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Late March 2002: Christchurch and southern New Zealand



After a good week of cycling off-road at Molesworth and Rainbow Stations, we cycled back east to Blenheim and hopped on the train down to Christchurch. Riding out of Christchurch we came to the Banks Peninsula, formed ages ago from two volcanoes. The beautiful scenery was best appreciated from the very steep hilltops, although climbing so many hills just to descend to the shore again was tiring! A few days allowed us to circle the entire Peninsula, then take a ferry to Lyttleton, a port town near Christchurch. Unfortunately, we couldn't take the tunnel back to Christchurch - another hill tackled, and we were there.

We hopped a bus down to Dunedin (we've seen the east coast before), and found the famous Baldwin Street hill, noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the steepest road in the world at 1:1.266, or an astounding 38 degrees. Stairs climb the hill on the sides, and people can get a certificate for just walking up the thing.

Of course, we had to try to ride it.

Climbing the road was like going up a wall, climbing a couple of blocks nearly straight up. After finally making it to the top, it would take some 15 minutes just to catch our breath before heading down with brakes full-on. Not the hardest climb we've done, since it's relatively short, but it certainly had to be the steepest!

We left Dunedin on the Taieri Gorge tourist train, bringing us to the start of the Central Otago Rail-Trail. The train was once the main method of transportation throughout the region, but when roads were completed (and government restrictions against trucking were removed), the train was doomed. The rails were ripped up, leaving about 200 km of railway-graded track for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders to enjoy.

After leaving the Rail-trail, we cycled south towards the Catlins area, along the southern shore of the South Island. All the way there, people would rave about the area - "Oh, you'll love the Catlins", they'd say, but when we got there, the weather had turned a bit rainy, and the scenery wasn't quite as good as anticipated. We did get to see some sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins along the shore, and stayed in a nice, peaceful bird sanctuary one night.

We slowly headed west towards Invercargill and a few days of rest over the Easter holiday - as well as a couple of days of rain and hailstorms. We even extended the stay a couple of days to listen to the NCAA Final Four on the Internet (no TV coverage in NZ, unfortunately), although the result wasn't the best (our team, Kansas, lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Maryland). We also took in a Pink Floyd cover-band concert in town - not bad!

Banks Penninsula
Banks Peninsula,
near Christchurch, New Zealand

Baldwin Street Hill
Shelley tackles the Baldwin Street Hill
the world's steepest street (1:1.266)
Dunedin, New Zealand

Central Otago Rail-Trail
quite as steep:
the Central Otago Rail-Trail

Sea Lion
Sea Lion on a Catlin's beach

Late March 2002: Christchurch and southern New Zealand