Middlemarch to Owaka

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

  • Middlemarch 17th November 2012
Leaving Middlemarch for Dunedin, within an hour the weather’s clocking in….uck!
After two big descents followed by two big ascents (not in that order!), plus being a tad wet, I spot smoke signals rising out of the chimney at Clarks Junction’s tavern. I pop in to find the manager attempting to keep the log burner alive. Two sweet coffees, a great steak burger, three jugs of beer while chatting to the manager and Mitch (local farm hand).
Clarkes Junction
The rest of the day is postponed and camp is set in a soddened play area. I’ve a full belly, a warm sleeping bag, along with the weather throwing a hissy fit outside. Life is good though.
The following morning I hum’n’r about whether to set out as the heavens aren’t looking promising. But the need to be off is too great and I hit the road. In no time the Gods strike hard! The wind is cold, along with pumping horizontal driving rain  I briefly escape behind a row of trees while I dig out my cold weather gear.
Gear on for freezing driving rain
I can’t find what I need. So I’ve to delve into my rear panniers, which entails removing stuff from the top. In this weather, just plain nuts! Why I’d not sorted this out to start with…. poor admin!
In driving rain I’m back on the road, head down and legs tuned to go, go, go! My digits succumb to the cold, but with major hills to overcome warm blood soon flows through and life returns. Strange how no one else is out!
After what seems like never ending BiG hills, plus a motorway (yes, I did go on it!). Apparently not for cyclists! I hit Dunedin. Robert Burns country.
The Octagon square in the city centre offers free internet, it’s intermittent, so I give up and ride out of dodge. Already the city is not for me after two hours. Looks like Glasgow, cold, wet and windy!
Dunedin rail station
Sophie and Dave (I’d met on the trail) said I’d find wild camping spots in Brighton. There I make a bee-line for.Brighton
On leaving Dunedin a short, but sweet hill gets the better of me, and it becomes my first dismount. Disappointed that I have to push, but gravity really sucks at times!
This is the first time cycling the coast for real since my arrival in New Zealand.
Brighton wild camping spot
A nippy head wind still seems to be the order of the day. I soon find a spot in Brighton for the night. Secluded and right next to the shore line.
Baked beans curry pasta
I try a new meal concoction as I don’t have any meat; baked beans, pasta and a tasty curry block. Fills all the requirements….rocket fuel!
Sunrise Brighton beach
Onwards to Tairie Mouth.
To leave Tairie Mouth I have to climb the ridge inland. WOW…. 6 km’s of sheer climbing. Tough work, once again off the bike and pushing. The air is cool, not too hot. It’s not tough work, just plod on and one will get there. Stopping, but also admiring in the view behind.
Tiere Mouth
The other side is a fast descent into Waibola, well, as fast as one can go downhill into a headwind. Even then it’s a slog!
Now the relatively flat road to Balclutha. Yes you guessed it, a headwind. Beginning to feel I might be heading the wrong direction! 
I decide to route towards a lake on the map before Balclutha, hoping it would offer shelter for the night and some rest bite from the wind. Dam stupid idea that was! Ended up past the lake as it offered no suitable ground for a tent, bog land. An extra 15 km’s.
Stirling camp spot
Eventually heading back up north to Balclutha. Stopping just out of town at a small location called Stirling.
I pitched my tent within a small clump of trees. A railway line one side and a dairy tanker yard the other. Boy, the freight trains thunder through here (seen in video the below). I can hear the crossing signal sound, ten seconds later the locomotive is trundling through. No barriers etc,…. so be quick! Especially loud when ones ear is to the ground no more than twenty metres away.
After camp is broken in the morning, I call into the dairy trucker’s yard to ask to use their toilet. I’m kindly offered a coffee too. Good yawn had..
Flat 5 km’s to Balclutha.
We remember
Balclutha offers the opportunity for supplies.
Calling into the I-Site (tourist information) for information on the best route through The Catlins. It also houses a memorial to the fallen hero’s past.
Balclutha to Owaka: I’m advised the coastal road is the most scenic, but then it would be….stupid question on my part!
Boar hunting trophies
I ride the back roads to Owaka via Kaka Point. Obviously boar hunting is big round here! They’re considered a pest, so hunting is legal.
Everywhere signs saying ‘No Freedom Camping’, sod this, I ride on to Owaka and search out the YHA. I fancy a rest bite from the wind, and know the YHA will have more to offer than some tardy campsite.
The Catlins YHA
As I arrive at ‘The Catlins YHA‘ I feel I could well be here for sometime. It’s an old hospital/rest home, so I feel quite at home!
YHA The Catlins
  • Owaka 20th November 2011 – 283 km’s
I soon stretch myself out on a reclining chair in a sunny conservatory, tucking into one of many a chocolate bar I generally devour!
Ghana Peppermint
Late afternoon snooze, I’m not a snoozer, but I like it!
If you’ve ever watched either ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’ or ‘The Shining’ it feels like it here.
Two days later I’m still here!
Camp The Catlins YHA
I call into the I-Site here to check out their big topographical wall map for the following route. Lo and behold there’s Phil & Pip ‘Chasing White Stripes’. What a smashing surprise.
Bicycle Warriors
That’s them sorted for the night here too. I’m chuffed to catch up with them again.
We fill each other in on our travels since we last met and advise on each other’s following routes beckoning. They’re going the correct way, anti-clockwise, with wind-assist.… ggrrr!
Cycling collection
So as I compile this post I’ve been here four nights!
Devouring plenty of cycle magazines and a great book on Le Tour de France.
Chilling in the YHA Catlins
Craig (manager) has offered me an ensuite double room in exchange of making some beds, along with a bit of mopping here and there. I also seem to be manning the reception too! Sweet, keeps me out of the foul weather for a bit.
I greet a few new arrivals, get them settled in. Hey, I like this easy going backpacker manager thingy! Piece of cake, and left to ones own accord.
Overall a great new experience, which is what it’s all about. This place is not your average backpackers, this makes it special!
Happy Days. Thanks Craig.
One of the new arrivals is young Taven from California. He too is cycling. He bought his bike in Invercargill, fitting it out with what he thought he required.
Taven. New Bicycle Warrior
He did start out with a sleeping bag, but ditched that before he set off as he felt it would be warm enough without it. He froze his ‘proverbial’s’ on the first night camping! He still camped out here, so I threw him a duvet off one of the beds.
Before setting out the following day, I adjust his bike set-up. His seating dynamics were, well crap! Another one cycling wearing a backpack….NO! I’ll in the future write a post on cycling ergonomics for touring.
Craig though kindly had some sleeping bags left from previous backpackers, and kindly gave one to Tavern. Good karma. Giving is so more rewarding and good for the soul.
Star of David on boiler house
Somethings are strangely unexplainable, as is the boiler house?
So it’s only been a week back on the road and I’m chilling again! Well why not, it’s just so quiet and peaceful here, what more would one wish for. It was never the plan, but then a plan is only there to get you out the door, the rest is to make up as you go along. Well, that’s my theory on how it works!
I feel this bicycle journey could be a case of stop and go. A bit like an African taxi! As my friend Elvis Munis ‘Chile to Kili’ would say in Swahili, “Pole Pole” (Slowly Slowly)!
Wild/stealth camping spots can be viewed when zooming in on each location. Also, click on the icon for a photo and another click on the photo will open it up in Flickr.


You can click on each photo for an enhanced Flickr view or the above Flickr slideshow for further photos for this post.


Please also take a peek at my video. Turn the sound on.


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