Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 5 – Invercargil to Dunedin (through the Catlins) – More Killer Rides

Wearing a happy face not knowing about the upcoming hills.
Wearing a happy face before the upcoming rolling hills.

This section of our trip in New Zealand was probably one of the hardest: strong winds, cold temperatures, hills – lots of hills, few services (like food) and lodging. In spite of all those negatives, we did have some great experiences and met some really nice people along the way.

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The first day we rode to Slope Point. This was a long day and the last 10 or so kilometers were on a hilly gravel road. When we arrived at Slope Point Backpackers, the owner was great and sent us down the road to an old three bedroom farm house they’d recently purchased. She even sold Eric a few bottles of beer.

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Lots of wind at Slope Point

After unloading our bikes we walked the remaining 4 kilometers to Slope Point because we were too tired to pedal up another hill. When we returned from the hike, another couple (yachters from France who were driving around NZ for a few weeks) joined us at the house. Eric stoked up the wood burning stove – it was COLD – and, after some lively conversation, we all went to bed early.

Great campground, pizza, and beer here.
Great campground, pizza, and beer here.

The next day’s ride took us to McLean where we stayed at the Whistling Frog Campground. The owners – wife from San Francisco and husband from New Zealand – have a great business, a nice campground with an even better cafe/restaurant. We treated ourselves to pizza and beer in the lively restaurant. The temperatures dropped a lot that night and, although we stayed warm in our tent, the condensation in the morning made the fly really wet and heavy for the next couple of days.

This was a good day to heed this advice.
This was a good day to heed this advice.

Riding to Owaka was made more pleasant by the quirky coffee shop we found along the way. I’d actually been fairly grumpy that morning so the saying on the wall behind the barista was the perfect thing to cheer me up.

On the trail to Nugget Point
On the trail to Nugget Point

The following day we rode to the intersection of Nugget Point and Kaka Point coming from Owaka. At this intersection, we parked our bikes and hitchhiked to Nugget Point saving ourselves a 9 km ride uphill on a gravel road. Our “drivers” were the possum hunters mentioned in the earlier post “Hitch hikers and Possum Hunters.” After retrieving our bicycles we cycled on to Balclutha where we stayed in the local holiday camp. There were two great things about Balclutha – the local butcher where we bought a couple of steaks and the well-stocked kitchen at the campground.

Here's where we enjoyed a leisurely picnic.
Here’s where we enjoyed a leisurely picnic.

The ride from Balclutha to Dunedin was much harder than we’d anticipated. The first 20 km were fairly easy, aside from a few large trucks, to Waihola Lake. We even lolligagged at the lake and had a long picnic until the sandflies attacked. You can imagine our surprise, then, as we slowly pedaled on, whene we were greeted with a very steep hill between Waihola Lake and Taireri Mouth. Luckily, we were rewarded with a great downhill and magnificent views on the Scenic Coastal Route heading north to Dunedin. The final 3 kilometer climb into Dunedin nearly did us in, but the warm dinner roast, glass of Kim Crawford wine and hospitality from our Warmshowers hosts Sue and Ian made us forget how tired we were.

Beautiful coast line on the Southern Coastal Route.
Beautiful coast line on the Southern Coastal Route.

We took a day to sightsee in Dunedin an additional day to cycle the Otago Peninsula and see the Albatross Colony before catching the train to Middlemarch.

View from the Otago Peninsula looking towards the Albatross Colony.
View from the Otago Peninsula looking towards the Albatross Colony.