The West Coast (Hokitika – Makarora)

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Who would have thought that it would rain in a RAIN forest? Little riding, wet nights and bad back. We took the bus to make up time and get away from the rain, still manage to view a glacier and get up and personal with the sand files.

Day one : 23/10/10 (cont.)

The Atomic (but not radioactive) bus arrived and I asked if we could get our bikes on board. The very nice bus driver said yup, not a problem. So Milly got stuck into the trailer along with all the panniers and The Tank was strapped up on the outside.

Two hours later we arrived at Franz Josef and while we were hunting for a campsite the weather turned from nice and sunny to it’s definitely going to rain soon. We found Chateau Franz with astro turf (a first for us) camping spots tucked in behind one of the buildings. We had the full use of the facilities which were great – kitchen, showers, etc – but the staff (seemed like youngsters on their gap years) were not really that welcoming.

The main reason for taking the bus down the west coast was to save time on a less scenic stretch. The journey from Hokitika to Franz (as it is called down there) was on a bus two hours where on a bicycle it would have taken us the best part of two days. As we are not here for that long, we need to pick our best spots, and prioritise the places we really want to ride in.

As we got ready to tuck in for the night the rain started in earnest and it kept going until we got up and didn’t stop for the entire next day.

15 miles on the bikes and lots of miles in a bus.

Day two : 24/10/10

Since we could get closer to the glacier at Fox Glacier we decided to cycle the 15 miles there, though that meant over three rather steep hills right after each other. Since this is after all a rain forest it rained all the way through. Which meant that we didn’t get to see much as it was mostly forest and then the clouds right down into it. Peli was really struggling with her bad back, and so the air was quite blue (as well as misty and wet) by the time we arrived in Fox.

At Fox Glacier we found a nice little campsite where the staff were rather more interested in helping us with information and it was done with a smile too. We pitched up the tent and we hoped that it would dry before it was time to hit the sack.

We had a little ride out to the glacier where there were signs telling us how far out it had reached over the years. And then a 30 minute or so walk out to the glacier itself, pretty stunning area and clear that the ice had move some of these house-sized boulders.

Back to the campsite where we parked our bicycles in the garage, to protect them from the Keas. Again Peli cooked up a storm in a small pot and we tried to drag the evening out as long as we could in the warm communal kitchen. We’re not usually wusses, but we didn’t fancy going out into the cold rain again.

15 very wet and hilly miles in many hours.

Day three : 25/10/10

We had talked to the Information Office and they told us that it was a public holiday and that we couldn’t book our bicycles on the bus online. So the only way was to get up bright and early, 7am on a holiday! And go down and talk to the bus driver when it arrived.

The very friendly bus driver said it was in order, so front wheel off along with the panniers we managed to stuff our bicycles in under the passengers.

On our three hours bus ride to Makarora was easy and the bus driver even let us stop a few times to take in the views even though there was not but rain clouds to see. The bus driver told us plenty of information about the things we saw on the way.

As we drove up and over the Haast Pass the clouds vanished and we had pretty much clear sky when we reached Makarora. Where the whole bus said “Bonne journey” to us as they pulled out of the parking lot at the cafe.

Again we bailed out a bit and didn’t ride much on the west coast for various reasons. Rest for Peli’s back, the three days of rain that was forecast on that bit of road and to see more of the island.

Click here to see all the pictures : The wet west coast

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