Story of some Brits living in New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere Winter in 2004
(Recent Entries Here)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Cycling NZ Coast to Coast from Greymouth to Christchurch (well Redcliffs) - 160 miles or so

I'm writing this 2 years after my little cycling adventure to say goodbye to New Zealand. Sometimes I like to cycle around a place to really get the feel of it so I decided to get the train to Greymouth from Christchurch and cycle back across the country and through Arthur's Pass in the Southern Alps to Redcliffs (a suburb of Christchurch), where I had lived for several months.

nz coast-to-coast cycle route

The most memorable thing about the train ride apart from the beautiful scenery was just how long it took. This really began to reinforce the magnitude of my task in cycling back. The other memorable thing was sitting in a carriage with 4 nice Aussies. It seemed they had been placed in the back of the train away from the Kiwis (there is some funny animosity between kiwis and Aussies). Anyhow, these 4 were super and shared their food with me. Great fun.

I don't recall much to recommend Greymouth apart from Jade stores but I made my way to the sea to dip my foot in the water and was then on my way.

The road across the country, highway 73, was ok for cycling. Not too much traffic and safe enough. The only dodgey part was when things got steep and the road became a steep viaduct. It was pretty wide but I was very consious of how slow I was, which concerned me a bit.

My overnight stop was at Otira which I think was historically a railway town. It was pretty tired and old when I found it and the accommodation fairly basic.

The next day was uphill to Arthur's Pass and a much anticipated cafe stop. One thing about this trip and NZ as a whole is that the distance between places can be further than the cycle touring Brit has come to expect from back home.

Whilst enjoying lunch I was somewhat unsettled about my bike outside. Apparently the Kias (the famous, beautiful and extremely intelligent mountain parrots) that frequent the cafe vicinity have been known to eat bicycle seats. They famously eat the rubber from around car windscreens so munching on a bike saddle seemed pretty believable. I didn't fancy riding another 50 miles without a saddle. Fortunately, that day the Kias were busy trying to figure out how to open the garbage bins, which involved lifting the lid and somehow grabbing stuff from inside (funny to watch).

Leaving Arthur's Pass (where they were soon to start filming the Narnia Movie) I headed in the direction of Christchurch. Not for the first time I had mistakenly had the notion of 'downhill all the way now'. So, after a LOT of up and down I kept hoping that the very next Mountain Pass would be the last. There were quite a few passes before the last one came into view, I even cycled past Cheeseman ski area which in the past had seemed like quite a long drive from Christchurch. So, after cycling for a good long while and coming across nothing I needed a rest so just pulled over to the side of the road and slept in a grassy carpark, perhaps some deserted hiking trailhead. This was not the civilised tea stop I would normally find at least every 20 miles in the UK (even in the North of Scotland).

After a while I came upon the plains and farmland of Christchurch. Long, straight roads for miles, perhaps 50 miles. This was not the most exciting part of the journey but I was tickled to come upon Springfield (home of The Simpsons). Not seeing Homer, nor anything much else, I continued on. At least the flat roads let me get a little speed up after all the mountain passes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dolphins prevent NZ shark attack

BBC NEWS - Dolphins prevent NZ shark attack - well, there you go, those Great Whites are out there around this coastline! Apparently quite close to shore near the South West of the South Island too, due to some warm current there.

However, there have only been about 7 shark attacks in NZ over the last 100 years of something, so not something to be hugely concerned about.

Mind you, I do wonder why these attacks arent more common, given how helpless we are in water by comparison!

Amazing save by the dolphins though, quite incredible how they will protect humans in the water. Perhaps we should stop killing them in our fishing nets.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Earthquake and headache weather

News: An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of the South Island today

Yes it was true, we did get an earthquake today. I felt the house rock a bit for a few seconds, a little less severe than when the bus drives past my house in cambridge. It was a 7.2 on the Richter Scale, I wonder what the number 5 bus in Cambridge is then? Perhaps a 10!

No big deal. Far worse were the North Westerly Winds which brought heavy cloud and gave me a bad headache and nausea all day. Thank goodness it has rained now.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Pat Farr Cup - Christchurch Interclub Swim Meet

Today was the fourth and final Meet of the newly formed annual "Pat Farr Cup" championships, which is held between all the Christchurch Masters Swim Clubs: QE2, JASI, Kaiapoi and Wharenui. The final standing after four meets was:

1st Wharenui; 2nd JASI; 3rd QE2; 4th Kaiapoi

Pat Farr (71), a keen competitor herself, conceived the interclub competition after noticing that there were probably enough Christchurch Masters Swimmers now to hold such an event. Considerable enthusiasm from a few key people in each club got the thing off the ground, much to the enjoyment of the 80 or so competitors who entered each of the events and attended the social events which followed each.

Pat Farr presents cup to Wharenui Swimming Club (click to see a bigger picture)

Even as an newcomer, it did not escape my notice that a lot of those competiting had some considerable history of friendly rivalry going back a LOT of years. Stories of surf life-saving victories of the past combined with in the pool action, to settle old scores! A very entertaining and inclusive event with participants diverse in age, size, shape and ability and much fun.

One of the teams even managed to produce an ex-olympic swimmer. In the 100m Individual Medally, she showed her stuff by taking the unusual step of competing against the men. Unsurprisingly, but impressively, she blitzed them with a very cruisy swim. Very impressive to watch such class.

As a Brit. who has swum with the QE2 squad for 6 months or so, I was very impressed to see the spirit of friendly and inclusive masters swimming alive and well in New Zealand.

The coveted and brand new Pat Farr Cup (click to see a bigger picture)

Thanks Pat Farr and the others who made this event happen. I feel sure the momentum and fun generated by the event will see many more Pat Farr Interclub Championships in Christchurch over the years to come. QE2 certainly have a few more surprises up their sleeve for next year - watch out Wharenui!