January 12, 2015 by Jordan Rouse
Struggling to leave the home comforts of our house-sitting Christmas holiday, we said bye to Thomas and Julie (big thanks guys!) and caught an early morning ferry to Picton. 3 hours later we were cruising into the beautiful Marlborough sounds, sun shining in a cloudless sky. We rode round to the town marina and jumped on a water taxi up the sounds to the start of the Queen Charlotte Track – a 2 day pure single track ride following a high ridge line with epic views over the Marlborough sounds.
Arriving into Camp Bay we bumped into a German hiker we had met weeks before on the timber trail. He’s one of many backpackers we’ve met who are walking the full length of New Zealand on the 3000km Te Araroa trail. Sounds like hard work. We spent the evening sharing dehydrated food and stories before tackling the tough first day of the trail. 40-ish km of more brutal hills (there’s a theme developing in NZ) and panoramic views of the sounds followed. An ice cold swim in the sounds at the end of the day was well earned.
A fairly easy morning was welcomed on the second day, with a mostly downhill gradient on a perfect trail taking us to the end of the track. A 15km cruise along Highway 6 with a tail wind landed us in Havelock in time for a huge platter of fresh mussels.
Having re-supplied for our next section to Nelson, we saw a Dutch couple we had met on the Queen Charlotte track pull up in their car. We went to say hello and discovered they had an Aussie trekker, Jake, stowed in the back. We’d also met him on the QCT and didn’t blame him for hitchhiking the road section to Havelock. After a chat we all established we would camp at the same place 20km down highway 6. Martin and Kirsten offered to take our stuff which meant we could ride much faster down the busy road. The guys were surprised when we arrived at Pelorus bridge not long after them; there’s nothing like a lucky tailwind and huge logging trucks banging their horns at you to encourage a swift ride!
A hot shower at the Pelorus bridge camp was well received by everyone, and thanks to Martin and Kirsten’s car we’d smuggled a few beers from Havelock. In the morning M&K offered to meet us in Nelson, and take our bags again. This was a real treat and allowed us to ride over the 775m Bryant Range unencumbered. 35km later we arrived into Nelson, apparently the sunniest place in NZ (which seemed true at least while we were there!).
We stayed 3 nights in Nelson, with warmshowers hosts Corrie and Williem (another Dutch couple!). These guys were great hosts, and a particularly inspirational couple of real adventurers. They spent most of their life living on a 40ft yacht going on 6 month sailing adventures from Holland, before a 6 year sail around the world landed them in New Zealand for good. Their cycling career has kicked in since, with a 4000km traverse of Canada being an inspiring story for us. They gave us a much needed boost of morale and energy for the remainder of our trip in NZ.
The plan was then to head south towards Nelson Lakes national park before tackling ‘The Rainbow’ track to Hanmer Springs. With Corrie as guide, hammering it through a headwind on the front, we covered the first 30km to a cafe stop at Wakefield in record time. We passed by the birthplace of Ernest Rutherford which was a little scientific historical treat for Jordan (turns out Katie wasn’t that excited by Rutherford’s famous scattering experiment at Manchester Uni….)
Corrie said bye at Wakefield and we tackled the remaining 60km to St Arnaud. What we thought would be a fairly average slog on the road actually turned into a brutal thigh burner. The day was incredibly hot with very little shade, Katie was feeling a bit under the weather and there were a couple of fairly long hills to climb with a fair head wind to top it all off. For the first time in our trip we ran out of water. With only 10km to go were so thirsty we had to stop at a farmhouse to re-fill. Finally arriving at Lake Rotoiti campsite at St. Arnaud we were treated to views of a calm alpine lake and hot showers….plus a billion sandflies. Itchy!
We spent a day hanging around the lake then headed out to the ‘Rainbow’, a 4WD track traversing the hills east of Nelson Lakes national park. It took us a day and a half to traverse the 100km of rough track, spending a night at the remote island hilly hut and topping out at a respectable 1350m. The track finished off with a massive downhill into Hammer Springs providing great views of the Canterbury plains and the alps in the distance, but more importantly a shower and fresh food!
We’ve since hopped on a bus to the central alps (via Christchurch for one night) to start another one of the NZ ‘Great Rides’, the Alps2Ocean trail. Hopefully it lives up to its reputation!
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