New Zealand: The Canterbury Foothills
Nov. 7 to Nov. 10, 2001

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Christchurch, Wed. Nov. 7
3  Glentunnel, Thurs. Nov. 8
4  Mt. Somers, Fri. Nov. 9
5  Geraldine, Sat. Nov. 10
6  Google Earth Map of the Ride

1  Introduction

On this trip I intended to go for three to five weeks from Christchurch to Stewart Island but the trip was aborted after only three days because of several equipment problems:

2  Christchurch, Wed. Nov. 7

It was a beautiful day, sunshine and a first for New Zealand, a north-easterly that was behind me. This was a day of steady climb across the Canterbury Plains, with not much of interest except a trio of alpacas
and an aggressive ostrich.
The Main West Road, 73 was quite busy with trucks and car heading to the west coast, but the Old West Road was pleasantly quiet. It wasn't until the last 6km, on the Inland Scenic Road, 72 that the foothills of the Southern Alps appeared. I stopped early in the afternoon at the Glentunnel Holiday Park, the last place to have a shower for the next 100km.
My surprise were a couple of other bicyclists, two brothers from Colorado, who are going roughly the same way. They had started in Auckland, rode the Coromandel and the East Cape of the North Island in a little over two weeks. They obviously have energy levels much higher than I do. I doubt that I will see them again after tomorrow.

3  Glentunnel, Thurs. Nov. 8

This is a coal mining area and the Glentunnel was a hole through a ridge that reduced the miners trip to the mine from 3km to 100m or so. It was only used for a month or so, because the farm changed hands and the new owners would not allow transit.
I must admit a little envy when the two brothers left with bicycle trailers and no paniers at all. Except for early morning log clouds, it was another beautiful day - no wind, except for a very light south-easterly in the late afternoon, and bright sun burning off the morning clouds.
As the clouds were burning off, the road started to live up to its name of the Inland Scenic Route, Mount Hutt, and the north side of the Somers Range showed their peaks.
It was very gradual 200m climb all the way to the Rakaia River and Gorge.
Then it was an immediate drop of 150m, which was rather easy, and a 200m climb on the other side, which was not. The Gorge is only really visible from a Jet Boat Cruise that started below the bridge. This is the best I could do while struggling up the other side.
Rakaia Gorge has a pleasant DOC campground, without showers, where I stopped and cooked some lunch overlooking the river.
After that it was a very tough climb out of the Gorge, with the southern side of the Somers Range, and Mt. Hutt, and a pair of extinct moas being the reward.
From there it was mostly downhill to the village of Mt. Somers where I found one of the Mt. Somers Holiday Park at about 7:00pm. This park had its own, very friendly, resident cat.

4  Mt. Somers, Fri. Nov. 9

It poured rain all night, and still has an Irish mist this morning. It stayed that way all morning and by the time I got to Mayfield, 20km later I was soaked. My new very breathable, Ground-Effect jacket does not breathe for me. I was also cold with only a polypropylene undershirt. At Mayfield I stopped at their Dairy to get some juice. This was their only store - the sign at the beginning of town said "Blink and you will miss us!". I sat down at one of their tables, and the owner said, "I will light the fire for you and you may never want to leave." He was right. I dried out the jackets, changed into dry clothes, and enjoyed the warmth and smell of the fire, to some more juice and a bacon-hamburger.
I left just after noon, with the mist continuing. This was brought by a south-easterly with the tree hedges by the road keeping it quite dry. However, after about 45 minutes, the rain appeared to be finished for good so I took off my rain? gear.
The ride was 50km through mostly flat, and slightly down all the way to Geraldine. However, it was not without some interest.
I arrived mid afternoon to an overcast, but otherwise pleasant, Geraldine. I tried to replenish my wine supply at the local Supervalue Plus grocery but discovered that I could not. This was a "trust" area and only the bottle store(s?) had a licence. After prohibition, an elected trust was set up to sell liquor licenses. Since this is an ongoing institution, the licenses have to be expensive enough to support the trust and show a profit for the town.
The drizzle let off until after I had set up my tent, but started just as I was reading my email at the Olde Presbytery Backpackers. It was quite heavy when I got back to the Geraldine Holiday Park. There are three other bicyclists here too. The rain held off for them too. A pair of Kiwi teenagers, with huge backpacks on their bikes (no paniers) had just ridden down from Christchurch in one day (130km), and the third, a Swiss kid from the mountains near Zurich, rode the hard part of the Inland Scenic Route, coming from Christchurch in just 2 days. All three are going on to Mt. Cook and beyond but are obviously too fast for me. I only rode 50km today, and my three day ride from Christchurch was 185km and 1285m of hill climbing. 800m of the climb was yesterday.

5  Geraldine, Sat. Nov. 10

There was an on/off dribble as I was taking the tent down. For some reason, there was a huge bruise on my thigh and knee, and I have found it difficult to push hard for a couple of days. I don't really remember how it happened. As I was going out of town, I decided that I didn't really want to tackle Mt. Michael on the road to Fairlie so I opted for the easy route via Pleasant Point. Even this very easy rolling hillside was a pain so, as I was leaving Geraldine, I decided that it was time to abort the trip and take the train back to Christchurch. I arrived at the Timaru station about 10 minutes before the train arrived. I had made reservations earlier in the day at Pleasant Point for tomorrow because I was uncertain that I would make it in time. Joan and Montoe, had just completed a 2 month ride around both islands and were also waiting for the train. I was a little worried that there would be room for 3 bikes, but there was.
We arrived in Christchurch 10 minutes early - a first for me on Tranzrail. The train station is outside the Lonely Planet Christchurch map so I guided Joan and Montoe to Cathedral Square.
They rode off down Gloucester to find a place to camp and I rode back to my flat, with a stop on the way for a pizza and beer.

6  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, 07:19.