South Island, the short of it. Part 1 Punakaiki

A quick photoblog to summarize my last month riding New Zealand’s South island in 2012. I know I know it’s been 4 years right? But forgive me if you will, because theres some really great moments I’d like to share before moving on to write about iceland, which I will try to keep updated from the road.


Route around South Island . I ran out of time and had to take the bus from Oamaru back up to picton to catch the ferry at the end of my journey.

So when we left off I was in Nelson, a great funky little town. The road west to Westport was a good ride but quite uneventful in the grand scheme of things. Somewhere along the way, Doug and I parted ways and I was riding solo again towards the west coast.

The next highlight of the trip took place in Punakaiki, land of the pancakes.


The coast coming into punakaiki


Great views no matter which way you turn.


Hard to resist stopping a few times along the beach


Finally arriving at the pancakes rocks in the late afternoon.



So what exactly are these pancake rocks? Apparently around 30 million years ago debris from dead ocean creatures and plant matter landed on the seabed about 2 km south of the surface. Intense water pressure caused the fragments to form into soft and hard layers. Gradually over the course of time, seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed, to where we see it today. Rain, wind and seawater eroded and sculpted these towers into bizarre shapes.


Pretty neat, huh?



I found the sea Queen’s throne


Beach stroll in the evening after I checked into the hostel.


Probably the best day of riding so far, and to end it with this sunset will be a memory I will treasure always and forever.

Love this weather forecasting system outside the hostel

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The compass points west

The strongest rainbow i've ever laid my eyes on.

On the ferry we caught up with Gotz (a German cyclist who Doug had met the week prior) and decide to ride the next few days together into Nelson. I convinced the boys to ride a few hours out-of-town to find a camping spot instead of staying in Picton after our arrival. So we rode along in the mist past the Marlborough Sounds and quickly put up our tents before this huge storm came in during the night, leaving me thinking that my tent may collapse in the darkest hours of the night.

A good look down into the Marlborough sounds, shortly after leaving Picton

The next day we made it to the outskirts of Nelson and stayed with Neil (warmshowers host) who had recently bought a small acreage and was building his dream house. Celebrating Doug’s birthday over fish and chips and a local brew we made plans to stay in Nelson for a few more days to enjoy the free-spirited hippy art vibe the exuded from the Nelson community.

Neil, Myself, Doug, Gotz

Neil decided to bike in with us to Nelson but not before taking a quick detour down to the beach. Once there the question was proposed, can we just follow the beachfront and link up with another road down the ways? Neil didn’t have any doubts that we would indeed find a way back to the highway so we set forth on climbing a massive stretch of boulders, which would be fine if the 3 bike packers weren’t carrying so much deadweight on top of our bikes. With a little struggle and talk of many beers upon completion we endured the few kms of boulders and cut back onto the main road.

Beachfront boulder track outside of Nelson, Not recommended for loaded cyclist.

After searching high and low all over the north island for this gluten-free microbrew, I finally found it in Nelson. Pretty damm refreshing after pushing my bike over boulders for an hour.

Before coming to New Zealand I had a shortlist of “must see or dos”. One of the things to check off my list was to do a bone carving workshop to make my own Maori inspired carving. I wanted to be culturally sensitive and make sure it wasn’t inappropriate for a foreigner to work on such a thing, but Steven (the bone carving master) reassured me that even though the basic symbols may have significance to the people of this land, you bring your own energy and ideas into the piece making it yours and something that you can relate to. So I decided on the fish-hook symbol which represents strength, determination, good luck, peace, good health, prosperity and are thought to provide a safe passage across water .

Stage 1 - The sketching of ideas ( I have natural talent... clearly)

Material im working with, cow bone

Stage 2 - After roughly drawing the shape out on a piece of bone you saw around your piece

Artist at work

With the basic shape at hand you're ready to start with the precision touches

Stage 3 - Trimming and smoothing the sides

Stage 4 - Going in with hand tools to carve out the inside

Stage 5 - rounding out the sides to give depth to the piece

Stage 6 - Ready to sand everything down

Finished product

This was a lot of fun and at the end of the day we all went home with pieces that we were proud to have made. I really liked working with bone as a material and I may look into some tools when I get home.

With a new skill under my belt it was time to head off down the road to the gateway of the west coast.

Farewell Nelson!

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A Hop, Skip and Jump down to Wellington

With just about a month left in this awesome country we decide to jump on a bus from Stratford down to the capital of New Zealand Windy Wellington and spend a few days browsing free museums, eating at a variety of cheap asian restaurants and taking on the charming and funky Cuba St. street life before catching a ferry over to the south island. This city offered nothing but wind and rain the whole time, which would be fine in most cases but the fact is it doesn’t just come in from one direction and is more or less accompanied by sheets of cold rain rolling every which way into the city.

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Forgotten World Highway

After packing up our bikes and using McDonald’s free wi-fi from across the street, Doug and I were tracked down by the owners of Kelly’s motel and handed a small jar of feijoa  jam. We had been raving about our new favourite foreign fruit the night before and so this jam was a very sweet departing gift and would be quite a treat for the next few days. We set off down the road leaving Taumarunui and found that indeed the forgotten world highway lived up to its name. Rugged with drastic up and downs and signpost that all gave different mileage and direction arrows were sure to confuse some people. Lucky for us, it was one straight shot to Stratford and we didn’t have to veer off the main road. We found ourselves quite happy with the lack of traffic on the highway seeing less than 40 cars in both days of riding. Even the section of 15km gravel road weren’t as bad as described.

Lavender farm on the outskirts of town, I got a nice whiff as I came down the hill into the valley


Anyways Chris had caught up to us quite early in the day and we pedaled along hard in the hottest day I’ve had since being here.

The earth buckled and folded all around us

The forgotten world highway has no amenities or shops on it until you reach the independent republic of Whangamomona.We were in drastic need of water and nightfall was coming on rather quickly so we decided to push through and arrived at the hotel and tavern at 8:30. This was really the only building in the town, although there were a few others that were all shutdown. There were some locals, some tourist and the campground owner who rode up to the bar on his horse making this feel like a movie set from deadwood. After a few rounds of the local draft beer and cider we finished our potato wedges with cheese and bacon (which was delicious) got our passports stamped and made our way the 400ft or 500ft depending at which sign you look at to the campground. The hour that followed would surely be one that the 3 of us would remember for the rest of our lives and make one hell of a good story for decades to come.

Now you see, the town’s population was only 15 people, and even though most of them could barely stand when leaving the bar that night let alone steal a bike and ride it in the dark, the 3 Canadian cycle tourist may have been over paranoid about the safety of our bikes, then again can you really be too safe with such things? So we brought the bikes under the roof of the cabin that we thought we were going to stay in for the night. I would have to say that upon further inspection I would have rather ate food off of the bathroom floor rather than sleep on this bed that lay before me. And this is not to belittle anyone there or the management but seriously how hard is it to wash the linen once every year or replace it once it’s so spoiled that I’d rather sleep in the rain. So we decided to set up our tents and call it a night.

Doug, a little less than impressed

I think this speaks for itself.

Well the horseman came back and pissed off that we had decided to not take the cabin and that we brought our bikes in. So the next 30 minutes were spent cornered in a small cabin with a drunken horseman and his horse halfway into the cabin with him insulting us and screaming incoherently at us. After awhile it was like can we just get through? We’re tired, we just want to go to bed, we will pay you anything you want if you just let us go to bed. Finally he let us through and the party continued as we finished setting up our tents. After a long and restless night we awoke to chickens and the horse wandering around the tents. We went to the office to settle up our bill and the quite campground owner waved the bill and handed us a business card with his last parting words being “something to remember us by”

Eerie fog rolling in the next morning

The next day with such an early start we made our way through the rest of the countryside and arrived in the small town of Stratford where we pitched for a room at the holiday park.

An injured bird that I tried to encourage to move across the road 😦

Designated an independent republic in 1989 after the local government tried to move the districts boundaries.

Didn't know this existed. Located in Stratford.

Our neighbours for the night. Farmers from Auckland traveling 100km a day in their vintage tractors pulling campervans. EPIC.

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