Tag Archives: cycle touring in new zealand

Part 5 NZ cycle – Mt Cook via Danseys Pass

We left Queenstown, and Lari, on boxing day and headed east. Lari caught the bus back to Christchurch while we continued grinding away at the pedals.

After spending up big in Queenstown (in relative terms), we did the 442 km run to Mt Cook, and for that matter the whole 815 km distance back to Christchurch on the cheap. I know, the whole trip was on the cheap, but this was next level.

Rather than opting for the fastest route to Mt Cook we took an off road detour over the Danseys Pass – and it was one of the best decisions of the trip! The riding was absolutely awesome. A smooth gravel road over a classic backcountry mountain range with barely any traffic.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! How could I forget the Central Otago Rail Trail! Another highlight of the trip. We began the rail trail at Clyde and rode it for 77km to Wedderburn, so all up we did half of the trail.

Riding the rail trail
Riding the rail trail
We celebrate making it to the highest point of the rail trail
We celebrate making it to the highest point of the rail trail

The unsealed and untrafficked trail made for enjoyable and relaxing riding, and with small country towns dotted along every 20 or 30 km, refueling was never an issue. It was really cool riding through the pitch black 200m long railway tunnels. Definitely something out of the ordinary.

Upon reaching Wedderburn we bailed off the trail and headed for nearby Naseby, a small holidaying town in the foothills of the Kakanui Range and the starting point for the Danseys Pass. A strange fact about Naseby is it has a world class curling rink, however we weren’t interested in that. We made our way for the golf course!

The Danseys, as I said before, was fantastic. We agreed the best leg of riding of the whole trip and what made it so was its sense of remoteness, yet at the same time its nearness to facilities. It was only about 70km between Naseby and Duntroon but they felt a world apart. I guess that’s what happens when the landscapes change so rapidly.

Matt rides ahead as we begin the Danseys climb
Matt rides ahead as we begin the Danseys climb
That's where we came from. 10km of twisty inclines.
That’s where we came from. 10km of twisty inclines.
Nearing the top of the pass

From Duntroon, where we had the most satisfying meat pies, we set our sights for Kurow which was unfortunately straight into a headwind! We gave ourselves a break in Kurow and as it happened, that’s where we spent NYE.

The quiet town of Kurow from Kurow Hill
The quiet town of Kurow from Kurow Hill
Artistic haybales
Artistic hay bales

Further along the ‘Alps 2 Ocean’ cycle route we passed through Omarama and the ‘town of trees’ Twizel, which was like a cool oasis amongst its desert surrounds. The landscapes around Twizel, and for that matter, all the way to Lake Tekapo, were so barren. It really was strange riding through desert-like plains and then around the next corner, BAM – a brilliant, vibrant blue lake!

The day we rode up the one-way road from Twizel to Mt Cook was one for the memory bank. At 70 km it wasn’t that far, and sure we had the captivating Lake Pukaki beside us all day, but the headwind! The closer we got to Mt Cook the stronger the wind blew. The last 2 km into camp were horrendous! We were pedalling strong and yet our speedo’s were only reading 6 km/hr! All we could do was put our heads down and go one pedal stroke at a time.

Scenic but tough riding towards Mt Cook
Scenic but tough riding towards Mt Cook

On the other side of the coin, we were literally blown out of Mt Cook by the same winds. No joke, we didn’t pedal for the first 6 km. The winds sent us sailing along at almost 30km/hr! It was absolutely brilliant – as was Mt Cook.

We spent two nights at White Horse Hill campground (great place with Mt Sefton as a backdrop), during which time we tramped up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut. I definitely recommend this to anyone. Just take a look at the scenic factor!

Snow in summer!
Snow in summer!
Mt Cook from near Mueller Hut
Mt Cook from near Mueller Hut

After Mt Cook we longed to get back to Christchurch and relax. It had been a big effort and the end was so close. So we rode five consecutive days and took the fastest route, the number 1 highway. It was busy but there was a good 2m shoulder so it was OK.

A few days at Spencer Beach, a day catching up with Lari, and a couple more exploring Christchurch and Lyttelton, and it was all over.

55 days, 2400 km and a very rewarding first cycle tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this 5 part series. Until next time…


New Zealand cycle tour route map

It’s been a while since my last post I know. Uni exams and then leaving for New Zealand almost straight away left me little time. Anyhow in all this time my brother and I have been to New Zealand, ridden 2400 odd km and returned safely home.  It was a great trip that lasted 8 weeks from 21 Nov 2014 to 15 Jan 2015!

Since getting back I’ve been super busy editing photos and putting together a killer timelapse short film (yet to be released). Over the next few weeks I endeavor to get posting again and break the trip down in all it’s nitty gritty detail.

But for now I’ve put together a map of exactly where we went. Speak soon.

The next adventure – cycling New Zealand!

This one’s been in the works for a while but now it’s official! My brother, Matt, and I are going cycle touring in New Zealand at the end of this year for around 8 weeks. Interestingly this whole idea started way back on 19 July 2013, when I posed the idea to Matt on Skype from a McDonald’s in Paris! He was as keen as a bean from day dot.

Why cycle touring though? Well, both of us are right into bikes (as Mum would confirm by the growing number of bikes finding homes in every nook and cranny), cycle touring gives so much freedom and independency, it’s a physical and mental challenge, and it works for uni students on a budget. It also gets us out into the outdoors and the elements.

First the grand idea was to ride from the northern tip of the north island to the southern tip of the south island, and call it the “Tip to Tup”, the “Tup” being a play on words of how a Kiwi says “Tip”.

When I came home in November 2013, we delved further into research and decided to focus our energy on the more interesting places rather than just ride “Tip to Tup” because of two points on a map. So for a few months we thought we’d fly into Auckland on the north island and ride south to Queenstown, and across to Dunedin or Christchurch and fly home.

Only in the last couple of weeks have we had another change of heart and finally (I think) decided to spend our entire time on the picturesque south island. That way we can ride a big loop of the south instead of just one way, see impressive landscapes the whole time, plus the added bonus of quieter roads – considering only 1/4 of New Zealanders live on the south there’s bound to be less traffic.

I’ve also found hundreds of km’s of dirt road sections that will really make this trip unique and only doable on bike.

The fun so far
Maps, lists and books. All valuable information.

After we realised this was actually happening we quickly turned our attention to gear – specifically, what bikes were we taking? A pretty important subject for a cycle tour. I already had a mountain bike that could work, but Matt was in desperate need of a bike that fit his growing frame!

In January we hadn’t spoken about the trip for a month, when I said, “Hurry up and sort out your bike, time’s ticking.” To which he replied, “Are we still going? I thought because you hadn’t said anything lately we weren’t going anymore.”

“Are you kidding me!?!? Of course we are!” We couldn’t believe how fast communication can fall down even when you’re living together!

So with that anomaly resolved he got to work researching bikes. A process that lasted months, and convinced him at various stages on a cyclocross, road bike and 29er mountain bike. Finally though he got a 29er, which will be good for the dirt roads, and I stuck with my 26er.

The bike so far
My bike in the works
Tyres, bar ends, top tube bag, pannier rack and bags the additions so far

The preliminary gear list we put together is slowly but surely being ticked off. Tent – check, sleeping bag – check, bike spares and repair kit – partly checked. It’s taking a while to acquire gear because we are trying to get it second hand or at reduced prices. So far so good.

Our next step towards preparing for New Zealand is a practice 4 day ride on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in a few weeks. It’s the only way to properly test our gear out and see what’s needed, what can be left at home, and see what we are getting ourselves into!

Not long ago Matt said, “The idea of touring seemed so much better when you were in Canada.” Now that the realities of keeping warm, keeping the stomach satisfied, and riding on roads with no shoulders have hit home everything isn’t as rosy as first imagined. We’ve already resigned ourselves to the fact that we are going to lose several kilos, but it will all be worth it no doubt.