New Zealand, 2008 — Part 2

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Westport and Buller Gorge to Motueka

Sunday, March 2, was not our best day. It had been pouring in Westport on Saturday, to the point that there was flooding in the campground. We had moved into a cabin for our third night and were glad of it. But on Sunday, though it was cloudy, there was no rain at the start, so we set out toward Murchison. Of course, as soon as we were ready to go, it started raining intermittently, (heavily for short periods) but we pushed on.



Gloomy weather as we leave Westport

Despite the grey skies, occasional rain, and sandflies, the road along Buller Gorge seemed like a beautiful ride, or would have been in better weather. Anyway, just 25 kilometres out of Westport, Barbara said her front derailleur was no longer working. A bolt had fallen out of a pivot point where I never knew there was a bolt at all! (Most derailleurs have a kind of rivet at this place.) At first we decided to go back to the bike shop in Westport because it was too far to the next one in Motueka. But then we changed our collective mind. I removed the derailleur and cables, because it was quite useless, and Barbara soldiered on, using only her middle chainring. (She would have used a stick to shift onto the small chainring if there had been tough hills, but there were not.)

Sharp turn in the Buller River
This panorama is not faked; it was clearing to the left, gloomier to the right — the direction in which we were headed!

At 35 kilometres along the way, when it was pouring, we reached the first accommodation — a backpackers, but quite an elegant one, behind a small and equally nice cafe in Berlins. We came in dripping and found Dave, Jo, and Mark (their friend from South Africa/Australia) comfortably drinking tea. We moved in and were quite comfortable, while they continued on their ride.

The view from our accommodation — cheery, eh?

Even though it was Sunday, Barbara urged me to call the bike shop back in Westport just in case there was someone there. Sure enough, although the shop was closed, staff were working, and they said if I came in they would help me with the derailleur. I hitched a ride back to town with a nice young man who worked on a big dairy farm. At the shop, there were several boxes of old derailleurs but none with a bolt like the one I needed nor anything else that would work. I finally bought a complete, slightly used derailleur for $30 and hitched back to Berlins, again getting a ride quickly, and with another young man who worked on a dairy farm.

The start of another damp, chilly day


On Monday morning, March 3, I installed the derailleur and a new cable, and we took off under grey skies for Murchison, a 65 kilometre ride that was mostly gradual climbing, though the terrain varied. The day seemed to get chillier and wetter as it went along. We had to stop at a DoC area at Lyell to change into drier, warmer clothes. We ended up for the night at a motor camp outside Murchison that was heavily patronized by young kayakers and rafters. It seemed that most of them were pierced in various places, and the kitchen and common rooms were a mess. We took a little cabin for the night, and it was decent but not attractive at all. By the way, the photo to the left and the two below are the only ones we took on this dismal day. It was usually so wet that I didn't want to take the camera out of its bag.

In dry, warmer clothes

Buller Gorge in a moment when the rain stopped
On Tuesday we were glad to start for St. Arnaud, just 60 kilometres away, again mostly gradual climbing. St. Arnaud is a small tourist resort in Nelson Lakes National Park, and we'd heard good things about it. The weather was cool, some clouds but partly sunny, and the afternoon got better as it went along.

Leaving Murchison for St. Arnaud — the start of a better day


At St. Arnaud, we got a place to pitch our tent at one of the fanciest backpackers we've seen so far. Certainly it is the only place we have ever camped where they gave us big, fluffy yellow bath towels for our showers!

Sadly, Dave, Jo, and Mark had arrived earlier at the same place and been refused a tent site becasue the owner was not present to give an OK. They went to a nearby DoC site. But the owner was there when we arrived, and we lucked out. In the picture to the left, Dave and Jo are about to pass us on the way to St. Arnaud. Too bad. If they'd arrived an hour later, when we did, they'd have gotten a site too.


Above: A sign warning of Kiwis in the road — unlikely
Top right: Buller River in afternoon sunshine
Right: A few kilometres before St. Arnaud

Wednesday morning, sunshine! There wasn't a cloud in the sky when we packed up. At a reasonably high elevation with crystal clear skies, it had gotten quite cold during the night; there was ice on the windshields of all the cars. Nevertheless we'd been fairly warm and comfortable, except for the fact that one of our Downmats has failed completely, and the other is losing air at an alarming rate.

The first thing we did was visit Lake Rotoiri, just a kilometre or two from St. Arnaud. There were many black swans along the shore.

Lake Rotoiri

The 110-kilometre ride from St. Arnaud to Motueka was one of the finest of our trip. There were two challenging climbs, but otherwise the entire distance was downhill or level. In the Golden Downs area, after the first big hill, we zoomed downhill through a forestry estate, then through open, rolling countryside with mountain views.

Climbing Kikiwa Hill

Zooming through Golden Downs

View from the top of Kikiwa Hill

The little town of Tapawera was in a stunning valley (below), and Wally thought about stopping there, but in such fine weather we decided to push on.

Carved logger in Tapawera, a lumbering area

Soon after Tapawera, after the second, steeper climb, we followed the Motueka River. In the river valley there were fruit farms, a vineyard or two, and also a crop we didn't recognize that turned out to be hops.

Hops, a crop we'd never seen

Kiwi fruit, which we hadn't seen growing since Zimbabwe

The Motueka River on this beautiful day

Cycling in the valley of the Motueka River

Making friends along the way

The town of Motueka was somewhat bigger than we'd expected. We checked into a Top-10 Holiday Park, which we tend not to like, but it was too late in the afternoon to look for alternatives. Sure enough, we ended up pitching our tent within sight of Dave, Jo, and Mark.

After our day of perfect cycling, it started to rain during the night, and Thursday morning dawned grey and drizzly. We're at a watershed of sorts: We expect parts to arrive soon at the home of a Servas family in Takaka, north of here. We have to go there, but it's on the other side of one of the island's hardest hills, and it's a dead end as well, so if we cycle there, we must climb back over the same monster to leave! So we could go over the hill by bus. In any event, we are on Tasman Bay, near the north end of South Island. We may stay here for a while, depending on beaches, weather, and accommodation, but we'll soon be turning south, back toward Christchurch, on the final leg of our South Island tour.

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