New Zealand: Christchurch, Hanmer Springs, and Kaikoura
Oct. 13 to Oct. 21, 2001

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Christchurch, Sat. Oct. 13
3  Waipara, Sun. Oct. 14
4  Hanmer Springs, Mon. Oct. 15
5  Hanmer Springs, Tues. Oct. 16
6  Mason Hills, Wed. Oct. 17
7  Kaikoura, Thurs. Oct. 18
8  Kaikoura, Fri. Oct. 19
9  Kaikoura, Sat. Oct. 20
10  Kaikoura, Sun. Oct. 21
11  Google Earth Map of the Ride

1  Introduction

This trip is to be a short, one week or so, ride from Christchurch to Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs. I am following, more or less, the Kaikoura Coast ride in Lonely Planet. The more or less is because I want to go to Hanmer Springs on the way, rather than the way back from Kaikoura to avoid the Labour Day holiday next weekend.

2  Christchurch, Sat. Oct. 13

I knew I was in trouble before I left - there was a Nor-easter in the forecast - this would be, and was a strong headwind all the way to Hanmer Springs. Lonely Planet's advice in these circumstances - "Take public transportation!" Other than the wind, it was the first beautiful day, after a week of much needed rain. I threaded my way on back roads, all to avoid SH1, through the flat Canterbury plains, 60+km to Amberley. At Amberley, it started to become more interesting as I entered the Waipara Valley. In the 1980s, vineyards were introduced and it is one of the fastest growing? wine areas in New Zealand. Pegasus Bay Winery was 3km off the road, so I avoided it, but did manage to arrive at about 4:30pm at Canterbury House Winery.
I was the only one there, and had a long discussion about their wines with the resident manager. The highlight was a Pinot Gris - vendage tardive, a delightful, late harvest, sweet dessert wine, without the cloying taste of some sweet wines. The disappointment was their 2000, Pinot Noir - definitely too young, and should have been held off the market for several years. When I asked why they were selling it, the reply was economics. I left just after 5:00pm, and the manager came out a few seconds later to shut down.
From there I had only about 4km to Waipara, its Backpackers, Waipara Sleepers. The cabins here are old railway cars.
They also had tent sites, on nice green grass all around the cabins. It was a quite delightful place, free, early morning, hot bread from a bread making machine in the kitchen, and freshly laid eggs from their chickens.
Today - 73km and 596m.

3  Waipara, Sun. Oct. 14

After my bread and eggs, I left in brilliant sunshine, and almost no wind, to tackle the 6.5km moderate climb starting at Weka Pass.
The pass goes through rounded hills, with frequent castle turret formations.
During the climb, the wind returned, but I was mostly protected until I got north of the Waikiri. It was slow going up the climb, and continual slow going against the wind. For some reason, the composite structure of the roads are more noticeable, and tiring, in the wind. These are normal and smooth road surfaces.
In addition, major intersections have ordinary, North American, asphalt.
Although it is now daylight saving, I still did not have enough light to make it the 80km to Hanmer Springs. With about 1.5 hours of daylight, I was about 20km away, and making only 6 to 7km/hr against the wind and the hills. I started looking hard for a place to camp, but the continuous fences, made it impossible. Finally I did find a place that was only moderately hidden, but would do. However, I still had about 3/4 hour before I had to make camp so I started to hitch-hike. After about 1/2 hour, I was picked up by a man with a small Mitsubishi van/truck. Much to my surprise, my bike fitted in with almost no unloading, and he drove me to the thermal baths in Hanmer Springs. He was on his way to visit his sister at her farm just outside Nelson - another 250/300km.
After some trial, and well before sunset, I found The Pines Holiday Park and set up camp.
Today, 68km and 800m.

4  Hanmer Springs, Mon. Oct. 15

It was a good day to not go any where. There was drizzle and, perhaps even rain, as dawn approached. Taking a tent down in the rain is quite distressing. Today was a my day to explore Hanmer Springs. It started with a visit to the Log Cabin to have my second breakfast. This was an English Breakfast with baked beans, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, hash browns, and toast all forced onto a normal sized dinner plate - I won't do that again - much too much. Then I visited the Four Square supermarket? to get some English Muffins, butter, and wine.
After depositing all my groceries back at my tent, I became a real tourist, and visited the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. Unlike Baden bei Wein, where I lived in the mid 70s, and Rotorua, there was no overpowering smell of sulphur and sweat. It was indeed quite pleasant. Originally, there was enough water in the artesian springs to heat the pools. However, popularity and necessity required that the town fathers drill holes to increase and control the flow. It was a quite enjoyable experience. This was a social occasion for the regulars, and much fun for the bus tours from Christchurch.
Since this was a non-riding day, I was able to have a real lunch - a whitebait omelette, with salad and wedges - fried potatoes. Whitebait is a small fish used as bait for larger fish. Apparently, it was discovered that they have their own gourmand qualities. The cafe was on Conical Hill Road, leading to a must do climb.
I rode up the Conical Hill Road to the trail head, and decided the initial paved section was too steep to ride. Not only was it too steep here, it was also illegal 30m later - this was a no bicycle trail.
The trail switchbacked 600m, through exotic forest - foreign to the summit. As you climbed, the valley was glimpsed through the trees.
At the summit, you really could see that this was a flat valley stuck between the mountains.
However, the walk was not all vistas - some things were much smaller.
I went back to camp. As the sun was setting, the sky grew a trifle ominous.

5  Hanmer Springs, Tues. Oct. 16

It poured rain most of the night and I was almost reconciled to spending another day here. By dawn though, the sky had broken enough for a glimmer of sun on the mountains - I decided to pack up and leave.
The first 9km was across the Hanmer Plains followed by small sharp rise to the bungy jumpers, Waiau Ferry Bridge.
Then it was mostly downhill, with almost no wind, for 50km until I reached Waiau. The delight of this ride was finding a newborn lamb.
Mother tried to protect her baby by calling it to follow, but neither legs nor experience permitted a response. After I was safely out of the way she came back.
I arrived at Waiau at noon with no hope of making it the 85km over the mountains to Kaikoura. According to Lonely Planet, there are no services on the road, and definitely no places to stay. That turned out not to be entirely true. Bob, at the Four Square Supermarket told me about Mason Hills, a farmstay place, and that Avery might be able to help.
I looked at the depressing Motorcamp in town and started up. 22km and 600m climb later I found Avery and Mason Hills. She was embarrassed at not being able to put me up because they were redoing the floors, but she did direct me to a secluded spot on the river, behind a double gate where I could camp. It was wonderful.

6  Mason Hills, Wed. Oct. 17

It was the beginning of a glorious day; the best riding day I have had in New Zealand; sunny, cool, and almost no wind. It was still a wonderful campsite.
I even enjoyed the view across the road as I replaced a spoke in the front wheel.
It was a day of steep hills, mountains, deep river valleys, lost sheep on the road and deer farms.
First there was the Cloudy Range.
The Conway River was the first of six or eight deep river valleys where you dropped quickly and climbed, steeply, and slowly.
The country became more fertile when you left the Hurunui and entered the Kaikoura district. The 2m high fences for deer farming were quite common, sometimes running right up the side of a cliff. The deer were also curious, coming across the field to stare as I rode slowly by.
The Kaikoura Mountains are much higher than the Hanmer, Cloudy, and others that I had passed. I think some of the snow was fresh from yesterday. The early morning low clouds mostly burned off, but there some were still recalcitrant.
In late afternoon when I left the Inland Route for SH1, 8km south of Kaikoura, the clouds had left the faces.
As in Rotorua, the recommended motorcamp had changed its name, Searidge to Kaikoura Top 10. It was difficult to find the tenting section because their map gave the impression of a place about five times its actual size. With the recommendation of a young Swiss couple, who have been bicycling from Auckland, I ended up in the small area by the train tracks rather than the road. The trains are quite infrequent.
I was soon joined by a young English couple who had just shipped their bikes, paniers, ..., back to England for $100us each. They had just finished their tour of the Westland and were on their way to Rotorua and Patagonia. Their memories of the Westland were spectacular country, oppressive sand flies, and rain. Their first task here was to remove the sand fly carcasses from the inside of their tent.
It was a great day, 65km and 943m of hill climbing.

7  Kaikoura, Thurs. Oct. 18

Today was another day of beautiful sunshine, and some disappointment for whale watchers who had their trips cancelled because of a strong south-easterly. My attempt is postponed until tomorrow morning.
I spent the day enjoying the mountains, shoreline, and some small drama at the seal colony. First I rode up to the lookout.
It was not clear enough to see to Christchurch, but it was still pretty.
After checking my email, I rode out to the seal colony. The panorama of the mountains on the way was inspiring.
The Seal Colony at the end of the Kaikoura Peninsula is the second most popular tourist attraction on the South Island. It has numerous small joys,
a rotating seal as it lazily got ready for the water,
and Herman, who had enough of this life.
When I first saw Eloise, she was crying, presumably because of Herman. She was hiding from the tourists in the bushes, and didn't really want to face the world.
Normally there are 6000 to 7000 New Zealand Fur Seals resident here. Today there were 5. I was assured that the others were probably around the point resting. I didn't find them. These seals are actually sea lions - what is the difference? - I didn't know! Sea lions can walk on there flippers but seals have to bounce.

8  Kaikoura, Fri. Oct. 19

Kaikoura Whale Watch became Kaikoura Whale Search this morning. We were out for over two hours and did not even hear a whale on the hydrophones. The sperm whale sonar is so strong that it can stun a tuna into submission, so it was not a problem with interference from the ship engines. Later sailings were cancelled because Whales out of range. It was, still, an interesting two hours with roller coaster crashing over the swells, a few wandering albatrosses, black petrels, and a small pod of dusky dolphins. We stopped, and the dolphins stayed around for several minutes, changing sides of the boat just as I was ready to take their picture.
Whale Watch apologised, and gave us an 80% refund. I will try again tomorrow morning. Yesterday, the last boat saw 12 whales, and the captain said that they saw a pod of about 7 heading out to sea. This is the time of year that the females migrate past towards the Antarctic, and it is not unusual, for the adolescent males, that make up the majority of the whales here, to go out for a look.
In the afternoon I went back out to the seal colony and the end of the Kaikoura Peninsula. I walked along the top of the cliff, and down to the ocean at Whalers Cove.
I searched from the top of the cliffs with my binoculars but could not find any seals. Perhaps they do disappear in the afternoon. Another young English couple said they had seen about 20, out on the rocks, at about 10:00am.

9  Kaikoura, Sat. Oct. 20

Today it was Kaikoura Whale Wait - all boats were cancelled because of a strong south-easterly. The overcast morning became rain in the afternoon - a decidedly unpleasant day for riding. Because of the cancellation, I was able get to the seal colony at high tide, and very early morning - there were seals -
The big guy on the left had just come out of the water and immediately started harassing a smaller female - she did not take it kindly.

10  Kaikoura, Sun. Oct. 21

It was calm, low clouds, and drizzle for most of the day. The whales were still out chasing the ladies and the folks at Whale Watch did not really have any idea when they would be back. No whales had been sighted since Thursday evening, except for a pair of Humpbacks that wandered near the shore and were seen from the beach just in front of the Whale Watch office.
It did not rain for the entire day, but this is all you could see of the Kaikouras.
I took the train back to Christchurch at 4:15pm, and arrived back, intact at 7:30pm. It was a good trip, with some disappointments.

11  Google Earth Map of the Ride

This is a link to the Google Earth Map of the ride.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.64.
On 15 Nov 2006, 07:17.