After dropping the car off in Hokitika it was back on the bikes to continue up the West Coast. Our stop for the night was at a campsite in a small town called Punakaiki which is home to the famous Pancake Rocks and blow holes. It took us a good half an hour to find our numbered pitch at the campsite. I much prefer it when you can choose where to camp instead of having an allocated minuscule patch of grass which is usually uneven or right next to some noisy neighbour.
Any cyclist will agree that showering is the most satisfying reward after a day on the saddle (food is of course more enjoyable but you can eat while cycling!). Mum and I queued for a good 15 minutes for the campsite shower which was occupied by a group of young Russian girls all playing their portable speakers out loud. God knows what they were doing in there but we ended up sharing a single cubicle in the Men’s shower despite the puzzled looks we received as we left. By the time we got to one of two places to eat in the area we were too late to order. It’s worth noting that kitchens outside of cities in New Zealand close around 8. We managed to get some pancakes to takeaway which was great because what better place to have pancakes than at Pancake Rocks?
Sadly these pancakes were pretty foul and Mum couldn’t even eat hers. I must have been cycling harder or something 😜 because I managed to demolish mine and hers. Food is food and I needed the energy – or so I told myself. The rocks and blow holes were pretty cool but would I have travelled all the way up the West Coast just to see them? Probably not. It was pretty touristy. Tired from cycling we were up late again trying to plan the next day. The West Coast is beautiful but cycling up it just took forever and there wasn’t much to actually do apart from admiring the views. We were already behind schedule if we wanted to see all we had planned so we decided from now on it would be wise to use a car for long distances and explore by bike once we had reached each destination.
We were both pretty glum about our decision to continue by car but we had to weigh up what was more important: cycling or seeing New Zealand. In this case it was seeing all that we wanted to as Mum (and I) had travelled a heck of a way to get here. Of course there were no vehicles available on the West Coast so Nelson was our only hope. Nelson was at least three days away by bike, time we didn’t have. There was however a local bus which we could have got on at Punakaiki the following afternoon. I didn’t really want to spend the majority of the day waiting for a bus so I suggested we cycle 60km to Westport and catch the bus from there, just for fun.
Here we experienced our first (and only!) downpour on the cycle up past Greymouth which can only be described as err… Grey. The bus turned up a good hour and a half late which meant we wouldn’t be arriving in Nelson until 9/10pm without any accommodation booked. When the bus finally arrived the aggravated bus driver refused to let our bikes on board saying there was no space. “There’s no bloody way I’m staying a night in Westport, we need to get to Nelson” I pleaded. He gave us two minutes to disassemble our bikes. Luckily we had befriended a Korean guy who kindly helped us gather up our chaos onto the bus. My idea of booking accommodation for the evening using the wifi on the bus didn’t go to plan as there was no wifi on the bus as advertised. Stress levels had reached another high.
The next day started with the dreaded task of finding a rental car. I managed to find a standard hatchback online but when we went to pick it up we found it was a saloon with a boot so small it would only be suitable for a suitcase belonging to one of The Borrowers. “We need a car with fold down seats” I told the hire car man. “None available sorry”. Gah. We hid our bikes and panniers around the corner not wanting the rental company to know we would be putting bikes in the car but were caught red handed when the man went for lunch and turned the corner to directly face us and our bikes. Cringe. Luckily he didn’t give a shit so we disassembled our bikes (again!) and squeezed them behind the front seats using some “protective” cardboard we found in a skip.
And then it happened. As if our luck couldn’t get any worse, Mum tripped over the half disassembled bike on the floor and badly sprained her ankle. We spent the next couple of hours at Nelson Hospital having her checked out. Spirits needed to be lifted so we spent the rest of the afternoon indulging in coffee and cake. Mum was ever so apologetic but these things happen and it wasn’t her fault in the slightest. “It’s all part of the story” I tell myself when things don’t go my way when travelling. Which is actually quite a lot.
We were kindly invited to stay with the owners of the farm I am working on in Tasman, about a 45 minute drive from Nelson. A relaxed couple of days with some lovely people was just what we needed. I dream of living in a house like theirs. It was perched on a hill overlooking more than one National Park in an area that gets more sun than any other place on the island. Maybe I should stick to milking cows after all! There was so much to do in the area and unlike the West Coast, had a huge selection of shops and eateries to enjoy. We took a drive up the coast exploring the many little towns along the way like Motueka, Mapua and Takaka. We decided to make the rather long journey up to Collingwood to visit a specialist chocolate Boutique but found it closed. Our bad luck creeping up on us again.
What with mum unable to walk we took a cruise around Abel Tasman National Park which is absolutely stunning. We also went to Te Waikoropupu Springs, referred to as PuPu Springs, which has the clearest waters I have even seen in my life. It was truly magical. I love Tasman and the surrounding area and if I could live anywhere in the world this would be it.