Follow or subscribe to our blog to get notifications of updates to this site
as well as more frequent insightful, pithy commentary


bike logo



Our Great New Zealand South Island Bike Tour

Week 5

by Pamela Blalock with (most) photos by John Bayley

Back to the bike after a day of walking for a nice ride up to Ross. I hate to admit I planned our route trying to get mostly tailwinds, without much thought to scenery. As it turns out, we did have mostly favourable winds, but I think the best or most dramatic scenery was often behind us. I suspect southbound travelers get the better views on the west coast. But at bicycle speeds, we can look around and even stop!

In looking through our BBH guide, I found an Old Church in Ross - or so I thought. We actually came upon the backpackers about 15 km south of Ross. It was a lovely quiet setting by a river. After we settled in I began to wonder what a church was doing out in the middle of nowhere. Then I picked up to photo album and discovered it had been moved from Ross to this new location in the wop-wops. A short while later, the owner came around and told us a bit more about how he'd moved and rebuilt the place. He did a very nice job!

We'd been hearing some clunking noises from the back of the bike, and they were getting worse. Our hub has been clunky and noisy since the day we bought it, but this was getting bad. We stopped at a bike shop in Hokitika to investigate. Fortunately or not, the mechanic wasn't in, and we were offered use of his tools. The unfortunate part was we could not find the most basic of tools, like those to pull the crank and bottom bracket. John thought it might be a bearing in the bottom bracket. We finally were able to get the cranks off, and determined the bottom bracket was OK. The bearings in the hub seemed good, and the spring (that we'd broken once before) was fine. We put it all back together and lived with the noise. As we were living another touring cyclist, pulling a trailer rolled up in need of some mechanical assistance. Like us, he was offered use of the workshop. John helped him diagnose his problem, before we left. I'm not sure he would have had any better luck finding the necessary tools though.

Our next destination was Blackball. We had decided on the way down that we would have to return, so we made the slight detour to go back up and stay the night. We had another great meal and enjoyed a bit more Blackball Salami, as well as the company of John, the cat.

Next we continued up the coast, past Pancake Rocks (well worth a visit) to Cape Foulwind. Our favourite barrista in Nelson had gone to work at this restaurant in Cape Foulwind, called the Bay House Cafe. We also had a recommendation from Jim in Clyde. We thought it would be cool to stop in and see Olivia. The meal was one of the best we've had. The setting was incredible. We returned the next morning for brunch. We ended up chatting quite a while with Luke, the chef, who also happens to be a cyclists. Olivia has actually returned to Nelson, but he told us she had taught everyone to make great coffee. Everyone we had there was great!

We took a walk on the Taraunga Bay Walkway to see the seals and the toddlers were very playful and active. Then we finally headed up to Hector. We'd heard a few recommendations for the Old Slaughterhouse Backpackers, and decided to check it out. I'm not sure where the name comes from. It seems to be a purpose built home and hostel - no sign of a slaughterhouse. It has solar power and gas cooking, and a few books on sustainable living. It's a 10 minute bush walk up a hill from a parking area down by the road. (We stashed the bike in the bush) The views are incredible. But the crowd that night was not that social - no one really talked to us - and our impressions of hostels are often more to do with the people than the facilities.

We saw two more touring cyclists along our trip up the west coast, and a vanload of folks doing an organized ride that just rode certain segments. We talked a bit with their leader about issues facing cyclists on the west coast, like impatient and homicidal bus drivers. Despite the area being marketed as a great place for cycling, not all folks in the tourism business seem to agree. Bus drivers really seem to hate cyclists, and try to intimidate them and pass close. Our experience with traffic on our tour had been slightly better than our usual riding conditions around Nelson. We actually found that as we got further south, drivers seemed to get better, even truck drivers. But bus drivers were awful everywhere. I'm not sure I understand their thinking. Do they not realize they could maim or kill someone. Or do they think that we'll give up cycling and get on their bus? Are schedules so tight that they don't allow a few seconds to pass safely? But back to meeting other cyclists. I suspect it was more the lateness in the season and cool weather that had the numbers of other tourists we saw down, rather than the reputation of kiwi bus drivers.

When passing through Westport, the noise in the back of the bike got worse. John pulled the cassette body again to check and this time realised a bearing was shot, but it was the inner bearing in the cassette, and shouldn't have had any load. None were available in town, and we knew we only had a few days left, so we pressed on.

We met one more cyclist. He was touring kiwi-style. His wife and new baby had a van (and his gear) and met him along the route for lunch and camping. He was actually from Nelson. In a town this size, we should know all the other cyclists, but lack of a recreational club means we really don't get to socialize much with other riders. It was certainly nice to have met and talked with so many other touring cyclists along the way.

That night we stayed in Inangahua Junction. You may recall from the trip down, a mention of a store with empty shelves. We remembered this, so we stocked up with groceries in Westport. The hostel is an old villa and nothing special, but we were joined that evening by a couple from Sweden, who are studying in Australia, and two French lads, who are studying in Auckland. We chatted the night away. Then it was onto Glenhope and back to Hu-Ha.

We decided from there to take a gravel road toward Tapawera, and head for an afternoon coffee and snack at our favourite local patisserie in Mapua, the Naked Bun. We then stopped in to see our friends, Ross and Marian and their family of cats, and didn't leave til the next day, when we finally headed home to Nelson.

With our own tools and more investigation, we discovered that indeed the bearing was shot, but so were the pawls. John replaced both these as well and the chain, cassette and middle chain ring. We had just replaced the chain, cassette and chain ring in December - a mere 3,000 km ago! Otherwise, we had no problems with the bike - no punctures at all!

It was a great trip and 5 weeks makes for a nice vacation. When we go back to work, we must arrange for 5 weeks holidays!









Vital Statistics

date destination distance climbing magpies
Monday 12 April Ross 95 609 2
Tuesday 13 April Blackball 111 573 0
Wednesday 14 April Cape Foulwind 132 1319 3
Thursday 15 April Hector 62 145 0
Friday 16 April Inangahua Junction 86 394 2
Saturday 17 April Glenhope 98 933 0
Sunday 18 April Mapua 87 674 0
Monday 19 April Nelson 37 219 0

Franz Josef Glacier


Enough of this biking stuff. Jump straight to the
Routeburn Track

Milford Track

Doubtful Sound

Franz Josef Glacier