Welcome to the Catlins! Sun, beach & scenery! We ride into Kakapoint with our raincoats on and the sun is nowhere to be seen. Beach and scenery though are present. We are fed up with the rain and stay in a motel in Owaka. Owaka is known for teapotland, it’s very famous (ahum). Locals say the weather is as were it wintertime, cold and rainy. We can definitely see the beauty and peacefullness of the Catlins if it just wasn’t that cold. As we ride to Curio Bay we first pass the Purakaunui Falls that are hidden in a seemingly tropical forest. The vegetation in the Catlins is magnificent anyway, very green and very densely grown. The scenic ride to Curio Bay confirms this but we see most of it through drizzle and clouds. In Papatowai we meet the first not friendly kiwi when we go into a shop to drink hot chocolate. I guess we disturbed her during her favourite tv programme.
In Curio Bay we stay at The Lazy Dolphin Lodge instead of the (also) charming campsite because of the rain and strong winds. This time we have tailwind all the way passing through the Catlins in contrast to two swiss cyclists that we meet who just had their worst day of cycling of their already two month holiday coming from the opposite direction. Unfortunately no hector’s dolphins for us to spot in Curio Bay, but just a quick visit to the fossilised forest before we ride further west. Winter turns into spring when we hit Fortrose and in no time we find ourselves in Invercargill. Not really a booming town just a widespread area of houses, but the campsite in the centre is enjoyable. In Riverton (just 40 km west of Invercargill) we take a break. A charming little village on the coast with tides in the harbour, a sort of Riviera of NZ. The campsite is very small but the kitchen and lounge room on the other hand are huge. We play pingpong and listen to LP’s! And….there for the first time in more than a week enjoy the warmth of the sun again. Summertime!
The road continues west passing beautiful coastlines with good surfer waves and tiny beaches. Easy riding in the sun. From Tuatepere we head to Manapouri. A hot day with headwinds. Unfortunately Anneke has a bad day suffering from the heat and papbenen (porridge legs) and finds it impossible to do some of the steeper uphill parts. She walks as Ivar pedals both bikes up the hill!! How sweet of him. We have to go all the way 80 km that day as there is nothing in between Tuatepere and Manapouri and we need to be in Manapouri that day. When we arrive in Manapouri (quite exhausted) we treat ourselves to Fiordlands Feed which basically consists of a lot of protein (aka meat and eggs).
We had to be in Manapouri because we booked an overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound. A very nice fiord here in the fiordlands. We board the Tutoko II, a small boat that holds 2 crew members and 10 passengers, a nice group of people alltogether. Amazing scenery follows with waterfalls, fur seals, small islands and hardly any other boats. We have the Sound to ourselves. We do a wee bit of fishing for dinner (Ivar catches 4 fishes!), and some kayaking where we clearly are the most active people 😉 One of the crewmembers goes diving to catch crayfish, also served for dinner that evening. A few first timers for Ivar that day: fishing and eating lobster. Also here in the Sounds we do not see any dolphins (bottle nose ones) where generally they are spotted quite frequently. To bad, but the weather was great!
As our bikes were taken by the crew to Te Anau while we were out on the water, we get a ride to Te Anau to be reunited with them. We find Te Anau quite a touristic place with even souvenir shops with signs in chinese. Not our cup of tea. We leave for the Mavora Lakes which means we go back to the gravelroads again. The lakes are stunning and we again find a lovely spot near the water to pitch our tent. Ah, the good life. After spending the evening inside the tent due to sandflies, we ride the next morning to Wakatipu lake. We are all alone out there except for a few 4×4 cars that pass us and destroy our nice view due to dustclouds coming from the gravel road. It is a very nice and quiet ride to Walter Peak station where we want to take the TSS Earnslaw, a very old steamboat that will take us across the lake to Queenstown. Once in Walter Peak station we get a near heart attack, there are about 500 asian people there, it is really crowded. Luckily there is still a spot for us on the boat.
In Queenstown we meet up with Dave and Kris, a couple from Canada (and who are cycling NZ as well) that Anneke knows very well. It is great to meet them on the other side of the world! Stories are traded and we have a great dinner together (thanks Kris). The campsite we stay at in Queenstown is really packed and expensive. Queenstown is a nice place, but with the Chinese New Year and the kiwi holiday (Waitangi, to celebrate the treaty between Maori and white men) it is very busy. We therefore exchange busy Queenstown for more relaxed Wanaka by riding the Crown range pass, the highest sealed road pass of NZ. Ouch, it has some zigzags (doable) but further on some very steep parts. Very hard work with a loaded pushbike, and there is no escape from walking from time to time, even Ivar did a victory dance when we reached the 1067m pass. Of course the scenery makes up for it as well, but it is rather late when we descend into Wanaka where we stay with Michelle, the mother of Jeremy that Ivar met while working on a summercamp in the US some years ago. Her house is what we call a house with a view 🙂 There is a lot to see and do around in Wanaka so we go (with Michelle) hiking the Rob Roy glacier track in Mt Aspiring National Park. (Thanks so much Michelle!)
The weather has been great the last week, hopefully it will stay like this when we continue onto the west coast. (It could be really rainy there, avarage is about 5 m of rain annually.) We will let you know later on….