We rolled down the South Island’s West coast (quite often called “Wet Coast”) with a bit of a low mood. We had no other option but to cycle on the main road, we had bad weather and we could not find as many camp spots as on the North Island, so we were forced to stay on busy rest areas and most of the times we had to pay for them. Nevertheless, we decided to keep the spirit high and use the opportunity of being in such a remote part of our planet to enjoy nature and unrestrained life on the saddle. We both think that we should all travel while we still can – nobody knows how the future will look like. The world around us is constantly changing, unfortunately – to worse. One example of the non stopping change of our surroundings are the glaciers all over the world. New Zealand has some of the worlds most unique glaciers – Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier. Their rapidly retreating toe, unlike the glaciers in the Andes or Himalayas, is just a day walk from the coast. Mat had a chance to visit New Zealand in 2007 and he was shocked to find the place he remembered from his gap year completely changed. The part of the glacier, that was once available for the tourists to come really close and walk between huge, transparent-blue sheets of ice is now gone, revealing piles of rocks grounded to dust by the power of proceeding ice.
A walking path allows visitors to admire New Zealand’s glaciers from a close proximity. Officially one is not allowed to cycle these paths, so we had to push our bikes as there is no safe place provided to leave them. That way our bikes reached yet another stunning place on earth.
The “Wet Coast” allowed us only to catch a glimpse of natures wonders and kept most of the Joseph’s glacier under thick layers of clouds.
One of the advantages of travelling by bike is that you can drag all your belongings up an overgrown mound (in this case blocked by bushes and huge rocks to make it inaccessible for cars) and find a perfect campsite, to wake up with a view on the glacier the next morning.
Unlucky with the weather when visiting the Franz Joseph glacier, we could finally experience our first day of sunshine on the South Island on our way to the Fox Glacier.
When people think of New Zealand, one of the things that come to their mind are sheep. They can be found on both islands, although it seemed that nowadays breeding cows are being more and more profitable.
On rare occasions where we could find an unfenced piece of land, we enjoyed camping to the fullest, with long evenings under the stars and even longer breakfasts. Getting pumped with energy from the sun and the surroundings makes a great start for another day of cycling.
Despite the fact that most of the main roads in New Zealand are lacking a safe shoulder for cyclists, we could still find some small (often gravel) roads here and there and have them just for ourselves. With dense forests on both sides of the road, pedaling and breathing in fresh air felt just great.
Some parts of the coast reminded us a lot of the Australian Great Ocean Road where we have cycled before – with a bit less tourists, though.
While in some places we remembered the time cycling on the Great Ocean Road, in others we felt like being in Switzerland.
Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka were definitely two truly amazing spots to cycle along. We could not resist but stop every few kilometers to literally stare at this pure beauty of different shades of blue combined with the mountains just fitting in perfectly in this surrounding.
We could find photo opportunities almost every hundred meters!
For us, travelling in a minimalist way – by bike with all our belongings fitting in the panniers we carry – to see huge campervans (a villa on wheels) additionally pulling a car, seemed really odd. Why would someone do this? Do people need all the comforts from home to be able to explore a country? Maybe it is a difference of generations, maybe one day we will need more to enjoy travelling OR maybe we will stick to our idea: The less you possess the more you feel free and the more you are staying out of your comfort zone the more you experience and learn!? Time will show us the way. For now, we try to accept and respect different ways of travelling.