New Zealand: Otago and Fiordland

To Arrowtown and back again: a cyclist's tale

09/02/19 - 28/02/19

The Fairy Falls at Milford Sound

The time we spent in Otago and Fiordland was as spectacular as we had been told it would be. My thanks go to Will who had told Olly that we should not bypass Lake Hawea and to just bite the bullet and go to Milford Sound. This was a happy time of cycling and also of not doing. We took lots of time to simply enjoy our surroundings too as there was so much beauty to be stared at and sat in. Furthermore, Queenstown had been the destination of everyone in the "West Coast Cycling Crew" and so once reached, we knew that everyone was going their own way. It was the close of one chapter and the start of another. A certain pressure eased with the turning of the page too. On this section of the trip we reached what is very likely to be the southernmost point of our adventure: the town of Gore where we had a truly wonderful Warm Showers stay with Derek and Sue. Also on this section of the trip I celebrated another year on planet earth and cried for the second time to date at the sublimity of nature.

Sunrise at Glendhu Bay: a nice start to my 30th year on planet Earth

At Milford Sound, Mitre Peak in the background

After a few games of Scrabble at Makarora Campsite, we decided to pitch our tent and have a shower. Our decision to move from the cosy lounge and kitchen area happily coincided with the arrival of Jens and Julia who told us that having put up the inner of their tent at lunchtime to escape the sandflies, they had then also decided to have a nap! Great idea! We chatted as we set up camp and as the dynamic Dutch duo went to the tavern to count out their final few coins (the West Coast is quite a wild stretch and you can only travel so far, so fast by bike) in a bid to buy a beer, we headed to the kitchen to fight for a cooking spot amongst the coach party who had recently arrived. It was quite fun listening to the newly assembled group talk, introducing themselves and discussing their motivations for the trip. The following morning it was also fun to watch them warm up and stretch for a day on the bus. The four of us looked at them in wonder before hopping on our bikes and pedalling off.

En route to Lake Hawea

Upon Will's recommendation, we didn't have too long a day ahead of us as we planned to stop for a few nights at Lake Hawea. Although Jens and Julia liked our plan, they were heading to Wanaka where there were cash machines and supermarkets! The last time we saw them they were at the top of a hill and about to start a sweet descent. Until we meet again, guys.

Lake Hawea

This day of cycling was one of Olly's favourites in New Zealand, mine too, but this day really stands out for him as special. The skies were blue and we had a TAILWIND! In addition, early on in the day we started to hug Lake Wanaka and cycling beside this big, sparkling, blue lake with mountains rising either side of it was spectacularly beautiful.

Lake Wanaka

I enjoyed reaching "the neck", an, admittedly, horribly narrow stretch of road from the top of which you can see both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The two glacial lakes used to be just one! I find my brain can't quite handle such information, especially given how much traffic sped through as we paused to take photographs! Both lakes shone and glistened and I think we did too. Sure, some of it was sweat, but most of it was happiness.

Lake Hawea

We arrived at one of the most beautiful campsites of the trip at around midday and spent far too long deciding where to pitch the tent. I think we perhaps beat the previous faff-record which was set at Ribes de Freser in Catalonia. We just couldn't get enough of the view! The dream would probably have been a lilo in the middle of the lake. We had two nights in Hawea and, looking back, we maybe should have had a couple more. There is only a small shop-cum-cafe in Hawea and we went a few times for simple supplies at a slightly inflated price, delicious carrot cake, and Wi-Fi. A very happy memory of mine is sitting at a bench looking out at the lake and writing letters home.


After two blissful days at Lake Hawea, we followed the riverside cycle path all the way to Wanaka. It was a wonderful cycle alongside the aquamarine Clutha River. The surface glittered as the sunlight hit it and I marvelled at the clarity of the water, realising only then how much of an impression crystal clear water has on me; the transparency a wonder, a hope and a dream.

We had one night at The Outlet campsite on the banks of Lake Wanaka, though from the spot we were given we could not see the lake at all and we pined for the view from the tent at Lake Hawea. The lake was shrouded by incredibly fragrant bushes of Kanuka and I know if it were to smell it again I'd be immediately transported back to that day and that site. Olly and I had debated what the smell was, undecided between tea tree and witch hazel. It was a friendly Kiwi couple in a caravan who used to live in Cherry Orchard in Shrewsbury who put us out of our misery! (We later learned that Captain Cook and his men used to call the Kanuka tree "tea tree", but because they used to make tea from its bark and not because they used to use the oil on pimples.) Although we didn't have a view of the lake that night, the Kanuka trees were quite wonderful as were the many fantails who danced in them.

I liked Wanaka. It was a huge contrast to tiny, peaceful Lake Hawea, but so much nicer than Queenstown. I enjoyed our cycle into town from the Outlet Campsite to New World where we stocked up like there was no tomorrow on everything we had been craving following more frugal times along the West Coast. (We had both rationed supplies and been careful when replenishing them due to the smaller and more remote stores hiking up their prices.) We had a wonderful picnic of wraps with cheese and beetroot chutney (an early birthday present), sour cream and chive crisps and mint slices as we watched oldies and youngies paddling in Wanaka's welcoming waters.

Picnic bench 

The next day is was an epic one; one of my "elbow days". As is customary, not everything went to plan and there was a fair helping of "type 2 fun" involved in the day's adventure which is what, as soon as the day was done, we realised had made it so great.

We left the campsite, which was to the northeast of Lake Wanaka, in order to spend two nights at Glendhu Bay, a campsite to the west of the lake which is right on the waterfront and incredibly beautiful. On our cycle into town we diverted to Adam and Eve's bakery: having sampled one of their baguettes in Lake Hawea we were keen to get our hands on more "real bread" and we sampled a couple of other bakes goods whilst there too! Then, we went back to the supermarket in order to buy birthday supplies and this included six bottles of beer, two chocolate bars, pancake mix and an amazing boysenberry yoghurt. We filled our panniers almost to bursting point and set off towards the lake to continue following the cycle path around it and all the way to Glendhu Bay.

Not long after we set off we reached 7000km 
7000km at Lake Wanaka

Before too long, we had left the day-trippers behind and we were on undulating terrain that required some serious skill to manage. I was not in possession of said skill and quickly became quite flustered with how perilous the route was turning out to be. Once again, we found ourselves on a mountain bike track that with a fully-loaded tourer was challenging and just a little bit foolish!

That Wanaka Tree

Because the views were so spectacular, our spirits remained relatively high until lunchtime came and went. We had been so sure we would make it to camp by the time our tummies talked that we just kept pushing on. We had passed perfect spot after perfect spot and by this point we were pushing (dragging) the bikes more than we were pedalling them.

Tentatively descending the gravelly track

We crossed a tiny ford which required me to de-shoe, which is always quite exciting, but I knew my morale had stayed resolutely on the other side of the little strip of water and so we needed to eat, immediately! Sweating, aching and quite grumpy we stumbled upon paradise: a deserted beach and a dilapidated camp that looked like it might have been used on Bear Grylls: The Island. Out came so many treats and almost a beer too! However, by this point they were so warm because of how long we had been winding around the trail!

After inhaling our late lunch we went for a swim in the cool waters of Lake Wanaka and it felt good!

Back on the bikes we pedalled and pushed until FINALLY we went through a gate and into the huge campground. When we left Glendhu Bay in two days' time we went on the road and it took us less than an hour to get into Wanaka. The trail had taken us five! The ice-cream that we got when we arrived at the campsite made it all feel worth it. Finishing the ice-cream concluded the day's adventure: once the ice-cream was gone, the reality of showering and cooking and organising burst the bubble of hike-a-biking, ford-crossing and lake swimming.

Ice-cream views

We booked into a little cabin at Glendhu Bay and revelled in this small luxury for a couple of days. I had wanted to wake up in the tent on my birthday, and Glendhu Bay was a perfect spot for it, but the weather had other ideas and heavy rain was forecast. Never have I willed it to rain so much! The cabin was lovely, though and the view of the mountains from it was amazing.

On 14th, I woke up early and was immediately struck by a bright, pink light streaming in through the crack in the curtain. I leapt out of bed, grabbed Olly's camera and headed to the lake. The sunrise was sublime. I returned to the cabin on a conference call to the Hutton clan as Olly walked towards me, a bit bedraggled, wondering where I'd gone. A lovely day filled with tea, treats and reading ensued and in the afternoon it poured with rain! The rain eased up just in time for us to eat courgette fritters by the lakeside for dinner.

Sunrise on 29

Valentine's breakfast 
Birthday breakfast

The next day we tackled the Crown Range Summit, New Zealand's highest, paved road at 1076m. For most of the way it was a similar experience to the Haast Pass in that the road was quite flat, the incline so gradual that it was barely noticeable. During this time we passed through the town of Cardrona, which had a preserved-in-history type feel, and a fence completely covered in bras to raise awareness for breast cancer. There were hundreds!

The passes in New Zealand were very different to those that we had experienced in the Alps and at home; the Gospel Pass in Wales, for example, was a long, gradual up with the occasional mega steep section. On that day in New Zealand, Olly checked the Garmin and realised we didn't have much further to go until the top and so turned to me and asked whether we were just mega fit now. No such luck: the final 5km were beastly: heart-thumping, head-pounding, jaw-clenching. Straight up! But then, a bit dizzy and dehydrated, the sign denoting the top of the pass appeared. My red face was pulsating and my hair was completely stuck to it. For a few sweet seconds the cool breeze at the Crown Range Summit washed refreshingly over us. The cool, welcome breeze quickly became bitter and biting, drying our sweat and causing us to shiver. We nattered to two other cycle-touring couples for a while and then ate our lunch looking down at Queenstown and the planes flying in to land there passing through the mountains now below us.

Olly cycling in to the summit carpark

Wild hair blowing straight up in the wind!

The descent was cold and quick with a fair few switch backs. This was more like it and definitely more reminiscent of Switzerland. We turned onto the highway briefly before turning right and onto a bike track that wound along the river and all the way to Arrowtown. I'd been looking forward to Arrowtown since reading Anna McNuff's 'Pants of Perspective'. Coach Ron had arrived there before her and had put some money "behind the bar" at the bakery so that she could get herself a pie. On the day we cycled to Lake Hawea I took a photo of a couple who also recommended Arrowtown's pies. I was very much looking forward to a pie!

On the descent

I had my pie the next morning as we dawdled in charming Arrowtown before following a trail to Queenstown. At this point, we didn't know we would come back to Arrowtown and so in addition to the veggie pie, which was delicious, we got an Afghan slice and it was heavenly! We ate them both sat at a picnic bench witj fairy lights slung overhead, watching the world go by. Everyone, it seemed, was as taken by Arrowtown as we were. After a stop in the honey shop, which included a couple of samples of local clover and Manuka miel, we headed off in the direction of Queenstown, circling Lake Hayes in the process. It was a lovely, scenic ride.

We spent about fifteen minutes in Queenstown.  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the main stretch by the waterfront was packed with people milling around an arts and crafts market.  It was buzzing and I felt excited by the atmosphere.  There was no sight of the infamous "Ferg Burger", but anyway, we were heading for the TSS Earnslaw, a steamboat that would take us across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak.  We had no time to spare: we pedalled into town, fought through the crowds with our big bikes and then fifteen minutes and fifty dollars (EACH!) later, we had set sail.  As we had had to store our bikes at the bow of the boat, we ended up at the back of the queue to board and so we didn't get a seat and made do with a flattened cardboard box laid on top of a bench next to the engine room.  I didn't really mind as it meant we were outside and got a great view of the peaks rising from the lake.  In addition, we hadn't stopped for lunch, fearing that the 4 o'clock sailing was the final one of the day (turns out it wasn't, but hindsight is a blessed thing), and so we used our time on the boat to stuff our faces!  The children in the young, Chinese family sat next to us watched in wonder as we devoured a bag of chocolate raisins in about 60 seconds!  As a result of the rush, the hunger, the ticket price and being at the back of the queue, I'm not sure we were in the best position to fully appreciate our ride on the Earnslaw, a boat now over one-hundred years old.  Stepping off it at Walter Peak we did, at least, look back and admire it on the shimmering, clear waters of Lake Wakatipu.

Bikes aboard

That night we camped at another site that is high up on the "most scenic spots to sleep" list.  Walter Peak is a big farming station and recently a small bit of land was converted into a free campsite only really accessible by foot, boat or bike.  It was just a kilometre from where we had disembarked with hundreds of others, but when we arrived the site was empty.  No need to faff around picking a spot: the choice was quite obvious.  For a few hours we were there alone, and then a couple of Kiwis arrived in their boat to have their dinner in the beautiful spot.  They gifted us some ginger beer and we talked a little about our adventure and about theirs.  Queenstown absolutely divides opinion.  These locals loved it and many thrill-seeking, adventure junkies with cash to spare do too.  I had enjoyed our brief passage through it and looked forward to returning when we picked up our campervan in a few weeks' time.  Olly had never expressed much of an interest in QT, a fact exacerbated by the Kiwis we met up and down the country advising us to avoid it at all costs.  I was keen to form my own opinion, and would do soon enough.

En route to the campsite with the TSS Earnslaw just visible in the distance 

Two bikes, breakfast, a lake and a long, white cloud

Tent views

Loving the view from the tent!

After a peaceful night at Walter Peak, we left for the Mavora Lakes.  The 70km gravel road that had to be traversed to get there started out as a novelty, but I quickly lost interest in it.  Olly tried to claim it was some of the most beautiful landscape we'd cycled through, upon reflection it wasn't so bad...  At the time, though, once we had lost sight of the snowy top of Glenorchy, I found the landscape to be brown, barren and a bit boring.  There was a fun ford-crossing for which I, once again, removed my shoes and squealed as the ice-cold water ran over my feet.  We stopped to have lunch on the other side and the view looking back the way we had come was quite wonderful.

Little Bike.  Waiting for Olly who dropped his hi-vis jacket and had to retrace his steps for 3km.

Back in the game!

Merino sheep and a helicopter treating the land.  Walter Peak and then Mount Nicholas are huge farming stations.

It was then a slog to the Mavora Lakes; the clouds lowered and the sky turned grey and a cold wind, reportedly blowing up from the Antarctic, whipped around us.  We pitched up by one of the lakes and there was definitely a bit of Tolkein/Jackson magic in the air.  For whatever reason, we thought it was a good idea to have an Ortlieb shower: we boiled some water and mixed it with lake water to create a lukewarm shower.  Standing in my bikini as an icy wind blew, however, was not my smartest move and I danced around like mad for ages afterwards trying to encourage blood to flow back to my fingers and toes.  All the star-jumps, spotty-dogs, twists and turns were to no avail and so instead I huddled in the tent while Olly made dinner.

Sheltering in the tent
Breakfast time!
From the Mavora Lakes to Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound.  The gravel road continued for another 30km and was much harder to ride on than the day before.  The time for complaining was over: we kept our heads down and pedalled as quickly as we could, which was no more than 10km/h, as huge farm trucks sped past us leaving a cloud of grey dust in their wake.  Once we reached the State Highway, the sealed road felt so good to cycle on that our heads stayed down until we reached the little tourist trap that is Te Anau.

We stayed at Te Anau for three nights so that we could take a boat trip to Milford Sound.  The day we arrived, we had just pitched our tent and aired out a few items before it started to rain.  It didn't stop until morning.  Our tent started to buckle under the pressure of the relentless rain.  We had immediately sought shelter in the tent, waiting for it to "ease off" before we dashed to the kitchen to make dinner.  The break in the weather didn't come and so we just had to run!  In the kitchen that night we met Andreas, a German man on a similar Kiwi adventure to ours, but heading in the opposite direction.  The kitchen was cramped with damp bodies and he offered to stir our pot of vegetables as he kept an eye on his own stir-fry.  He spooned in peanut butter and then guiltily said, "it's what I've seen Dutch people do".  I laughed at his offered explanation because he didn't realise how I was actually staring at his dinner in envy not horror (we had lentils).  I immediately warmed to Andreas who had a way of moaning whilst smiling so that it really didn't seem like he was complaining at all, which he wasn't.  We both knew that we were on the adventure of a lifetime (with a head full of dreams under a sky full of stars), but it did us good to air our shared woes.  We laughed at each others' trials and tribulations, nodding in agreement and exclaiming in disbelief at the various realities of life on the road.  We ate together the following evening too (mussels and noddles for Andreas this time!) and learned of Andreas's motivations for his trip to New Zealand.  We also sheltered together under a tarpaulin the next morning as the rain returned and delayed us all from leaving.  Again we laughed at each other, done up to the nines in waterproof gear, including overshoes which we all acknowledged do next to nothing when the rain is torrential, but make you feel a little better anyway.  It was a real pleasure to meet Andreas and to hear from him in the weeks that followed, learning that he had been paragliding in Queenstown because "it's never too late to do the things you want to do".

"The Chasm" on the way back from Milford Sound

It rained when we arrived in Te Anau and it rained when we left, but somehow, miraculously, the day in the middle, the day we went to Milford Sound, the weather was postcard perfect.  The skies were so blue and clear, and it was warm, but not too hot and it was so still.  Statistically, it rains 200 days of the year in Fiordland and so we can only offer our thanks to the weather gods that that day their attention was turned elsewhere.

The iconic Mitre Peak

It's hard to find the words to do justice to the beauty of the day we went to Milford Sound.  For future adventurers, we went with a company called VIP Milford on a nature cruise and tickets cost NZ $99 each, about £50.  We may have got a small discount because we opted out of lunch; something I'd recommend, especially if you're vegetarian too.  Definitely take some food, though, it was nice to nibble biscuits sat on deck watching waterfalls.  Tea and coffee were provided on board and so the flasks we had prepared were unnecessary, but it felt like a real adventure setting off that morning with them.  Even though the sky was brilliantly blue, it was chilly out on the water and so I'd suggest a jumper.  Also pack your sea legs, as when the boat makes a little foray into the Tasman Sea, it gets choppy!  And that was on a calm day.  Regarding the weather, we were all a bit giddy with excitement because of how perfect conditions were for this incredible trip.  However, we were lucky that there had been so much rain the previous day as it had 'topped up' all of the waterfalls.  The driver of our minibus said that some of the most beautiful days "out on the sound" are the rainy ones.  Thousands of temporary waterfalls appear that you don't otherwise see.

There wasn't anything particularly fancy about "VIP" Milford, but we did go on a very uncrowded boat, there can't have been more than 40 of us in total: two minibuses.  Real Journeys NZ are responsible for much of what happens at Milford Sound, but if you wind up on a trip whereby the journey there is on a big coach, you'll likely be on quite a packed boat.  I liked being able to move around the boat quite freely, to take photos without other people's heads in and also to chat to other passengers and the tour guide properly.

Te Anau is actually some two hours south of Milford Sound, Piopiotahi in Maori, and so much of the adventure is in the getting there, the journey if you will.  Fortunately, our minibus driver was passionate about Fiordland (and running over possums - "squash-oms") and made lots of stops and told us all sorts of facts about the areas we were driving through.  His driving was a bit nerve-racking and often far faster than the speed limit (I know this because his windscreen had a device on that flashed red whenever he did so), but perhaps I've used got used to life at 15km/h.  About cycling to Milford Sound: don't do it.  There is simply too much traffic.

The mirror lakes on the way to Milford Sound

We got to Milford Sound for about 10am having already seen so much natural beauty on our journey there.  When we got on the boat, though, and pulled away and towards the first of many waterfalls, Bowen Waterfall, I felt tears sting my eyes as the sunlight caught in the spray and practically everyone was silent in wonder.  It was just beautiful.  I know I had a really great time that day because I don't really remember anything about it!  We got so close to The Fairy Falls that an almost circular rainbow appeared in the spray which was magical; Mitre Peak rose high above us and stood so proudly against the bright blue sky; seven seals sunbathed on the aptly named "Seal Rock" out near the mouth to the Tasman Sea; and we got a 'glacial facial' from the Stirling Falls, legend has it that its waters make you youthful.

The Fairy Falls

19 again?
Seven sunbathing seals

The day after our trip to Milford Sound we met Léa for a coffee at a café in Te Anau called 'The Sandfly', a wonderful and apt name.  Léa was working for a week in Manapouri, our next desination.  As we cycled into town we saw Léa again, and that wasn't to be the last time either.  The cycle from Te Anau to Manapouri was along a lakeside cycle path which felt quite challenging after a few days off despite only being 20km.  We had a two night stay in Manapouri and the campsite there ranks as one of my favourites.  It was the polar opposite of another campsite in town that we had been turned away from, and I'm sure it isn't because they were full, but because tents don't bring in as much dollar as a big motor home.  The Manapouri Holiday Park was a real breath of fresh air and they had a trampoline too!  We paid our money and were told simply to "find a spot not in anyone's way".  I didn't see the campsite owner again.  We camped in between some trees and chatted happily to almost everyone else staying on the site in the friendly kitchen area.  There we met Randy and Vicky, an American couple from Seattle who had cycle-toured in the past and emailed me a few days after our meeting to say that they were now considering it again.  They were in a motor home, hiking and kayaking as much as possible.  They were unfailingly enthusiastic about adventure and convinced us to spend a little time researching possibilities in the Pacific North-West.

Doing all the work?

From Manapouri we headed to our southernmost point on the trip, the town of Gore.  We stayed a night at Lumsden where we declined the offer to stay in Pete's overgrown yard.  Pete was an old guy with kind eyes, but a fleece that looked like it had never been washed and a beard that had never been trimmed.  In Gore we had our first Warm Showers in a good while, and it meant the world to us to be welcomed so warmly into Derek and Sue's home.  Sue cooked up a feast from the garden and we had some leftovers for lunch the next day which I'm sure kept me motivated as we were riding.  Derek and Sue had the most wonderful garden that was in full bloom when we stayed with them.  They also had a lovely dog, Lucy, and it was hard to trick her so as to shut her in the house the next day as she had been so enjoying sunbathing on the porch.  Derek and Sue had both gone off to work, but Sue had told us that should we still be there when they returned, we would be more than welcome.  It was hard to leave that morning, despite the distance that we had to do.  We had a second breakfast as the homemade bread and jam tasted so delicious as we sat in their peaceful lounge and morning sunlight filtered through the big windows.

From Gore we eventually picked up the Clutha Gold Trail at Millers Flat, having one of our latest finishes to date, but enjoying the evening ride under the warm, later-summer, setting sun.  We had encountered the Clutha River a few times and each time its stunning aquamarine colour blew me away.  We camped for free at Pinders Pond, a site not wholly suitable for tents.  We found a sandy patch and stuck in only as many pegs as absolutely necessary to keep the tent standing.  It was a wonky nights sleep, broken too by the sound of a booming canon: a bird scarer nearby that scared us silly the first few time we heard it.

Some nice reflections in Pinders Pond 

The next day's cycling was one of our least favourite the kind that caused me to sink into a pit of despair and question every decision that I'd made that had brought us to this point.  To get to Alexandra and our Warm Showers stay that night, we followed SH8 all day.  That day I was spooked: cycling scared and I couldn't shake the feeling.  It's the same feeling that caught Olly off guard when we were cycling near Nelson.  The cars were passing so closely and so quickly that it felt like only a matter of time before something catastrophic happened.  I desperately wanted to stop cycling and for us to plant our feet firmly on the ground.  As we approached Alex', Olly said we could take a smaller road, but it would be longer.  I wasn't especially keen to cycle for any longer than I had to that day, but any road sounded better than the one we were on.  As we turned off the State Highway and onto the smaller road, the first sign we saw was so ironic I stopped to take a photograph.

Waiting for me a little further ahead, Olly reported that we had a message from Grace O'D: on their way to Dunedin, her and her parents had passed us on the other side of the road!  Grace had actually frantically sent about three messages and I hastily sent as many back.  She said she had tried to call to offer us a cup of tea, and even this statement of intent made me a bit weepy.  It had been that kind of day.  We established that Grace had pulled over, but called a different Lorna, and we were all a little further apart now than was practical for meeting up.  We had badgered Grace since New Year to try and organise a meet up whilst her parents were over, but logistics and timing felt too complicated whenever we tried.  Then, crossing paths like that, we realised it must be possible and plans were made to camp together in about a week's time as we all approached the end of our time in New Zealand.

Hunting and gathering: the vegetarian way

The news and communication with Grace really perked us up and enough so to get us to Alexandra and our Warm Showers stay for the evening with Kelly and Michael.  When we arrived, no one was in, but Kelly had told Olly that we should let ourselves in and make ourselves at home.  This is not uncommon with WS hosts in NZ!  As we wandered around the property, laying out our tent on the line and getting our sleeping bags out to air too, the neighbour popped her head over the fence and said 'hello'.  We realised we must look quite unusual, and in all likelihood quite suspicious, laying our stuff out on her neighbours' drive.  The huge plus point was that she had a helmet on!  We chatted cycling, daring to bring up the unpleasant time we'd had that day as a result of some crazy drivers.  She nodded glumly and said it's not the best stretch of road.  She also waved us in to Kelly and Michael's house saying that Kelly wouldn't be far and that if she'd said we should go in, we should go in.  Just as we tentatively opened the door and crept into the house, Michael arrived home and waved us in as if we were friends and not strangers tip-toeing around his home.  Shortly afterwards, Kelly and Ollie the dog arrived too.

Kelly and Michael were wonderful people and I like to think that had we lived slightly closer by, we might all be friends.  Kelly and Michael were so down to earth and told such great stories of their adventures both on and off the bike.  A few years ago, they cycled South America and then Scotland on the way home too, and so we swapped stories from our trip to The Outer Hebrides.  Kelly and Michael had turned some of the photos from their trip into magnets that adorned their fridge and we spent ages looking at them and finding out the stories behind them.  In addition, Kelly and Michael had lived and worked in China for two years and so talking to them about that experience was brilliant and inspiring, and very reassuring too.  We look forward to getting a haircut in China...!

At Kelly and Michael's

When we woke up the next morning, the coffee machine had just finished whirring when the rain started to pour.  There was minimal let up and so Kelly put the kettle on for a second round of breakfast drinks.  She also told us not to rush and to wait out the weather, which was an offer gratefully received.  Kelly works from home for NZ Search and Rescue and so set to it in her office whilst me and Olly did some trip-min in the kitchen, occasionally playing with Ollie the dog and Billie the cat.  We had spoken to Kelly and Michael about our rough day on SH8 and they had both agreed with their neighbour and said it can be less than fun.  We had run our plans by them to leave Alex' for Cromwell, the capital of soft fruit, and then Arrowtown the day after, returning to a site and town we had liked on the outskirts of QT (thus a lot cheaper too) ahead of picking up the campervan that we had organised to relocate to Christchurch.  (Campervan relocations are common in NZ and are a great way to experience 'van life' at a fraction on the price.)  However, Kelly said the road wasn't going to get much better, especially not between Cromwell and Queenstown, which is a rat-run: it's so expensive to live in Queenstown that many people commute in from Cromwell.  We didn't have another option and so we got on Google Street View and Kelly pointed out all of the 'gnarly' bits.  The rain mirrored our feelings towards what was likely to be the last of our cycling in NZ.  A gnarly ride didn't sound like the most fun.  Just as the rain eased off, Kelly came into the kitchen and said she had just found out about a meeting happening in QT that evening and asked if wanted a lift to Arrowtown.  I had to hold back the rain that could have poured from my eyes at that moment.  To say a tiny thank you, we bought Kelly and Michael some 'squiggles': a hokey-pokey (honeycomb) flavoured biscuit not too dissimilar to a mint slice.  We had discussed our various food additions and Michael said it would be sacrilege to leave New Zealand without having tried a squiggle.  (They're SO good.)

That afternoon we loaded everything into Kelly's car and set off along the state highway to Arrowtown.  The ride would have been beautiful, but the road was very busy and as a result the gnarly bits were just that: often the road got very narrow and this typically coincided with an uphill gradient too.  We paused to look at Cromwell and Kelly pointed out where some of the old town used to be before a hydro-electric dam was built and the river was intentionally flooded.  I asked if there had been any opposition to this and Kelly said there had, but the decision had already been made.  We passed through huge vineyards and also spotted the home of the original bungee jump: people were there being roped up, waiting to plummet into the abyss as we went past.  It started to rain again and just as Kelly turned in to the Arrowtown campsite, it really poured.  We unpacked everything as quickly as we could and then hugged Kelly goodbye.  I hope our paths will meet again, it seems there could be a chance given that when talking about Thailand and our planned stay in Bangkok with my friend, David, we discovered that David and Kelly's aunt and uncle all work in the same school.  A few WhatsApp messages later and they were revelling in this information too.  The world feels small sometimes.