February 4, 2002 - The Kaikoura Coast

It blew out of the north all night. I was hoping that it would last. When I got up, around 7, Jim Rudd was already out in a near by paddock with the dogs bringing sheep into a barn.

After having breakfast, I headed out fairly early, around 8am, to try to make it to Kaikoura, the next town on the coast, about 80km away. It was supposed to be a relatively flat ride. Once I got on the highway and had the wind at my back, I was able to really move out. I thought that it was going to be easy, hah! The ride was flat, except for the hills.

At about 10km I was passing a farmhouse and there was a fellow out front, with his dog, of course. He asked where I was from so I stopped and we chatted for a while. He was about my age and remarked that he traveled in Europe with a couple of Americans in the 70's (who were in the army there) and enjoyed it immensely traveling with them. He asked about Sept. 11th. It seems everyone saw it live and wants to know what is like in the US.

At about 20km into the ride, the road really joined the coast. I stopped at a store/restaurant there and got a bottle of juice. Shortly after I left, the northerly died and was replaced by a southeasterly sea breeze for the rest of the ride. Not good.

The road along the coast to Kaikoura is pretty spectacular. The road and the train line are often squeezed right together with the beach on one side and steep hills on the other. There are many miles (kilometers) of black sand beach. It is sure easy to admire the view when one is just pedaling along (unless struggling up hill).

One of the other advantages of bicycling is the smells. Not only is there the expected sheep, cattle and grass odors, but I would ride through areas where there must have been wildflowers, because I'd get these bursts of sweet aromas. There was one part where there was some herb or spice. It was a very spicy smell that I should me able to recognize, but I can't remember. It seemed like something you'd find in curry.

I could only ride about 10km at most without stopping, towards the end it was more like 5km. I was getting mighty tired towards the end. At about 30 km from Kaikoura, I was enveloped but a rather noxious fishy odor. I was passing an area of the coast that was really rocky, with no beach. I looked over and saw a sea lion. When I stopped I noticed that there were hundreds of sea loins drying out on the rocks and swimming in the surf, which was pretty heavy. The sea lions were spread out over at least a kilometer of coastline.

A few kilometers further on, a noticed more black specks out in the surf. As I got closer, they turned out to be surfers. There was quite a surf running and there were probably 50 out in the water; saw a couple of good rides.

After about 6 hours on the road I finally reached Kaikoura, which turns out to be a beach resort, as well as farm town. It seems that there is an area offshore that attracts sperm whales, which also attracts whale watchers. There are also several walks, including one that goes out to a point where there is a seal colony. I might walk out there tomorrow.

The place is crawling with little motels, B&Bs and hostels, but I had to try four places before I found a bed. I'm staying at the TopSpot Backpackers, which is pretty large, but fairly modern and seems clean. As I was coming out after checking in, the big green Kiwi Experience bus parked outside, so you can infer the clientele, about half my age. The kitchen, which is huge, not only has three stoves, but also a big audio system in one corner. It seems to have a collection of vinyl. I suspect that no one is going to walk off with 12" records. But, this means that most of the titles are from when albums were the primary medium, the 70's and 80's.

I'm going to stay in Kaikoura for a couple of days to rest up for the next leg, which has three 200 meter (600ft) hills in 20 kilometers, with a 200m and two 100m climbs, then has another 200m by 10km climb at 40 km out from Kaikoura before I get to the next place I can stay. The ride for the next 140km is one that I haven't the faintest idea how I'm going to get through. So much for the relatively flat coastal route to Christchurch. It may take me most of a week to get to Christchurch.

There is an alternative route, but it has a climb to 500m (1500ft), a descent to 250m and another climb to 500m and then it goes down, with a few smaller ups and is 16km longer. I don't think so.

Updated: 20 March 2002