Our West Coast Travels

Well, it’s been a while, and for that I apologize.  Since I last wrote, we followed a river down to the Tasman Sea and then turned south..  On the way down the west coast, we wandered along the beach, explored caves, stood next to glaciers, and hiked into the mountains.  Though the weather was less than wonderful, we had a great time.  In the last few days, we’ve crossed over the Southern Alps and have found some sunnier skies.

Skin is waterproof and you can only get so wet.  After five minutes of riding in the rain, your clothes reach a level of saturation that cannot be exceeded.  The wind, on the other hand, does not seem to have a similar limit.  While cycling from Alaska to Mexico, Noah and I argued about who had angered the weather gods and caused them to spite us with constant headwinds.  I now accept responsibility.  The gods were, and continue to be, angry with me, though I don’t know why.  I must apologize to both Noah and now Chris for placing them in this situation.  The winds have been in our face for a while.  At some point you realize that you won’t be setting any distance or speed records for the day and you just plod along.  That’s all you can do.

We’re currently taking a day off and exploring the scenic town of Wanaka.  It sits on a lake and is surrounded by mountains.  Spectacular.  When we’re on our bicycles, we are men on the move.  We put up big numbers and do stupid things.  (A few days back we tramped up the Copland Track to Welcome Flats Hut, which is nestled high in the mountains next to some wonderful hot springs.  The next day we hiked out the ten miles back to the road and then rode 62 miles down the coast to Haast.  Hiking 10 miles is a full day.  Cycling more than 60 miles is a full day.  Doing them both in one day is stupid.)  When we’re in town, however, we become “men of leisure, very European.”  We sit and sip coffee and read the paper.  It’s lovely.

We’re halfway through the trip.  From here we’ll head south and work our way over to Stewart Island.  We fly out of Auckland on March 23rd, so we’ll try to get back to the North Island by March 9th at the latest.  There are a few more place to explore up that way, but the South Island is wonderful, so we’ll spend much of our time here, seeing what we can and loving every minute.

If you have had any part in raising me or in educating me or might feel at all disappointed by me making bone-headed decisions, please skip this paragraph and proceed directly to the pictures.  If you are still reading, let me tell you, brakes are great.  They let you slow down and stay in control as you fly down steep, curvy mountainsides.  If you need to, you can even stop.  They’re amazing.  For a while now, perhaps extending all the way back to when I was riding in Utah many months ago, I’ve been riding without rear brakes.  The springs that force the pads off the wheel were defunct and I chose to disconnect them and rely on my front brakes.  While bombing down a hill into Fox Glacier, my front pads finally gave out.  My first time through Fox Glacier was brief.  The town is located on the side of a hill, so I rolled in, rolled through, and rolled out is quick succession.  After slowing to a halt on the roadside outside of town, I turned around and climbed back up the hill.  The next morning I changed my brake pads, front and rear, and was able to stop.  Amazing.  A few days later, we had breakfast with a bike mechanic from British Columbia.  After the meal, he looked at our bikes and tested my rear brakes.  Though I had changed the pads, I had failed to reconnect the cables.  He tore everything off the rear of the bike, pulled things apart, adjusted, loosened, tightened, tweaked, and fiddled with everything.  He enjoyed himself greatly and now I get to enjoy being able to use both sets of brakes.  This is why we buy people breakfast.  A bike tune-up and a bike pump for the cost of a plate of pancakes.  What a deal.  Anyway, brakes are amazing.

Here are the pictures of the last few days.  Enjoy.

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The coast north of Punakaiki.

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Exploring a cavern.

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Some oddly shaped islands .

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Trumpets are a type of ice cream cone that you can buy at gas stations.  The company was running a promotional campaign in which 1 in 6 caps won.  I won free ice cream cones in four of the five that I bought.  I was beating the odds left and right all the way from Ohope Beach down to Westport.  Amazing skill at choosing the winning cones.  And then I went to redeem one at a gas station north of Franz Josef.  The man smiled at me and told me the promotion had ended on February 1.  I’d waited too long!  Ah well, they’re good, but not good for you.  It’s probably for the best.

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Speaking of things that aren’t good for you, we now know that one gummy snake is equal to thirteen gummy bears.

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Yours truly standing in front of Franz Josef Glacier.

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The track up to Welcome Flats.

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Riding along the lake north of Haast.

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A lake north of Wanaka.

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We’re in New Zealand!  The home of kiwis!  The bird is from here.  The people are called “kiwis.”  The fruit, however, seems to come from Italy.  Unbelievable.

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One Response to Our West Coast Travels

  1. Judith says:

    Perhaps the weather gods were simply protecting you from your curious choice regarding rear brakes.
    Glad to hear you survived THAT decision.
    Love those photos!

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