The South Island

Saturday, Jan. 29, 1994 : Madison-Auckland

15 inches of snow on the ground in Madison. Skied at Elver in AM, good snow. A great winter for skiing in Madison.

Nice view of Madison lakes from plane. Don't think I've ever seen so much snow cover from the air in Madison. Even Chicago has snow cover. Lots of ice on Lake Michigan, just a little open water near shore. Miles and miles of empty ice east of Chicago -- looks like wilderness.

Two hour de-icing delay at O'Hare.

Monday, Jan. 31 : Auckland/Christchurch

A long flight, with lots of smoke in plane. About an hour late getting to Auckland, but no problem with connection to Christchurch.

The new telephone system is cryptic, clunky, idiosyncratic. Expensive local calls.

Hotel in Christchurch is dumpy, but convenient. RF Services, Post Office right across the street. I do some shopping on Cashel Mall. Sporting equipment very expensive.

Weather cool, mostly cloudy. North Island looks dry, but I guess some areas are wet.

Big changes in Christchurch since 1989: New airport terminals, railway station converted to "Science Alive". Big supermarket by old station.

Lots of traffic in downtown Christchurch, and very noticeable lack of pollution controls on cars. Lots of bicycles, but all the streets are busy.

I make a few calls to ham radio friends, and get the usual invitations, etc.

Tuesday, Feb. 1 : Christchurch

Sunny day, high about 20 C.

Speedlink ships and stores bike box for $16. (Many phone calls to finally find them.) Railways no longer provide such service.

I have dinner with Peter, ZL3GQ, and his wife Mary. They have traveled all over, often visiting other hams. They have met UA1CK, the Russian ham I visited in 1976. They tell me they always get a few visiting hams every summer. (Peter is very active in contests, so is widely known among other hams.) Mary didn't recognize me when she picked me up, because I "Didn't look like an American". I think she means that as a compliment, though she doesn't say what I DID look like. Mary warns of crime along the East Cape, but says it's better NOT to look like an American there.

After dinner, Peter shows me his radio station, we listen around a bit, and he gives me some tips for the coming contest. He has about 6 acres of land, and lots of antennas, but everything is simple, homemade, and inexpensive.

Wednesday, Feb. 2 : Christchurch to Rakaia 77 km

On the road at last! The route out of city isn't too bad, but I wouldn't want to do it often.

Photo: Lankbury Plains, Southern Alps

Too much stuff, panniers too small. Will have to reorganize to make room for food and water.

The road along the Rakaia River pretty bad gravel. The NZ army seems to be having exercises there.

Quite warm in the afternoon, strong NE wind. (Tailwind!) Sunshine all day, sure hope the sunscreen works.

I stay with Frank (ZL3AAT) and Betty in Rakaia. (Frank met me at the airport in 1989, after we talked on the radio the first time.) They built a new house, which is very nice, though small. Like typical Kiwis, though, they don't clutter it up with junk.

Thursday, Feb. 3 : Rakaia to Geraldine 106/183 km

Persistent west wind to Mt. Somers, and slow going uphill. Cool and cloudy, but dry. High about 14 C. "Southerly Change" went through yesterday afternoon. Perhaps it will clear on the other side of Burke's Pass.

Irrigated farm country. Wheat, sunflowers, hay. Small towns seem really deserted, but it could be the weather. No one at swimming at pool in Mayfield. Too cold even for Kiwis.

It's pretty boring riding across the Canterbury Plains with a headwind. Not much between Rakaia and Mt. Somers, just farms.

Get to Geraldine just after 5:30, when stores closed. Butcher is still open at 5:37, though. Later, I find a supermarket open late. Get a tent site at the motor camp.

I see 3 or 4 touring cyclists, but none in motor camp. There are lots of other places to stay in town, though.

Friday, Feb. 4 : Geraldine to Lake Tekapo 91/274 km

Sunny early in Geraldine, then turns cloudy. Cool and cloudy to Burke's Pass. Sunny, beautiful at Tekapo, but still cool. A taste of real NZ hills today. Those before Fairlie are almost as bad as Burke's Pass. Winds are light and favorable, though.

As always, McKenzie Country is great. Lots of sunshine, but I have a burned stripe on my forehead, the image of the slot in the helmet.

Lots of traffic, but most drivers are OK. Shoulder paved, but width varies. Biggest problem is tourists in rental camper vans.

I'm back in tourist country again. At the campground, I meet a Swedish couple, Martin and Sophie, I saw earlier in Christchurch. They are cycling in NZ for 3 months, hiking the Routeburn track, carrying hiking gear. Both speak perfect English, Martin with an American accent, Sophie British.

Saturday, Feb. 5 : Lake Tekapo to Omarama 92/366 km

Photo: Tekapo River from the Canal Road

Cloudy and cool in the morning, then gradually clears. Wind variable, good east tailwind along canal, then north wind into Twizel. Halfway from Twizel to Omarama, sudden shift to SE, strong. Last 15 km terrible headwind. Forecast for "cool southerlies" dying out, fine weather. Eventually warms up to 23 C in Twizel by 3 PM, then suddenly turns cooler with wind shift.

Lots of traffic, very fast on straight stretches. Shoulder width variable. Traffic count >120/hr. Lots of busses, fewer after Mt. Cook turnoff.

Great views of Mt. Cook at south end of Lake Pukaki. Low clouds around peak.

Many camping spots along river below canal, but need good map to find access ramps.

Wish panniers were bigger -- what a pain! About the only things I can do without are one polypro top and bottom.

Sunscreen, SPF 15, is just barely adequate -- need some stronger stuff. (Just in case the sun actually shines ALL day again sometime.)

Motor camp is pretty full, mostly with Kiwi weekend campers. A couple other cyclists. I see three Japanese cyclists, all women, in grocery store, the same ones I saw along canal, but they aren't in the motor camp.

I try to call John Wekking in Omarama, the radio ham I visited 5 years ago. He is at work, but his wife tells me they have 3 children now, and John's radio hobby is history. He still does lots of cycling, though. Unfortunately, I have to hit the road early tomorrow morning, so I won't have a chance to talk to John.

Omarama is a strange mixture of really dumpy houses right next to very nice ones. Lots of hydro money, I'm sure. (This part of Otago largely depends on the hydroelectric projects for jobs.)

Tomorrow is a long day to Alexandra, about 145 km. I'm told wind usually picks up in the afternoon, so an early start is a good idea. Sunrise is about 6:30.

Sunday, Feb. 6 : Omarama to Alexandra 145/511 km

Starts cool and cloudy, then turns sunny and warm. Maybe 25 C in Cromwell.

Photo: Lindis Pass Summit

Traffic quite bad, especially south of Cromwell. Shoulder variable (again), mostly just barely widen enough that drivers don't think they should pull over.

Lake Dunstan, behind Clyde dam, is full now, extends about 15 km upstream from Cromwell. "Slip Joint" in dam is supposed to seal in case of earthquake. (I'm sure glad I don't live below that dam!)

Lots of orchards between Cromwell and Alexandra. Apples are ripe already. (That's like apples in early August in Wisconsin.)

A long climb up to Lindis Pass, then another big climb about 10 km before Tarras.

I meet six other cyclists at Tarras tea rooms. (The first place to stop in over 40 km.) Three other Americans, including one woman, all traveling alone, plus a Kiwi man and British woman. One American, Gary, retired from military (early, obviously), lives on a sailboat, but bikes in NZ during cyclone season in the South Pacific. (Sounds smart to me.) Gary leaves Tarras before I do, but I catch up with him and we ride together to Cromwell.

I also meet a Canadian cyclist before Lindis, and two American guys in Clyde who are with a Vermont Bicycle Tour group.

Back road from Clyde to Alexandra is nice, but busier than I had hoped. Alexandra is a fairly big town. Nice motor camp, but they butchered the pines by chopping off the tops.

Sand flies have arrived.

Monday, Feb. 7 : Alexandra to Balclutha 151/662 km

Clear, cool morning in Alexandra. Sunny and warm later. Light north wind at start, soon shifts to south and strengthens. Most of the day riding into fairly strong south wind. Cool sea breeze near coast. Wait for stores to open in Alexandra, so don't get on the road until 10 AM. Much cooler near the coast.

Photo: Lower Clutha River

Spend the day leap-frogging the Vermont Bicycle Tours group, including the two Americans I met last night in Clyde. Pretty wimpy riders. Must be one of those $100/day operations. They're staying at the hotel/camp at Miller's Flat, but I have to go on.

There's a new dam planned about 15 km south of Beaumont, which will flood much of the rest of the lower Clutha valley, including the beautiful road I ride on today. It's scheduled for completion in about 2000, but there's no construction started yet. Would be really sad to flood this beautiful stretch of river. There are also lots of orchards.

See lots of birds along the Clutha, which I later learn are White-Faced Herons. Quite a bit smaller than Great Blue Herons.

From Alexandra to Roxburgh Dam: Killer hills, lots of traffic, bad exhaust fumes. Dam to Roxburgh: Fairly hilly, a bit of traffic. Roxburgh to Miller's Flat: Excellent, few hills little traffic. Miller's Flat to Beaumont on Highway 8 not as bad as before Roxburgh, but still pretty hilly and busy. Clutha Rd. from Beaumont to Balclutha excellent. (Late in day, no logging trucks.)

I arrive in Balclutha about 8:45. There's plenty of daylight here, but I waste lots of time and energy climbing the big hill across the bridge, only to discover that everything in town is across the river, where I've just been. It's almost dark by the time I find the center of town, and cool, so I get a room in the hotel. There's just time to order some food from the bar before it closes.

Wish I didn't have so much stuff, but don't know what can go. It sure bogs me down on hills and in headwinds.

Tuesday, Feb. 8 : Balclutha to Curio Bay 122/764 km

Photo: On the road to Curio Bay

Clouds and fog early, then turns warm. About 23 C, humid, but sometimes a cool sea breeze. A few sprinkles in the afternoon, the first rain of trip. Cloudy most of the day. Wind variable, not a problem.

A bit of traffic to Owaka, then light. Seal goes to just west of summit before Maclennan. Gravel not bad. One 300 m, one 200 m summit, plus lots of smaller ones. Road to Curio Bay sealed to past Waiwaka. Lots of dust!

I stop to walk to Matai Falls. A nice walk, very dark in dense bush. Meet a Swiss cyclist there, has been cycling in NZ three months. The only other cyclist today is a woman with lots of gear going the other way.

A warm evening at Curio Bay. Cook dinner out on rocks by the sea. Clouds at sunset.

Wednesday, Feb. 9 : Curio Bay to Invercargill 84/848 km

Rained last night and this morning, heavy at times, but light after leaving Curio Bay. Warm, 18-20 C. Wind S/SE, some tailwind. (Strange that a south wind is so warm here.) Rain stops around noon, but cloudy all day.

Hills aren't bad, but the gravel is wet and soft in places. The bike is a mess, of course. Seal starts a couple km east of Otara. Shop at Mokutua. Stop at a house to get water, meet a couple defensive dogs, but their owner gives me some rain water.

About 20 km from Invercargill, a local farmer just stops by to talk while I'm having a snack. He tells me the farm subsidies are gone now, but the farmers that survived are happy about it. Lots of North Islanders are buying up farm land in the south.

Actually use the radio from Fortrose, to get directions to the motor camp in Invercargill. Get a cabin at the show grounds for $15, and a good steak dinner at the old hotel where I stayed in 1989.

Thursday, Feb. 10 : Invercargill to Tuatapere 89/937 km

Photo: Only 10Km to Tuatuapere

A very warm day for these parts. About 27 C, lots of sun, and humid. Wind mostly north, moderate. Sure a big change from the cold rain and sleet of 1989!

Highway 99 very busy leaving Invercargill. (Should have taken the back road to Waimatuku.) Traffic is light after Riverton. Good stores in Riverton. Good views of Stewart Island, especially from Colac Bay. Good store at Tuatapere, open until 8:30.

Nice, basic campground at Tuatapere Domain. Great native bush right next door with nice trails and big trees. See fantails (small birds) doing mating ritual by bridge. Lots of birds singing in bush,, maybe tuis and bellbirds. Camp is right next to Waiau river, in the floodplain. Sheep grazing everywhere, not many sandflies.

Friday, Feb. 11 : Tuatapere to Te Annau 103/1040 km

On the road at 7:30 AM. North wind picks up early, blowing a real gale by 10 AM. Very bad before Blackmount Forest, then lets up a bit. Shifts to NW near Te Annau. Lots of work for just 103 km. Don't arrive until after 5 PM, with no long breaks.

A warm day, 26 in Te Annau, lots of sun. Clouds to the west of Manapouri and Te Annau.

Hard to find water on this route. Stop at one house (no dogs!), and one stream.

Photo: Near Blackmount Forest summit

Traffic light, nice road. Blackmount Forest climb not bad, about 20 minutes with headwind. Lots of prosperous-looking farms.

Lots of development at Manapouri. Turning into another tourist town. Te Annau is much worse, though. Motor camp now clearly caters to the wealthy. There are only a couple mountain bikers here tonight, so other cyclists must stay elsewhere.

Saturday, Feb. 12 : Te Annau to Arrowtown 137/1177 km

A warm night and morning, then cloudy all day, about 20 degrees. No rain. Very strong north wind, especially before the saddle.

Tea Rooms at highway 94 turnoff closed due to burglary. Road condition varies. Sometimes very rocky and slow, but not much soft gravel. Slow going into wind. The Earnslaw now goes to Walter Peak, 12 km beyond Mt. Nicholas. Meet 3 women with mountain bikes and touring gear coming up from the lake, camping at Mavora Lakes. A very long day, 7:20 AM to 8 PM. Flat tire just after saddle. Just catch the 4 PM boat across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown.

Arrowtown road is very busy near Queenstown, then much better near Arrowtown. I meet the big Bicycle Victoria group at airstrip 5 km west of Arrowtown. Big field, with tents everywhere. They're going to Wanaka tomorrow.

Queenstown is worse than ever, a real tourist town. Arrowtown is much better. The motor camp is quite full, mainly of Kiwis.

I must be getting into a bit better shape, but I'm still not comfortable on the bike for more than an hour at a stretch. The knees are holding up all right, though.

Sunday, Feb. 13 : Arrowtown to Wanaka 56/1233 km

Photo: The Crown Range Road

Ford river with bike, new suspension bridge too narrow. Tobin's track rough and steep, seems a lot worse than in 1986. A Kiwi retiree, Mac, out for his morning hike catches up and pushes! The one Australian cyclist I told about Tobin's track last night meets Mac later, as he's going back down. So, of course, Mac tells the Australian how he pushed me up the hill.

The climb to the top of the Crown Range is much worse than I remember. Could be old age, too. The road surface is very bad, sand and rocks. The route back down is even worse in places. Lots of Bicycle Victoria people, mostly on mountain bikes. The others with road bikes take the paved road. I'm the only one carrying gear, of course.

A beautiful day. Sunny, about 28 degrees. West wind most of the day, north in the afternoon. A hot afternoon in Wanaka, but cool at sunset.

I decide to join the Bicycle Victoria group for two days. $NZ48/day, includes 3 meals. I'll have to go on ahead of them Tuesday to Fox, to catch the bus to Greymouth.

Monday, Feb. 14 : Wanaka to Pleasant Flat 97/1330 km

Photo: Makarora River en route to Haast Pass Mt. Hooker from Pleasant Flat campsite

Starts cloudy, but turns out to be a beautiful, sunny day, even west of Haast Pass. Great views, tailwind, high about 22. A perfect day. Road very good, with just a few short gravel stretches. Haast Pass not hard at all, and the sun is even shining at the top.

A few of the other cyclists I meet today: Tatiana, from Sydney, born in Chile, taking 5 months off soon to travel and bike in South America and Europe. John, an electronics engineer from Melbourne and Ray, a technician. Nancy and Al, an American couple living in Auckland. (Nancy works for Microsoft.) Many others.

A very nice camp by a bridge at Pleasant Flat, west of Haast Pass. Some locals set up a stand selling food and beer. (Car pulling the beer trailer just barely passes us climbing up Haast Pass.) Great view down river of Mt Hooker. A helicopter and a plane both selling rides to cyclists. At night there's no traffic on the road (the main West Coast highway), people just sitting in the road for hours. Sand flies not bad.

Tuesday, Feb. 15 : Pleasant Flat to Fox Glacier 171/1501 km

Photo: My bridge, South of Fox Glacier

Cloudy most of the day, then sunny and hot after about 2 PM. Tailwinds much of the day. Fantastic views of Mt Cook in the evening. The Bicycle Victoria crowd misses the best part of the day, sweltering in the sun at Paringa, their campsite, about 80 km south of Fox. Morning clouds seem to be the rule, so the best views are late in the day.

A long day, but fairly easy. A few steep climbs before Lake Moeraki. Climb to Fox very gradual. I'll definitely be ready for a break in Greymouth, though.

It turns out to be the longest day of the trip, but the views are worth it!

Wednesday, Feb. 16 : Fox Glacier to Greymouth (bus)

Nice day, sunny and warm. Would have been a great day for biking, but my legs are enjoying the rest.

Russ directs me to his house by radio. Somehow I managed to find the place in 1989 without a radio! I met Russ (ZL3AAA) by radio in 1989, and visited him when I came to NZ then. We've been keeping in radio contact ever since.

Thursday, Feb. 17 : Greymouth

Some clouds, but warm and humid in the afternoon, high about 23.

John Melse, one of Russ's friends, stops by in the morning. He's working on getting a radio license, lives near Shantytown. He's a railroad fan, and restored the old steam locomotive at Shantytown. He's originally from Holland, but has been in NZ a long time.

There's a drought on the West Coast. Many water tanks are dry, so they're trucking in water. (This is a place that usually gets 300 inches of rain per year!) Many people outside the towns have no source of water except rain water.

A little radio operating in the evening. New Zealand sure is in great demand in Europe! Schedule with George, operating my station back home, is a failure on 15 meters. We can barely hear each other.

Friday, Feb. 18 : Greymouth 24/1530 km

Some clouds, but a nice day. High about 20.

I do a short ride to Shantytown, a restored 1880's mining town, sort of a museum and definitely a tourist attraction. Steam train runs about a kilometer, then comes right back.

Russ drops me off in the afternoon for a nice bush walk at Point Elizabeth. Sub-tropical vegetation, great coastal views. (But I forget the camera.) A couple hours after starting, I call Russ on the radio to tell him when to pick me up, and find he's been waiting at the trailhead the whole time. (If I'd known he was going to wait, I'd have invited him along!) Russ hikes up the trail, and meets me about a km from the end.

John Boyes (ZL3RI) brings over a computer for me to use during the contest. It's the old one he's been using to keep records for his pharmacy. I promptly get it all screwed up, and we waste lots of time restoring the hard disk. John has only been a ham a few years, but he's really gotten into satellite operation. When we visit his station later, he gives me a chance to try to make a satellite contact, but the satellite switches modes before the contact is established. It's hard to talk listening to your own echo coming back from the satellite delayed by half a second or so.

Radio schedule with George is a success on 20 Meters. Even Bonnie gets to talk. Skiing is good in Madison.

Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 19-20 : Greymouth

I spend the weekend operating the ARRL CW DX Contest. I am prepared for a 48 hour effort, but conditions are so poor that there's plenty of time for visiting with Russ, Zelda, and friends who stop by. It rains most of the weekend, so it's nice not to be out on the road getting wet.

The contest is a lot slower than I expected. I spend a lot of time searching around and begging for contacts. And trying to discourage Europeans, who don't count in this contest. Russ's station sure seems to get into Europe better than North America! Still, it's interesting to be on the other end. There are good long path openings on 20 Meters each day, just as ZL3GQ predicted, something I never noticed from home.

Monday, Feb. 21 : Greymouth 54/1584 km

Day ride to Blackball, an old coal mining town which is now sort of an "alternative lifestyle" place. Rains all the way home, but not too cold.

Tuesday, Feb. 22 : Greymouth to Darfield (train)

Ride the Tranz Alpine back across the Southern Alps to Canterbury. Jack, ZL4WA, had invited me to stay with him and his wife when I called him from Christchurch. Jack is waiting for the train. They've just moved into a new house they've built. Margaret has dinner ready when we arrive.

After dinner, Jack takes me over to the farm where they lived until recently. His tower and array of V-beams is still there, but he's working on taking it down. I don't know why he sold the farm and moved, but there must have been a good reason, after all the work he put into the antenna system.

Jack and Margaret lived in Canada for 10 years, and Jack went to Brigham Young University. (I suspect they're Mormons.) Their kids are all grown now, of course. One son, John, is managing the family farm. We stop in to visit on the way back from the farm. John seems to live alone, and is planning a trip to the U.S., perhaps to work on a PHD in agriculture. Later I learn he has 5 children.

Wednesday, Feb. 23 : Darfield to Greymouth (train)

An easy train ride back across the mountains. Lots of German tourists on the train. At a stop in a town called Springfield, some kids are bouncing on a trampoline. A German woman remarks, "Man springt in Springfield". ("They jump in Springfield.")

Back in Greymouth, I walk from the station back to Russ and Zelda's for one more night of their hospitality. Russ gives me some solvent, so I can clean my bicycle chain. We have one last radio schedule with George and Bonnie, then watch a bit of the winter olympics on TV. TV coverage of the olympics is infinitely better than in the U.S., but it's hard for the Kiwi's to get too excited about ice and snow in the middle of summer.

Thursday, Feb. 24 : Greymouth to Carter's Beach 106/1690 km

Russ has to go off to work in the morning, but John Melse stops by before he leaves. John and I visit for a while, clean up the kitchen a bit, and then I'm back on the road again.

A great day. Sunny, about 20 degrees, sea breeze, and a tailwind from Punakaiki.

There's some traffic, but not too bad. A 100 m and a 200 m climb between Punakaiki and Charleston. Great views of the coast and mountains.

In Carter's Beach, I meet Dave Oates (ZL3MF), a friend of Russ's I've often talked to on the radio. He and his daughter, Judy, have guests, a couple visiting from England. They invite me to come back for dinner after I set up my tent in the motor camp just down the street.

Friday, Feb. 25 : Carter's Beach to Karamea 114/1804 km

Photo: South of Karameer

Temperature quite comfortable, but very humid.

Traffic pretty bad to Granity (coal trucks), then quiet. Climbs long, but not steep. Great scenery. Mostly sunny, but moderate north wind, SW last 20 km or so. Poor store in Waimangaroa, several nice stores in Granity, motor camp, etc.

Shipping bike to east end of Heaphy track is a big hassle. I'll either have to ride/push bike on track, or ride back through Westport. I'll check it out tomorrow.

"Last Resort" in Karamea is nice, but a ripoff. I check in, but later find cabin at motel for $10. Self contained with kitchen and shower! I bail out of Last Resort, and go to motel. About 2 km to beach for sunset, but mostly cloudy. Hardly any sandflies, though.

Large proportion of NZ drivers seem to want to pass way too closely, within one meter. Seems to help to wave them over, but have to do it almost every time.

Karamea motor camp is on south side of estuary, about 5 km from town. Good grocery in town, but expensive. Hotel in Little Wanganui has accommodation, but no camping. Nice pub, though.

Saturday, Feb. 26 : Karamea to Heaphy River 36/1840 km

Cheap cabin in Karamea was fine. Quiet, decent bed. Stove had problems, but worked. DOC (Department of Conservation) office closed, so I ask around about biking Heaphy Track. Mixed opinions. One Kiwi biker coming out recommends against it with my bike. I find it mostly too rough to ride, so remove one pedal, make harness with fanny pack (bum bag for the Kiwis), and push bike. Fording streams takes a couple trips, but fortunately the water is low. There are suspension bridges, but they're to narrow and unstable to cross with a bike. 16 km on trail today. Works OK, but much more work than walking with pack. Should have shipped the bike.

It's going to be lots of work, and not like hiking, but I can certainly can get bike across. Perhaps some sections will be ride-able.

The campsite is near the beach, and quite nice. After dinner, I raise Russ on the radio, and ask him to tell Dave I won't be coming back through Westport, after all. Later, I find a possum (an introduced species) prowling around my campsite, and dispatch it with a log.

Sunday, Feb. 27 : Heaphy River to Saxon Hut 31 km (track)

Photo: On the Heaphy Track

Another sunny day, some clouds. Humid, high about 20.

Slow going, a very long day. Only ride a few km, mostly push and carry bike. Trail is in very poor condition, rocks and mud. Must be awful in rain! Wouldn't be bad to walk without bike, though.

Bike is a real mess, taking a beating, covered with mud. Large freewheel cog has stripped splines.

I meet four bikers on track--they must be crazy. No one can avoid carrying bike lots.

It's too bad that what would have been a nice hike is such an ordeal with a bike. Beautiful scenery, great weather.

I'm told rest of track it good biking. I'm looking forward to getting out of here tomorrow and back on the road.

So far, the body is holding up well, in spite of hard work. Lots of chances for injuries, though, carrying bike. Much easier with pack on back, instead of on bike.

Monday, Feb. 28 : Saxon Hut to Trailhead 29 km; Trail Head to Collingwood 34/1928 km

Weather mostly cloudy, light rain in afternoon, then clears. Warm and sunny in Collingwood. High about 22, but cooler in mountains.

Track not bad compared to yesterday. Some rocky sections, but nothing too bad. Out by 4 PM. Ride downhill last few km on trail.

Heaphy track was certainly an adventure, but wouldn't do it again with a bike. Would have been a pleasant walk with a pack. Lots of Germans on track. Also lots of smokers. Huts still don't have screens, so better to use tent. Pretty, wild country, mostly undisturbed. Lots of bird songs at night, including what must be kiwis. Don't know others.

I'm lucky to finish track with body intact. Just a few scratches and bumps, plus lots of sandfly bites. Would have been easy to get hurt lugging loaded bike. Feet and knees didn't have the usual hiking problems, though back is slightly sore from lifting bike. Helped a lot to wear pack with tent, to lighten bike. Could even carry bike short stretches that way. Hardly rode bike at all -- should have just left one pedal off the whole way. Could easily walk the smooth stretches at 5 km/hr. But I won't do that again! Now I know how the pioneers felt dragging their wagons over the mountains!

Rear tire is destroyed, sidewall shredded by rocks, mainly left side, so I replace it with the spare. Other than freewheel, bike seems OK.

Tuesday, March 1 : Collingwood to Marahau 28/1956 km

A fairly warm day, but showers in afternoon. Forecast is for several days of wet weather. It is very hard to dress for riding -- warm when not raining, cool when raining.

Ride to Takaka, then take bus over hill to Marahau. Nice scenery to Takaka, but quite a lot of traffic. Takaka hill is about 750 m, lots of truck traffic, wouldn't have been fun to bike, even if all the gears worked. It looks like there is a decent route from Marahau to Nelson, though.

Takaka is a major center, lots of store, etc. Nice little park right in the center. There's a motor camp in Marahau, but Peter Garlick (Russ's son) invited me to stay. He runs a sea kayak business just outside Abel Tasman National Park. In the evening, we talk to Russ on the radio.

Wednesday, March 2 : Marahau to Nelson 81/2037 km

Peter has invited me to go out with a sea kayaking group today, but the wind has come up from the northeast, making it much too rough. No one will be going out today, so there's nothing to do except hit the road.

Kaiteriteri road is nice--mostly sealed, only a few km of good gravel. Rest of route has quite a lot of traffic--logging trucks, etc. Richmond to Nelson is terrible, even on "back" road. Nelson area is just not conducive to bicycling. There's no way I'm going to ride Highway 6 to Havelock, will have to take a bus.

I get the freewheel fixed, for $NZ58 with a new chain. Second cog was about to fail, also. Thanks, Yellow Jersey! The only 27 inch tires in Nelson are very heavy, though.

Except for traffic, it isn't a bad day. Sunny at start, then clouds and a little rain near Nelson. High about 24. Rain and cooler in the evening. Strong SW wind, but some shelter through vineyards, orchards, etc.

"Backpacker's" in central Nelson have no "single" room rates. I must be the first. It turns out, they all are under the same management. Eventually, all agree to rent me a "double", for $25. It was either that, or a whole room full of other smelly guys snoring.

"Molly McGuire's Pub", built of timber from Hokitika-Ross railway bridge, seems a popular place. Open-air, but a bit cool tonight after rain.

Thursday, March 3 : Nelson

Weather sunny but cool today, about 21 C. Forecast isn't great, but who knows?

Public phones in woefully short supply, even in the cities. There are always a bunch of people waiting.

Spend the day exploring central Nelson. While it's nice that so many businesses are centrally located, the dominant feature of the place is the traffic. There's no escaping it. There is very little public space, few parks. While the drivers do seem to respect crosswalks, they also drive very fast in a congested area. Could be an nice place, but they've ruined it.

Some tendonitis in left Achilles. Seems better with heel padded so shoe doesn't press on it . Should probably ice it, but not very practical unless I stay in one place for a while. Biking isn't as bad, so perhaps it will clear up when I don't have to do so much walking.

My plan is to take a bus to Havelock, then ride to Nikau Cove area tomorrow. Sat. I'll ride to Picton. If there's a chance to visit Wilbert, ZL2BSJ, I'll take the ferry to Wellington Sunday, otherwise on Monday. (Still need to get a spare tire.)

Bike helmets on sale for $NZ20, but a Nalgene water bottle is $25! Get a 1 liter plastic bottle for $1.75, to replace one leaky bike bottle. (Never go on a bike trip without at least one non-leaky water bottle!)

Friday, March 4 : Nelson to Havelock (bus); Havelock to Nikau Cove 46/2083 km

A nice day. Sunny, about 20. Moderate NE wind. With the hills, wind wasn't a major factor.

Traffic from Nelson doesn't look too bad from the bus, but it's hard to tell. A fair amount of traffic on Queen Charlotte Drive, quiet after Portage turn-off. Lots of development along road to Portage--lots for sale, subdivisions, etc.

Portage road continuous hills along coast. None too long or steep, though.

Lots of neighbors in campsite--not like last time in April. I suppose I can expect some weekend traffic tomorrow.

Meet a Kiwi couple in the next campsite, Lynn and Gerrard, from Taupo/Auckland, taking 10 years off to travel. (!) They do lots of bike touring in US, Canada, Europe, Australia. Have done Iron Man triathlon. They've been on the South Island two months with pickup, bikes, etc. Beginning flute and clarinet players. (Lynn is the flautist.) Interesting people. A very musical campsite, including my recorder.

Saturday, March 5 : Nikau Cove to Picton 56/2140 km

Photo: Queen Charlotte Sound near Picton

Mostly sunny, but cool, about 20. A warm night, but breezy and cool before sunset near the sound.

Not much weekend traffic, after all, even on Queen Charlotte Drive. Lots of development in Picton. Still not too bad, but not the quiet place it used to be. Huge ocean liner in harbor when I arrive. Stay at Blue Harbor motor camp. OK, but lots of traffic noise.

No problem getting on the ferry tomorrow.

On to the North Island .