Thursday, February 2, 2012

Northern Thailand

Check out our current trip in Thailand.  Bangkok to Phuket is finished now Chiang Mai down.  Click the link above.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Trips

Check out the links above for ou  latest trips to Australia and Thailand.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christchurch Red Zone

I thought I had posted these but I guess not.  We are now travelling in OZ check out the new blog and we will soon be cycling in Thailand.

Just take a few moments to look at the devasted centre of Christchurch and lets hope they all have a much better new year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ready for the next ride

So it is time to give the bikes some love and I have fitted new back tyres, I bought Continental Contacts the same as standard because in nearly 5000km we have not had 1 puncture.  The front tyres still have plaenty of life left in them so they can stay.  New chains for both as they were becoming noisey and I cleaned the drive train well.  I checked the brakes and although both back sets of pads are getting low they are still ok so I bought a spare pair for each bike to take with us.  Finally I greased and oiled all the parts that needed it including pulling the cranks and removing the pedals.  They should now be ready for the road again.

We sent home all our cold weather gear which cost a fortune $180 for 10kg and have had our vaccinations for Thailand, Cambnodia, Vietnam and Laos.  This cost me $266! Maria's were a little less as she didn't need quite as many.  We plan to cycle as much as possible so keep checking back as new blogs will appear.

Packing up is the next job and we have the boxes we arrived with here at the hostel so we know it fits!  It is my birthday tomorrow so it would be good to chill so best get busy today!

Will try and get some more pics up later as we went on a bus tour through the Red Zone last night.

Cycling Methven Christchurch

November 15th Methevn - Christchurch 104km

Well an early start into a sunny morning.  The ride started with a climb followed by a steep down then up into a gorge, a very strong headwind was blowing and after 1.5 hours we had only covered 21km.  Now the road turned and the wind more behind than infront, add that to a gentle downhill slope all the way to Christchurch and the rest of the ride was a breeze!

You soon noticed the increase in traffic as you got closer to the city and the driving in the city is the worst we hve encountered on the island.  It would be a shame to get run over now!  Luckily though wenade the campsite in one piece and put the tent up.  We have a few days here now before we fly to Oz and start cycling Sydney to Brisbane.  Maybe a new blog or I might just carry on with this one.

It has taken 45 days of cycling to ride around the South Island and we have covered 3000km, not bad for our first go at cycle touring.  It has been a great way to see the country and although sometimes the weather has been against us we have loved the whole trip.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cycling Methven

November 14th Methven

Spent the day not doing much really. Methven out of the winter season is quiet.  They are working on cycle trails at Mt Hutt but only the downhill stuff is running at the moment and no shuttle or lift unless on an organised day.

We have 100km to do tomorrow back to Christchurch and maybe get a few rides in while we are there as we still have a week to go.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cycling Lake Tekapo Geraldine Methven

November 11th Lake Tekapo

Well we decided on another day off, this is the first time we have had 2 days off together since leaving Christchurch.  We walked up to Mt John to stretch the legs and watched yet more dvds.  We like the caravan, check out last night's view.  It is booked for tomorrow so we are off to Geraldine, we have been told that the views get less dramatic now as we head back to Christchurch.

Lake Tekapo at Night

View of Lake Teakapo from Mt John

November 12th Lake Tekapo Gerladine 95km

Of we set into the grey morning.  We had a little climbing to do firstly and the rain started getting blown into our faces by the headwind that had picked up.  Not what was forecast but there you go.  It was much over an hour though before the now downhill gradient overpowered the headwind and we were making good time again.  We stopped briefly at Fairlie for a coffee and then climbed again before a long downhill section to Geraldine.  An army convoy passed by at one point and I thought I was going under the wheels of an armoured personnel carrier but luckily it missed me.

When we arrived in the sleepy town of Geraldine we discovered this was the busiest day of their year!  An arts festival took over the park and the campsite was filled with all of the store holders caravans.  Oh well another excuse not to camp!  We went to a BBH hostel which was very nice but $72 for the night.  Once in we wandered around the stores that just seemed to be selling tat, looked at the old car display and then went to the delis try all of the tasters before heading back to the hostel for dinner and dvds.

November 13th Geraldine Methven 82km

Nice and sunny, we managed to leave 20 minutes earlier than we planned which is a first!  The road climbed but so gently you couldn't notice and we made good time.  One cafe stop along the way and a picnic lunch before arriving at 3pm.  YHA booked for the next 2 nights, free Internet for a change so we can get some more stuff sorted.  We had a quick look round town but being Sunday most things are shut.  It looks quite sleepy as it's main business is the Mt Hutt ski field which is now shut for the summer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cycling Oamarama Twizel Mt Cook Lake Tekapo

November 6th Oamarama – Twizel 35km

A beautiful sunny day with no wind or a little tailwind at some points.  This flat stretch of road only took around 1.5 hours to cover.  If we hadn’t of left so late we may of considered going on to Mt Cook but instead we found a cabin for $60 and relaxed.  We had run out of clothes so laundry was done and even dried on the line, the first time since we arrived.  I got chatting to 2 old guys who also fed me some of their home made rum.  One guy was 75 and the other over 65 and tomorrow they are going fishing but have to do a fair amount of off roading first, river cr ossings around 3 feet deep!  Good on em!

We watched a couple of dvds and they were both rubbish, tomorrow we are aiming for an earlyish start as we have 66km to Mt Cook.

November 7th Twizel – Mt Cook

Another lovely sunny day with little wind.  The road passes through farmland for the first 10km then turns off toward New Zealand’s highest peak.  After a few km the road follows the side of Lake Pukaki with incredible views and the brightly coloured water.  With the views of Mt Cook getting larger without too much effort from us we decided to stop for lunch.  A café is conveniently placed 23km short of the village and proved an ideal stop.

Now I moan about the weight of gear I am carrying but we bumped into a German couple with 2 kids, both having huge panniers front and rear he was pulling the children in a huge child carrier and she was also pulling a trailer loaded with gear.  We chatted to them for a while and they were struggling with the weight, I am not surprised!  Opting for buses where possible they were managing to cycle 30km on an average day and 50km on a good day from what I could gather and were freedom camping as well in places.  It looked way too much like hard work for me.

We carried on with our light loads J heading for the YHA.  The last 10km we head a strong headwind but the road was flat and are legs had rested well yesterday so no problems.  I felt bad however for the family travelling behind and wanted to go back and help but would you trust somebody to take your gear for you? I am not so sure.

Anyway got a room for the usual $58 cycling discount the normal price here is $110!  We ate and unpacked, then the family turned up and we let them know about the discount so they stayed too.  Day off tomorrow.

November 8th Mt Cook

Today was another rest day including a look around the information center and the Hilary museum.  The film playing in the information center was excellent showing a mountain rescue however the poor guy died in the end from internal injuries.

The Hilary museum again was very good describing the history of the Hermitage Hotel the museum is in and the stories of other Kiwi climbers and adventurers.  Several old cars, planes and a copy of the tractors used to drive to the South Pole were on display.  We had to pay to watch a film on the late Edmund Hilary but it was very informative if a little expensive.  The 2 short walks in the area both meant riding on gravel tracks until reaching the starts so we decided to just soak up the views from the village.  We have a dvd for tonight and an early start for tomorrow as I guess 100+km to Lake Tekapo.
Statue of Ed Hillary

Maria & Ed the polar bear

Mt Cook 3754m

November 9th Mt Cook – Lake Tekapo 104km

Left5 at 8.30am after having a chat to the manager who was from Colchester, he gave us an alternative to the main road so we will take that.  Said goodbye to the German family who were going to Twizel today but by bus, I guess they are being quite selective of their route and with aall that gear I can’t blame them. 

We had a still morning which was a shame as I was hoping for a roaring tailwind J however the first 22km to the coffee shop took less than an hour.  After a quick refuel we carried on, the lake looked far darker today in the cloudy conditions.  We reached the main road in under 2.5 hours which wasn’t bad for 55km and rode for just 2km more before a lunch break at the tourist information site at the bottom of the lake.  An English couple came over to chat as he was a keen cyclist and had just done the length of the UK but supported.

After lunch we cycled for2 or 3km more before turning off the main road to the canal road.  The first 12km were flat but then 3km of steep climbing.  At the top a salmon farm was the next stop but no coffee shop so just a chocolate bar and a loo stop.  Now the road followed a canal which fed the hydro station.  The water was back to the incredible light blue color and the road flat.  A headwind had picked up but not strong, we crossed the main road but the canal road was closed from here on, many people had said to just go around the gate but with only 15km to go we didn’t want to get turned around so we went on the main road.  The road passed an army camp before going down to the lake.  We headed for the YHA who had no private rooms left but did have a caravan.  We had a look and it was nice and big with a view of the lake, perfect.  We quickly dumped the bags and went to buy food, it had been raining since we left the canal road so we were a little damp.  Food dvds and bed.
Bottom of Lake Pukaki leading to Mt Cook

10th November Lake Tekapo

Well another day off!  We have a few days to kill before we reach Christchurch so no hurry.  A lie in and then a walk was the plan but we got chatting to another cycle tourist from Taiwan called Neil.  This turned into quite a long chat as he was interested in routes to take.  He also had a lot of gear and had been rough camping from Christchurch to here as he hadn’t been making the towns by Dark!

Well the time had gone for the walk we planned so just a stroll along the lake and a few pictures.  There is a little church on the lake which must be a favorite for weddings as the views are breath taking, it did inspire me to pop the question though!!

A bit of organizing for the rest of the day then the hot pools for a soak, should be a good day off.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cycling Dunedin Palmerston Oamaru Kurow Oamarama

November 1st Dunedin – Palmerston 66km

Ok today I went the wrong way.  I like it much better when there is only one road, it makes getting lost far more difficult.  We did ask at the hostel but got duff advice.  What made it worse is Maria said we should check with the tourist information and I said we will be alright. 

We left the city in the right direction but the highway doesn’t allow bikes which is where the problem starts.  We took Pine Hill as advised but after a hill so steep it felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest an old guy came out of his house and said that the road we were on lead to an aerial tower and then stopped!  Well at least we didn’t find out the hard way and he was nice enough to point us in the right direction.   He said he used to be a keen cyclist in his day and had come out of his house to help when he saw us looking at the map by the side of the road.  Now you wouldn’t get that happening very often in the UK.

So about 40 minutes out of the way but the rest of the trip made up for it.  A bit of climbing but all manageable and the views were stunning.  The sun shone despite the weather forecast and the wind blew from behind on the home straight.

Palmerston however doesn’t have a campsite and the 2 hotels were full, bugger.  All was not lost though as the one hotel which mainly caters for truckers and miners let us put up the tent for $10 and use the showers.  This meant using the stove for the first time and it was incredibly powerful for it’s tiny size.  I made a small cooking shelter out of the tarp and the tent poles I had salvaged from the old tent, perfect.  We did opt for dinner at the hotel which is also the local pub though.

We did find out from the super market that another 20km down the road is a nice campsite by the beach, now with the tailwind we would have been there 40 minutes but the tent was pitched so I guess we’ll stay put now.

November 2nd Palmerston – Oamaru 73km

Everything was damp in the morning after rain last night so no sitting on the grass cooking.  We set up the stove on the veranda outside the cabins which seemed to work well.  They must have had a hell of a party last night with pissed up blokes shouting and revving cars until the early hours. A little worrying as most of them seemed to be driving trucks today!

We packed up and left in good time, the road was pretty flat and little wind had us making good time.  The first stop was at Moeraki Boulders.  These are spherical boulders which have been left on the beach as the cliff has eroded around them.  We were there at high tide so couldn’t get full benefit but they were interesting for sure.

We headed on hoping to take the coast road but missed the first turning, by the time we came to the next turning we had missed most of it, the last part of the coast road had fallen into the sea so it had just been closed and traffic now travels more inland.  We still managed some good views though.

As we headed into the town we were surprised by the size of the place, expecting a small town and confronted by street upon street of houses.  We visited the tourist info then headed to the YHA.  This time the YHA looked a little ropey, it wasn’t a proper YHA but an associated one and was just small and a little run down.  We opted for a cabin in the Top 10 campsite at $60 a night.  A dvd tonight and a day off tomorrow.

November 3rd Oamaru

Lots of things to do here but the main thing is the Blue Penguin Colony.  There is a grandstand on the beach where you can sit and watch them come ashore but that is not till 8pm.  We booked in for a tour which picks us up at the campsite for the evening viewing so we went for the day time viewing where you can see the penguins in the nest boxes.  Not allowed to take photos but I saw a 2 day old chick when mum had a quick shuffle around, she normally stays over the top of them until they get a bit older.  It looked like a little black ball of fluff.

The other things Oamura is famous for is the white stone still quarried today, the Victorian quarter complete with penny farthings, the cheese factory and steampunk.  Well the buildings are impressive mainly in the Victorian area, the penny farthing shop was shut unfortunately but we did visit the cheese factory, had a look at where they made the cheese and more importantly ate some.  My favorite surprisingly was made with sheep’s milk and nice and strong.

Ok so that leaves steampunk, which is modern art I suppose but in a Mad Max style theme.  Mainly made of old bits of machinery and vehicles.  I liked it have a look at the pictures and see what you think.

So back to the penguins, the guy who runs the tour is the guy who originally set up the colony.  We went for a drive around the towns historic buildings, then to the yellow eyed penguin colony.  Surprisingly the penguins nest really high up the cliffs, I was amazed they could get up there.  Next to the Blue penguins where we watched about 80 of the little things come out of the sea  and run along in front of the grandstand, ashame we couldn’t take photos.

Finally we went back to the campsite via the steampunk train complete with flames and sountrack!

The forecast is for snow tomorrow so I am voting for another day off but I doubt it will snow.

November 4th Oamaru – Kurow 73km

We had decided to lie in but I was sure Maria wanted to move on, I looked out of the window at 9am and as it was bright sunshine we decided to go.  It wasn’t until 10.30 we finally left and made our way out of town.  Wind was the main focus of the day, it made progress painstakingly slow and when the rain and freezing gusts started I think Maria wish she had stayed in Oamaru.

Eventually we rode out of the other side of the rain and back into the sunshine but the wind didn’t relent.  By the time we reached Kurow it was 5pm so we called it a day 27km short of the target.  Anyway $42 for a cabin, dinner and bed.

November 5th Kurow – Oamarama 53km

Bright and sunny but still windy, 10 to 15 kph are knocked of your speed with this kind of headwind making the ride time nearly double.  The hills today were gentle and we decided to only cover just over half the distance we wanted to.  We passed a couple of hydro plants and the wind was blowing the water over the dams.  The water was an incredible color, check out the pics.  We have stayed in a Top 10 again this time $55 for the night in a nice cabin.  Back into the wind again tomorrow!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cycling Invercargill Papatowai Balclutha Dunedin

October 28th Invercargill – Papatowai 113km

After letting Tia the boxer pup have a quick walk in the garden we left on what had the potential for a long ride.  The city limits only took a few minutes to reach and as we passed through the acres of farmland the wind neither hindered or helped.  The bright sunshine enhanced the views although the temperature still required a jacket. 

The first stop at a café was fairly brief although it had lovely gardens made on the site of an old quarry with signets from the wild black swans swimming in the lake.  The Southern scenic route we followed carried on through farmland, gently undulating through the occasional small township.  During lunch we sat in a park and enjoyed the sunshine.

At Curio bay the scenic route changes direction, the sign said 31km to go.  This turned out to be the end of the easy cycling with steep hills and a headwind.  As we had already covered over 80km we had to fight our way up every hill with tired legs.  When we saw the Whistling frog café and holiday park we were tempted to stay until we saw the prices!  Onwards once more and the route was not giving up the last few km easily.  What turned out to be the last climb had us both struggling, Maria said she couldn’t make it and I had no energy to encourage her so I just cycled on and she followed.  As we descended into the township we passed the store and luckily managed to buy food just before it closed. 

No campsite here, motel rates were high but we found  a backpackers which was situated 1km along a gravel road.  On the way however we passed a B&B that also had a cabin.  $60 seemed reasonable and it had a shower and kitchen so fully self-contained.  Caroline the owner was very friendly so were her cats and dogs.  One cat had 3 legs and the other Poppy was more than happy to join us in the cabin at every opportunity whether it was the door or window which was left ajar.  A lovely spot and a good rest, tomorrow should be an easier day!


View from last climb

Maria fighting her way to the top

October 29th Papatowai – Balclutha 61km

The first day I started out in t shirt and shorts, maybe the start of the summer?  The road had a few minor climbs but in general was very cruisey.  Only 3.5 hours cycling today compared to the 6.5 of the dy before.  After finding a cabin we chilled out.  Balclutha isn’t a pretty place, a slaughter house and processing plant are the main industry.  Relaxing was the order of the day though and we managed that well.

October 30th Balclutha – Dunedin 95km

Early start and another potentially long day ahead.  The fine rain defied the forecast and our hope for the start of the summer.  A steep climb out of town followed by steeply undulating farmland made the first 20km a drag.  We were both hoping this wasn’t going to be the order of the day!  After a café break and a chat to 3 guys touring on motorbikes we headed off into a slight headwind.  The road now much flatter seemed to get much busier so when we had the option to take the scenic route we did. 

The hill to the coast was a killer, I would guess the steepest consistent climb so far.  Now we have been up steeper gradients but not for so long.  After 4km we hit the summit and rode down to the coast, my brakes could hardly bring me to a stop but slowed me down enough to survive the experience.

Now the route was beautiful, hugging the coastline with sandy beaches and rocky out crops.  The weather was grey and a little drizzle fell but the wind was light and the road gently rolling.  We cycled along Essex Road, then through Brighton, I can assure you there is no resemmbeklance to Brighton UK.

The scenic route changed direction again up a short steep hill followed by a short steep descent.  As we turned at the bottom all we could see was the road climbing as straight as an arrow directly infront.  On this climb a guy in a van drew along side and offered us a ride.  This is the first time we have been offered a lift, we must have looked like we were struggling but with only 12km to go I thanked him but carried on cycling.

Eventually we reached the top and headed into Dunedin.  It looked very grey and unwelcoming but once we found the hostel we didn’t care, another 6 hour day.
View of Dunedin from the hostel roof

October 31st Dunedin

Too tired to ride on today so lay in bed and watched a DVD.  Caught up on the blog and then a wander around.  When the sun is shining like today and you aren't worn out Duniden looks a different place.  We have decided to stay in NZ for an extra 4 days and only go from Sydney to Brisbane missing Cairns.  Although diving on the GBR would be awsome it is expensive and the logistics of the bike transport a pin so we will leave that till next time.