Carole Chrvala and her husband Don recently completed a 22-day, 1000km cycling tour of New Zealand. Here’s their story.
Where did your cycle tour take you?
My husband, Don, and I recently returned from a 22-day, 1000km cycling trip in stunning New Zealand. It was an adventure that was made possible by lots of planning and training as well as the assistance and hospitality of so many Kiwis. Among the first people we contacted when we began planning our cycling adventure was Steve Inns at Natural High who had been recommended by the Kennett brothers as a great cycle shop. Who could ask for a better recommendation than one from the Kennetts?
Steve, in the Christchurch office, and the Auckland team worked with us tirelessly to select our bikes and get them ready for our challenging tour of New Zealand. They also did a fantastic job working with us to ensure we had our rental bikes ready on the Sunday we landed in Auckland, particularly since Monday was a holiday. We were so eager to begin our ride, and the Auckland team made every effort to get the bikes ready for pickup by van on the Friday before our Sunday arrival. Everything went as hoped and planned, and Don and I set off for a 30km ride that Sunday. It gave us a great chance to load up, get accustomed to our bikes, and settle in to three weeks of cycling. Fabulous.
Our trip included four days of riding in the North Island and 18 days in the South Island. Our North Island adventure included cycling to Mercer, Raglan, Tirau, and Rotorua as well as an amazing zipline adventure in Rotorua. Our South Island route started in Picton. The ferry ride and dinner at Oxley’s pub were both amazing. We then headed to Nelson, Murchison, and Reefton, and then headed down the west coast via Hokitika, Franz Josef, and Haast. We turned inland and then travelled to Makarora, Wanaka, Omarama, Geraldine, Glentunnel, Hurunui, Hawarden, and many other wonderful locales. AislingQuoy Farmstay in Amberley was such a delight that we extended our stay. We concluded our trip in Christchurch.
What was your favourite place/places?
It is so difficult to choose a favourite place in New Zealand. Each area was unique and memorable. We kept a daily journal and took so many photos and were so grateful to meet wonderful Kiwis each and every day of our travels. The trip of our dreams became a reality because of our hard work and training, but also because we met so many welcoming, helpful Kiwis who helped in so many ways from hosting us in their homes, to giving us directions, ensuring we had the supplies we needed, and pointing us in the direction of wonderful things to experience (including places to eat). We hope to return for another cycling adventure in March 2021.
Did you encounter any problems or mishaps along the way?
Every cycling trip has its own set of challenges and this was true of our tour of New Zealand. We faced some fierce winds and hills—ahh New Zealand, you kept us humble. Of course, there was a bit of rain but we were prepared. We had a couple of mechanical troubles but we sorted those out. Fortunately, we have a lot of cycling experience and Don is skilled at most repairs. Steve was a great resource by phone when we had some problems with the gearing tyres. A big appreciation goes to Gary and Delia at Hokitika Cycles who came to the rescue when we had some tyre issues.
What did you love most about travelling by bike?
There is absolutely nothing better than cycling to explore a country. We see and hear and smell all the wonders of the world while pedalling away and can jump off our bikes when we want to explore or rest or grab a snack or picnic lunch. One of the most wonderful aspects of touring by bike is how easy it is to meet people. And Kiwis are among the most warm, friendly, and welcoming people we have had the pleasure of meeting! We made friends for life on this trip – seriously.
What types of accommodation did you stay in? Is there anywhere you’d especially recommend?
We learned many years ago on our first cycling tour of France that our best option was to stay in bed and breakfasts. After cycling 100km per day, we need a long hot shower and a firm mattress for a good night of sleep. Plus, bed and breakfast accommodation gives us so many opportunities to meet the people of the country we are visiting. This was so true during our New Zealand adventure. With the exception of a couple of motels/hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts every night of the trip. We were warmly welcomed, had great conversations with our hosts, savoured delicious meals, and enjoyed the most cosy and comfortable beds, ensuring we had great sleep. The list of wonderful eateries we enjoyed is too long for this newsletter!
What was your cycling experience prior to this trip? Did you have any worries/fears before setting off?
We have done about 10 trips in Europe – mostly France – and we do a lot of cycling in our home state of North Carolina. I think we felt confident about the riding but had some trepidation about the terrain, routes, and weather. It all turned out fabulous, although we adjusted our route a bit to allow for rain and wind and hills!
What bikes did you use for your tour? Did you feel they were a good fit for your journey and why?
We both rode Surly Bridge Club bikes. They were sturdy and strong, but a bit heavy! The weight was most noticeable at the end of a long day of cycling and going up those hills. They handled our panniers very well, however. The Surly is a great bike for track riding, but in the future we may look at other options that might be better suited to road cycling.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Pack light! I carried just 15 pounds and Don carried 16, not including our food and water. You just don’t need a lot of clothing for this kind of holiday. Also, make sure you carry plenty of food and water. The distance can be great between towns in New Zealand, and you don’t want to run out of fuel. Most important, be brave, be flexible, and keep your eyes, ears, and heart fully open to ensure you have the most magical experience.