Goodbye South Island, Hello North Island

19 February 2020

Thursday 13 February 20 – Nelson to Havelock – 76km

So, we literally had to tear ourselves away from our luxury hotel in Nelson on Thursday morning – thank you so much to the Buckley family for great food, great company and comfortable surroundings.  We almost didn’t leave! On that note, Nelson is the only place in New Zealand so far that we feel we could actually live in – it’s a really nice town with loads of interesting stuff to do right on its doorstep – all of which is right up our street.

The first 10km out of Nelson was on a bike path along the coast, after which we were onto the main road. For about another 20km the road gradually climbed and got very wiggly and narrow in places. The scenery was nice enough, but we had to concentrate on the road most of the time as the traffic was quite heavy with lots of big logging trucks competing for our space as well as a few sets of roadworks traffic lights to manoeuvre.

It took until 30km out of Nelson before the road quietened down enough for us to really enjoy it. The rest of the ride was very pleasant and we made it to our destination, Havelock (the mussel capital of the world apparently!), by mid-afternoon. We both noticed that it was a lot warmer than it has been recently and we’d both drunk more water than normal.

Havelock is a nice small town that is set along part of the Marlborough Sounds and after we’d settled in and had showers we went for a look at the marina.  It’s surrounded by hills so the setting is pretty spectacular. As we’d eaten so well in Nelson thanks to Louise’s fantastic cooking, we were back on our cycling menu today, which was definitely a bit of a come down! And after dinner it was off to our tent for an early night.

Friday 14 February 20 – Havelock to Picton – 40km

Today turned out to be pretty special on the cycling front…

Though the map showed some interesting topography we had no idea that the wiggly road that hugged parts of Queen Charlotte’s Sound would be quite as spectacular as it turned out to be. We climbed out of Havelock and first came to the Cullen Lookout point which gave great views of Havelock in one direction…

…and out into the Sound in the other…

For the next 10km-or-so it was difficult to know exactly which direction to look as everywhere we turned there was a stunning view of the hills and the Sound – really amazing. There was a ‘not-so-amazing’ flat piece of road called The Linkwater, though the residents had made up for this with some crazy mail boxes (there were loads of these)…

…and then we were back along the coast to even more fantastic views. This piece of New Zealand isn’t marketed in the same way as say Queenstown or Milford Sound, but in our view it’s every bit as beautiful and the road was reasonably quite with just a few tourists doing the same as us…gawping at the views!

Along our route we went through Grove Arm, where we had our second breakfast…

….and numerous other small hamlets, many of which we now understand are old Maori settlements…

And as we neared Picton we discovered where all the logs on the logging trucks go…

Our initial plan had been to go to Blenheim, but we’d been told that it’s nothing special unless you’re into wine, so we changed our plan to go straight to Picton, from where the ferry to Wellington departs. So, we had two nights in what turned out to be, as the Kiwi’s would say, ‘a great spot’, despite the fact that our campsite was super expensive.  There are limited budget accommodation options in the town and other than wild camping this was the cheapest option available so we didn’t have much choice.  

But it turns out that despite the pricy accommodation Picton is a great wee place and very picturesque in its own right. It’s a port town, right on the water and surrounded by some pretty big, steep hills. It has a nice vibe and a few shops catering mainly to the transient tourist population that goes through the town to and from the ferry terminal. We walked through the marina to have a look around and spotted some enormous rays in the water…

…which are graceful and beautiful to watch.

Saturday 15 February 20 – Picton – 0km (well, actually a 24km walk!)

As New Zealand is our last country we decided early on to take it a bit easier on the cycling front than we have in some of the other countries we have passed through, which means a few more days off along the way. It helps that New Zealand is quite small, but there are, of course, a fair few hills which can make cycling quite tough. As we are in Picton we are only a day away from crossing to the North Island so this is sort of the halfway stage. Our stats for South Island stand at 1,917km cycled in 27 days, giving us an average of 71km per day.  Over the full 42 days on South Island our cycling average is 45.6km, both of which are lower than our normal averages.  But this was the whole idea for New Zealand…a sort of ‘holiday’ at the end of our journey!

So to follow the holiday theme we decided to stay in Picton for two nights and have a day off. This amounted to a ‘short’ walk from our camp site to The Snout, a mere 5 hour, 24km round trip! The walk took us along a peninsular that sticks out into the sound between Picton and Waikawa…

According to Maori mythology this piece of land is a giant sand worm (there are real worms which can grow up to 30cm long here), which was trying to get to the sea, but got stuck in mud  – and The Snout, where we walked to, is the worm’s nose.

We packed some sarnies and set off along what turned out to be a fantastic track with great views of the Sound and the surrounding hills…

Much of the walk took us through some lovely forest…

Since we have been in New Zealand we have noticed that the cicadas (crickets) are really loud, but today they turned the volume up to 11 (reference ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ the movie!). They were completely deafening at times and we could barely hear each other talk.  Plus they’re not very good at flying and regularly crashed into us as we walked…

They seemed only just in control of their flying to be honest!

All the while the views were amazing, especially when we got to The Snout itself…

 

Sunday 16 February 20 – Picton to Wellington – 8km

We were up, packed, breakfasted and on the road by 9am and made the short hop to the ferry terminal for the crossing to Wellington. As we were quite early we spent about 45 minutes watching train wagons being unloaded and loaded onto the ferry and then we were directed on in the same space as the trains…

This was a first for us as we’re usually amongst the trucks, but this time they were on the floor above us! We managed to find some seats in the cafe up at the front of the boat where we could see the scenery of the Marlborough Sounds pass slowly by. It was nice that we could nip outside to the front deck to have a look, which we did quite regularly…

The 3.5hr crossing passed pretty quickly and we were soon docking in Wellington. As it was a Sunday the traffic was light and we were soon through the centre of town and gurning up a reasonably tough hill to Andrew and Sally’s, WarmShowers hosts who’d agreed to look after us for a few days. Once in and settled we got to know each other.  They have cycled extensively in Europe and New Zealand and so the conversation was very relaxed, but didn’t stick just to cycling!

Monday 17 – Wednesday 19 February 20 – Wellington – 0km

Our Wellington experience started with a visit to the Museum of New Zealand down by the waterfront.  There’s a lot in there so we decided to stick to the Maori portion. It should be pointed out that Maori is pronounced more like Maary rather than pronouncing the a and the o like ow as we had been.

There was a big piece about how that Maori came to be in New Zealand and the signing of the Waitangi Treaty (Waitangi Day was celebrated last week – the day we’d arrived in Nelson), which gave sovereignty of New Zealand to the British Crown.  Though westerners had been coming to New Zealand for quite a while, in the mid 1800s the Maori asked for help from the British, as an increasing numbers of whalers and ex-convicts from Australia arriving and causing havoc through their drinking, gambling etc. The French had also been sniffing around and the Maori were worried that they would take over.

The Waitangi Treaty was drawn up but appears to have been put together overnight by two British guys (so obviously a lot of thought was put into it).  It was then taken all over New Zealand and signed by many, but not all, of the Maori chiefs. The treaty was written in both English and Maori and to say that some of it was lost in translation is an understatement. The Maori thought that they we going to keep ownership of their land and be governed and protected by the British. However, the Treaty actually said that they would give up sovereignty of their land to the British. Since then it has been very complicated, people have died because of it and from our point of view it would seem like the Maori were duped. Land was taken and never given back and even now there is some friction between the two parties, though resolutions are continually being sought.

A couple of hours was about all we could manage as it took a lot of concentration to take it all in and we really only saw a small part of the museum. One thing that we did see, which we though was quite cool was a canon from Capt Cook’s ship, the first European to define the outline of New Zealand…

Outside the museum there’s a door leading down to the basement. In a very small room down there is a display of the earthquake isolators which the building sits on…

Basically the museum sits on feet made of laminated rubber and steel with a lead core – this makes the building shake less when there’s an earthquake, which they have a lot of round here. In the rest of Wellington most of the residential buildings are made of wood as they can flex quite a bit during earthquakes. Once upon a time some of the more prestigious buildings in the city were made of stone and brick, but many have been destroyed in various quakes because they tend to be too rigid. So, even now they still use wood to build their houses, not just in Wellington, but all over New Zealand.

Whilst we were staying with Andrew and Sally another cyclist, Lubos from the Czech Republic, also arrived. He stayed for a couple of nights and as he had come from the north it was good to get to talk to him  to get some tips for our journey north.

Wellington is a small capital city with 200,000 people, so it’s easy to walk around, which we did quite a bit. We managed to walk from the Parliament buildings…

…(which is locally called ‘the beehive’) across the waterfront to Oriental Beach.

Of course, we ensured that we maintained our calorie intake…

…with lunch at the famous ‘Fidel’s’ cafe on Cuba Street, one of the more bohemian areas of the city.

The highlights of our stay though were a visit to Zealandia, a predator-free nature reserve, where we saw loads of native birds such as Bellbirds, Saddlebacks, HiHi, Takahe and Kaka like this one…

…as well as a nighttime walk in Central Park guided by Andrew where we saw glow worms – no pictures as it was too dark! Glow worms are the larvae of the fungus gnat that uses sticky silk threads to catch flies, which they attract with a bright glow from their arse. (True fact!!). The flies then get stuck on the thread and the worm ‘reels’ them in’ like an angler! In the park there were literally thousands of them or as Lubos put it a ‘full galaxy of them’’ that lit up the area like little stars.  It was fantastic – and we had to remind ourselves that we were in the middle of a capital city!

We were so well looked after by Sally and Andrew that this was yet another place that was difficult to leave…

This was our last supper with them with Lubos on the right if the photo!

1 comment

  1. Comment by Margo

    Margo Reply 21 February 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Some beautiful scenery. Enjoy the North Island, looking foward to your next update.

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