Electric Travels: The wild west

We have not seen an EV since we left Motueka over a week ago. For us, in our AC charging Zoe, we are in uncharted territory, it is a case of begging in order to get the car charged. So far, Ruth has come up trumps (not related to HIM) on the begging bit and we have managed to continue our travels, fully charged.

The clash of swells and limestone at Punakaiki
That iconic photo of the pancake rocks complete with blowhole action. At 7pm there were no tourists.
Nikau palms and interesting rock faces – behind the camp at Punakaiki.

Punakaiki is something of a whistle stop on the route down the Coast. Most travellers may stop for an over-priced coffee and pop out and snap a couple of pics of the pancake rocks and, if you happen to strike the tide right, some spray spouting up through a blowhole. It is also part of Paparoa National Park so we decided to stop off a little longer and exlpore a little of the park. Good decision, the 12km Pororari-Punakaiki loop walk was stunning, well especially the Pororari river track. To help in our enjoyment, the weather, which had pretty much been rain, 24×7, for most of the last 12 months, has decded to almost bugger off. We had two fine days in a row (equivalent of a 30 day drought anyway else) which certainly helped in our enjoyment of this beautiful place.

There is some serious retaining work, or in this case sea wall building, that we have obvserved during our travels down the coast.
Paparoa National Park – the Porarari Loop Track
Passing along the river bank in the deep gorge on the Porarari River

Zoe did a slow charge wih our power cable draped out the kitchen window of our heritage camp cabin (the wash basin just emptied onto the grass beneath) and I discovered that the little coffee cabin that looked closed for the season, did offer very good freshly brewed coffee between 8am to 10am, a wilderness bonus. We also got to revist the pancake rockes at the appropriate tide to ensure that we got a good soaking at the blowholes.

Zoe fuels up from the kitchen plug. We had to turn her supply off while we boiled the jug.
A bonus in the camp at Punakaiki camp – a gypsie coffee caravan with a good barista. It operated during the morning camper commuter rush.

Our next stop was Greymouth, not the most inspiring place on earth but like so many of the coast towns, finding a new life through tourism.

The clouds mimic the rocks en-route to Greymouth.

Zoe got a top up on a caravan charger before the campervans arrived and then we sent her into storage while we biked the West Coast Wilderness Trail. Unfortunately, the two day drought ended just as we saddled up the F19’s. The forecast was bleak with 3 days rain for three days riding. The weatherman decided to give us a few hours of respite on the first day if we made haste. We did, and arrived in Kumara (not to be confused with the sweet potato) just as the first wave of rain hit.

Crossing a deep ravine above the Taramakau River while cycling to Kumara

This ride was always going to be a challenge as Ruth was coming out of retirement on the basis of my ‘expert’ opinion that this was an ‘easy ride’ and do-able on a toy bike (folder). Day 1 did not dissappoint, the terrain was pretty friendly and the distance even friendlier. Our digs in Kumara and the refurbished hotel added to what was a triumph for the team leader. My sales pitch had been too conservative.

The Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara got a big thumbs up from both of us, especially as we decided not to carry supplies for dinner or breakfast with us. The owners saved it from demolition last decade and are doing the same with many of the towns dwellings, turning them into accommodation.

We have been mixing-it-up with the Tour Aotearoa (Bevit) riders since Pipiriki on the Whanganui river. They have to complete the ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff in no less than 10 days (300km per day) and no more than 30 days (you do the maths). I had been following the progress of a Journalist, Rod Oram, on Newsroom.co.nz and he happened to end up staying in the same house as us in Kumara. We discussed his ride and his proposed Beijing to Birmingham follow up, over breakfast before we headed out into the increasing damp outside.

Ruth heads off into the mist on my bike – somewhere in the wilderness.

The ride to ‘Cowboy Paradise’ blew away my brownie points from the previous day. Apart from the all to regular spells of rain, it was humid and Ruth’s bike decided to dob me in. Firstly, the electrics started to misbehave. I suspect that the high humidity was the issue. However, the bike assumed auto pilot when Ruth did not want exceleration. We decided to swap bikes, I would take charge of the ‘bucking bronco’ rather than have to scrape Ruth off the increasingly unfriendly terrain..

A promise of campfires, line dancing and baked beans? A hot shower and dry clothes would be a great starter.
A hopeful weka pleads with a wet Ruth for a few scraps.

Her bike did not dissapoint with the motor cutting out at the most inappropriate times. Ye Ha! A few km on, I found that I had lost braking and stopped to investigate. Something did not feel right and when I inspected the front wheel, I found that he locking nut had worked it’s way loose – it was just about to leave me singing along to that old Kenny Rogers song; “you picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel”.

The track was showing the signs of the very wet weather that The Coast has endured over the last year. Massive amounts of land and bush have been moved by the torrent that have cascaded down off the mountains. The finer gravel had been wash away and we were left bumping over large stones. Having endured months of drought in the north, this was a water world, apart from the H20 falling, everywhere there were streams, rivers, puddles.

One of te areas rearranged by the torrents that flood down off the mountains. Ruth is giving me her ‘hurry up’ pose.
This was a part of the track where good brakes were life saving.

We finally made our way over Kawhaka Pass and down through 6km of pretty tough mountain bike country to ‘Cowboy Paradise’. This is a remote place where gunlovers come to play cowboys. As we rolled into town, a very wet version of a spaghetti western movie set, the street was lined with hombres who had dismounted their thoroughbred mountain steads. We felt like we were riding into ‘Dodge City” on our ‘shetland show ponies’.

Our little ‘shetland ponies’ tethered up with all the grown-up bikes.
The saloon doors that Ruth burst through.
A deserted main street at cowboy paradise on the morning of our departure. There had been steady rain all night.

After a bit of chewed tobacco had been spat our way, Ruth showed that she meant business by dismounting and trowing her sodden and mud covered gear onto the boardwalk. She eyeballed a couple of desperados and asked where the sherrif was. Once they spotted our bike brands (F19s), a little respect started to be shown. We pushed through the swinging saloon doors all eyes riverted onto the two show ponies who had just ridden into town.

Anyway, you get the picture, this was wild west stuff. The owner eventually found us, he was stressed out, his staff had absconded and he was the preverbial one armed paper hanger – front desk, roon service, barman, cafe operator, chef, washer upper and, it appeared, sherrif, trying to keep the cyclists from tethering their muddy bikes on the boardwalk. He took us to our lodgings, made the point of emphasising that we had clean sheets and at least had towels (the clothes line clutered with linp sodden towels). We wandered down to the saloon around 5:30pm to see what was going on. The ‘chef’ was still socialising with some of the local cowhands and the kitchen had tumbleweeds blowing through it. As we departed 30 minutes later we saw the chef firing up the kitchen and were greeted with a very passable roast dinner at 7pm.

The day soon cleared and we were also cheered by the great riding surface.
Lake Kaneire looked great
The ride from the lake follwed an old power scheme water race – very pretty although the track did get a little narrow in places.

The generator was turned off at 10pm which was an effective ‘lights out’. It was fired up again at 7am which was like the rooster giving you your wakeup call. After a hearty breakfast and pleased to see that the rain had eased back to a clearing drizzle, we enjoyed a very pleasant ride down the valleys to Hokitika. This section of the track had been given post storms maintenance was a dream to ride.

We stopped for a breather in a section of mature and dense native bush – Ruth spotted these and muttered something about doing that.

Having comandeered my bike, Ruth also got my saddle. It appears that her body was not ready for that and as we wandered down thr dtreets of Hokitika there was a definite uncomfortable cowboy swgger to her walking..

The end of the line for us – we decided that driving south, we did not need to bike to Ross.

Zoe was delighted to see us again although a little reluctant to accept the two very dirty F19’s into the boot. I gave them a kind of clean and also undertook some critical brake maintenance. Ruth made it clear that her bike is getting a rest for quite a few days, my plans are under review – will I, wont I, attempt to ride over the main divide. I will ponder on that as we drive south.

Here in Franz Josef, the changing climate is again very much in evidence. From the massive damage to the road, the huge landslides that scar the mountains and the constant thump thump thump of helicopters ferrying tourists to the glacier that has retreated too far up the mountain to be reached by foot. The ironic part of that is that those helicopters are only going to accelerate the retreat.

The Youth Hostel Association encourages sustainable travel and were very enthusiatic about providing us with free charging on their faster charger – thanks YHA.

Zoe cannot of been too fussed about the commotion coming from the helipad just down the road. She seemed to refuel a lot quicker than normal.

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