the steep climb. Scenic route sounds awesome!

I WANT TO EAT NOW

I WANT TO EAT NOW

Hamburger Heaven

Hamburger Heaven

Along the way, Anna explained us everything about the old Chinese gold mining village that was built as caves into the rocks surrounding a river. In winter it must have been freezing cold here. Later she showed us the wine fields and explained, how sometimes in winter, helicopters flew low over the plants to avoid frost. As we passed Lake Dunstan, she told us how this reservoir had flooded an entire village. The village, Cromwell, was reconstructed just a few kilometers further and is now famous for its oversized fruit statues. We had so good talks, the ride was over in no time.

Ana Writing in our Pannier

Anna writing on our panniers

By the next morning we cycled half way to Wanaka, where we realized that we had left our kitchen bag in the fridge. Roberto offered to fetch it, while I wrote my diary. Wanaka has always been one of our very favorite towns in New Zealand, but today we barely had time enough to get plenty of groceries, because there wouldn’t be much more than little “dairies” (convenience stores) on the way. But how could we not enjoy some quick fish and chips at the beautiful lakeside?

Goodbye Wanaka

Goodbye Wanaka

It was the afternoon when we reached Anna’s place in Albert Town, where we were invited for a tea. Anna’s sister and her kids had come for a visit and we talked for over an hour. When we reached a Holiday Park just before sunset, I had counted no more than 32 kilometers (Roberto counted more, for his kitchen bag ride).

Ana´s Family

Ana´s Family

As so often, the Holiday Park cost hefty $32, but with several signs all over that strictly forbade wild camping, what other choice did we have? It was too late in the day to look out for a really well hidden place and also, we didn’t want to be disrespectful. Most probably there was some good reason for all those signs.

Wanaka

Wanaka beach

Well, at least we had showers, a kitchen room, a playground (yeah) and sea view.

When I just wanted to go to sleep, Roberto invited me to walk with him down to the lake. The moon had just risen and its reflections in the deep black lake were so bright, that we had just as much light as during the day. On our left the vertical cliffs surrounded the lake, on our right the lights of Lake Hawea village were reflected by the lake. Not a single camper bawled, on the contrary, a young man quietly played the guitar, a Dutch couple enjoyed the romantic views on a small bench by the lake and a family from Hong Kong cuddled their dogs. It felt so peaceful and beautiful.

Dancing in the Moonlight

Dancing in the Moonlight

It was a windy morning when we followed Lake Hawea towards „the neck“. The road was quite narrow and windy and with the strong headwind we had to be particularly careful.

Heading towards "The Neck"

Heading towards “The Neck”

We climbed “the neck” in between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka and kept following Lake Wanaka into a little flat plain. Shortly afterwards we reached Mount Aspiring National Park and everything changed.

Immediately the land turned much greener

Immediately the land turned much greener

The farmland disappeared and we found ourselves in a big forest with huge trees that grew all the way into the road. Birds chirped loudly the air got more humid, the heavy winds disappeared and the trees provided shade.

The Green West Coast

Riding in the the green West Coast

Today we had met one group of six cyclists, two of three and several solo cyclists. This was record day! Not even in the cyclists’ hub of Uzbekistan had we encountered so many other travel cyclists. Everybody else rode downhill, enjoyed tailwinds and waved happily while we had trouble keeping the handlebar straight and the bikes moving.

Six Cyclists

Six Cyclists

We spent the night on a DOC Campsite, but stopped at the entry to rub plenty of mosquito repellent onto ourselves. The Westcoast’s sandflies had found their way up here and we didn’t want to be their dinner. Sandflies are midges, that lived anywhere with high humidity, shade, not too much wind and some water or fog – not only in the sand. They only got their name for their small size.

Green greenishness

Green greenishness

moss in the New Zealand rainforest

Even greener and wetter

The picnic bench was occupied and when I saw the empty wine bottles I decided to back off quickly. The experiences in Luggate were still fresh. But Roberto was faster. He had already started a conversation with the group and helped to build a campfire. Fortunately who we had encountered weren’t drunk 20-year old kids, but two nice families with children. We spent a really nice evening with them. No lout bawling tonight. Lucky us.

DOC Heaven

DOC Heaven

The following day was Easter Sunday and the kids shared their Easter hunt chocolate with us! We shared cashew nuts and freshly found walnuts from a public tree.

It's always cloudy somewhere in the rainforest

It’s always cloudy somewhere in the rainforest

The road led us deeper into the rainforest. We found ourselves right inside a cloud and the road was wet and slippery. But soon we started to climb and left the cloud behind us. Traffic was not too bad, but the mosquito repellent squeezed the sweat out of every pore and prevented it from drying off with the wind. I was drenched and the sweat dropped off my nose and eyebrows. When we reached the Haast Pass, I needed a break. From now on it was mostly downhill all the way to the sea.

Gates of Haast

Gates of Haast

The Haast Highway, that led through the Mount Aspiring National Park, was organized by the DOC and we read plenty of information booths at the many rest spots. Where’s the next toilet? How long does this hike take? What other hikes are around? Where can I pitch my tent? How did these mountains form? It was all written there. The DOC seriously did a great job (PDF) there.

On the way to the waterfalls

On the way to the waterfalls

Waterfall on the Haast Pass road

Waterfall on the Haast Pass road

We walked to two waterfalls and underneath the „Gates of Haast“ bridge, before we took a break at another great DOC Campsite. I couldn’t get enough of the steep rich green hills with their fog and clouds.

Gates of Haast bridge

Gates of Haast bridge

Roberto wanted to have a closer look

Roberto wanted to have a closer look

It reminded me a lot of Southern China and parts of Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. But when I had a closer look, I realized, that apart from the many trees, there were numerous types of fern and moss, while South East Asia mostly had large plants with big wavy leaves.

Good Times with the Family´s

Good Times with the Families

It was only 20 kilometers before we reached the Westcoast and the drizzle began. Not only is the Westcoast famous for its sandflies and their bites that itched for up to two weeks, no, most Kiwis also associate it with heavy and enduring rains. The winds press clouds onto the island from the west. The clouds get squeezed against the Southern Alps and lose most of their water so they can rise, cross the Alps and provide them with plenty of snow.

Why is New Zealands's West Coast so rainy?

Climate in New Zealand. We were just there, where it said “Heavy Rain”

Ferns

Ferns

Fern Palm Tree

Fern Palm Tree

When they reach the other side, there usually isn’t much rain left in them. That’s why we had such great weather cycling the Alps2Ocean cycling trail. We heard the waterfalls before we even saw them. In fact I doubt that we would have ever spotted them in a car. We crossed numerous rivers and creeks with creative names like “Mossy Creek”, “Sheepskin Creek” and “Muddy Creek” and cycled past mossy rock walls that looked like giant sponges. So I assume if we want to admire all this beauty we’d have to suffer a bit of rain.

You Shall not HAAST!

You Shall not HAAST!

Waterfall near Haast Pass

Waterfall near Haast Pass

At night we reached the village Haast, where we had three options: a backpacker’s hostel with camping for $32, a Holiday Park with pricier campsites and a DOC Campsite 50 Kilometers in the wrong direction. We choose option one and spent the evening in the cozy warm public room equipped with sofas, TV, kitchen and dishes.

Climbing the Pass

Climbing the Pass

After 3 Kilometers we stopped at the DOC offices to ask for the weather forecast. There was a severe storm warning and some hiking trails had been closed due to the storm. We were a bit behind our schedule. Camping in the rain is not a problem, but camping out during a storm, that’s another story. We decided to return to the backpackers, hang our wet tent in the garage and book two dorm beds. The rain powered down and we sat inside, ate mini pizzas and watched TV.

Wirklich außergewöhnlich schöne Straße

Wirklich außergewöhnlich schöne Straße

 

 

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