Cycle camping: Part 3: completing the South Island circuit
My ride from Rangiora around the South Island had been interrupted near Hokitika, but I was determined to restart it. I chose to do that at Sheffield and head west from there.
It was a persistent nor’wester as I cycled up past Springfield to the start of Porters Pass.
Porters is a long haul on the bike with the steepest part nearer the top. I felt safer walking beside my bike on the twisty climb, due to the lack of visibility around corners. Nearing the top of the pass was a section of road with a road work crew working on one side and temporary traffic control. I told them once I was past the main work site that I could stay in their work lane and didn’t mind oncoming traffic in the free lane, which they thought was a good idea.
From Porters I cycled by Lake Lyndon, Castle Hill and Craigieburn. I had hoped to have got to Klondike Corner, but with wind slowing me down decided that the DOC campsite at Lake Pearson was more achievable. It was a basic campsite and the only water supply was to boil lake water. The next day it was 35km before getting to Arthur’s Pass village.
From the village its a short climb to the pass itself. The descent required caution due to its steep gradient but is so much nicer with the viaduct bypassing the old zigzag route. After a brief refreshment stop in Otira I pushed on to Jacksons, where I had to decide which way to proceed based in where I could find a camp. I booked at a campsite in Kumara and made it there at 7pm, one of my longer days. I had the campsite to myself.
The next day I cycled through Greymouth and on up the coast road. The campsite at Punakaiki make a good resting spot, and surprisingly there is now a bar and restaurant close by, as well as other accommodation options.
More surprises the next day — a coffee cart at Fox River and a new café and tourism venture at Charleston.
I wasn’t tempted to head into Westport, but instead pushed on up the Lower Buller gorge passing Hawks Crag to Berlins where the pub had set up a basic campground. I got an early start the following day before the forecast rain, but by the time I got to Inangahua it was definitely raining. It was a slow plod continuing up the Buller through to Murchison. Although I got there very early afternoon, it was still raining solidly so I stopped at a backpackers, giving me time for a bit of washing and drying out.
A fresh start the next day was in better weather, passing Owen River, Kawatiri junction. I wasn’t sure whether to head to a friend’s place near Mapua or a relative in Nelson, or even whether I could get to either that day. I climbed over Hope Saddle and down to Kohatu.
For a cyclist crossing Spooners there is now access to the Spooners rail tunnel, which was cool, literally. An easy coast down to Wakefield where I found my first open food outlet for the day — a bakery. While sampling the delights of the bakery I decided that the location near Mapua was achievable. After a quick visit to the Rutherford memorial in Brightwater I navigated across to my friends’ place. I’d decided that since that had been a long day I’d make it a short day and visit my in-laws in Nelson the next night.
Since I was actually closer to Stoke than central Nelson, an early start had me riding in commuter traffic into Nelson’s CBD and then on to the Wangamoa Saddle. Once again l felt safer walking up the twisty climb, even though the speed limit had been lowered to 60 km/h.
Grazing stops in Rai Valley and Pelorus got me to Havelock, with time to shop for dinner and set up camp. There were a couple of other cycle tourists that had just come off the Queen Charlotte track.
The next day took me through Blenheim and a bit of retail therapy. From there, possible campsites seemed limited — Seddon would mean a very short day, so I was pushing on and hoping to get to Kekerengu. However, the wind was building and slowing me down, so when I spotted that a motel in Ward welcomed campers, I decided that was for me.
From here I’d figured that to get home to Rangiora should only take me 3 days. The first was down the coast to Kaikoura, much of it on the highway that was rebuilt after their earthquake, including some interesting art installations telling a version of the Māori creation story.
I found a campsite right in the centre of Kaikoura, despite a lot of accommodation being booked out for a weekend event. The next day involved a short bit down the coast to Oaro before turning inland.
I was fortunate in getting through most of the Hundalee Hills before rain started, but by the time I got to Cheviot it was raining steadily and I was pretty wet. That prompted a stop in the tearooms, refuelling, and deciding I would get a cabin at the campground instead of camping. It was a good call, meaning I could dry my riding clothes a little before setting off the next morning.
I was within 100 km of home!
The next day started wet but I was dressed for it and made it through to a welcome café stop in Greta Valley. Although there were several possible stops on the way home, I decided I didn’t need to eat at them all.
A second stop at Amberley was in brightening weather so it was a pleasant ride down the road and turning at Waikuku to get home to Rangiora.
12 days riding, 960 km.
3 Autumn 2023