We are back in Christchurch finally, after spending the past few weeks biking the South Island. From here we rent a car and head to the west coast over the mountains and then back up to the North Island. We consider ourselves much wiser now, if you, or someone you love is entertaining the idea of cycling in New Zealand we offer a few humble suggestions:
- If you can, bring your own bike – We couldn’t and it hurt.
- If you can’t bring your own bike, rent something very similar to what you ride at home – We ride road bikes at home but rented (very nice) hybrids. Trouble is we found that once you’re use to a road bike, it’s hard to go back to that hybrid.
- Crazy steep hills
- Traffic – The road system down here is not as well developed as it is in North America or Europe. There are fewer roads and fewer routes; you will be sharing the blacktop with logging trucks, semi’s, emergency vehicles and tourists in camper-vans.
- Finally, if you can get past all the other stuff, there are a lot of magnificent views, great wildlife to see, and very nice people to meet along the way.
Two highlights of the last leg of the journey (back up the east coast) were certainly the boulders at Moeraki, and the blue penguins of Oamaru.
The boulders at Moeraki are technically “septarian concretions”, the crud from the magma vents of dead volcanos. They’re about 60 million years old and they look like 40 or 50 bowling balls (5 foot tall bowling balls) sitting on the beach, partially concealed in the tide.
Oamaru is home to a colony of blue penguins. Just after dusk you can go down to a place between the docks and an old quarry and watch them surf in in groups or 10 or 15 apiece. The night we were there I think we saw 40 or more come on shore and waddle into the bush where they make their nests.
Oamaru itself is a really terrific old port town just north of Dunedin. All of the buildings in the downtown area were built from a white limestone quarry just outside of town around the end of the 19th century and there is a very fin-de-siecle vibe in the town. At night you feel like you’ve been dropped onto a period movie set. I wish we could have stayed longer to get a better look at the place.