Friday, 9 September 2016

The Long White Cloud Ahead

Well, the bike is packed again and I'm ready for the next journey, this time through New Zealand, both North and South Islands.  Part 1 of my Australasian adventure was a resounding success; 28 days from Darwin to Melbourne was better time than I could have hoped for, especially as the total distance worked-out about 200Km further than I thought.  The only thing was, I spent slightly more than I had budgeted for.  I was hoping to spend less than $1500, but spent a little over $1600 (about 900 pounds).  Not bad, I suppose.  I spent a little more on food than I had anticipated, which was the cause of the slight overspend.

New Zealand is going to be a very different kind of trip.  The nature of the vast distances of nothing between populated areas and things to see meant Australia was always going to be about the challenge of churning-out the miles.  New Zealand on the other hand should be a massive contrast.  With much shorter distances between towns and cities, as well as other places of interest, big distances would not only be difficult, but also undesirable.  With so much to see, I want to take my time and appreciate it all.

There is much less of a plan for New Zealand also, but what is known is that I arrive on the 10th of September and I leave on the 30th of November, this gives me nearly 3 months, so no rush on the bike.  However, I am starting and finishing at Auckland, so I have to go down and back up again, with a possibility I may get some help on the way back part of the way, but maybe not.  I did things this way as there are some things I want to do on the North Island in late November that I couldn't do in mid-September. This trip is more flexible, though, so I'll just have to see how things go.  The planned route so far is below, but it'll no doubt extend further south beyond Queenstown and will obviously have to go back up to Auckland.  If I bike the whole way - down and then back up - the total distance will be similar to the Australia tour, just over nearly 3 months, rather than one.

North Island planned route.

North Island
I have a few side-trips planned during the main route through the North Island, but essentially I head first to the Coromandel peninsula, then back down through Matamata and Rotorua.  I then go to the Tongariro National Park and hopefully a 3 day hike around the Northern Circuit (one of the Great Walks).  However, this is weather permitting, as it will be late winter/early spring and the conditions may be pretty wild and there will certainly be a heck of a lot of snow on the ground.

After Tongariro, I make my way to Whanganui and then down to Wellington to make a pre-booked ferry crossing to the South Island on the 28th of September.  There will be many little side trips and stops in between all this.  The centre-piece of the North Island way down is Tongariro, though, so let's hope I can get out there.

South Island

South Island
Once I arrive in Picton, I make my way to Motueka, where I plan to have a day or two kayaking around the Abel Tasman National Park coastline.  Then I make my way down the west coast to Haast, passing the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers on the way.  I then head inland again to the beautiful town of Wanaka to meet my friend Alex, who has just started living there.  I have made no plans after this, but I will definitely be in Queenstown at some point, and would like to do the Kepler Track (another Great Walk), just before the Great Walks season starts so I don't have to book accommodation for the walk, before heading to Milford Sound (although I won't be doing this walk as it is impossible to do out of season).  What Alex has planned for me in Wanaka, however, I don't know.

The Way Back to Auckland
Again, unplanned as yet, but there are a few of places I want to hit, for sure, on the way back:

- Arthurs Pass (South Island)
- Hooker Valley (South Island)
- Mount Taranaki (North Island)
- Waitomo Caves (North Island)

There are many other places of interest that I wouldn't mind diverting to also, but it all depends on time.

What to Expect on the Bike
There should be quite a contrast between New Zealand and Australia, and not just in the scenery.  The main challenge will be the hills and mountain passes.  I pride myself on not getting off the bike and walking it up, I haven't done it so far, either during my Darwin to Melbourne leg or in practice through the hills and mountains of Victoria in training.  However, New Zealand may be a different kettle of fish; I expect proper alpine switchbacks that go on for some time.  Although the one advantage of this is that, what goes up must come down.  The kind of fitness required will change from long hours of steady pedaling to gut busting climbs and rest periods.

Another contrast will be in the weather.  Although it was cold in South Australia and Victoria towards the end of my trip, it has the potential to be colder in New Zealand, especially through September and I will be heading South through October too.  I don't go too high on the bike on the way down towards Wanaka (about 800m max), but even this height still has the potential for snow and ice (though unlikely), and obviously that pretty much stops me cycling because there is no way I would risk riding a fully-loaded bike in such conditions.  If I bike up to Whakapapa village in Tongariro National Park, the altitude will be much higher, and I would only do so under the right conditions.  I will find other means of getting there if the conditions are not fit for cycling, although the challenge of getting up there is somewhat appealing, and it would be a really pretty road.

I will be doing a fair amount of hiking at altitude also, and the cold and snow will be very relevant, perhaps throughout the whole tour.  I am pretty sure that the snow will be around right up until I leave.  Ice axe and crampons at the ready!

As well as the cold, rain and wind is likely to be more of an issue in New Zealand.  If I am camping, I need to be a little better organised for wet weather.  The one advantage I have in New Zealand, though, is that I can check weather forecasts everyday, as I should have greater access to the internet, and I will have much better access to accommodation, especially hostels, which I intend to use much more often than in Australia.  I need to use proper accommodation also because I will be doing more things, like hiking, running, and kayaking, off the bike, so I need somewhere safe to keep it.

With more to do and see, and a greater use of hostels and campsites, I expect this trip to be a bit more expensive per day than my journey through Australia.

Updates will be forthcoming, it should be much easier to get them done also, with the slightly more relaxed days in the saddle.  Can't wait to get started!

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