New Zealand 2014/15

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Thursday January 1, 2015

Blenheim to Rolleston

New Year's Day. The bathroom heater has dried us out overnight.

So now there is no plan and no planning resources. The South Island section of our Lonely Planet guidebook is back at SpringCurl. We don't know which towns have accommodation. If only we had our camping gear (which is also back at SpringCurl). We decide to head to Christchurch.

New Zealand 1430

To Blenheim

The morning road to Blenheim is calm and serene. There are no major climbs – farms are nestled in the river valley with a panorama of hills around them. Around 10:00 in the morning the onshore breeze picks up, like it does every morning. The trucks have taken the day off.

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Fellow travellers

On the outskirts of Renwick vineyards start. Vines are planted as far as the eye can see. All the quaint branding of "carefully selected" and "single vineyard" and "family tradition" flies out the window as one rides past hectares of vines. The world has a big thirst for New Zealand wines, and New Zealand does its best to accommodate.

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As far as the eye can see

We don't have enough time to cycle to Christchurch, so at Blenheim we hop the train and try our best to catch the views as we ride the rails. Lady Como is snug in the baggage car. At the rear of the train is a lookout car that is open to the world. It is great for photos and fresh air.

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In transit

The land is parched and so are we. Surely on New Year's Day one should be able to get a glass of wine on the train? Not so. Rule are rules, and holidays are holidays. The train is not licensed to sell wine on holidays. ("That means you can give it to us", I say.)

New Zealand 1541

Off road trail?

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Seals basking

The South Island waters are just a blue as the North.

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South Island waters

Friday January 2, 2015


Today is a cycling day full of promise. The AA map in the motel room shows that Riccarton Road will lead us to Wine Trails. The map shows lots of small communities. There will be vineyards to see and quaint little towns to find.

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New Zealand 1599

Horse country

In fact the riding is flat, on roads going nowhere. Riccarton Road turns into the Old West Coast Road and passes through horse country. The first vineyard we find is closed. Permanently by all appearances. The second vineyard is closed. It is January 2. January 2 is a statutory holiday in New Zealand. Who ever heard of January 2 being a statutory holiday?

We ride to the nearest small, quaint town on the map. It does not exist. It is getting close to lunch time. The sky is cloudless. We ride on to Rolleston.

Rolleston is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Our choices for eateries are McDonald's or a bar called The Rock. Did I come all this way to sit in a bar called The Rock, eating shrimp that tastes like cardboard with garlic bread for lunch? No quaint villages. No vineyards. This is supposed to be a wine region, darn it.

All the small irritations spill out like ink over a blank sheet of paper. It is time for a rant, which I will not repeat here. We talk through all our petty peeves and get them off our chests. And then they suddenly don't seem as important anymore. There is still a trip to enjoy, even if it isn't the one we had hoped for.

Maybe tomorrow we will find elegance in Christchurch.

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So we ride back to Riccarton Road, find a New World grocery store, and pick up supplies for supper. We have done more grocery shopping together on this trip than in the past 30 years.

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11 comments on “New Zealand 2014/15”

  1. MJ Ray wrote:

    The images aren't showing for me 🙁

  2. Kern wrote:

    Hi MJ. Thanks for the feedback. I've broken up the report into multiple pages. It should load now. Let me know.

  3. thank you so much for this lovely write up. we were in NZ but not cycling in 2001. We spent 4 wonderful days kayaking Queen Charlotte sound from Havelock. you have brought back some lovely memories.

  4. Kern wrote:

    Hi Brenda – I'm glad you enjoyed it. We have never kayaked, but I can see how Queen Charlotte sound would be spectacular to do so. It is wonderful territory.

  5. Hi There Mary and Kern
    Really enjoyed reading your trip report. We will never forget the tandem spread all over the floor in room 3. Hope we meet again in the not too distant future. 27 degrees here today.
    Love. John & Christine

  6. Patrick wrote:

    That is a great read Kern. The conclusion, unwritten, appears to be (as the man said): "You must always go a bit outside your comfort zone. If you don't, your comfort zone gets smaller." That is very true but mine has reached a point where I always need a plan. I think there's something to be said for it but perhaps it doesn't matter later when you look back. One of our sons spent six months in New Zealand and the thing he enjoyed most was the wilderness (on the South Island).

    Regarding camping on a cycle tour, I think it has to be one thing, or the other. I have sat in some pleasant accommodation and thought drat... we're camping again tomorrow night.

  7. Claire wrote:

    I read it all in one sitting! I did not expect a trip report to have so much dramatic tension, it was like reading a short story. I think you had your A-HA moment after all!! (It just didn't involve scenery... pfff over-rated).
    Also I really like the style of text interspersed with relevant photos and the "punny" photo captions.

  8. Kern wrote:

    "Dramatic tension" – holy cow, Claire, no wonder you're my favourite daughter-in-law 🙂 .

    Patrick, I'm tickled that you came to such a philosophical conclusion. Our main conclusion was a bit more prosaic: Don't plan a cycling trip between Christmas and New Years. (The North Island poses extra touring challenges, in that it is impossible to avoid heavy traffic.)

    We're with you on camping. Next time we leave the gear behind, unless we're in the Rockies.

    27 degrees. Hmmm .... well, it's almost 27 today as well (depending on which scale you use).

  9. Andrew wrote:

    Loved every moment reading of the trip, thanks Mary and Kern, especially Mary sweeping in The Shire... And Kern shaving half the lonely planet 🙂
    My favorite photo of the year is Mary sweeping we are going to frame that here!
    Impressive adventure and a lot of tough cycling undertaking. Although I'm sure that wine bottle holder for the bike came in handy though! never seen one before!?
    Congrats on another great adventure on the bike! Look forward to the next one

  10. Kern wrote:

    Andrew wrote

    ... that wine bottle holder for the bike ...

    Wine bottle holder??? Mary told me it was water!

    (Mary couldn't help herself with that broom. She just picked it up and started sweeping like it was the most natural thing in the world 🙂 .)

  11. Gerard wrote:

    Thank you. As a Kiwi, I enjoyed this. I will ride the Tour Aotearoa next February: look it up, as it's a slightly more off-road version of your trip, from top to bottom.

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