Two days from Nelson to Picton, a break day while a wind storm passed (luckily spent with good friends), and five more days cycling to Blenheim and then across the island. We are finally in Westport and after today, a rest day, we’ll start our ride down the West coast.
As expected, knowing New Zealand’s reputation as a beautiful country, it’s been a gorgeous ride. Almost all the roads we’ve been on follow rivers with crystal clear water and most of our morning coffee has been enjoyed sitting by these rivers we follow.
The first day, the traffic was pretty intense. Large trucks, logging trucks, crazy kiwi drivers and tourists new to campervan driving. We quickly learned that there’s no sharing the lane for cyclists. You’re best to stay on your shoulder as most drivers are pretty comfortable racing past you at a frightening proximity. But since that first stretch of road, and as we entered more remote areas, the traffic has lessened and we’ve become used to the driving behavior. Aaron wrote about the traffic in a little more depth.
The island is small but very diverse. Just when you tire of the mountains, forests, valleys, seaside, wine country, more valleys, or jungly hills, the scenery changes. Though one thing I could never have enough of is the sheep. Luckily, they say there are 12 sheep to every person in New Zealand. I’d believe that.
Terrain-wise, the roads are in good condition though some are chip-sealed and the extra vibration can be a bit tiresome. Elevation-wise, aside from a few longer saddle climbs the first day, the riding has been pretty easy – just enough climb to wet the appetite.
And we’re eating well, of course : ) Supermarkets are few and far in between but we’ve found the roadside stores stock enough for a good meal, including a small produce section (limited selection but good quality), basics like sugar, spreads, cheese and meats and heavily pasteurized cream (good for transporting on bikes), as well as many treats, baked goods and of course, meat pies.
We read about the pies before our trip and Aaron was quite excited, as they had been a major food source for him on a previous bike tour in Scotland. Our first New Zealand pies were eaten in St Arnaud, a small mountain town we reached cold and wet on our only rainy day thus far. It was more delicious than I could have imagined: flaky, hot and buttery. This will not be my last meat pie.
We’re now staying at a lovely hostel in Westport, camping in the backyard and enjoying the luxuries of laundry, Internet, and fridges. It’s nice to rest, to have waken up this morning and not have to pack, though still, I’m eager for our ride next to the ocean. Though at least it’s been a break from the sand fleas and other stingy pests (follow the link for a funny story).