To the Southernmost Point

Bec and her lovely KidsThanks to Bec and Pascal’s hospitality, we had a lovely place to stay a couple of days in Christchurch amidst their exceptional family, a lively neighborhood and a beautiful scenery that shows striking resemblance with the French Cap Ferré peninsula, where Gui used to work with them as photographer 10 years ago.

Christchurch turned out to be a city in transition that is coping creatively with the aftermath of the severs earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. In empty lots and abandoned buildings left in the wake of the earthquakes, creative art projects have sprung up and despite the heartache, Bec is unhesitatingly sharing moving stories about this hard time, showing clearly that confronted with New Zealand’s second worst natural disaster, Christchurch’s residents have shown genuine solidarity with the personal tragedy of each neighbor and have proven well, why Kiwis are known for their remarkable solidarity and generous camaraderie.

Canterbury

Is there a Hobbit behind the HillHeavily loaded with “metropolis” amenities, we were setting out for our South Island adventure a couple of days later. Fortunately, Canterbury’s Plain welcomed us with vast flat terrain – ideal training conditions for our weak thighs that completely got out of shape over the last weeks. On the other hand, the nasty gusts howling across the plain and the speeding traffic – especially frightening after the laid-back Asian driving style – caught us somehow off-guard and soon we found ourselves going zigzag along farm lanes between the omnipresent barb wire fences that guard New Zealand’s most numerous woolly habitants. But this brought with it, that we had the chance to once find shelter in a surprisingly well equipped sheep shed and share a delicious dinner with hospitable stockbreeder Dave, who gave us a profound insight in New Zealand’s dairy farm disaster.

Brilliant Colors in unexpteced PlacesThe more we were heading West towards the central mountain range, the more the landscape morphed from well-ordered farmland into the dramatic wilderness of the Southern Alps that found its climax at the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki and the imposing Mount Cook, standing sentinel over this diverse region.

Otago

View at Dansey Pass's Top

From here on we followed the Alps2Ocean Trail, a 300km traffic free cycle trail that leads on gravel road from New Zealand’s highest peak all the way to the Pacific Ocean, past glacial-fed lakes, giant hydro dams, golden grasslands, rugged limestone cliffs and Maori rock art, vivid testimonials of a human habitation dating back hundreds of years.

Tranquil Mountian Creek

Before reaching the coastline, we turned further south crossing Danseys Pass. With more than 1200m total elevation gain, this pass with its extremely steep gravel road sucker punched us twice just when we thought it possibly can’t get any higher 🙂 But nevertheless we didn’t regret our choice as we spend two peaceful days in one of New Zealand’s most gorgeous campgrounds situated directly at a tranquil mountain creek half the way up the pass (or what we mistook as the half, a misjudgment that should hit us hard as things turned out later ^^)

Old Post Office

The cute little village of Naseby right after the pass with its mixture of saloon styled bars and 19th century brick buildings, came as a pleasant surprise (that the town is obsessed with the fairly insignificant world of New Zealand’s curling scene, indicates that life is still moving slowly here) and the chilled cider at the local, lost-in-time pub did the rest to pay off for our hurting legs.

Sunrise in Otago

Following our good experiences with the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail, we continued our journey south along the Otago Central Rail Trail. Named after the old railway line, built at the end of the 19th century to link tiny, charming goldrush towns, the Otago Central Rail Trail travels through big-sky country traversing dry and rocky landscapes, high-country sheep stations, spectacular river gorges, pitch-dark tunnels, old wooden rail bridges, tiny villages with still-present pioneering spirit and provides gobsmacking scenery and profound remoteness.

This Trail is not made for heavy loaded Touring Bikes

This trail connects seamlessly with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail showcasing the area’s history of early Maori Moa hunters, Chinese gold miners and European pastoral farming. Despite the fact that these cycle trails with their steep grades, deep gravel sections and tight sandy curves are really not made for heavy loaded touring bikes – but are rather trafficked by all spruced up, city slicker mountain bikers, we enjoyed following the mighty Clutha Mata-au River as it weaves through cooling pine forests, past abandoned sawmills and lonely graves and traverses the spectacular Hidden Valley, before it joins its waters with the Roxburgh reservoir, an inviting place for a quick dip into the freezing cold waters. This trail ride found a glorious ending in Beaumount, where we extensively celebrated Otago as one of the country’s top wine regions with some fellow cyclists 🙂

Southland

Named after Gold NuggetsFrom this point on, less than 200km were lying between us and the country’s southernmost point. To reach this special spot, we followed the Southern Scenic Route and this road really lives up to its name! Weaving through the Catlins Region it traverses green rolling hills dotted with white spots of freshly sheared sheep searching shelter under wind-bent trees, crossing mystique, mist-shrouded pine forests, passing spectacular rugged coastline, wind-tossed headlands, lonely lighthouses with only a family of seals as neighbors, and wide-stretched, empty beaches where you can watch dolphins playing in the waves or step back in time in a half-sunken petrified forest.

Southernmost Point!Facing the severest wind and weather conditions we were confronted with since the beginning of our journey – with Antarctic Southerly gusts up to 90km/h and regular showers – kilometer for kilometer, we slowly fought our way south until we reached the southernmost point we’ve ever been! It was a truly unique feeling to stand at this wind-swept cliff after thousands of hard-earned kilometers and look out to the ocean, knowing that there are only white crested waves between you and the endless vastness of the Antarctica.

2 thoughts on “To the Southernmost Point”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *