Cycling New Zealand Part 3: Glacier lakes and Campervans

Arriving to Mt Cook Village

Arriving to Mt Cook Village

Cycling New Zealand Part 3: Glacier lakes and Campervans

Country: New Zealand

From Mount Cook Village (Aoraki) to Luggate

Lesson learned: Ever looking for a German? Just visit a New Zealand Campsite

Laughed about: Gerd believes that we’re travelling light

Most wonderful miracle: An anonymous farmer who offers his field to campers

Greatest challenge: Ruthless campers

Days on the bike: 3

Kilometers cycled: 203.39

Average Kilometers per day: 67.8

Total Kilometers cycled till Luggate: 17.620

Half a year ago we had briefly visited the Mount Cook National Park with Roberto’s family. Now we were back and ready to explore. The camping ground was packed. Most people didn’t even bother bringing a tent.

A2O Mount Cook

The last few kilometers on the A2O

Somehow in New Zealand the “Working Holiday Experience” usually means buying a cheap car or van that functions as mode of transportation, sleeping room and kitchen at once. Without rent to pay, it’s easier to look for a job. By the end of the experience the van is sold again for a slightly cheaper price.

Gletschersee mit kleinen Eisschollen

Glacier Lake with little ice pieces

Can't complain

Can’t complain

The most fortunate ones are the tourists in motorhomes. That’s because motorhomes have a toilet and therefore count as “self-contained”. Self-contained vehicles are allowed overnight in many areas, where camping in a tent is forbidden.

At Camp White Horse

At Camp White Horse

Many companies rented Campervans. They were big enough to live in them, but still small enough to keep the romantic status of “living in your car” rather than in a luxury motorhome. During the following month, Roberto and I would try to spot as many Campervans with the name “Camper” in them, as we could. Happy Campers, Hippie Campers, Wicked Campers, Tui Campers, Freedom Campers, Kiwi Campers, Euro Campers, Kea Campers, Apollo Camper, and Mighty Campers were some of them.

Wanderweg zum Hooker Valley

Perfect hiking train to the Hooker Valley

But the White Horse Campground was open for everybody – even for us. It was one of the Camping Areas that the Department of Conservation (DOC) had installed. DOC campgrounds range from very simple (only a grassy area) and free to big places with shower and playground for $15 per person. Most places were about $6 per night per person and always had a toilet block. Some campgrounds also came with a little roof for shelter. For $10 the Whitehorse even had garbage containers and an indoor shelter.

Nettes Hüttchen. Hier kann man bei schlechtem Wetter unterkommen

Bad-weather shelter on the way through the Hooker Valley

Blick aus der Hütte

View from the hut

I approached the registration booth, grabbed a paper, wrote the number of people, arrival and departure date, as well as our names and addresses, added a $20 bill, put it into an envelope and inserted it into the box. Depending on how remote a camp ground is, a ranger would come every now and then, check on campers and facilities and pick up the money.

Towards Mount Cook

Towards Mount Cook

It had been a tough ride up here and I laid down on the picnic blanket. The great time on the awesome Alps2Ocean Cycletrail had tired us both. All I heard around me were German voices. Mostly people younger than me. I think I have never seen as many German tourists in one spot before.

Ein weiterer Gletschersee

Another Glacier Lake

Two German cyclists that we had met one day earlier, told me that the ranger said there were only three New Zealand citizens on the campground, most other people were from Argentina, Australia, the USA and Europe. Mostly Germans.

Our Friend Gerd

Our Friend Gerd and us at a glacier lake

We spent two nights at the Whitehorse, hiked a lot, enjoyed the warm sunshine, saw glaciers, glacier lakes, mountains, rivers and flowers. Twice we got accompanied by our good friend Gerd, whom we had met back in Kyrgyzstan in 2012. Gerd was currently cycling through Australia and picked New Zealand to be the place of his visa run. We enjoyed the time with good old Gerd, who by the way carries nearly as many kilos of baggage by himself, as we do between the two of us!

Wandern im Mount Cook

Gerd is not a hiking fan. But even he enjoyed the great trails and views in Mount Cook National Park

We couldn't get enough

We couldn’t get enough

Schmeckt ein bisschen nach Geröll - frisches Gletscherwasser

For days the river water had tasted a bit sandy and stony. It was glacier water and the huge and heavy glacier had rubbed stone particles into the water. We didn’t care – at least it was clean.

The days passed in a flash and before we even knew it, we were back on the bikes. The rocky paths of the Alps2Ocean Bikepath had been both stunning and exhausting. Now we were happy to be back on smooth asphalt. It was a grey and drizzly day and the 67 ½ kilometers down to Twizel took no time at all. Today’s average speed was 18 km/h!

Cycling around Lake Pukaki

We rode along the other side of Lake Pukaki towards Twizel

In Twizel we stayed for a few days with our friends Stu and Shell. Roberto cooked Mexican food for everybody and we talked about their awesome jobs. If you ever happen to consider to ride parts of the Alps2Ocean we highly recommend you to talk to them. At the Jollie Biker It is their job to find accommodation, organize transports, rent bikes and provide food for tours of any size and length.

Michelle and Stu´s House

Michelle and Stu´s House

As so often we failed to leave the house before noon. First we rode back to Omarama, but this time we followed the main road. Today several other travelling cyclists were on the road. We spent our lunch break with 75-year old Murray, who was hiking the Te Araroa trail with stops for mountain biking. His wife toured nearby in their camping bus and every couple of days, when Murray reached a paved road, they met again.



On the way up to Lindis Pass, the sun came back. The pass was just below 1000 meters and the first 20 kilometers were a very soft climb, which we hardly even noticed. Just before the pass the road got tighter, rockier, the cliff on the side crumblier and the drivers more adventurous. We cycled highly concentrated and reached the viewing platform soaked in sweat.

Cycling Lindis Pass

Lindis Summit

View from the Lindis Pass

View from the Lindis Pass

The downhill was long and relaxing. After 90 kilometers we reached the point that another cyclist had promised us: a private camping field. There was a small sign on the gate with fading letters: “Campers Welcome!” and back in the field we even found a little outhouse and two tree stub stools.

Campers Welcome

Campers Welcome


Outhouse number one

Outhouse with no walls

Szenic Outhouse number two

It was a calm night and we slept comfortably on all the soft grass. Along the way I had started to stop at wild apple and pear trees, and today I spotted a beauty of a tree! Of course all the big apples were high up in the treetop, but yet I picked a five delicious red beauties.



In Tarras we stopped for ice cream and visited the Shrek museum. Shrek is the name of New Zealand’s most famous merino sheep. He had disappeared for several years, only to return with wool far heavier than his own body weight. He was shorn live in TV. Shrek was so famous, his wool was enough for 20 large men’s suits and Icebreaker even knitted him a coat out of – of course – merino wool. For his tenth birthday he was brought to meet New Zealand’s Prime Minister!

Shrek the Sheep

Shrek the Sheep

From Tarras it was a short ride to Luggate, where we pitched our tent on the cricket field. For $5 per night and person we had warm showers (at least for the first three or four people), to fridges and plugs to charge electronics. The three things that we sometimes missed on DOC Campsites.

Arriving to Camp Chaos

Arriving to Camp Chaos

What we did not quite appreciate was the other campers’ ruthlessness. One girl used the entire day’s hot water for herself (showers are supposed to take 5 minutes, but she took 20), and another guy used all plugs at once to charge his huge bag of electronics.

Roberto cycling over a bridge

Nearly there

Manchmal wünsche ich mir ein Faltrad und ein aufblasbares Kanu

Sometimes I wish we rode folding bikes and had brought an inflatable canoe

The worst was a group of young Working Holiday kids in their early 20s and late teen years, who spent the night outside singing, laughing and bawling loudly. At 3 am I was wide awake for the fifth time and I was raving with fury. In my red dotted pajama shorts, sleepy hair and hiking boots I walked over, nearly stumbled over a pile of beer cans and wine bottles and started yelling at them. Despite my sleepy look, my presence had its effect. The kids went to bed and I had another few calm hours of sleep.

Luggate $5 Camping

Camp Chaos next door



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  1. Guys well done! Good to see you are still on the road! Followed you from the start!

    • Hi Martin,
      yes New Zealand has just been a wonderful travel. We’ll stay on the road for a bit longer 🙂 Always happy to hear from you! All the best from Annika and Roberto

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