Cycling NZs South Island #3 

‘What’s for you won’t pass you’ – Kate Sabo

I’m laying on the floor of a cosy kitchen south of the Fox glacier. When I started this trip, I knew that two of my fellow Pacific Discovery instructors were cycling up the west coast, and I had it in mind that I wanted to meet them before we all get together in Nelson in a few weeks. I found them with no internet and a bit of guesswork (checking every backpackers and info centre at the glaciers) and rocked up yesterday afternoon to Pine Grove Motel near the entrance to the Copland Track to find Kate and Lee, a super adventurous couple from the US who met rock climbing in China. Over soup and the richest mashed potato, we talked life, love and meaning. We hit it off so well that I just want to ride with them; but my brain wouldn’t dare let me take backward steps. 
It was quite a wild ride to get here, involving soul drenching rain (not too much), the company of Charlie the French hitchhiker, buying a shower instead of a beer at a pub in Whataroa, my Singaporean fan club, a really creamy glass of milk and many massive mystic maintains. 
I set off from Lake Mahinapua a little bit shaken because something was stolen from someone in the campsite during the night. I had heard screaming and the screeching of a car get away. I jumped on my bike and rode past highland cows and colourful morning farmlands, the one street town of Ross and into some brilliant rainforest. Moss drenched ponds line the side of the road, stacked by ferns and shrubs then shoots of green leading all the way up the trunks of the trees in the canopy. Truly beautiful and still. I came across the bush mans cafe amongst this rainforest and stopped in for a coffee. An electric haired woman with feathers strewn throughout and an English accent sat in the dimly light craft shop sewing. We spoke of eccentric topics and she made me the best plunged coffee with a big glass of chilled full cream milk on the side. I spun my legs so fast with that calcium and fat for fuel. Hari Hari backpackers was a perfect lunch stop that I had been informed about by a friend of a friend Tarsh, and checked out the bee making – permaculture designing – home schooling – wwoofing – sustainable location run by these legends Dan and Kath. I was warned about Mount Hercules, and mentally prepared myself so much that it was like every other uphill stretch. The power of the mind ey. Wish someone prepared me for the fat mountains between Franz and Fox glaciers yesterday ! 

I got to Whataroa and couldn’t dish out 20 dollars for an ugly campsite at the pub, so gave the deep voiced man five dollars for a shower and kept on going with skin tingling and clean. Just down the road I saw a horrible accident but the SES guys said the people were alright. I’m not sure if they were telling the truth because of the feeling in my stomach. The dusk was so intensely burning in the sky with the silhouettes of forest trees. I pushed it hard in the end to a free camp called Ottos corner and met Charlie the Frenchie. We chatted under the stars and drank his soup until late (by camping standards). We had breakfast together as well, and his sleep in forced me to chill out a bit. It has been a massive couple of days so far, and my tent was drenched from rain and general dampness. We were both really excited to see the glacier, but Franz Josef was too cloudy when I arrived. I saw it with mum and dad and Daniel when I was eleven, and I remember icy wind and a vast expanse of grey ice. We probably payed to go on a little expedition, but I just rode on to Fox glacier in hope for better weather. Four times now I have seen this Singaporean family, and they adore me. In Fox I established a loving relationship with another Singaporean family, who were out on the road with their SLRs snapping me when I arrived red skinned and elated through the mountain range to the village of Fox. Next they got pictures of the bike, then the dad with the bike, then the dad with me. I smile when they beep and wave as they regularly go past.
The tourist information centre handed out gloomy weather reports of worsening cloud and even rain, so there wasn’t much point in staying long. After a casual lunch I took my chances and rode a few ks up to Fox Glacier. Low and behold the blue skies had emerged, with only a thin wisp of cloud decorating the glacial range like a streamer. I laughed at being a lucky duck in life and walked out further to see the glacier. The thundering water frozen in time is as impressive as the snow peaks and vertical drop rock faces that help characterise it. You can walk over shards of rock to get a better glimpse with lots of other tourists, but as the clouds took the glacier away from us, I retreated rode on to Pine Grove Motel where I slept in the kitchen instead of my tent. Kate is making me a coffee right now, and I’m pretty sure that according to her mothers saying ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’ really hit the nail because she just passed me a tube of chafe cream. 🙌


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