Cycling New Zealand Part 5: Human versus seagull

Riding in the West Coast New Zealand

Riding in the West Coast New Zealand

Cycling New Zealand Part 5: Human versus seagull

Country: New Zealand

From Haast to Greymouth

Lesson learned: Somebody has to feed the sandflies

Laughed about: How an “actual shop” with several shelves nearly brought us tears of joy

Most wonderful miracle: Ice cold Budweiser

Greatest challenge: Having breakfast ourdoors

Days on the bike: 5 and half an hour

Kilometers cycled: 346

Average Kilometers per day: 69.2

Total Kilometers cycled till Greymouth: 18,127

Cycling New Zealand: Cycling the West Coast from Haast to Greymouth

For the first time in New Zealand we enjoyed the pleasures of a dorm bed for each of us. The reason was a weather warning by the Department of Conversation (DOC). And while we sat inside and watched TV in the communal area, the storm began to howl. We were more than happy not to be searching for a place to pitch the tent right now.

Cycling New Zealand along the West Coast

Cycling New Zealand along the West Coast

Unfortunately our roommate snored and farted all night and the mosquitos had already besieged the fortress before our arrival. That wouldn’t have happened in the tent. But in the tent we would have probably swum away with all that rain.

Annika Riding in the West Coast

Annika riding in the West Coast

By the following morning the road was wet and the mossy sponge-like rocks on the side of the street seemed more like waterfalls. The poor sandflies had stayed hungry all night long and were attacking worse than ever before. Well and somebody had to feed them.

NZ West Coast

A road with a view

Roberto

Roberto

I biked in the front functioning as Roberto’s private shield, so they chose me instead for breakfast. But the game worked well the other way round too. I ate five sandflies, one died inside my eye and several got lost in my nose and ears. They won all the same. Despite all those layers of repellent, by the end of the day I looked like a windshield after two days on the freeway.

Green all the Way!

Green all the Way!

At first the road was nice and flat and we even saw the sea once or twice, then the road started winding up into the rainforest. There were several types of fern covering the floor, moss and plants with small leaves covered the stems of the trees. In fact, many of the trees were ferns on stems! Now I understand, why the Kiwis think about changing the New Zealand flag into a Silverfern.

Fern Ferns Ferns

Fern Ferns Ferns

New Zealand fern

And the are indeed beautiful

In the afternoon we stopped at a beautiful DOC campsite. But the weather was so good, we just couldn’t waste one of those rare blue-sky days on the Westcoast. We spent quite a while chatting to Javiera and Miguel from Chile who lived in Fox Glacier township with Working Holiday Visas. Today was their day off.

Rest stop at the beautiful DOC Campsite. Never seen so many sandflies before

Rest stop at the beautiful DOC Campsite. Never seen so many sandflies before

Every now and then we could watch all the way down to the sea

Every now and then we could watch all the way down to the sea

For the last 20 Kilometers we cycled real fast. In the village Bruce Bay, we met a man with a long grey beard and muscle shirt driving a lawnmower. His name was Tony and he told us to ask his wife Lynda about our camping options.

Foggy roads on the New Zealand West Coast

Foggy roads

Lynda invited us right away to pitch our tent on their freshly mowed lawn and join them for dinner. She was an excellent fast food chef and prepared some delicious fries and fried mussels. It is not the first time for Tony, Lynda and her mother Mary, that strangers asked them for help. In fact, they even started a visitor’s log.

Tony, Lynda and Me

Tony, Lynda and Me

Lynda and Annika

Lynda and Annika

Usually Lynda, Mary and Tony lived in the North Island, but for whitebait season they moved down south every year and stayed for several months.

Whitebait is the culinary delight on the Westcoast. Every September plenty of people come to hold their nets in the water to catch plenty of the little baby fish. The excess fish is frozen and sold as patties.

White Stones in Bruce Bay

Thousands of white stones just outside of Bruce Bay. One of them was ours now.

Lynda even packed us three zip lock bags of her dehydrated vegetables, so we would always have some healthy food.

The next day started out drizzly. The clouds were everywhere – in the trees, on the fields, right around us. When we reached the Fox Glacier exit, the drizzle had still not improved.

The beach just a little North of Bruce Bay

The beach just a little North of Bruce Bay

Bruce Bay beach in the morning fog

Looks even more mystic to the other side

Sometimes clouds and rain can ruin a beautiful view. Nevertheless we decided to take the exit. It was only a 4 km (uphill) ride and half an hour walk to the Glacier Viewpoint. Maybe it would be dryer up there.

Misty Road

Misty Road

So while we were walking through rocks and over creeks, I heard a giggle on my side. I turned around and saw a grey man with sweat beads in his face. He breathed heavily slowly setting one foot in front of the other. “Is this the way up to the summit?” he asked. “Yes, it’s only four more days of walking!” “Well, then let’s hope that they have a McDonalds up there”. His long white beard jumped up and down while the man nearly died of laughter about his own joke.

Roberto crosses a river

Roberto’s shoes had given up their work many days ago. Now he had to be careful not to walk over humid areas.

The cardboard Ranger  at Fox Glacier

The cardboard Ranger gives good advice.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

His name was Pappy Mellon and back home in the USA he was quite famous for his Bluegrass Music. 25 years ago he and his wife had met a kiwi couple, who had invited them to come and visit someday. The four had stayed in contact ever since and now they have finally met again.

Papy Mellon

Pappy Mellon

When we reached the viewpoint, the weather had cleared up perfectly. We weren’t allowed to walk all the way without a guide, but we had a great view to the big glacier that was surrounded by rainforest.

Fox Glacier Closeup

This is glacier ice!

We walked back to the parking with Pappy and his friends. He seemed to like us, because he disappeared in his motorhome and came back with one of his original CDs and two ice cold Budweiser beers! Wow!

Pappy Mellon in New Zealand

Roberto couldn’t be happier!

Awesome Bike Path up to the Fox Glacier

Awesome Bike Path up to the Fox Glacier

We were about to open the beers when we realized that we had still not eaten anything all day. Instead of the road, we followed the beautiful and very well maintained rainforest bike path, which led us through plenty of fern and trees into “Fox”.

End of the Glacier Access Road

End of the Glacier Access Road

The Fox Glacier was definitely worth the ride and the hike.

The Fox Glacier was definitely worth the ride and the hike.

Fox, that’s how the locals called the Fox Glacier Township. Since Wanaka we didn’t have phone reception for a while, but now it finally came back. And right at top: a message from Javiera and Miguel, inviting us to spend the night at theirs. Great! We waited for them in a bar, where we ordered beers and then secretly refilled them with still cold Budweiser.

Fox Glacier Parking

Fox Glacier Parking

Fox Glacier New Zealand

Fox Glacier New Zealand

The Colors of the Glacier Lakes

The Colors of the Glacier Lakes

Cycling Fox Glacier

Leaving Fox Glacier

Back to Fox Township through the Rainforest Drive

Back to Fox Township through the Rainforest Drive

Biking through the rainforest from Fox Glacier

Biking through the rainforest from Fox Glacier

Do you remember Richard from England, who we had met in Australia? Well, turns out he was biking through New Zealand as well now and arriving to Fox by the next day. So we all cooked, met the nice English flatmate Sarah, and talked about life in the small town of Fox, where everybody knew everybody.

Classic Cyclists Jumping Picture

Classic Cyclists Jumping Picture

The following morning was very grey and not too inviting. So we slowly packed our things, had a late and long breakfast, we just took a bit longer for everything, hoping that the sky would turn blue any moment. It didn’t. Instead it got worse. By the moment that I had climbed my saddle, the first really loud lightning and thunder appeared. It was still a few Kilometers away and we were prepared with our rain pants and rain jackets. It was only 25 kilometers from Fox to the Franz Joseph Glacier Township (short: Franz). But those few kilometers were so hilly that they took quite a while. During one steeper climb I was actually appreciated the rain. Under a hot sun I would have suffered more going uphill.

Chile, Mexico, Alemania y un Ingles

Chile, Mexico, Germany and English. If we all walked into a bar, we could make a good joke.

Franz was a bigger town than Fox and there was even an actual shop with several shelves and food that was a little closer to real-life prices. Yet it was far more than we had spent during our travel in Eurasia. We paid $17.58 for our lunch snack and another $32.83 for more food for the way. No matter how hard we try to compare prices and live cheaply, we never made it under an average of $50 per day. Back in Eurasia that was on average €13 including all kinds of repairs and visas, that we didn’t have to worry for here. Well, but we did need to eat and sleep.

We ate our chicken sandwiches outside, because the rain had just stopped. For a moment we considered cycling back a few kilometers to see the Franz Joseph Glacier, but the rain returned and we didn’t see the point.

Rain Rain Rain

Rain Rain Rain

Hard to se my Speedometer in the Rain

Hard to see my bike computer in the rain

Drenched

Drenched

I am Drenched

Drenched too

This part of the road was much less hilly and the dense rainforest started to make space for farmland and fields. It had been raining heavily for quite some time, when we reached Whakaroa (a Maori name; in Maori “Wh” is pronounced “f”). We were drenched as much as our tent, because with all that rain we never had the chance to unpack and dry it during the day. In Whakaroa there was a hotel with $60 double rooms. By far the best price I had seen in the entire New Zealand. But they also offered Camping for $8, including the toilet, but excluding the shower. Yet that’s even cheaper than the DOC Campsites.

Beer and Meals

Beer and Meals. And also cheap camp spots. We’re in.

The moment we decided to spend the night was also the moment the rain stopped. We pitched the tent anyways and went inside the hotel pub, because it was too early to sleep. Inside we decided that it was time for a beer, and while I was sipping mine, I got curious about this whole whitebait thing. So I ordered a Whitebait-Sandwich for whooping $12. In my mind I imagined a big grilled baguette with plenty of little fish on lettuce and mayo. In real life I was served two unroasted slices of white toast with an omelet thin as a crepe. A few baby fishes were mixed into the egg. I peeled one out and ate it by himself. It was good. But the entire thing just tasted like toast with a bit of egg. They didn’t even bring the lemon slice that was announced in the menu. Roberto and I looked at each other and started to burst in laughter.

Warm Pub Food and Bear

Warm Pub Food and Beer

I started to chat with some of the elder men and learned everything there was to know about local gossip and news. They now had a policeman working in town. He was from Auckland and had just moved here. Everybody was curious on how he would cope with this place. And his neighbor Dougal was thinking of returning home to Ireland. The men then talked about the good old times when the train lines went all the way down to Ross and not only to Greymouth. In those times, there was once a day when snow fell. Everybody ran out of their houses. Somebody took a picture of the snowy hotel. It still hung in the hallway.

Futile attempt to dry socks

Futile attempt to dry socks

It was dry most of the night, but not dry enough to dry our clothes and shoes. Unfortunately somebody closed the back and front door and we were stuck with no bathroom for the morning. Plus humid clothes. Fortunately the day was only grey, but not wet. And except for Mount Hercules (sounds worse than it was) the ride wasn’t really hard. We stopped in Harihari and met four other cyclists. Two just arrived when the other two left. It seemed to always be the dry Saturdays when we meet many other cyclists.

Cycling the West Coast

The West Coast

We stopped to ask a nice elderly couple about the conditions of a side road that we had seen in the map. They highly recommended the road. We finally biked off the main road. There weren’t many small roads on the Westcoast and mostly we had to stick to the one highway. So we really enjoyed the short time on the gravel road and finally were so close to the sea that we could even hear it. Due to all the bushes we still couldn’t see it though.

Really nice views at the DOC Campsite

Really nice views at the DOC Campsite

DOC Campsite on the lake

DOC Campsite on the lake

Early in the morning

Early in the morning

Looking out for Kiwis. Non appeared.

Looking out for Kiwis. None appeared.

Roberto explored the lakeside

Roberto explored the lakeside

We spent the night at another DOC Campsite and prepared everything for the heavy rain that was said to pour down in the morning. At sunrise it was still dry, so we quickly grabbed all our things and cycled to Hokitika.

Ride on Sumo

Ride on Sumo

We were happy to find a supermarket there and bought chicken, bread, cheese, juice and chocolate, that we brought through the heavy wind to the beach. Half my coffee splashed over my arm, when I tried to mount my bike in the wind. Hokitika’s beach is quite famous and we decided that if it was too cold to swim and too windy to walk, we should at least have breakfast there.

The Westcoast Wilderness Trail led us right into Hokitika

The Westcoast Wilderness Trail led us right into Hokitika

As we sta there, thying to place heavy items like the jam glass and the honey, onto lighter items like spoons, cheese and paper, the first seagulls approached us. They screamed loudly and while two of them balanced in the wind above our heads as if they were hanging lamps, another four approached from underneath the table, trying to steal their breakfast.

Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Beach

I didn’t care. I was very hungry and finally wanted to eat. I was pushing a piece of chicken into by bread with the one hand and trying to keep to seagulls in bay with the other hand, the first big raindrop landed on the table. Within seconds we found ourselves in a very heavy rain. Without our rain pants of course.

Dangerous Wind

Dangerous Wind

A minute later we stood under the only roof nearby: the toilet building, held the – now cold – chicken and all other food items and tried to reach the rain pants that were packed all the way down in one of these bags.

I was so hungry that I decided to eat here and now, but Roberto convinced me to bike to a café and beg them into giving us the outside-table if we bought something from them. They even let us sit inside and the team was very nice and chatty.

Amongst the Ferns

Amongst the Ferns

Sheep! In New Zealand? nahh never

Sheep! In New Zealand? Nahh never

Finally we had our breakfast and continued through the heavy rain. The wind blew just as strong as all morning, but it blew right from the sea and didn’t affect us too much. Our plan had been to follow the beautiful West Coast Wilderness Biketrail, but with this weather we changed plans and just followed the highway again and only hopped on the bike track where it was close to the road.

Reunion with Ritz at Greymouth Holiday Park!

Reunion with Ritz at Greymouth Holiday Park!

In Greymouth we met my friend Ritsuko. I had been rolling Sushi with her for the past year, but her main job was to learn to be a nurse. For an internship they had sent her here and she had booked a cabin in a holiday park, that was big enough for the three of us.

IMG_5333

Our great friend Ritsuko

 

Ritsuko had prepared a delicious Japanese curry for us! That was just what we needed now: a warm place, great talks and hot curry.

 

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