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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.