Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Those of us still in town had breakfast together then loaded up the vans and trailers to start the journey back to Christchurch. Before boarding the van we made one quick stop at the book store before leaving to pick up a couple of local books to read on the trip home.
As we left the west coast area and crossed the Southern Alps to the east coast it was a stark black and white difference. The west coast with its lush green foliage gave way to a much drier climate and the mountains seemed barren. We did pass some rock formations which were in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It took about 4 hrs to get to Christchurch because of multiple stops.
We checked in at the Latimer Hotel and walked into the shopping district to grab some lunch and look for souvenirs. We found a beautiful nativity set to add to Mom’s collection. The cathedral is located in the center of town (see photo). The shops all close up about 4 pm. We look forward to a quiet dinner and good night’s rest before heading out to the airport tomorrow morning.
A cycling paradise!!!
Friday 1/8/2010 (written Saturday as we traveled back to Christchurch)
Franz Joseph to Hokitika
It rained off and on all night and again fairly heavy when we got up but during breakfast the skies started to clear somewhat. Snow had fallen up in the mountains last night and it is cold (see photo). We loaded all our rain gear with us and started off on our 80+ mile final ride.
Our ride today was beyond description. We had a couple of wee hills but the roads were very good and traffic was light, we had a stiff wind following us (tailwind), the foliage was lush and green, you just couldn’t ask for better conditions for the ride. We rode past a number of beautiful lakes as we would break free from the forested areas. Unfortunately clouds still surrounded the Southern Alps and we did not get very good looks at them. At one point we had just come down a hill, made a turn on to a very long and straight section that was tree lined, Tom and Carol were ahead of us on their tandem and my eyes misted up because it was gorgeous, a cycling paradise. Jeanette commented that a photograph would not have done it justice, this was good because our point and shoot camera had died. We stopped at multiple cafes along the way just to stop and take in the beauty. Al, our guide, mentioned at dinner that it is possible to cycle past these cafes. One café had one of the sandflies, that had been shot down, hanging from the front (see photo). Actually, the sandflies did not give us much trouble as anticipated on the wet (west) coast because of the cold and wind.
Because of the following wind, we were riding about 20-24 mph for the last 20 miles into Hokitika. We completed today over 84 miles which was our longest day of cycling. (note: we found out from one of the other tandem teams that were using a garmin GPS the entire time, that for the entire trip we had over 27,000 ft of altitude gain). Our accommodations in Hokitika are again superb, right on the Tasman Sea, with a view of the water from our room window. We started the dismantling of our iron horse (tandem) and packing it into the cases for the flight home Sunday (see photo).
We had our final meal together and said goodbye to Al, who was going off for some personal business, and to Lynn and Pat, who were going north with Al and would be spending another 8 days touring the north end of the South Island by themselves. The rest of us will transport back to Christchurch on Saturday and then fly home (or other locations) on Sunday. At dinner we were recognized as great parents, always talking about our kids. Al also mentioned that we appeared to be getting stronger as we rode each day. Two days of rest really helped.
We enjoyed a walk on the beach, although the wind as cold, and find it hard to believe that we are walking on the beach of New Zealand.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
We only had 2 tandem teams finish the ride yesterday. Several used the SAG after 30 km and some lasted for 100 km before SAGging.
We had a movie of the sheep that we had seen on Tuesday and attached it to this blog. The G-kids should enjoy this. It was amazing to see how fast they move done the mountain-side and on to the road. The video does not show the dogs very well as they drove the sheep in front of them. They totally took up the road as they move down to a new location. Cars and bikes come to a stand still until they pass. There are over 400 million sheep here in New Zealand which is about 100 per New Zealander. This has been a real labor of love getting this movie uploaded, it has taken over 2 hours to just upload the movie. Communication here is very slow using wired internet and the wireless signal is so low that it drops intermittantly.
4:23 pm New Zealand time - we are still waiting for the video processing to complete. In the mean time we have gone into town to see some of the sites and grab some lunch. The weather has stopped raining and is just overcast now. The rain has closed some of the surrounding roads and in particular the road that goes up to the Franz Joseph glacier. We are glad that we were able to get up the road yesterday to see the glacier. The picture of the glacier is a little tough to see but where the glacier ends a river starts. At one time there used to be a lake but that is gone now.
Love all your comments and support.
***** The processing of the video has not completed so we cancelled it to get this post out. We will try again at the next town *****
Mom and Dad (Opa and Nana)
Rode 1.2 km – took side trip of 10 km
I don’t think that I had mentioned before but the roads are terrific, very smooth but a small shoulder. Although we riding on the major highways (all two lanes), there is really only vacation traffic with minimal large trucks. On the wet (west) side of New Zealand the roads are totally different. Because of the weather the roads get chewed up a lot. They get over 140 inches of rain a year. They say that this is one of the wet places on earth and our number of inches may be wrong. We will find out and up date the blog.
As we traveled along we took a number of photos, Jeanette and I at the Tasman Sea, dense foliage along the road, rock stacking along the seashore. Apparently people visiting the beaches will take the rocks and stack them into a variety of shapes. The majority of bridges here on the south island are single lane (again this is the highway, see photo) with a sign on each end showing who has priority. They are usually very courteous and the person with priority will flash their lights to allow the other direction to cross if they have been waiting long. Today as we attempted to cross a bridge there was no one coming from the other side and we started across, suddenly a car entered the bridge and we ended up having to back up with the trailer behind us.
After arriving at our hotel we rode with another team, Dan and Gretchen, back down the road to the entrance to the Franz Joseph Glacier (see photos). It is amazing to see this glacier and to find that it and the Fox Glacier, just down the road, are still growing about 30 cm per year. These two glaciers are also the closest glaciers to sea level and to walk to them through a lush forest is amazing. This afternoon as we sit here typing up this blog it is pouring rain but we are enjoying very plush accommodations. We are in a two unit building back in the foliage and feel like we are in the middle of a rain forest.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
(photos of the day are spread across this post and the next)
Today we rode from Wanaka to the Township of Haast. It was scheduled to be a demanding day of 92 miles we were going to load our luggage and 6:30 and have breakfast at 7:00. When we got to the restaurant we found that they would not be ready for another 15 minutes so we went out to get our bike ready. We found that the front tire was flat so we started the day by repairing a flat tire (see photo). We ate breakfast and started our adventure along the beautiful Lake Hawea (see photo) with great weather conditions.
This mountainous terrain is beautiful and we are back to the base of the Southern Alps. We rode over the small piece of land which separated Lake Hawea with Lake Wanaka (see photo). As we crossed to Lake Wanaka some shepherds were moving a large group of sheep (see movie), it was really cool to see the dogs working the sheep down the mountain. When entering the road the sheep did not appear to know what to do and the dogs directed them. As we crossed to the Lake Wanaka side the wind really increased into our faces. We made very slow progress up the valley and saw new vegetation (see photo). Another team had already been picked up by the SAG vehicle leaving us the last in the row of teams. We accepted the offer to catch a lift to the top of Haast Pass (about 16 miles up the road). As we approached the top of the pass, the foliage changed to dense beech trees and thick undergrowth, a sign that there was more rain in this area.
They dropped us a the top of Haast Pass and we started down the side of the mountain (see photo) which would take us to sea level and the Tasman Sea (the sea between New Zealand and Australia). We came down a pretty good clip and saw the vegetation change to a rain forest with massive ferns (see photo) and canopy trees. There was many waterfalls feeding the Haast River (see photo). With about 20 km to go we started to ride in a falling mist and were getting wet. With about 10 km to go we had a flat on our rear tire which required changing. The rain kept the sand flies at bay which was to our advantage because the flies, which we will now have for the rest of our trip, can be a big nuisance. Their bite is like a mosquito. We arrived at our motel soaking wet and tired (see photo). The picture does not show the water that was running off our helmets and down our noses. We had ridden about 76 miles for the day and during the last 30 km Jeanette would periodically develop severe knee pain which caused us to often stop. They think is may be overuse and is being experienced by a number of riders.
We made it!!! Hard day with 2 flats, lots of wind and rain, used SAG vehicle for 16 miles. Details and pictures to follow. It is 9:30 pm here and we are headed to bed for another long day tomorrow.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Back in the saddle again. The rest day was very beneficial and when we woke this morning, we felt like we could get back on the bike again to continue our adventure. The weather was very cool with clouds but no showers yet.
We left the motel at 8 am this morning and cruised down the hill that was so steep last Saturday. We had to ride the brakes most of the way down and that was the cause of problems later in the day. It was a great ride leaving Queenstown and we cruised along the highway for about 12 miles before the wall started. We had to ride from an altitude of about 370 meters to crest at a point of 1070 meters (elevation gain of over 2100 ft).
Leaving the main highway we turned onto the Crown Range Road which would take us to Wanaka. The first 2 km (1.2 miles) was very steep with 9 switch backs (see picture). Our Garmin GPS said that most of the grade was 14-19% and at one point I looked down and it read 20% grade. We did stop a couple of times up the wall but we were successful in reaching the lookout point. Along the way up we were past by several older riders who were on mountain bikes. At the lookout point they had assembled and we stop to chat with them (see photo). They are called the Queenstown Peddlers, most appeared to be our age, and they were out doing their club ride. Just beyond the lookout point was another road that would descend back to the valley. Half of their group had started up on the other side going in the opposite direction. They would cross at the top and then head down to the local coffee shop for coffee.
We still had a long climb ahead of us (about 6 miles) with the first 5 miles about 5-6% grade and the final climb of 14-16% grade. During the last mile we ended up walking a part of it and pushing the bike up the hill. It took us 3 hours to leave Queenstown and reach the summit. The weather had turn very cold and rain drops were starting to fall. The first 5 km of the descend was extremely steep which was complicated by some strong cross wind gusts. We developed some brake problems. Earlier in the morning when we rode the steep descent from the hotel, I had lost the use of the rear disk brake. I had adjusted the pads and everything seemed to be fine until the top of this highest summit. As we started down this steep slope I had to keep applying the brakes to prevent going too fast and in the process our rear disk brake overheated to the point that a plastic adjustment knob melted right off the caliber. Applying the brakes sounded like metal on metal and we inched our way down to a spot where Al (guide) was able to assist us and check it out. The rotor had turned colors because of the heat buildup but he gave us a clean bill of health and we continued down the mountain side into a beautiful valley with many sheep. We were riding through some cold rain drops but by observation of the road had missed the heavy rain. It was still very cold and we had not brought all our cold weather gear.
We stopped with everyone else at a historic hotel in Cardrona (see picture) and had a fabulous lunch which consisted a hot bowl of pumpkin curry soup with a cup of hot cocoa. It hit the spot and warmed us back up. We still had about 18 miles to go but it was almost all downhill with a wind to our back, perfect tandem cycling conditions, we got down in about 45 minutes. We checked into our room and are waiting to here if we might be able to take a side trip this afternoon to Milford Sound. (Update: Milford Sound trip will not happen because of low visability). A couple of other tandems had problems with their brakes overheating while coming down the steep hill and one had to be worked on to straighten out a warped rotor.
Summary: We are back at the base of the Southern Alps (see picture) and will cross over them tomorrow to get down to the west coast and wetter weather. Great ride with some very hard cycling in the middle. We got in at 1:30 which is a record for us. We were able to shower and relax. The facility here is a resort and very comfortable. Life is great.
Today went different from what we had planned. We woke up to rain and heavy overcast skies. Our Milford Sound trip was cancelled which we and 5 other couples had reservations for. In fact all outdoor activities like gliding, bungy jumping, jet boats, and hang gliding was all cancelled due to the weather. We had looked up the address of the church and so we now jumped on the bus to see if we could find the address. Fortunately it was on the bus line and we were able to find it with little problem. The Queenstown Branch meets in a small building which is a funeral home during the week. They have secured another building which is being refurbished and will soon serve as their meeting house. They have few members and at today's meeting there was only 25 people of whom 10 where visitors, 8 from the states and 2 from Singapore (they were Americans also). It was fast and testimony meeting, the spirit was great and it was wonderful to be there with them. One Maori family travels almost 1 1/2 hours each Sunday to attend the branch. The Branch Presidency are wonderful people and appreciated having us there.
We came back to Queenstown on the bus and enjoyed the afternoon walking through all the shops. Presence of Christmas is still seen in the stores and we took a picture of this display showing Santa's sheep-deers.
The skies cleared up and this location is beautiful. This lakes water color is very turqouise next to shore and a deeper blue as you get out deeper. The pictures do not do it justice.
We had a gentleman take this picture for us and were surprised to see that we were included in it. He seemed to be pointing the camera off in the distance. We are having a great time together.
We came back to the hotel and took a much deserved nap. Our legs are still tired but not being on the bike for the day will hopefully heal the bottom somewhat.
Congratulations to Caleb with his first tooth and thanks to Kiley losing hers lol. The vest Jeanette wears was provided by the bike tour company to make us more visable and not get hit by a motor vehicle, so far it is working. The roads are narrow with about 18 inches maximum of shoulder. Cars are driving past us at highway speeds (80 - 100 kmph / 48 -60 mph). The roads are two lane and drivers will usually go around us if there is no oncoming traffic, but closer to cities, with more traffic, we have had some close experiences. We just close our eyes when they get too close (humor).
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Another great day but we are exhausted and looking forward to a rest day tomorrow.
Tonight we are sitting in the hotel in Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Although the ride was only 46 miles, it took us about 8 hours to get here because of stops for rest and pictures and lunch in Arrowtown which is an old gold mining/panning town. Just prior to entering Arrowtown we passed the beautiful Hayes Lake (see photo). We have now completed 5 days of riding and have covered 284 miles. Today’s ride was very scenic with lots of up and down hills through Kawarau River canyon (see photo), vineyards and mountain vistas. We saw lots of sheep, hang-gliders and bungy jumpers from a bridge over the Kawarau River, and a statue sitting in front of farm which Jeanette tried to imitate (see photo). Several of the riders were going to bungy jump but the wait was too long. As we entered the town of Queenstown and rode to the outskirts to our hotel, we found the the road leading to the hotel was 1.5 km uphill with a grade of 10 to 20%. Since we had made it to Queenstown and were exhausted, we opted to load our bike on the trailer and catch a ride with Darin instead of walking up the hill. Today’s weather had wind but the sky was a beautiful blue with no clouds.
Queenstown is noted for the most popular tourist city in the country. It sits on a beautiful lake, Lake Wakatipu, that is in the shape of an ‘S’. It has an interesting phenomenon about it in that it rises and falls 12 inches every 15 minutes and they don’t know why. We plan to explore tomorrow the reason for this action. Across the lake is a mountain range that rises right up from the waters edge, they are named the ‘The Remarkables’ (see photo).
Tomorrow is our day off and we plan to do some sightseeing in the area, right now we are scheduled to go to Milford Sound and we will let you google it to see what it offers. They have forecast rain so we will see what we can do. We are staying in a very nice hotel which has a living area with deck and a fabulous view, a kitchen, and separate bedroom. It is a great location to spend an extra night and recover from our rides.
To explain what our routine has been up to this time, it follows pretty much the same plan. We get up around 6 am and get all our gear together and repack our luggage. Around 6:45 am we take our luggage to the trailer to be loaded up for transport to the next location and if there will be no places to buy lunch for the day we will make a lunch to carry. We then meet for breakfast together and then start out on the road. Occasionally we may cycle with other tandem teams but often we are on our own. Several teams will usually stop for lunch together. We arrive in our destination location at different times and sometimes dinner is included where we all eat together or other times like tonight we just ate with 3 other couples.
Our two guides, Darin and Al, are both Kiwi’s and are great. They alternate each day with one driving the vehicle and the other riding their half-bike along the route with us. We kid them by saying one day their bikes will grow up to be tandems also. Tonight at dinner they said that they probably ride about 50% more than we do because they start after the last team has left and will ride up to the first team then back to the last team and do this throughout the day. The driver of the motor vehicle also is patrolling the road to support us.
They are both very experienced riders and we use them for guidance and instruction. After several days of riding we were all experiencing problems with our seats sitting in the saddles all day long. Al was asked what we could do to help our bottoms feel better and offered this Kiwi advice. In the morning you take a handful of gravel and stick it in your cycling shorts. You then start your ride and as early as mid-morning you can remove the gravel from your shorts and your bottom will feel much better. We have not tried it yet.
We have appreciated the comments from many of you who are cheering us on.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Happy New Year, another great day of cycling. We realize that in Colorado you just celebrated the New Year 1 hr and 15 minutes ago. After having just lived through January 1, we can tell you that it is a good year.
Today we rode from Omarama to Cromwell via Lindis Pass (elevation 990 meters/3250 ft). We totaled 67 miles today with an overall time of 7 hrs and a riding time of almost 5 hrs. We fought with a headwind again until we got over Lindis pass then had either a neutral wind or a nice tail wind. Prior to climbing the pass at one point we were headed into the wind in our 2nd to lowest gear and we’re doing 6 mph on level ground. Lindis pass was a 1500 ft climb with last 1 ½ km doing 10-11% grade until the final portion which was 12%. We climbed slow but made it. We really felt a huge sense of accomplishment and Al took a picture as we crested the summit which we may have framed in our home. Normally we would have screamed down the back side of the pass but with the swirling wind so strong and unpredictable we had to keep the brakes on and only reached 42.5 mph.
On the upside of the pass we went through beautiful patches of flowers and long grasses being blown by the wind. We included a picture of Jeanette standing in the flowers. We stopped in Tarras for ice cream with several of the other riders.
You might want to shield the children from the next item due to its tragic and graphic nature (lol). What we have to share is an unusual phenomenon that occurs throughout New Zealand. We have found it strange to see the number of rabbits that are hanging on the barbed wire fences. You see them hanging all along the roads. Jeanette had gotten into a conversation with the guide and several of the other riders discussing how the rabbits could get caught in the barbed wire. The guide jokingly said that it is a case of rabbit suicide. Rabbits are a real menace; they are not indigenous to this country and have caused a lot of land use damage. So they are often shot and hung on the fences as warning to other rabbits. Jeanette still gets a laugh each time she thinks about this rabbit suicide.
We had a very fast ride into Cromwell with a strong tail wind and had no problem doing over 25 mph for the last 18 miles. Cromwell is by the beautiful lake Dunstan. The weather is much warmer in this area and they grow peaches, apricots, grapes and have a number of vineyards.
We had dinner with a group of riders at a Thai restaurant which had delicious food; Jeanette was surprised that her prawns still had their heads on.
As we prepare for bed tonight, the wind is blowing with almost gale force strength. We saw on the national weather that tonight into tomorrow morning they have severe weather forecast with heavy rain showers and strong winds in the south end of the island. They caution against motorcycles and large panel trucks. No mention of bicyclist so we will see what tomorrow brings.
Summary: we are having a great time, seeing beautiful sights, with great people and getting great exercise.
Day 0. Saturday 26th December 2009
Depart Denver - cross international date-line losing a day
Day 1. Monday 28th December 2009
Arrive Christchurch for transfer to your accommodation in Geraldine (180 km/ 114miles).
Day 2. Tuesday 29th December 2009
Geraldine to Tekapo (90km/ 55miles)
A demanding days cycling with two climbs of 300-400m[1000-1300ft] over the day and an altitude gain of 600m[2000ft] over the day.
Day 3. Wednesday 30th December 2009
Tekapo- Mount Cook (100km/ 61miles)
A steady days cycling with several short climbs over the day, but no significant gain in altitude.
Day 4. Thursday 31st December 2009
Mount Cook to Omarama [90km/ 55miles].
A reasonably gentle day’s cycle, heading along the canals and glacier fed Southern Lakes of the McKenzie Basin. Your route takes you over several smaller hills of 100-200m over the day, but it’s an overall gradual descent to you destination of Omarama.
Day 5. Friday 1st January 2010
Omarama to Cromwell (110km/ 67miles).
A demanding days cycling that starts with a gradual climb and then steep climb, as you head tover the Lindis Pass [990m/3250ft]. From Lindis Pass it’s a sharp descent and then a flat ride to the Cluden Hill before your final 200m/650ft climb prior to Tarras. From Tarras a flat ride to Cromwell.
Day 6. Saturday 2nd January 2010
Cromwell to Queenstown (75km/46miles).
Today’s cycle is a steady 75km to Queenstown, with a number of hill climbs of 50-100m over the day and an altitude gain of 100m between Cromwell & Queenstown. This route is very scenic as you cycle alongside the through spectacular Kawarau River and the historic goldmining town of Arrowtown; in addition there are a number of suggested stops along the way, including wineries, jet boating and bungy jumping.
Day 7. Sunday 3rd January 2010
Rest Day Queenstown
10 am church at Queenstown Branch - 1076 Frankton Road
Day 8. Monday 4th January 2010
Queenstown to Wanaka (75km/46miles).
A relatively short distance, but a demanding day’s cycling that starts with an increasingly steep climb as you head over the crown range [1080m/3600ft]. From the crown range it’s a long descent and then a flat ride to Wanaka.
Day 9. Tuesday 5th January 2010
Wanaka to Haast (150km/ 92miles).
A demanding days cycling that starts with a fairly gentle series of flat road and smaller climbs before a steep climb over the demanding Haast Pass. Once over the Haast Pass it’s a great descent [with one small further climb] before a flat ride to Haast township.
Day 10. Wednesday 6th January 2010
Haast to Franz Josef (145km/ 88miles)
A demanding days cycling in terms of distance and difficulty with a number of sharp climbs including a steep ascent on your way to Franz Josef Glacier township.
Day 11. Thursday 7th January 2010
Rest Day Franz Josef
Day 12. Friday 8th January 2010
Franz Josef to Hokitka (130km/ 80miles)
A longish day in terms of distance, which starts with an undulating ride along the coast that doesn’t involve any significant climbs, before a flat ride to finish.
Day 13. Saturday 9th January 2010
Hokitika to Christchurch (140km/ 86miles)
Day 14. Sunday 10th January 2010
Complete Tour/ Depart Christchurch return to Denver. Leave at noon and get home before 3 pm because of gaining a day crossing international date-line.