Arriving into Christchurch was a breeze passing through passport and customs with ease. The bike was questioned but passed through without being opened.
We waited for around an hour for our InterCity bus, to be greeted by grumblebum Gary the driver who was none too impressed about the bike and carried on like a pork chop for some 5 minutes, before pocketing $10. I just closed my eyes to endure his tirade as I really was not in the mood…I have learned from travel experience with bikes to shut up, let the rant conclude as normally it will then resolve, as it did in this case.
Other passengers were not so fortunate as Gary ranted and raved with many… he became entertainment. “Is this bus going to Queenstown?” one unsuspecting tourist asked. Gary’s response? “ why would I bother putting a sign up the front saying Queenstown if I was not going there?” I quietly chuckled to myself….
The first part of the journey was very Tasmanian in its topography, until we hit the Alps.
We stopped at Lake Tekapo for a driver swap.. leaving Gary and collecting Peter… his twin brother it seemed.
Once in Twizel we collected our bikes and settled into our accomodation ready for the first day riding.
We boarded the Mt Cook shuttle to transfer to the White Horse Hill campground, 2 km past the Mt Cook village and the furtherest inward point for vehicles. The views on the shuttle were extraordinary and I could not understand how the tourist next to me could sleep through it! I felt like nudging him to wake up!
Once we arrived at the campground we were at the official start of the A20 Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail described as “ This is New Zealand, in all its colour and beauty – from the highest mountain, past Great Lakes and rivers, down to the ocean.”
The first section we were on a time limit as we needed to get to the Mt Cook airport for a helicopter transfer across the Tasman River to Tasman Point. The track was very nicely formed here and boded well for the rest of the day.. I hoped.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and I sat amazed at the number of choppers taking off and landing. I got thinking….. hmm…. and grabbed a brochure showing the flights available over Mt Cook to the Tasman Glacier…asked a few questions and before you know it, pulled my plastic card out and booked the 45 minute chopper flight, delaying our chopper crossing to Tasman Point.
First things first, our bikes were to be transferred to Tasman Point. NZ air regulations are such that they need to transfer without passengers.
The chopper then came back to collect us, as well as Stan from Idaho, USA who was touring on his own laden up quite heavily with gear. Stan was dropped off and we then headed off on our tour.
Well I was quite pleased as I got to sit next to the pilot, whose name was Tony.
We headed up the Tasman Valley towards the Tasman Glacier, some 27 km long. The glacier is moving at the rate of 30cm per day. It is around 300 metres thick. With global warming the rate of melting has increased considerably exposing more and more rock. A lake has formed at the base that has only existed for 30 years.
We landed on the glacier and spend about 15 minutes there.
Lifting off from the glacier we headed to Mt Cook passing the climbers hut and the commonly used climbing route. Tony told us that sadly he has been involved in the retrieval of around a dozen climbers bodies. Others go missing to pop up years later in glacial melting.
Landing at Tasman Point the real work started collecting our bikes and heading off. The trail was still ok but not as well formed as earlier.
For the majority of the rest of the day we followed the shoreline of Lake Tekapo. The views were simply spectacular. Photo opportunities galore. Stinking hot (up to 31degrees). Water for drinking was extremely low and we needed to do what I prefer not to, taking water from streams and the lake.
We met up with Stan again en route. He had previously broken a spoke nipple, and he removed the spoke and nipple from his wheel. He was quite concerned about breaking more spokes with one missing. We offered to call into our bike hire shop to see if they had spare nipples. So we swapped contact details.
We came across a sign indicating Ozzie Rock with a picture of a kiwi. It would seem somewhat unpatriotic not to stop for another photo. This is when I realised I had a problem. The spare mobile phone I had for the rest of the trip was missing… oh dear… retracking in my mind when I last used it we determined that it probably came out of my bag (which I had failed to zip up properly) when I lay the bike on its side to clamber down a creek bank for water… and that was some 8-10 km back up the road!
So discussion ensued… I was in favour of going back to look, Tony wanted to keep moving forward. I was adamant for a few reasons. It was to be my only comms for the Auckland to Wellington trip and had spent $55 putting a data plan on it the day before. We turned back!
Fortunately we found it in the middle of the road only 2 km back. 2 cars had passed us missing driving over the phone! Hallelujah!!
So back to Ozzie Rock! If it had not been for this sign I would not have realised the phone was missing for a lot longer! Saved my bacon!!
Departing Ozzie Rock we continued following the lake with beautiful vistas.
We passed the Tekapo power station and headed out towards the salmon shop hoping they sold drinks! We were not disappointed and icypole and cold drinks were greatly appreciated.
From the salmon shop it was a short ride back into Twizel. We were able to grab some spoke nipples for Stan, and the good news is they fitted and he can be on his way again with more confidence.
So Christmas Day is very quiet and tomorrow we ride to Lake Ohau.