Goodbye New Zealand!

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With leaving the South Island I was leaving behind also the most spectacular areas New Zealand’s and now I was riding for most of the time through endless rolling farmland back towards Auckland. Though it was eventually warm and it the summer had finally started. On some days it felt even nearly too hot for riding and I had to avoid the sun now. What I forgot first and I immediately punished with sunburn.

It’s not easy and sometimes nearly impossible to find a place for wild camping in farmland, as there’s everything fenced and I didn’t want to jump just over. Though it’s not a real problem because New Zealand’s farmers are one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. A couple of times I had no other choice as to knock on a door and just ask if I can pitch my tent somewhere on their land for a night. Amazingly it seemed to be taken for granted to help travellers like me and I was never denied. Sometimes my host even invited me to come in for dinner or breakfast.

One day I found a free campsite next to the beach. It was great to camp again next to the ocean and hearing the sound of it all night long.

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My last highlight in New Zealand was the Te Urewera National Park, even though I haven’t expected it. I just chose the road through it, as it’s a much shorter than my original plan to go along the East Cape, for what I haven’t had the time anymore. It was a 100km long gravel road and leading through a large native rain forest. I loved it, although it wasn’t an easy ride. It was going up and down all the time with some steep climbs. In the middle of the park is the beautiful Lake Waikaremoana, where I camped for a night. It was warm and humid and being surrounded by rainforest it felt a bit like in the tropics.

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South of Roturua I bumped into hot springs again. They were named ‘Kerosene Creek’, but luckily the water didn’t smell like kerosene at all and it was the perfect place to relax. Just too bad that I didn’t have enough food otherwise might have stayed there for the night.

Two days before I reached Auckland I came into known area and I realised, that my time in New Zealand is nearly over. I cycled here for almost 5000 kilometer and have seen lot, but by far not everything. I haven’t done any hiking and that’s a good reason to come back one day. The Landscape was amazing and I’ll never forget the even more amazing people.

I was thinking a lot about where to go next. I couldn’t imagine to stop travelling, even though I’m traveling now for over two years and several times I was thinking about it. But I’m pretty sure after being back in Germany for two months or so I’ll be craving for being on the road again and will regret that decision. Time is no problem for me and I still have enough of my saving from the jobs in Australia. Nothing is keeping me away from travelling.

For a long time I had the plan to go back to Asia, but this changed during my last weeks in Australia. Once I was sitting next to a world map and imagined to cycling in South America. After that I couldn’t get rid of this idea and even started learning Spanish in the internet. A few weeks later I saw a cheap flight and just booked it spontaneously.

My last days in Auckland I spent mostly with packing and organizing the last things before I eventually started into a new adventure.

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NZ – South Island – Part II

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Slope Point

Not far from Invercargill is Slope Point, the most southern point of New Zealand’s South Island. From there it was going north again after cycling south for six weeks. It was cold, raining nearly all the time and the wind blowing as hell around me. My motivation was as low as it possibly could and that for the first time in a long time. I was wondering where the point is of keep riding. Somehow I was craving for the heat as in South East Asia. Probably every long time traveller has those days once in a while and luckily the motivation gets back soon, if you don’t give up before. So I kept pedalling.

I was alone again as well. Unexpectedly I rode with Jason for six weeks, although it’s not an easy thing to cycle with someone else. Everybody has a different pace, a different opinion about the route and prefers different places to stop and camp. Especially after travelling for months alone and enjoying this freedom, it’s not easy to make suddenly compromises. However, until Invercargill Jason and I had the same plans. From there though he wanted to get faster back to the north, so we were going different ways.

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Fortunately the rain stopped after a few days, but the wind stayed. It wasn’t a headwind though, but it came in gusts from the side. Sometimes so powerful that I had to lean in to it and it was still pushing me into the traffic, what was dangerous.

It was the day before the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. During the last weeks all the New Zealanders were talking about the championship and nearly every house had an All Blacks flag outside. Even though I don’t know anything about Rugby and I haven’t watched a full game before, I was keen to watch the final. Due to the time difference from England, where the World cup was, the games were very early in the morning, when I was usually lying in my tent in the middle of nowhere. I already gave up that plan, but surprisingly it came differently.

Exhausted from the wind I was having a break in front of a supermarket. I got approached by Joanne and her daughter and after bit of smalltalk about my trip I go the offer to pitch my tent in their garden. That sound perfect to me and started riding the last 12km to their house. When I got there, I even got offered an ‘upgrade’ to sleep in a bed in the house. The only condition, mentioned by Joanne’s husband, was I had to get up at five in the morning to watch the Rugby final. Awesome, not problem at all! Luckily New Zealand won and I stayed for another day with that lovely family.

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my broken tire

Still blown away from the hospitality I left recovered and motivated. Even the weather was awesome. 70km later though a weird noise from my back wheel forced me stop. The back tire had a long cut. Although I cycling with this tire for more than 16000km, I had hoped it would bring me back to Auckland, where a brand new one was waiting. Continue riding was impossible and I had to get back to a bike shop, as I wasn’t carrying a spare one. At least there was a farm not too far away. My idea was to leave the bike there and hitchhike quickly the 15km back to the town where I was coming from. But I’ve never had to try to hitchhike. The farmer offered me straightaway a lift. And as that was not enough, the bike shop owner gave me a second hand tire for free. The tire looked still perfect, I thought. Back at the farm I put it on my wheel, pumped it up and recognized a little whole, not a big one, but big enough to cause a puncture very soon. You can’t complain about something you got for free, but now I was stuck there. It was too late to get back to the bike shop and I couldn’t ride anywhere. Again the farmer rescued me and offered me without hesitation a bed to sleep and he would drive on the next morning again into town. Again I was speechless about this hospitality and hopefully I can pay it back one day.

 

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The Central Otago Rail Trail

With a new second-hand tyre I started towards the Central Otrago Rail Trail. After 1990, when the railway connection was stopped, it got transformed into a 150km long cycle and walking trail and seems to be very popular now. The rail leads through tunnel, over bridges, along old train stations and so so called ganger huts, which were used by the railway workers for shelter. I used them now for camping. They were big enough to fit my bike and my mattress in, so didn’t need to use my tent. As further I got east and inland as dryer the landscape got. Alexandra at the end of the rail trail has apparently just 300mm rainfall. That’s a big difference to the 3m at the west coast, which is not so far away.

 

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Fantastic view on the Alps2Ocean cycle trail

The Alps2Ocean trail brought me back to the Southern Alps and this time I was even able to see them. Unlike a few weeks earlier, when I was on the other side of this mountain range at the west coast, the snow-capped peaks were not completely covered in clouds. This trail was more demanding than the Otago Rail Trail and a couple of time I even had to push uphill over a rocky section. It was worth it, as the views were fantastic.

 

 

 

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Mount Cook

At Lake Pukaki I decided to rest for a day, It was just too beautiful. The colour of Lake Pukaki was unbelievably blue due to the meltwater from the glaciers, what is feeding the lake. I was the only person there, as I came over a gravel road on the east side of the lake. The main road is on the other side. I spent the whole day just lying in the sun and it was hard to leave that place the next day, but I ran out of food.

 

 

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Aurora Australis

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A few days later I reached Christchurch. In conversation with New Zealanders I heard a lot about the earthquake from 2011 and I was wondering how the city looks like. Indeed there were lots of constructions going on and empty lots weren’t seldom. Especially churches and other old buildings were damaged und covered by scaffolds. Apart from that I found Christchurch not so interesting and I left two days later. Along the east coast I headed back to Picton, from where the ferry to Wellington leaves. After seven weeks on the South Island I was back on the North Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NZ – South Island – Part I

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The Cook Strait between North and South Island

About 22 kilometers long is the Cook Strait, which is dividing New Zealand’s North and South Island and connects the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific. According to Wikipedia it’s ‘one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world’.  Fortunately it was a calm crossing that day and we haven’t had to use the emergency vomit bags on the ferry. Three hours after we left Wellington we reached Picton.

There we met another cyclist: Dean from Ireland, who I’ve met already two years ago in Dharamshala in India. I’ve never thought to see him again, but sometimes the world is a smaller place than it seems to be. It followed a great night, as we had lots of stories about our trips to share.

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Dean and Jason, probably talking about cycle touring

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The ferry in Picton’s habour

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The windy road along the Queen-Charlotte-Sound

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The Queen-Charlotte-Sound

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If somebody recognize this river from somewhere. It’s the set from the barrel scene of second ‘The Hobbit’ movie.

The next morning we woke up and it was summer. At least it felt like that. 20 degrees and sunshine kept us off our bikes for a while as it was much more tempting to just lie in the sun at the sea. After Dean boarded his ferry to Wellington, Jason and I hit the road and started cycling westwards along the Queen Charlotte Sound towards Nelson.

We decided to leave the sealed road but following a more adventures dirt track over a mountain to Nelson. Barry, our warmshowers host in Wellington, recommended it to us. He described it as hard work, but definitely worth it. The first kilometers were easy and not steep at all and we were wondering when the part would start. The track was leading through a beautiful valley with yellow flowers everywhere. Suddenly it got steeper and steeper and the surface worse and worse. After crossing a creek it was not possible to ride anymore. The gravel was so rough and loose and really steep that pushing was even hard. With lots of breaks we somehow managed to push for about 7km to the top. Every time I stopped I was cursing Barry for that tip, but at the end of the day I was more than glad to have chosen that track. It was definitely worth the effort.

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The track to Nelson. First it was still possible to ride…

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…through a beatiful landscape…

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…till a river stopped us…

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…till it was finally to steep and rough to ride. (it doesn’t really look steep on this photo. but it was)

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Summer is there

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The milkyway

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Camping at rivers is always great…

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…but especially with such clear sky.

From Nelson we left the coast and were heading slowly towards the west coast. The road was leading through narrow valleys and along rivers and in the distance we sometimes had a great view on snow-capped mountains. Rivers were awesome places to camp. There was always enough drift wood for a fire at night and the possibility of a quick bath in the ice cold water after a long day of riding was more than awesome.

One night we planned to stay with a warmshowers host. According to his profile he had no internet at home, it would be alright to just show up. That’s what we did. But we didn’t find our host there. We bumped into his friend Trev, who was looking after the house, while our actual host was travelling overseas. Trev had no problem with us staying there for a night. In fact he was quite happy about some company, I guessed.

It was a beautiful house, but I was wondering how they could live there. Billions of sandflies made it nearly impossible to sit outside and quickly I had a constant urge to scratch my legs and arm, as they were full of bites. I had heard a few stories about these nasty insects before, but that it will be that crazy I didn’t imagine. Trev mentioned though, that this place is one of the worst sandflies areas in whole New Zealand. Anyway we had to get you used to them, as the whole west coast is full of them. At least they don’t bite at night, what probably saved us that night. We could sleep in a little hut, but we forget to close the door properly and left a light on. After a while the room walls were black of flies attracted by the light. We tried to get them out, but after a while we surrendered and ignored them.

Finally we reached the west coast and suddenly the riding got much harder. Not just because of the sudden drop of the temperature, rather because of the constant strong headwind. Despites the wind it was an interesting landscape. Some parts of the road leaded direct along the sea, sometimes through thick rainforest. Combined with the limestone hills it nearly looked like places in South East Asia.

 

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The pancake rocks

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A blow hole creates this wonderful waterfall

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What a road

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Jason in our host’s kayak

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In Hokitika we stayed with another Warmshowers legend. Kevin has hosted over hundred cyclists and other travellers during the last few years. He was even driving with us and his kayak to the next lake, so I got my first kayak experiences, what was much easier than I thought. The day we planned to leave, we got typical west coast weather. It was pouring rain for the whole day, but Kevin offered us to another day. Thanks Kevin! That was hospitality as its best.

We were getting closer to the Southern Alps and were already supposed to see the white peaks. Instead we were only seeing a thick layer of fog and clouds stuck in the mountains. Actually we weren’t surprised, as the west coast is the wettest part New Zealand’s. Still it was a nice atmosphere and except for the wind I enjoyed cycling there.

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Thick clouds were covering the mountains all the time

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The glaciers are the biggest tourist attraction on the west coast. The little townships at Franz-Josef and Fox Glacier exist probably just for tourism.

At Franz-Josef we camped not far from the walk to the glacier and got up with the first sunlight, so we had the whole valley for ourselves. Just as we came back, the first tour buses arrived. It was great walking alone through that valley what was once formed by the massive forces of the ice. Now it was very colourful: Green moose and red algae on the rocks, lots of waterfalls and the glacier at the end.

Unfortunately it’s not allowed anymore to get really close to the glacier. Over the last few years the glacier has retreated so much, that’s it too dangerous now. Even the guided tours you can book there, don’t access the glacier from the valley anymore, instead they land with helicopters on it. Due to global warming the glaciers will further retreat. The Franz-Josef glacier will probably lose another 5km length and 38% of its mass till 2100.

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Franz-Josef Glacier

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Just a few years back the glacier reached till the point where I took the photo from

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Red algae give the rock the red colour.

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Fox Glacier

On the last part of the west coast we got to feel the rain again. It started raining in the afternoon and didn’t stop before the next morning. Luckily we found some shelter under the veranda of a town hall and the warden even allowed us to camp there. The next morning there were still some parts of the road flooded with 10 to 20 centimeters deep water and all the rivers were massive.

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Camping on the veranda of a town hall

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Flooded road

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There are heaps of waterfalls on the Haast pass.

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On the Haast pass

Finally we left the west coast over the 560m high Haast Pass into Otago. It was big change in the Landscape. The Southern Alps form a barrier for the wet weather coming from the west, so it is much dryer in Otago. Suddenly even the sky was clear and we could see the snow-capped mountains. From the pass it was going downhill to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea till Wanaka.

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Lake Wanaka

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Riding along Lake Wanaka

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Over another pass, what is with 1077m the highest sealed road in New Zealand, it was going to Queenstown. It’s supposed to be the ‘adventure capital’ and there are heaps of shops selling tours like skydiving, paragliding, bungy jumping and so on. I’m not really interested in spending my money on that kind of stuff, so we jumped straight on board of an old refurbed steamer to get on the other side of Lake Wakapitu.

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Crown range road, NZs highest sealed road

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On 1077m, the top of the pass

There’s just cattle and sheep station, but a 90km gravel road leads south to the main road, what sounded really interesting. And it was. Except for thousands of sheep, lots of cows and a few farmer there was just nothing but an incredible landscape. We bumped into a shepherd, who told us that his stations has about 30000 sheep and they’re one of the biggest suppliers for Icebreaker. Good to know where my shirt is coming from. After getting deeper into a valley and uphill the landscape changed from green grass to very dry vegetation. Again we camped on a river again with a beautiful view on a snowy mountain. A few times we had cross some rivers. Due to the heavy rainy during the previous days, they were quite full. Each time we had to dismount all our gear from our bikes and carry everything barefoot through the rivers.

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This 100 year old steamer brought us on the other side of Lake Wakapitu

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His station has more than 30000 sheep

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Got cold feet at a fort

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And another ford

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After a quick stop in Te Anau we were thanks to a big tailwind ‘flying’ south to Invercargill, the most southern city in New Zealand. It’s nearly half time of my New Zealand adventure and from here it’s going north again, back towards Auckland. Hopefully it’s getting warmer soon and I get more tailwinds.

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At Bluff, not the most southern of the South Island but almost

New Zealand – North Island

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Lord of the Rings is everywhere in New Zealand, even at the Airport. The assembly area for bicycles was more than helpful.

My year in Australia ended as it began: With a flight, even though I don’t like flying at all. Not that I’m scared of it, but it’s a too fast way of travelling for me. Not to mention it’s absolutely not environmentally friendly. For the 2000 kilometer a plane needs just three hours. On my bike I would have needed a few weeks for the same distance. Taking a boat over the Tasman Sea would have made much more sense to me, but there aren’t many possibilities. Joining a containership would have been a way to expensive and for a private yacht you need to be very lucky. So I had no other choice to pack my bike into a cardboard box and to pray that it will survive the flight.

My plane arrived late at night in Auckland. The visa stamp was easy to get, but afterwards everybody had to line up for the bio screening. New Zealand is probably one of the countries with the highest bio security, due to avoid bringing new pests and diseases into the local ecosystem. Especially the agriculture is afraid of it. Just recently some queensland fruit flies made it to New Zealand and they could have serious consequences for the farmers. All groceries as well as camping and other outdoor equipment must be declared.  I scrubbed my bike as well as never before, but the officers weren’t really interest in controlling it anyway. Just my tent got inspected in a lab, after waiting 20 minutes I got it back and could leave the airport with all my gear.

It was after midnight and too late to show up at my Warmshowers host. As I was too tired to assemble my bike and ride 20 km into the city anyway, I decided to try to sleep on bench for a couple of hours. I slept much better than expected. I just got up, when the airport was getting crowded and loud again at 6am.

I knew that New Zealand is a popular destination for touring cyclists, though I haven’t expected to meet a few cyclists already on the airport. I bumped into Jason from England, when I started assembling my bike. But before finishing that we kept talking for over an hour about our trips. In Asia and Australia we’ve ridden basically the same route and it was awesome to talk about this experience with another cyclist. After a while Katherine, another cyclist, joined us and we started riding into town together.

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First puncture after 3 km. Hope that was her last one for a while.

We didn’t come far though. A bang interrupted us. First I thought it’s from a truck behind us, but then I saw Katherine’s flat tyre. The tube had exploded and damaged the tyre as well. A bike shop wasn’t too far away luckily. Later that day I arrived at my hosts Ben and Emilie and got a first impression of the great hospitality in New Zealand. They’ve even lived in Bonn for a while, maybe I’ve even seen them there. What a small world.

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Ready to start riding in NZ, Jason and myself

I was more than keen to start riding. Jason had same plans, so we decided to start together. We both haven’t been riding with someone else for a long time. We were used to do what we wanted to do, to our own pace without doing any compromises. I think if you travel alone for a longer time you getting a bit selfish. So we had no idea for how long it will last. However, I was looking forward not to ride alone for a while.

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NZ_Nordinsel_part1-7 Our first campspot

In Australia I was used to ride till sunset and then just camping somewhere in the bush. Here it seemed to be a bit more difficult. There’s lots of farmland and it’s all fenced, even the forests are fenced and not easily accessible. A few years back they had big problems mainly with tourists in campervans, who thought they don’t need toilets and don’t have to dig a hole either. That’s the reason why wild camping is not allowed anymore in many places

After riding out of Auckland and finally reaching rural area at the sea, we saw an awesome spot for our tents, but of course there were ‘no camping’ signs. We stopped and a local approached. While chatting about cycle touring, he mentioned that nobody would care, if we are camping there. Still unsure we asked two more people there and everyone said the same. Apparently New Zealander don’t take those signs too serious.

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There lots of dairy farms in NZ

From the northern coast we headed inland towards the center of the North Island. It became hillier and the weather was as unpredictable as possible. Rain and sun changed nearly every hour. The same for the wind, sometimes a strong tailwind pushed us and a bit later an annoying headwind slowed us down.

We passed the film location for ‘Hobbiton’ from the Lord of the Rings movies. A tour through the old set was ridiculous expensive though, but the landscape looked really like Tolkien had described it in his books. Green hills everywhere.

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We were lucky and could sleep in storage room of a school. The teachers called this room ‘ratroom’ though. Luxury for us.

Finding places to sleep was easy. Usually we just asked if we can pitch our tents, as we didn’t want to just jump over fences. One day we asked a local teacher and he unlocked us straight away a storage room in his school for the night. Luckily for us, as the night was really stormy.NZ_Nordinsel_part1-15

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We bumped into a mountain bike trail

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Near the Huka Falls in Taupo


After a few days we reached Taupo in the middle of the North Island. Lake Taupo is largest lake in New Zealand and was formed through a huge volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. Unfortunately we couldn’t see much from the lake as it foggy and raining the whole time. However, we enjoyed Taupo, thanks to the free hot springs, where we spent a couple of hours. A dream for cyclists.

From the lake it was going uphill towards the Tongariro range. Just as we finished climbing the sky cleared and we had a fantastic view on the volcanoes. It was nearly dark and an icy wind blew down from the snowy mountains. We asked at one of the few houses up there if it would be alright to camp on the other site of the road at the edge of a forest. Of course it wasn’t a problem and Matthew, who was living with his wife in that house, even invited us to camp on his property. Despite the cold he joined us while we were cooking and started telling fabulous stories about his Maori tribe. How they arrived in New Zealand centuries ago, about the meaning of volcanoes and about the conflicts with the first British settlers. He spoke partly in Maori and partly in English, mixes facts with Legends, what made listening very fascinating. It was without any doubt a special night.

On the next morning he woke us up at 6 o’clock, so we could join him fishing at the nearby river. He didn’t use a fishing rod though, but just a net. While Jason and I had to throw rocks into the deeper sections of the river he was standing in the water waiting for the trouts to swim into the net. And it worked. After a few tries he caught two rainbow trouts. Matthew gave us one, so I had to use my gut fish gutting skills for a long time again. Luckily my grandfather taught me that years ago. Jason made a fire and we had great breakfast.

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Grilled trout was a special breakfast.

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Matthew, what a legend.

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Riding past the Ngauruhoe. Togehter with Chigusa from Japan.

Just as we wanted to ride on, Chigusa from Japan cycled past us. We joined her and the next 30 kilometers the road leaded us along the volcanoes, what was definitely the best road in New Zealand so far. Especially the Ngauruhoe stands out of the range with its conic shape. It’s not surprising that Peter Jackson chose this mountain as Mount Doom for the Lord of the Rings movies. It’s still quite young and one of the most active volcanoes in New Zealand. In the 20th century there were more than 40 eruptions. A bit further south is the 2797 high Ruapehu, who is the highest mountain on the North Island.

Unfortunately due to the bad weather on the previous days, it was too much snow on the range and it was too windy as well to go hiking. Hopefully I’m luckier when I pass this area again on my way back to Auckland.

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The Ngauruhoe again.


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From the plateau it was long descend towards the west coast. The road to Whanganui was affected by a large flood a couple of months ago. Several landslides destroyed the road and there were still plenty of constructions going on. Good for us cause there was not much traffic going on.

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countless sheeps

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On the way to Wellington we were blown away again by the overwhelming hospitality. Just before sunset we were descending from hill. The wind was icy and we were desperately looking for a place to camp. But even though there weren’t any house for a while, all the land was fenced or just not suitable for our tents. At the first house we’ve seen Jason asked if could camp on their lawn for a night, but they literally dragged us into their house, offered us a room to sleep in and made a hot cup tea. Instead of sitting in a cold tent, we spent the night next to a comfy fireplace with wonderful people.

Before we got into Wellington, we had to climb some hills again. We chose the Rimutaka Rail Trail over the busy road. As it was an old railway track, we thought it couldn’t be too steep. We were wrong though and the wind was blowing as hell around us, but it was still a great track. A couple of times we had to pass some old tunnel, the longest one was a few hundred meters long and you could just see a little light in the distance. Once we reach the top, it was long descend down to Wellington.

 

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The Rimutaka Rail Trail

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Wellington