The difference between constant rain and relatively normal weather in New Zealand is just a few miles and a few hundred metres of climbing.
Or, in a very close, but parallel universe, the difference between constant rain and normal weather is being an extremely lucky Swiss / German pair of cycle tourists. Who’d only got wet twice along the whole west coast. How they managed this is a bit of a mystery. And even their luck wobbled a bit when they met me.
I met Roli and Christian in Fox Glacier, after another aborted attempt to make progress down the west coast. This time, I got as far as getting a coffee before hitting the road. Then the scene below unfolded:
I went back to the hostel, defeated. And just checking in were Roli and Christian. They were soaked, too, but this was apparently such an unusual experience for them that they were raring to go the next morning. Rain or no rain, wind or no wind. They were making the 125km run to Haast, regardless. Then they were going over the pass. Then they were going to Wanaka, then Queenstown. And nothing was going to stop them. They are relentless.
And, as a result, it’s been just a little tiring riding with them.
You might notice that the picture above is taken in sunshine. This was a remarkable change of fortune in the afternoon of the long ride to Haast. The morning had been notable for a weather forecast which had suggested sunny spells, and weather which had delivered a monstrous deluge just as we were out of range of any shelter and entering the wilderness. This picture marked the point where my luck with the weather began to change; clearly, speaking German is the key to making the sun come out in New Zealand.
The Wilderness. There’s nothing between Fox Glacier and Wanaka. In around 250km, there is one village (Haast), one ‘Tourist Centre’ / campsite / petrol station (Makarora), and that’s it. Nothing else. No mobile signal. Virtually no shops. Virtually no people. Nothing. Except some stunning scenery, and the pass away from the west coast, which was my best hope of staying dry for more than a couple of hours at a time.
As the Germanic weather charmers’ skills really kicked in, the ride to Haast became one of the more stunning days of my trip so far, with some lovely seascapes (albeit paid for by some tough climbing):
After a night in Haast village, it was off to the pass. No messing, no flapping around for hours getting ready (my usual style). Up, breakfast, pack, go. No excuses. I felt a bit like I’d just joined the army. But it got me moving, instead of moping around watching rain. And it was dry, anyway.
It started raining ten minutes up the road. It rained for the whole ride up Haast pass. It was miserable. I might have jacked it in and gone back to Haast to cry if I’d been alone, but the relentlessness was obviously rubbing off. Three extremely damp cyclists on three sodden bicycles finally crested the top yesterday (Saturday) lunchtime.
And the rain stopped. Immediately. Almost magically. Sunshine, a long downhill, and (unbelievably) a tailwind, drove us to Makarora and dried us off at the same time. Absolutely astonishing. More astonishing, is that it hasn’t rained again since. Yet. But we’re heading in different directions tomorrow, and I can’t be sure that the Teutonic rain whisperers will still be able to keep me dry.
Still, today’s run down to Wanaka took place in sunshine, pretty much all the way. Not a hint of getting wet, and south island was finally showing itself off without low cloud, mist, or drizzle getting in the way. What a result!
I can’t explain how good it is to think you’ve got a reasonable chance of a day’s ride without getting a soaking again. The eastern side of the mountains is much drier, so it should stay that way. You may be lucky enough not to get too many bad weather reports from me from here on.
And as we go our separate ways, I wish Roli and Christian all the best. Not that they need it; they’ve already talked someone into driving their bags to Queenstown for them tomorrow. So while I wobble off in the general direction of Christchurch with a full load, they’ll be scooting gleefully along on almost weightless bikes.
Their luck really is amazing. I want some. But my German is awful. And I still can’t get out of bed in the morning with much enthusiasm. Since these appear to be the main attractants of outrageous good fortune, I guess I’ll just be muddling along as usual for now…