Sometimes paradise sours.  A dose of extreme weather does the trick on the South Island.  We were warned.  That I’ll admit.

Pack your rain gear and lots of layers we were told.  Snow’s possible any time of year.

That white stuff on the top is definitely fresh!

And it is.

On more than one occasion we’ve woken to a fresh dusting on the mountaintops.  It’s beautiful.  But honestly–this is not the southern hemisphere summer we expected.  Where are the shorts and t-shirts?

A New Year

Our 2013 began holed up in Te Anau while a storm raged outside the window.  (Yes, we were lucky enough to be indoors, courtesy of a Warm Showers host.)

The last day of 2012 began with some pleasant riding through Fiordland but ended in a massive storm

Our ride out to Milford Sound (which I’d heard about for years) looked impossible.  The road was closed due to landslides.  Further north, a washout meant Highway 6 was shut down.  It would take almost a week for this essential route to re-open.

We’d have liked to nestle deep into our thick sleeping bags and hibernate till summer arrived in earnest.

Unfortunately, our hosts weren’t able to put us up for another night so we had to hit the slick road north.

This shot of Lake Hauroko is classic Fiordland scenery--the area around Milford Sound is similar (only more remote and wild).

Suffering makes you Strong!

Now rain, as you might imagine, ranks right up there with wind as a cyclist’s worst enemy.  Tropical storms can be a refreshing bit of bliss.  But New Zealand rain, the kind that beats down on you with unrelenting force chilling you to the bone, is far from pleasurable.

There’s not much you can do about extreme weather.  For those with deep pockets, the obvious choice is to rush to the nearest Bed and Breakfast, hand over a fistful of cash and hunker down for the night.

We budget cyclists rely on a combination of stealth, pity and good luck to escape the elements.

After struggling through the downpour,we finally rolled into the population of tiny The Key (permanent population 1).  We huddled under an overhang at the local school and took stock.  Not a bad spot to camp, we agreed.

Unsurprisingly, there was a sign forbidding Freedom Camping.   A $500 penalty seemed a high price to pay for pitching our tent on unsanctioned land.   Sure, it would take a hard-hearted cop to fine two cyclist’s seeking shelter in the midst of a raging storm.  But was it worth risking an entire month’s bike touring budget?

Not for us.  In addition to the school, downtown The Key consisted of one old farmhouse.  We knocked on the door.  “Hi, do you think we could pitch our tent in your shed for the night?”

“Absolutely not.  I’ve got a spare room.  Come on in.”

And that’s how we made the acquaintance of  The Key’s sole inhabitant, a friendly guy named Ray.

After luxuriating in a hot shower and downing several homemade scones, our outlook on life had made a 180 degree turn for the better.

Ray and his amazing home-made scones!

And the next day, whad’ya know—blue skies and sunshine!  Over the following few days we enjoyed New Zealand at its best…

A beautiful camping spot on the shores of lake Wakatipu--one of the few scenic spots where so-called Freedom Camping is not expressly forbidden.


A fantastic ride--the road hugs the lake its entire length. Start early and you'll have the road to yourself.


The ride up New Zealand's highest sealed road -- The Crown Range. Daunting indeed, but do-able!


Tackling the switchbacks on the Crown Range Pass--some steep moments, that's for sure.


Satisfaction at the top of the pass!
A perfect summer's day on the shores of Lake Wanaka--the place was packed with Kiwis and Aussie families on holiday.


Lush native forests in Mount Aspiring National Park


And Now…

It’s raining AGAIN!  Fortunately we’re being well looked after by blog followers and fellow cycling enthusiasts Lloyd and Vinny.  The weather is expected to improve tomorrow (although you never really know in New Zealand) before another big storm front sweeps over the island on Wednesday.

Given the kindness we’ve experienced so far in New Zealand, I’ve no doubt we’ll find shelter during the next deluge.

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Surviving New Zealand

7 thoughts on “Surviving New Zealand

  • January 13, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Glad to hear you are having a good time despite the unseasonable weather! Hopefully things might get more settled, but who knows given climate change.

    • January 14, 2013 at 12:31 AM

      And yep, a good cheese scone can’t be beaten!

  • January 13, 2013 at 9:33 PM

    Hi there,
    You have posted some great photos. We have been having some pretty hot weather where I am living in the North Island but it is a good reminder to know that cold weather is possible any time,

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    Hey Amaya!
    I just came across your website from Al Humphrey’s posts on his microadventures. I absolutely love what you’ve got going on here and have happily subscribed!

    I’ve done a few microadventures (just skateboarded 30 miles in 12 hours from Boulder to Denver!) but I haven’t done any biking ones yet. While I want to do a few cross-country ones, I have a 12 hour bike planned coming soon! 🙂

    Anyway, keep up the traveling and enjoy beautiful NZ,

    (@LaurRAINS – – stay in touch! :D)

  • January 17, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Glad to hear you survived the South Island weather. Indeed, your experience of hardship and eventual hot shower and scone at Ray’s bellies the even more legendary South Island hospitality we experienced on our own journeys through that amazing land.

    Also happy to hear you conquered the Crown Range in nice weather–I hear it’s a bike touring right of passage. And the view at the top is quite the reward (not to mention 20+ km of downhill).

    Thanks for the gorgeous posts and photos.

    • January 26, 2013 at 2:17 AM

      Yes, we were fortunate to have sunshine and gorgeous views on our Crown Range ride, rough going but oh so worth it!

  • February 11, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    You always inspire me with your stories, pictures and that incredible journey of yours!! ! I don`t have enough words to express myself my admiration . Thank you Eric and Amaya!!


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