Canterbury Plains, NZ
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Canterbury Plains Map

Nights are labelled with numbers beside the town/village we stayed in.
The red is our initial plans, the blue is our actual trip.

Canterbury Plains, New Zealand

Sun Dec 21, 04:56:21 PM . Emillie Parrish

It all started as we arrived at the airport with a storm of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances. It didn't take me too long, standing in a non moving line up, waiting to check my baggage to figure out that something was wrong. The emergency workers never tell you anything, and the airport staff weren't saying anything, however, the enormous media presence was very helpful of spontaneously informing people during interviews . Basically a threatening note and an envelope of white powder had caused the entire terminal to be quarantined. (sigh) luckily they allowed my flight to leave through a different terminal. However, it took the about 3.5 hours to get that organized. It also required us to deplane in Hawaii so that we could go through customs there. Fun! Nothing better that hauling luggage around at 3 am in the morning (especially if your luggage includes a tandem bicycle, camping gear and climbing gear). The highlight of my time in Hawaii was all the banners welcoming everyone to the international Jehova's Witness convention, and the 20 minute video I got to watch on how Hawaii is the best place on earth.

Sun Dec 23, 10:48:13 PM . Emillie Parrish

So now we're two days in to the Cantebury cycle. I have spent these days bruising my butt on the bicycle, and taking note of some interesting New Zealand facts:

1. The drivers are generally less considerate than Vancouver drivers. (Seems impossible, but it's true!) This does not just apply to cyclists but walkers as well. I think the law is "I'm in a car, if you're in my way that's your problem." This includes cross walks and bike lanes. It's really quite funny because Christchurch has more bike lanes than anywhere I've ever been, however, they are meaningless.

2. They have good bathroom behaviour. Firstly, the bathrooms are always clean. (Even the one in the gas station on the army base with rude pictures on the wall). Second, you always have the option for a half flush or a full flush. I think this is for #1 vs #2's.

3. You can go barefoot everywhere. This includes all stores and restaurants in all 3 towns that I've been to. I think that I'll try it as soon as I work up the courage. I've seen little kids and adults doing it, so my toes shouldn't be that tender!

And to answer some questions that have been posed: -No, the toilets do not go around in a different direction. I had a friend look at this for a project, and apparently which direction the toilet flows depends on the toilet, not the location of the toilet. -I haven't seen any globes yet, so I'll let you know later. -I think that my Santa is flying from the North Pole.

Merry Christmas!

Tue Dec 23, 11:04:38 PM . Brad Zarikoff

Hello everyone! Sorry, no pictures for today... the computer we are reporting from has some "issues" with our camera. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day we should be able to bring some in (however Xmas may provide some of its own problems).

So we are now in Timaru (see the map if you don't know where that is). 190 km from Christchurch, or at least we biked 180km... we kinda got lost in a few spots, dead-ends and such... a lot of unmarked gravel roads, and not too fun to ride a 200 lb tandem +300 lb of people on that! So after more than 8 hours of nasty highway riding (the semi's are incorrigible, but nice enough to give us room when they pass) we are ready to jump up into the "highlands". Relatively speaking, of course, because we are currently at a hostel with our room overlooking the ocean (nice view! I'll send the pic later). So, we're going up onto the plains right below the Southern Alps. Pretty skookum area. Hobbiton was created (so I'm told) a short bit away from Ashburton (where we stayed last night) and Edoras (riders of Rohan) is just a bit West of Timaru, up in the mountains.

Anyways, as I said, our route so far has consisted primarily on highway riding, with a few sidetours when applicable. The side roads so through the farmland though, and therefore there are barely any windbreaks! The trucks cause problems on the highway, but at least we have stands of trees nearby. Seems that New Zealand is starting a "highways 2000" campaign of planting, what I assume are, tonnes of trees as windbreaks. Interesting idea... I hope someone can tell me if it works.

One more hint; if you're biking down these flat plains, try to make sure that the wind is at your back. It made the difference of 5 km/h for us. And a lot of straining.

Oh, and however many times a Kiwi tells you "the ocean, she's a bit chilly", don't believe them. It's warmer than Christina lake! It may not be as warm as the ocean near Aus., but it's sure a far cry from Tofino.

All right, so tomorrow we're off to Geraldine. And it's supposed to be a sunny with just a bit o' cloud.

Merry Xmas everyone!

Sun Dec 28, 01:35:48 PM . Emillie Parrish

We're back! We haven't had a computer to use in the past few days, so we saved up all our photos and stories for this big blog. Here are the photos from Christchurch to Timaru (see previous blog for the stories).

Asburton



Picture of our "little tent" and our "BIG BIKE" at the campground in Ashburton.

Timaru

We had this amazing view from our window in Timaru. What a way to spend Christmas Eve!

Geraldine

Christmas day we set off for Geraldine, following the lonely planet guide route. However we were doing the route backwards, with a map that had no street signs. After lunch we got lost... so began our journey through backcountry roads. This was quite beautiful, rolling hills, farm land, and (of course) sheep.

The rolling country hills were free of regular vehicle traffic; however, we did encounter a few roadblocks.

We also had a bit of a race with some sheep.

The problem was that every single time we approached them they'd freak out and take off running down the road in front of us. We felt pretty bad about driving the sheep down the road. Also we were a bit worried that we would end up chasing them all the way to Geraldine!

We eventually managed to herd them off to the side of the road.

On our backcountry excursion, we found this interesting hillock. It really reminded Brad of Edoras, from Lord of the Rings. Since we were told that all LOTR filming was hush-hush, we assumed that the "Caution: rock quarry" signs (there was about 10 of them in a row leading up the hill road) were just a farce... at the top of the hill, you can just see a large (maybe 30 feet high?) stage roof... Brad thought it may have been the leftovers from the Edoras set, since it is said that it is in Ashburton District near the mountains.

The next adventure started when we reached Geraldine. Basically nothing was open. We had expected the grocery stores to be closed so we'd stocked up on snack foods, but Geraldine is a tourist town, so we thought that we would be able to go out to dinner. The only place open was a gas station. We managed to find some "food". After begging around for cooking dishes we were able to enjoy our Christmas dinner.

Baked beans anyone?

Mount Somers

We spent the next morning leisurely biking through the plains with a back drop of rolling mountains.

After lunch was a little different...

They have these signs along the highways, and it's no joke! We were stopped by 120km/hr winds in our face! (at least that's the strength that the lady in the pub was claiming).

So we gave up in Mount Somers instead of Methven. We weren't getting anywhere fast on the bike.

Sun Dec 28, 01:35:48 PM . Brad Zarikoff
The circle meets it's end.

It was quite the haul. But we decided to go back to Christchurch as the wind was at our back and the weather forecast was predicting thundershowers and hail for the next day.

Then it was off into the Rakaia Gorge. Other cyclists coming from the Gorge said "no worries", except watch out for the wind... we were blown down into the Gorge (see the wind sock photo above) and then had a bit of headwind for the way back out. It really wasn't too bad, except for all the camper vans on the skinny Gorge road. We got some beautiful pics though... the first is looking East from the bottom of the Gorge...

The end was pretty simple. On to Glentunnel (where we decided to keep going, good wind), then we arrived in Darfield (where we found no room in the local hostel, and still good wind, so we kept going). We arrived in Christchurch in early evening.

THE END