Monthly Archives: April 2015

No Shortage of Tourist Advice from Kiwis

This kiwi doesn’t give advice but most of the lovely people we’ve met do. And I LOVE their advice.

One of our favorite parts of New Zealand is the people we’ve met. Not only have they been friendly, inquisitive, polite and respectful, they’ve also been chock full of tourist advice and not shy about giving it. As a matter of fact, I’m always a bit shocked but also a lot thankful of the Kiwi (the nickname for a New Zealander) confidence in telling us what we should do without knowing anything about us.

Here are three recent conversations:

Eric and I were straddling our bicycles on a sidewalk in the center of Nelson looking at the city map we’d snagged from the campground. A middle aged woman stops mid-stride….

“Are you lost?”
“No, we’re just trying to decide what to do this afternoon.” (We were actually trying to decide if relaxing in a coffee shop or sightseeing would be the best way to spend our lazy afternoon)
“Ok. We’ll, here’s what you should do. You should go to the Center of New Zealand. Ride your bikes to the parking lot here (she pointed to a place on the map). Then hike to the top of the mountain. It’s really a beautiful place. You’ll like it. You should do it.”
“Sounds great! And, thanks! We needed some help figuring out what to do.”

(I tucked the map back into it’s plastic sleeve and starting cycling in the direction she’d pointed before Eric had a chance to ask what happened to the coffee idea..The hike was fantastic and and gave us a 360 view of Nelson.)

This is the center of NZ - the geological center. All surveys are based upon this location.
This is the center of NZ – the geological center. All surveys are based upon this location.

2) Eric and I were chatting with a couple of New Zealanders from the Wellington (North Island) who were on a cycling holiday on the South Island and staying at the same B&B as us.

“Are you going to the North Island?”
“Yes, after we finish the South.”
“You really should go to the Te Papa Museum in Wellington. It’s fantastic. It will give you lots of New Zealand history. It also has some fantastic Maori displays.”

(We spent over three hours in the Te Papa Museum and it is fantastic. Unfortunately, it was also the ANZAC holiday and almost everyone living in or near Wellington also visited the museum that day…we later learned they were there for the Gallipoli exhibit that had been designed by Peter Jackson as in THE Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings, which, unfortunately, we missed because nobody told us we should wait in a three hour line to see the special exhibit. Thank goodness I’m not a LOTR fan, so I can’t feel too sad.)

We took this picture after we visited the museum. There's the poster reminding us we missed THE Peter Jackson exhibit.
We took this picture after we visited the museum. There’s the poster reminding us we missed THE Peter Jackson exhibit.

3) Eric and I were eating meat pies at a local bakery and trying to warm our toes and fingers after a late fall/early winter cloud burst drenched us with some freezing rain. Two brothers – retired teachers – struck up a conversation.

“Where are you from?”
“The United States.”
“Where did you cycle from today?”
“National Park.”
“Brrrr. That was a cold ride. You should stay here. Go across the street to the i-Site and they’ll find you a place. You should sit by a warm fire and take a warm shower.”
“Great idea.” (We followed their advice so I’m sipping hot chocolate and writing this blog)

I’ve been super appreciative of all the good advice we’ve been given. As a matter of fact, I’ve been so impressed with the Kiwi advice that my new motto is to do whatever it is they suggest even if it’s out of the way or on a different route than we had originally planned.

This is one of many rings used in LOTR. We saw this at the WOW museum which someone told us we should visit.
This is one of many rings used in LOTR. We saw this at the WOW museum which someone told us we should visit.

But, I’d also been wondering….

Where do they get this confidence?
Is “talking to tourists and giving advice” a social convention that is taught in school?
Are there public service announcements or advertising promotions that show the citizens how to make tourists feel welcome?
Are all students required to pass a citizenship test that includes a section on politeness to tourists?

Then I got to thinking….

Would I be so confident and assertive as to give tourist advice in the US prefaced with “You should?”
Would I walk up to a total stranger and take (or make) the time to direct them to something interesting?.
Would I be worried about “stranger danger” as taught overtly in children’s school units or covertly in the media with the emphasis on crime and danger rather than e beauty and strengths of the US?

I like the confidence and pride that “You should” conveys and with that self-realization, when I return to the US I shall welcome tourists and be prepared to tell them what they should see and do.

Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 4 -Te Anau to Invercargill

Tuatara bird at the bird sanctuary near Te Anau

We took an easy day riding from Te Anau to Manapouri stopping at the bird sanctuary to see the local Tuatara bird. The ride was scenic but a little rainy and cold. Manapouri was almost closed by the time we got there and I learned that it’s a good idea to stop at the local grocery store when we first arrive in town because a) the stores close early and b) the selection is very limited.

Rolling hills in the foreground. Snow capped hills in the back.
Rolling hills in the foreground. Snow capped hills in the back.

The following day we headed directly south to Tuatapere. The ride is hilly  but very little traffic and great wide-open vistas. There Tuatapere Backpacker’s and Holiday Park was a great place to camp for the night.  They have great cafe/bar to relax.

Side trip to Clifton Bridge
Side trip to Clifton Bridge

We stopped frequently for photos on the ride from Tuatapere to Invercargil. Cycling into town we found a bicycle shop and were able to get bearings replaced on my back hub. The husband and wife owners of the bicycle shop directed us to the Tuatapere Backpackers where we stayed for the night. There is a great museum located by the Queen’s Gardens. Then after a walk in the gardens be sure to stop at the cafe in the park for a nice relaxing spot to watch the rain.

Rose garden at the Queen's Gardens - Invercargil
Rose garden at the Queen’s Gardens – Invercargil



Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 1 – Christ Church to Omarama

Part 1 – Christ Church to Omarama

After a four day stay in Christ Church to put bikes together, adjust to the new time zone, and buy warm clothes and camping equipment we headed west on Hwy 73 towards the Inland Scenic Route. Memories of the first day cycling in NZ include stopping at our first tavern for coffee, heavy cross winds on Hwy 77 as we turned south towards Glentunnel, and pitching our tent for the first time. We also learned that the Dairy (a small mini-mart) does not carry beer or alcohol and that a 3 km drive back towards the package store seemed too far for the pleasure of a beer.

This tavern makes a great place for a coffee stop. You can also turn off the main road and cycle along the river for a less busy option.


Other stops on this ride included Methvan where we discovered an excellent bicycle store, ordering parts overnight, and having a mechanic going out of his way to fix Eric’s bike. We also enjoyed our first pub meal, and discovered the Postie for mailing packages and for buying cute post cards and souvenirs.

Just south of this bridge you turn left towards Methvan.


The ride to Geraldine was scenic but long, windy and slightly hilly. Rain was forecast so after tenting the first night, we splurged on a cabin for the second. Two days in one town lifted our spirits and gave us the rest we needed to continue onwards. In Geraldine we enjoyed going to the old cinema and sitting in the comfort of well-used Salvation Army quality sofas.

Some well-needed R&R in Geraldine.


A beautiful ride along the canal to Lake Tekapo and onwards to Lake Pukakai where we caught our first glimpse of Mt. Cook made for a beautiful day. About 10 kilometers before Twizel, Eric’s back tire blew so we improvised a patch with a tube patch and lots of duct tape. The hardware store in Twizel actually carried spare 26-inch bicycle tires so we set up camp in that town and replaced Eric’s tire.

Lake Tekapo


Our next stop was Omarama where we met up with tons of supported cycle tours on the Alps2Ocean route. It was here that Eric also had his first glider plane ride to celebrate his birthday at the world renown glider training center. Omarama was a big cycling decision time. We could have headed east to Oamaru by following the A2O trail or turn inland over Lindis Pass towards Queenstown. We choose the Queenstown option because we were anxious to meet up with some cycling friends and get information for the rest of our trip.

Eric's gliding lesson.
Eric’s gliding lesson.

Eric was also itching to cycle two great mountain passes, Lindis Pass and the Crown Range, enroute to Queenstown.

Cycling the South Island NZ – Part 2 -Omarama to Queenstown

Part 2 – Omarama to Queenstown


The morning of our departure from Omarama was noticeably colder than before. Heading southeast towards Lindis Pass was very windy and both of my feet were really cold. We contemplated turning back but once we left the wide open Canterbury Plains and got in the valley towards the pass, we were protected from the wind and the uphill climb did not seem too bad. As we got closer to the top of Lindis Pass the grade got considerably steeper even forcing us to stop and rest before the final ascent to the summit. In spite of all it’s hype, it wasn’t the hardest climb we’ve done. It was also during this ride we came across the largest congregation of cycle tourists – 8 of us all converging at the summit.

Lots of cyclists congregated at the summit of Lindis Pass

The ride downhill to Tarras was fun and we rewarded ourselves with a nice coffee at Tarras.Another 20 km on rolling hills brought us to the Luggate campground – a cricket ground/super cheap/almost hippie commune – where Eric enjoyed a neck message and we both enjoyed a pub meal rather than look into the communal, mold-filled, uber-gross camp fridge.

The Luggate Campground is really a bunch of tents and caravans parked around the local cricket grounds.

We appreciated the short, but beautiful descent into Wanaka. Being early in the day, the first campground we viewed would not let us check in, so we explored another place, The Mt. Aspiring Campground which came highly recommended. It was much better than the first but also a 50m climb in elevation – not a big deal early in the day, but enough of a climb that we did not go back to town for dinner that night. Eric opted for a rest and I took a hike on the Rob Roy Track for a view of Lake Wanaka. The next day we left our packs at the camp and cycled on a great mountain biking track to Glendhu Bay. This ride was pivotal in helping us branch off paved surfaces an on to more dirt tracks.


The next day we started early for the Crown Ridge and descent into Arrowtown. This was a challenging ride but easier than Lindis Pass, I thought. The downhill was great fun with switch-backs and a steep descent.

Summit of Crown Ridge



We found a great campsite in Arrowtown and enjoyed a pub meal with life Irish music.

Enjoying music and a pint at the local tavern in Arrowtown

The following day we toured the excellent history museum in town before cycling on the Hayes Lake track into Queenstown to stay with our friends.

The next two days were bicycle rest days but full on tourist days. We traveled by car to Queenstown, took the Steamship Earnshaw to Walter’s Peak for a delicious buffet lunch, played bowles at the Queenstown Bowling Club, drove to Glenorchy, ate some blue cod fish and chips, and shot some pool.

The Steamship Earnshaw parked at Walter’s Hill, home of a delicious buffet and working farm.
Eric preparing to bowl.

Most of all we enjoyed conversation with fellow cycling friends.

Our friends and hosts in Queenstown, Paul and Elizabeth.

Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 3 -Queenstown to Te Anau (and Milford Sound)

On our final morning in Queenstown, we rode on the Queenstown Track to the boat dock for the Steamship Earnshaw for another ride to Walter’s Peak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the track leaving Walters Hill heading towards Malvora Lakes

This time we cycled off the boat and on to the dirt track to Malvora Lakes where we had our first DOC (Department of Conservation) camping experience.

This was a very secluded and pretty campsite at Malvora Lakes.


We had a lovely night at a primitive campsite, but it was sure hard to get out of bed the next morning and start riding due to the cold. My favorite memory of the night was watching a movie in our tent because we didn’t feel like making a fire and sitting outside in the cold.

We arrived in Te Anau in good time and splurged/warmed up in a dorm room at a campsite. We made reservations for the bus/cruise to Milford Sound and went to bed early. My biggest memory about this place was the dirty kitchen at the campground.

The bus ride and cruise to Milford Sound gave our legs a nice rest, our eyes a scenic feast, and Eric a bad case of motion sickness. Mostly we relaxed and enjoyed someone else being in charge of our day. Milford Sound is spectacular and the trip was worth it.

One of the many beautiful sites from the cruise in Milford Sound.