South Island/Te Waipounamu Part 2 / by Rachel Banfield

Greymouth to Te Anau: and the photo stops were endless

Jan 3rd - Jan 19 2015

Nursing a severely burnt oddly triangular shaped patch of skin on my right thigh, I loaded Rafiki onto a train and set off across Arthur's Pass. No mountain pass riding for me! 

Instead, I sat on my comfortable seat for about half an hour before spending the rest of the 5 hour train ride in the viewing platform. Competition for a spot with a good view was fierce and a fight soon broke out next to me. Nothing like a bit of awkward entertainment to go with the scenery. 

And what scenery it was! 

After a night in a dorm room which I had all to myself (basically Christmas in backpacker world), I set off South.  

I'm a slow cyclist - there is no point trying to deny it. But the second half of my trip was even slower than normal. The cause? The ridiculously beautiful landscape which screamed for a photo stop every 100 metres. 

From the mountains lining the horizon as I rode through the flat farmlands of Canterbury,

To the watercolour painting I rode into on my way to Mackenzie country.

Even a chest infection couldn't take away from the colours of Lake Tekapo,

I mean really, how can this be a real place?

Armed with a packet of throaties and a bag of gentle-on-the-throat food, I peddled my way along the Pukaki-Tekapo canal,

Taking in views like this one,

And arriving at Lake Pukaki,  

Which I decided, as I stopped for the millionth photo, beats the seriously tough competition to be the most beautiful part of the country.

The beauty of Pukaki faded rather rapidly as I pulled into Twizel. One of those towns which appears to fall under the 'a bit of a hole' category. Well, it did until I discovered the gluten free fish and chips on offer at the local takeaways. Now Twizel obviously takes its rightful place as a top NZ destination. 

A short bus ride the next day took me to Wanaka to meet my Mum for a few days of white water kayaking.

Being the hardcore adventurer that I am, I spent the next day visiting a very exciting Wanaka attraction: the Wanaka Medical Centre. Hardcore indeed. 

I lounged around the hostel with my manly cough, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in while my Mum climbed a mountain. As one does. 

Luckily the extra days enabled us to make an important discovery: the Patagonia chocolate shop. So it was with a promise of more delicious chilli hot chocolate that we got into our kayaks and paddled out across the lake with our awesome instructor Kat.  

Despite my arms aching after the first half hour, the lake was just the warmup. We soon moved onto the river for my first experience of paddling down rapids. One rapid in and I was hooked! 

While my mum gets to keep her mountain climbing bragging rights, I get to boast of not being the one to fall out in a particularly crazy rapid called the Washing Machine. 

She was, however, far braver than me at the part of the course where you get out of your kayak into the icy water and go zooming down the rapids feet first. Legend.

After ticking off all the required skills (and celebrating by jumping off a bridge into the river), we were officially Grade 2 Kayak certified. Coast to Coast 2016 here I (we?) come!

Obviously this achievement was celebrated with a final ice cream and hot chocolate at our favourite Wanaka institution. 

After saying goodbye to Mum and spending the night in a battery hen style campground in Queenstown, I set off on the old steamboat to Walter's Peak. 

Rafiki rode in style,

As the boat chugged its way across the lake.

I followed the side of the lake as I rode through private farmland,

Where I narrowly escaped a swarm of sheep.

I waded my way through streams wherea couple of mountain biking couple warned me of the hill ahead: "I would push." 

I made it up the hill (just) and was awarded a wave from a pilot as he flew past for the umpteenth time. Clearly a spy sent to steal my secret of how to ride up a very steep gravel hill on tyres completely bald of tread. 

The spies were everywhere...

I camped next to this lake,

And woke up to a stunning misty view,

And celebrated my last cycling day with a tin of chocolate creamed rice and some serious kindle time.

Feeling so blessed to finally be exploring this incredible country of mine,

A country which makes me feel like this: