Friday, 24 August 2018

The Plan for New Zealand 2018

Why wouldn't you want to go back here?
I absolutely loved spending time in Cairns, it is paradise up here and I'll miss seeing the wallabies in the garden every day, but time for a change of scenery and back to my favourite country in the world, New Zealand.

I have toured New Zealand twice before, which you can read all about on this blog.  The first time was an epic 2 and a half month trip through the North Island and all around the South Island, and the second trip was a two-week tour down the West coast of the North Island, taking in Taranaki and Cape Palliser before returning back to Melbourne from Wellington.

I really can't get enough of this place, and there is plenty I haven't seen of it.  A wise man once told me that the best way to travel is not to superficially go from place to place scratching the surface, but to really get to know somewhere.  I do intend to live in New Zealand at some point in the future, I love the place, but before I do, I really want to get to know every nook and cranny of these two beautiful islands.  This is not to say I'm finished with Australia; I have lived here for 4 years, visited every state, yet there is still so much more I want to see and do here also.  Fortunately, a permanent visa in Australia allows me to live in New Zealand, so I can have the best of both worlds.

With each and every tour I do, I am fine-tuning the art of cycle touring and travelling in general to best suit me.  I learnt a lot from this tour in Australia, and I am trying to drastically cut down on my daily distances.  I won't be taking it easy, though, part of the reason for this is so I have time for trail running, games of squash, hiking, and some other activities also.  Working online also is added time pressure and restricts how flexible I can be if the weather is not kind to me (this was an absolute killer with the long distances into the wind in Australia), so I want to take some of the stress off myself a bit.

The first part of this tour sees me spending about a month in the Northland.  I have never been to this region of New Zealand.  This is the Maori cultural capital of New Zealand and home to beautiful bays, beaches, and islands.  The main highlight of this first leg for me is scuba diving in Poor Knights Island.  I'll be there at the end of Winter, but I hear it can be dived in a wet suit all year round because of warm ocean currents.

As you can see from the above route, I won't be cycling all the way up to Cape Reinga, but I might choose to do so, or grab a lift up there, it just depends how I feel, the weather, and my progress.  On this trip I haven't set myself any 100Km+ days.  I have scheduled mostly between 40-80Km on each day, a huge difference from my recent tour in Australia and completely different from any other tour I have done so far.  It is likely though, that bad weather will force me into doing the occasional very big day, while I rest-up when it pours down on others.  On my last two tours in New Zealand, the rain came down heavily on many occasions, but I managed things pretty well.  I need to set aside time for this inevitability.

Stage two of this tour sees me taking a different route through the main part of the North Island from the previous two journeys here.  There are a couple of sections that remain the same, but the vast majority follows a completely different route.  Some route highlights for me are passing by Wairere Falls, cycling the desert road, and hopefully passing through Manuwatu Gorge, something I couldn't do last time because of a landslide.

I know from experience that the cycling in the North Island of New Zealand is super-tough.  The South Island has the higher peaks and longer climbs, but the North is extremely up and down.  Even fairly short days are physically arduous and this showed on my last big tour to New Zealand because despite more rest time and shorter days on the bike, my legs were noticeably bigger towards the end in a way I have never noticed from my long cycling days in Australia.

On to the South Island then, truly the most beautiful place I have visited yet, so I am really looking forward to going back there.

I will not miss out the West coast of the South Island, I will hire a car for this with Eunji.
With so few roads on the South Island, it is inevitable that I am going to have to do some of the same routes as 2016, but in the South Island of New Zealand, this isn't much of a problem as most of the roads are beautiful.  Last time, bad weather forced me out of visiting the Nelson Lakes National Park and this is my first target this time around.  After a few days hiking there, I make my way to Greymouth on the West coast, before the testing climb up to Arthurs Pass, keeping my fingers-crossed for good weather as this should be a spectacular ride with some splendid hiking once at Arthurs Pass Village.

After Arthurs Pass, I make my way down towards Christchurch, then turn South and following the same route as last time all the way to Queenstown, passing Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook, the Lindis Pass, and Wanaka along the way (this isn't a bad route to do twice).

Once in Queenstown, the plan is to hire a car with Eunji, as she'll be joining me for a couple of weeks to see some of the most spectacular places in New Zealand on the West coast, including Milford Sound, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and Glenorchy. I visited these places before, but they are well worth a second look, and in Milford Sound this time I have plans to go underwater and explore the depths as well.  It is possible to scuba dive Milford Sound, and apparently it is a bit of a freaky dive.  A cold layer of freshwater sits in the first 10 metres or so of water, and is full of tannins washed into the sound from the trees.  At this point, you can hardly see anything, but as you hit the salt water layer the visibility is supposed to be incredible, with some unusual reef formations and animals, including the possibility of seeing penguins and dolphins.  It promises to be quite a unique dive experience, and is one of the highlights of this tour.  Not sure how the dive works with the weather though.  Usually rain ruins dives because it washes silt and debris into the water causing bad visibility, and with this part of New Zealand being the wettest place in the country (on an already wet island), I don't quite know what to expect.

After the extended stay in Queenstown, and hiring a car to explore the West coast with Eunji, I plan to visit the Catlins via Invercargill, although I have left this section flexible and might just head straight to Dunedin if I am short on time.  After a few days here, I'll make my way back up the East coast towards Christchurch and my flight back home to England.  This is the plan, but it will likely change due to weather and last-minute unforeseen circumstances.  As the saying goes, it isn't a true adventure if everything goes to plan.

Planned Tour Schedule

North Island

Auckland to Whangarei - 143Km (3 days - Aug 26th - 28th)
Whangarei - 2 days of working. (Aug 29-30)
Whangarei to Tutukaka and diving to Pahia - 40Km then 90Km - 4 days (Aug 31st to Sept 3rd)
Pahia - 2 days of working (Sept 4th -5th)
Pahia to Kaitaia - 118Km (2 days - Sept 6th -7th)
Kaitaia - 3 days of working (Sept 8th -10th)
Kaitaia to Dargaville - 170Km (3 days - Sept 11th - 13th)
Dargaville - 2 days of working (Sept 14th - 15th)
Dargaville - Kitekite falls - Auckland - 250Km (5 days - Sept 16th - 20th)

Auckland - 2 days working (Sept 21st - 22nd)
Auckland to Wairere Falls to Tauranga 206Km (3 days - Sept 23rd to 25th)
Tauranga - 2 days working (Sept 26th - 27th)
Tauranga to Gisborne - 277Km (3 days Sept 28th - 30th)
Gisborne Stay 1 day (Oct 1st)
Gisborne to Taupo - 303Km (4 days - Oct 2nd - 5th)
Taupo - 2 days working (Oct 6th - 7th)
Taupo to Turangi - 53Km (work same day) 1 day (Oct 8th)
Turangi to Featherston station to Wellington - 320Km 4 days (Oct 9th - 12th)
Wellington 4 days working and studying with Alex (Oct 13th - Oct 16th)

South Island

Wellington to Picton - Stay 1 night (do some classes after the ferry) - Oct 17th.
Picton to St Arnaud - 125Km (2 days - Oct 18th - 19th).
St Arnaud Travers-Sabine Circuit over 5 days ( Oct 20th - 24th)
St Arnaud to Reefton - 144Km (over 2 days Oct 25th - 26th).
Reefton - 2 days working (Oct 27th - 28th).
Reefton to Greymouth 77Km (1 day - Oct 29th)
Greymouth 2 days working (Oct 30th - 31st).
Greymouth to Arthurs Pass -100Km (2 days - Nov 1st - 2nd)
Stay in Arthurs Pass - 3 days (Nov 3rd - 4th)
Arthurs Pass to Darfield - 106Km (2 days - Nov 5th - 6th)
Darfield - 2 days working (Nov 7th - 8th)
Darfield to Mount Somers 78Km (1 day - Nov 9th)
Mount Sunday Hike - 2 days (Nov 10th - 11th).
Mount Somers to Tekapo - 132Km (2 days - Nov 12th - 13th)
Tekapo - 2 days working (Nov 14th - 15th)
Tekapo to Mount Cook - 104Km (2 days - Nov 16th to 17th)
Mount Cook - stay 2 days (Nov 18th - 19th)
Mount Cook to Twizel - 65Km (1 day - Nov 20th)
Twizel - 2 days work (Nov 21st - 22nd)
Twizel to Queenstown - 200Km (4 days - Nov 23rd - 26th)
Queenstown - stay for 10-14 days and explore the West coast by car (Eunji coming), work 4 - 6 days total.  Final part of the trip is flexible up to my flight on the 24th of December.
Queenstown to Invercargill - 193Km (2 days)
Stay in Invercargill 2 days - working.
Invercargill to Dunedin via Nuggett Point - 304Km (4 days)
(Alternatively, Queenstown to Dunedin, 327Km over 4 days, saving 4 days)
Dunedin (Stay 4 days) Working
Dunedin to Christchurch - 372Km - Bike over 2 -4 days depending on time.

Fly home for Christmas!

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