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May 2002: Queen Charlotte and Great Barrier Island

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As our time in New Zealand closed, we had a flurry of interesting adventures. The first one - an attempt to cycle the Queen Charlotte Track, pushed the definition of "interesting".

The Queen Charlotte Track is a hiking trail in the Marlborough Sounds area of the South Island. Normally, it's hiking-only, but after the busy tourist season it is also open for mountain bikes. Although reported to be quite hilly and rough, the views along the ridges sounded fantastic, and we would be on the trail for about 4 days.

We took a water taxi to the trail head, jumped off, and took a "start of the trail" picture at the jetty. The start of the trail is virtually straight up a rough singletrack path, unrideable with our fully-loaded bikes, so we started pushing up the hill.

As Shelley was pushing her bike slowly up the hill, it slipped sideways, falling over with a sickening CRUNCH. Just 50 meters from the start of a 4 day ride, the bike was finished - a broken rear derailluer hanger. Without a replacement, we could cobble together a single-speed bike. Fortunately, another water taxi was just leaving the jetty, and we were able to flag it down and catch a ride back to town.

As our time was running out, we couldn't wait for the replacement part to be shipped from the North Island. The Queen Charlotte Track will have to go back on our list of "things to do" on our next trip!

We took a ferry to the North Island, got the replacement hanger, visited with friends in Wellington for an evening, then drove up to Auckland with the bikes packed tightly in a compact car.

From Auckland we took a ferry to the Great Barrier Island, a beautiful, remote island with only 700 full-time residents. The place has no power - only generators and solar panels for the homes and retreats spread across the hilly island.

We spent four days cycling around GBI (or the Barrier, as it's called locally), including one very strenuous day on a "forest road" closed to cars. The slick mud from the previous night's rain made it more interesting - we had to stop a few times to dig thick deposits out from between the tires and the bike frame.

Our last evening of camping in New Zealand started with a beautiful, star-filled night in a quiet, peaceful bay. Of course, without access to the 'real world', we didn't know that a rainstorm was coming! Our next day's riding would again cover us with mud, this time from head to toe. It was hard to be upset about it, though, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Things dry out eventually!

Our 4+ months in New Zealand have unfortunately come to an end. It's been a great visit; we've come to love the country, and look forward to our next chance to return. It's hard to pick a single greatest place - we enjoyed so many places, spread all across the country from the North Island to the South Island. The beautiful and varied scenery, friendly and relaxed people, and excellent facilities for cyclists make New Zealand one of our favorite places in the world. For all our friends and co-travelers met along the way, we thank you for helping to make it a great ride!

 


Jetty
Getting ready for the Queen Charlotte Track
(20 minutes later: broken bike)

Swing Bridge
Steve crosses a swing bridge
Great Barrier Island, NZ

Shelley on the trail
Shelley negotiates a rough trail
Great Barrier Island, NZ

Camping on GBI
Final campsite in New Zealand
Great Barrier Island

 

May 2002: Queen Charlotte and Great Barrier Island

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