Australasia | New Zealand – New Zealand Abridged (the fast read)
As I have not been able to post any entries for the past few weeks due to early closing hours, internet stations that won’t accept jetflashes or discs, or bad connections due to the storms, Ive created an abridged and extended remix version of this entry for those in a hurry or those who want the nitty gritty details. This is the abridged version of my recent thoughts on travelling in New Zealand. Feel free to send me a message through this site.
Feeling the suns heat or the cool of the rain on your skin, the wind in your face, and the cold in your bones are just some of the aspects of nature that impact us everyday. Sometimes when we travel, we feel them more.
Relishing the joy of laughter when cracking a joke with friends or newly made acquaintances, dealing with the frustrations of mislaid plans, miscommunications, or differences in cultural norms, enduring mutual miseries, reveling in moments of delight and unexpected pleasant surprises, are elements of life that we also share almost everyday. Sometimes when we travel, we remember them more.
Here in New Zealand, the elements are having their day, and their night.
I began cycling on February 10th after spending four days in Christchurch. The first day was a 45 km ride to Wanaka. The next was a 150 km ride over the Haast Pas, and it was a day when I mused on the differences between cycling and doing the bus and truck or rental transport tour. Differences such as being able to hear the waterfalls on the sides of the road, or feeling the freshness in the air, or being able to stop on a bridge and take a picture or just relax for a moment enjoying the views. Other differences such as being able to smell and closely inspect the roadkill of countless possums, rabbits, hedgehogs and birds, or being overwhelmed by the stench of a transport carrying 350 something slightly stressed sheep as it whooshes by with a lingering cloud that you can taste are not some of the better differences, but they are part of the greater experience.
After the long day’s ride, it was just barely still daylight on arrival in Haast and Aaron had cooked up a healthy serving of pasta. Thank you Aaron! Thats just one of the elements of friendship that means more after a long hard day of riding.
The next morning, the B.O.B.’s, Lannie, Aaron, and I headed out together for Lake Paringa and a night of camping. On the way, we stopped at Ship Creek Beach, were devoured by the notoriously voracious sand flies, had a nice picnic lunch and saw dolphins leaping in the surf. Lannie spotted them first, and had we not delayed and delayed ourselves, we would never have seen them.
The next morning, after about an hour on the road, the rain eased off, giving us a rather pleasant seventy something kilometer ride to Franz Joseph Glacier.
Franz Joseph is one of those touristy towns that is all about doing Glacier experiences.
Franz Joseph was an advancing glacier from approximately 1985 to 1997, but it is once again retreating. The ice surface is not the national geographic photo of crystal clear white and blue, although there are many places where that can be seen. Instead, its a mix of brown and white, with a little blue, green, and black in places. The rock, the sand, and the ice combine to make a world that is evolving every day.
A few days later, Lannie and I rode on alone as Aaron had to go by bus to Westport to pick up a car. That afternoon, we truly had one of the most spectacular rides so far. Waves crashing endlessly, massive amounts of sea foam on the shore blowing right across the highway, and a stop at the Punakaiki pancake rocks to finish off the day.
The pancake rocks are layered limestone formations created by shells, sand, and earth settling in layers over millions of years. The blowholes are created by surges in the tide, especially during high seas. The water works its way into and through the rocks making strange mystical throaty whistling and puffing sounds as it perennially erodes the rock creating bigger and bigger blowholes. Eventually the rock erodes completely and the sea reclaims the land.
A few days later, I took the Tranz Scenic Train from Wellington to National Park Village to do the greatest one-day walk in all of New Zealand the Tongariro Crossing. Its a 17 km one way walk that goes up to an elevation of approximately 1900 m crossing through much of the terrain used for filming the Lord of the Rings Battle Scenes.
Its a cool morning on the 27th of February, and Im not sure how far I will get on my bike. Id like to go as far as the town of Lake Taupo, about 110 kilometers to the northeast. The wind is not too strong, and I am blessed with a big downhill just before Turinga on the south end of Lake Taupo, so I do make it just before suppertime. The next morning, after a swim and morning soak in the thermal pool, I am off to Rotarua, the heart of geothermal activity. Along the way, I stop at a Maori village and carving workshop, check out the Geothermal Power Plant, the Huka Falls, and walk through a geothermal valley. While reading the newspaper at lunch, I read that the remnants of Cyclone Ivy is on its way, and it is forecast to meet with another storm that evening. Great! Im cycling 90 kms into a cyclone.
Four hours of cycling later, I am still 20 kms from my destination and it is almost 6:30, leaving me only one and a half hours of cloudy rainy daylight. The wind has become increasingly strong and rain has been coming at me sideways for over two hours. Its going in my ears, my eyes, and if I open my mouth, it feels like little pebbles pounding on my tongue. At the bottom of a hill, I pause to rest before the ascent. In a moment, a truck pulling a caravan pulls up, and offers me a ride. I might be a little crazy, but I try not to be stupid. Of course, I said yes. Thank you Cody!