The South – 1219km

I try to show the road I have travled in these's the right one.

Last we met I was on my way to Dunedin, to visit my friend Adrienne, whom we first met in France last year. As the only person I know in NZ, it was nice to see a friendly and familiar face. It was nice to spend a couple of days on the couch, right in town, doing laundry and meeting her nice array of friends. It was also the biggest city I have been in since I left Christchurch. It was an 80km slog from the last stop and the last 16k were VERY hilly and seemed to drag on forever.

I blanched at doing those huge, tedious hills again, and took a bus for a bit. That same trip that took me 6-7 hours only took 1. ugh.
Then it was south into the The Catlins, the area at the very south of the island. I took the Southern Scenic Route which sweeps along the coast. I didn’t see the coast very often. Most of the scenic things were 8-15km off the road and I am not one for unnecessary kilometers. Plus, they led to bays and beaches and I have spent my life on the coast, so ‘meh’.

It was amazingly windy up here.

The Catlins turned out to be 6 straight days of full gale-force winds, gusting into hurricane winds. It was often clear and sunny but just brutal winds that made forward progress tedious if not impossible. I spent most of the week sitting in hostels, reading and coding, waiting for the weather to pass. I spent 1.5 hrs struggling to make 12km to the next hostel in terrible wind and rain showers, such was the need to make SOME progress. At some point I had to take refuge in a hay barn while the rain passed.

Untitled from Donald Booth on Vimeo.

I ended up getting a ride for 70km into Invercargill, hoping the truck didn’t get blown off the road. When we stopped in Bluff, the winds were blowing 65knots (74mph).
Invercargill is the main big city of the far south. I spent 3 days there, resting (again) and waiting for the wind to stop. There was a partial solar eclipse while I was there and I got a brief view of it through the clouds and rain.

Solar Eclipse in Invercargill

It blew a gale solid until the morning I left, when it was blessedly clear and wind free. Also, it was time to turn around and finally head north!

Te Anau is the main gateway to the Fjordlands, the top tourist attraction in NZ. It’s wild, mountainous land with many many fjords. The first day I went to Doubtful Sound. This entails a short bus ride, a 1hr trip across the lake, a 20km bus ride (after a quick trip down and INTO the mountain to check out the hydro-electric plant.) and then a 3 hour boat ride in the fjord.

The next day was a nice 2 hour ride to Milford Sound. (The Hobbit film crew was in the area, but I didn’t spot them!) An amazing landscape and then a 2 hour ride in the very impressive fjord. Back at the dock I took the opportunity to do a 30 minute helicopter ride. They take you up to a glacier at 6000ft and then you get a few minutes to hang out and take some pics. Then down the valley and the bus picks you up on the way out! It was great: impressive, a little nerve-wracking, lots to take in, trying to make steady films. For $220US, it was a great deal. I recommend the day at Milford if you are in the area.

A rare portrait of the author, on top of a glacier at Milford Sound.

Long but good days. I don’t do touristy things like this very often, but these were worth it, esp since I biked so far to get there.

Leaving Te Anau was the best day of riding yet. It started out calm but then a stiff TAILWIND started. Finally it was helping rather then hindering me. I blazed through the countryside with sustained runs of 35, 45, 50km. I hit the low 60s for a few mins (35mph). I kept waiting for the hilly part I passed on the bus, but before I knew it, I was amazed to be in the little town only 20km from Lumsden. I did the whole thing in 3.5 hours. Super fun.

Next morning, I took a left and headed north..and into the g.d. wind again. That 60km took me 6 hours. Ugh. The next day I finished the last 47km to Queenstown. That morning I had notice just how much worn my back tire was than my front. The back is taking the weight from the trailer. I made a note to get to the bike shop for tire rotation/tune up when I got there that afternoon. Sure enough, the back tire was punctured 20 out of town. I was lagging since I didn’t have breakfast that morning. The single store in town wasn’t opened yet. But either way, a quick and smooth patch job/tube swap and I was back on the road (Being passed by Hobbit filming trucks for a good while.).
So now I am resting in Queenstown: the adventure captical/tourist trap that everyone dismisses. Bungy jumping was invented here. Zip lines, jet boats, hang gliding, parachuting: it’s all happening here.
I will head to Cromwell tomorrow, where I spent that week painting the wall, and be a helper for a couple days.
Then it is off to the wild, wet and remote West Coast.

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