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