My itinerary for New Zealand

Whenever you are looking for me in February or March, I will always be somewhere on the red line cycling, walking, climbing, hitchhiking, swimming, canoeing, surfing, rafting, paragliding or whatever else is coming into my mind...

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South Island

Arriving in Christchurch

After landing on Christchurch Airport at 23:00 I had to realize that all the backpackers were fully booked. The only room available was NZ$ 120 which slightly exceeded my budget. So I stayed at the airport and slept really well behind the Air New Zealand departure desk as you can see on the first picture.
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Having spent nothing for the night I headed towards the city the next morning and had a first-class breakfast in a nice cafe. Afterwards I had a short walk through the city in order to find a suitable accomodation. Although I was successful initially and found a bed in a hostel, I was a bit disappointed of my first impressions of NZ. {short description of image}
Christchurch is not an ugly city but it just looks like an ordinary English town and coming from Melbourne which I really liked immediately my expectations were too high. But I got everything sorted out, got a good bike and all the stuff I needed and so the journey was about to start... {short description of image}
The first short trip...

...led me to the Banks Peninsula and offered me some great views and I found a beautiful place called Sumner which is just outside the suburbs of Christchurch but directly by the sea. So I decided to stay here in a very nice hostal close to the beach. The evening and the next morning I had a couple of surfing sessions and I felt that my holiday would now really start.
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By the way, I went again to Christchurch and I have to admit that it is not as bad as my first impression. There is lots do do for young people there also seems to be a quite vibrant nightlife in which I unfortunately could not take part since it was time to leave to the south.

This guy on this picture is quite significant, as his name is Captain Cook and he discovered New Zealand for the Europeans. So without him I don't know if I were here. The other thing on the picture is not less important: my bike which I bought at the Cash Converter`s, a second hand shop in Christchurch, for about 150 €. It is supposed to get me up to Auckland in the next two months. Without it I would possibly be here, but I wouldn't get anywhere else...
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Dunedin and Otago

I decided to take the bus through the Canterbury Plains up to Dunedin in the region called Otago. And this was a very good decision as it saved me many kilometres of boring cycling through the plains. But a few kilometres before we reached Dunedin the hills and mountains of Otago began and the arrival to Dunedin in the bright sunshine was just stunning. A really nice place to be as long as the weather is fine.
The next morning, however, was the worst so far. I suffered from an ear infection due to too much surfing and too much water in my ear and I already saw myself taking anti-biotics for at least one week.
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That would have weakened me so much that I probably wouldn't have been able to cycle! So, I had pain in my ear and as the weather was foggy as well I was really pissed off. But as I wanted to avoid to go to an ear specialist I tried to get the stuff I needed without a prescription in a pharmacy. And there I was really surprised: A very helpful pharmacist told me that such infections are very common and I would not need antibiotics, just normal ear-drops should do it. No one ever told me this in Germany or France whenever I got this! So I bought these drops and started to use them and I was ready to go cycling the next day. And my infection disappeared after a couple of days without any antibiotics!

But I made some use of my stay and explored Dunedin`s Baldwin Street and almost made it to the top with my bike.
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But I only got there cause some tourists where filming me and it would have been too embarassing to get off my bike infront of their camera ;-) {short description of image}
Otago Peninsula

So I went on a daytrip on the Otago Peninsula which resulted to be the first real highlight of NZ. I just put a few pictures on the website and I wanna put it in a few words:
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I absolutely enjoyed the first night going camping and staying in my tent and I discovered absolutely beautiful beaches. {short description of image}
Among them I found the beach that you can see on the picture on the right. And this beach was the one I saw in a Merian-magazine on NZ approximately 5 years ago in a dark winter in northern Germany. This picture I always kept in mind and it was the start for my plans and dreams to travel to NZ! I knew that this beach was supposed to be somewhere on the Otago Peninsula but I did not know where and thus it was a magnificient event when I saw it from above. That made me so crazy that I just went down this steep hill without any ways or paths and I took my bike with me although it was too steep to cycle and I was going through a natural heritage area. On the bottom I had to cross a river flowing into the sea and this turned out to be much more difficult than I thought, since the river was much deeper than it looked like from 300 metres above. {short description of image}
And I don't think anybody else has tried to cross it here cause there where no human footprints at all on this side in the sand. But as I didn't want to climb up the hill again, I searched and finally found a place to cross it very close to the sea where it had already widened up to about 50 metres and so I took my bike over my head and made it through the river. Thus I reached this wonderful beach which was worth all the effort I have put in to get there. {short description of image}
Dunedin to Central Otago

The next day I went back to Dunedin and started from Dunedin Railway Station, which you can see on the picture.
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I took the impressive Taieri Gorge Railway for a couple of kilometres and afterwards started to cycle on the former rail track. {short description of image}
This track hasrecently been transformed to the Central Otago Rail Trail with a gravel surface and it is only open for cyclists and horses. So I took this traffic-free trail for most of the 240 km to Queenstown. On the way I was putting up my tent on a riverbed and other places I passed by. This part of NZ is not very dense populated. Actually, you can only find a place with fresh water (unless you drink from a river) every 20 km and one day I was going 50 km! before I found a pub where I could get a cold beer. {short description of image}
But there I also met real native locals whose families have been living in that region since those settlements have been created in the gold rush 150 years ago (That is a very long time in NZ). With one of them I discussed why the hell his ancestors had cut down all the trees in this area. And not only in the valley, even on the mountains (sometimes over 1,500 metres high) there was no foerst at all. Therefore I was exposed to the sun all day long in these dry and treeless valleys. So I tried to discuss with him where all the trees went and he only replied that even he has never seen any trees over here. They must have disappeared 10,000 years ago in the last ice age! Well, hed did not have to cycle all day to get one pint of beer as he lived nearby and so he could start drinking a couple of hours before I arrived and used this time very economically on the glass ;-) {short description of image}

This is where I am (again) and I quite like this place although it is crowded of tourists. I arrived here after a very hard day on my bike with headwind all the way. So I didn't want to see my bike anymore for a couple of days and enjoyed the Queenstown nightlife very much. I met two guys from Chile and one from Britain and we really had some good parties over here.
Here you can see the famous panorama of Queenstown and the snowcovered mountain range of The Remarkables in the background.
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Milford Sound and Routeburn Track

After one of these party nights, however I had to take a bus at 7 in the morning to get via Te Anau to the Milford Sound. Unfortunately I couldn't take my bike with me as I was planning to hike back on the Routeburn Track.

Arriving on Milford Sound in the rain was already impressive...
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...but the next morning in the sun it was just stunning.

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Such a scenery and diversity of landscape and vegetation cannot be found in many other places in the world. {short description of image}
On the right side of Lake McKenzie you can see the first hut and campsite for the hikers. {short description of image}
And here you can see the second one. Anywhere else along the track camping is prohibited. In order to control the number of people and the impact on the environnement there is a very limited number of permits issued for the huts and campsites. {short description of image}
So normally you have to book this track about 4 months in advance for summer. I have been very lucky to get here since somebody just cancelled before I went into the National Park office in Queenstown looking for some hike. {short description of image}
Going towards Lake Wanaka and West Coast

Coming back from the Routeburn Track I was Rafting this morning which was quite expensive but as I've never done it before it was worth a try. However, it was not absolutely exciting since everybody in the boat was quite experienced and so the Shotover river was not such a challenge for us although it is supposed to be quite difficult and dangerous in some places. But the scenery alone was worth the trip. After staying in Queenstown for two more nights, tomorrow I will go towards Lake Wanaka. This will take me through Wakatipu Basin (on the picture) an over the highest pass of my tour (hopefully). It will be a very tough challenge to make it in one day. I hope I don't have to pitch up my tent somewhere on the way tomorrow evening!
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Leaving Queenstown I was really lucky to see a bus that was heading towards Wanaka. So I asked the driver if he could carry my luggage and he agreed but I had to pick it up at the bus depot in Wanaka by 6 o'clock that evening. That meant I was able to ride free of luggage but I had only about 5 hours to do those 80 km over the Crowne Range, New Zealands highest pass. But I was doing much better than I expected and so I was even able to take a lunch break in a nice pub on the way and still made it to Wanaka at exactly 6 o'clock and got my luggage and hence I was able to sleep in my tent. {short description of image}
However, the next day turned out to be the worst I had so far on my bike. Although the road was going along Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea (on the picture) all the time it was not flat at all. It was either going uphill or downhill the whole way. But worse than that was the fact that I had very strong headwinds the whole day. Sometimes I felt like I would be standing still on my bike. And I was really close to just throwing my bike into the lake. {short description of image}
But in the end of the day I did 50 km and I found such a beautiful tentsite on Lake Wanaka that it was worth all the effort. You can see this tentsite on the pecs as well, with the snowcovered mountains in the background. The next day I got up and the strong winds were still blowing. I didn't want to end up as the day before so I decided to take a wake-up bath in the lake to improve my blood circulation. However, the water was freezing cold and all the other campers in their caravans just thought I had gone mad. I couldn't stay longer than one or two minutes in the water but when I stepped out I got a feeling like burning from inside for the next five minutes. And it really helped and gave me a kick for the whole day. {short description of image}
So despite the unchanged strong headwinds I did much better than the day before and crossed the Southern Alps at Haast Pass (picture) and went down to the West Coast. For a lunch break I stopped at a picnic area called pleasant flat. But despite its name it was the most unpleasant place I have been to so far. At first I was happy since no one else was there and I had plenty of space. But as soon as I stopped I saw the reason why: SANDFLIES! -Actually I have met them before at Milford Sound and occasionally on the Routeburn Track but there have always been only a few and I thought all the warnings about these beasts were just for the tourists to buy loads of insect repellent- But now at pleasant flat I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of them. And these nasty beasts don't know any fear. They just fly to you and bite within a couple of seconds and such a bite feels like on of a moskito only that it usually stays (and itches) for 4 weeks! If you kill them as soon as they sit down on your skin the next ones have already landed and even if you can kill 50 of them in a minute, which is not very difficult, it does not help you since there are already 100 new ones. So to eat at least a little bit I had no choice but to pitch up my tent! {short description of image}
The Wild Wet West Coast

After this pleasant break I went on and had to realise that the whole West Coast with its rain forests and an annual precipitation of up to 10000 mm was inhabitated by sandflies. Every time I stopped for more than 30 seconds they were right there to attack me. Fortunately, they left me alone as long as I was moving. Again I found a nice place on the riverbed to set up my tent in the evening. This time, however, it was a bit dodgy since there were no campgrounds on my way and wild camping in national parks is forbidden in New Zealand. But I was well hidden in the rain forest so I didn't get any trouble. The next morning I was shown why this place is called the Wet Coast as well but the weather changes quite quickly in New Zealand and so I was able to cycle through bright sunshine just a bit later.
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The next night I stayed on Lake Paringa and the day after I finally made it to Fox Glacier. This glacier is nice to watch since it is flowing out of the forest up to about only 300m above sea-level. But it is alerting to see the marks where it has been only two hundred years ago: It has been losing about 2 km since then! Global warming is getting serious. {short description of image}
Until today I totally did about 800 km on my bike and so I was happy to take the bus to Nelson the next day. After five days in wilderness I was again looking forward to be back to civilisation. On the way we passed the beautiful coast of the Paparoa National Park and the Pancake Rocks (on the photo) and finally made it to Nelson in the evening. {short description of image}
Nelson and Abel Tasman NP

Here I found a very interesting sport I have never done before: Paragliding. Trust me, this is the most addictive thing I have ever done. It took me one day of training until I was ready for the first high flight. You can see my take-off spot on the picture.
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We exercised turns, take offs and landing and finally got even a bit into gliding for a couple of metres. That was such an amazing feeling that you wanna have it again and again... One of the first high flights you can see on the pictures. {short description of image}
I was really nervous before and also a bit scared while flying but gliding down the slopes of Barnicoat Hill like a bird in the wind is the ultimate experience of freedom... As the wind was quite strong and gusty in Nelson, the first part of my paragliding license finally took me a week to complete. {short description of image}
But then it was time to go again and I took a speedboat across the bay to Abel Tasman NP. There I changed to a smaller boat and went to Bark Bay (picture) in the middle of the park, next to the Marine Reserve. Actually I wanted to take a Kayak but I was not allowed to rent one on my own due to security reasons. That was ridiculous because as long as you are aware of the fact that you are on the sea and have basic kayaking skills there is not much that can happen. {short description of image}
So I was going to hike the coastal track back from where I landed with the boat. After setting up my tent in the campsite I went for a sunset walk for a couple of km and enjoyed the scenery almost without meeting people. {short description of image}
This is quite rare in this park since it is one of the most frequented in summer and so far there is no limitation of tourists like on the Routeburn Track. The next day I hiked about 20km back to Maharau at the end of the park and I saw loads of beautiful beaches like this one at Frenchman's Bay. {short description of image}
One of the last beaches I passed by on the track was at Appletree Bay (on the photo). For me it was the most beautiful one I have seen since Otago Peninsula in the south.
In order to get back to Nelson I decided to hitchhike and Mike, a Kiwi from Mapua, gave me a lift. We were talking for a couple of minutes and he told me that he was running some orchards growing apples, kiwis and other fruits. And then he asked me if I would like to come around to his place for a beer. I happily agreed and he also gave me a short sightseeing tour through his village before going home. There we had a beer and as his wife had cooked I was invited to dinner as well! That was another great example for the hospitality of the Kiwis. They are so proud to show you their country and so happy to have tourists around that this spirit which you can feel everywhere makes travelling in New Zealand an absolute pleasure!
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After dinner Mike also gave me a lift for the final 20km to Nelson. There I watched the sunset at Tahunanui Beach and afterwards pitched up my tent again before heading towards Picton the next morning...

Marlborough Sounds

On the 120km from Nelson to Picton I had to cross a few passes and the coastline had much to offer as well so I decided to take more than one day for this stage.
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In the evening of the first day I had some fish n chips in Havelock. Afterwards I went on along Queen Charlotte Sound to find a place to set up my tent. So I cycled through the dust hoping to discover a spot for camping before it became totally dark. As the next official campground was way to far away I knew I had to somewhere along the road. But this turned out to be more difficult than I expected since on my right side the terrain was rising steeply to the top of the mountain range and on my left it dropped to the fiord. After a couple of kms on my left I saw a lookout point with a small walk into the bush. I stopped and followed the walk for a bit. Finally, in a small corner I discovered a tiny spot of maybe two sqm which was just large enough to fit for my tent. So I set up my tent, opened a can of beer and enjoyed beautiful views from my sleeping-place. The picture of Queen Charlotte Sound I have taken the next morning from just outside my tent. It is definitely one of my favourite overnight stays in NZ. {short description of image}
I arrived in Picton around noon and took the ferry to Wellington in the early afternoon. It was a nice cruise through the sounds before crossing stormy Cook Strait and reaching the North Island in Wellington. {short description of image}
click here to go on to the North Island