Cromwell to Owaka

I briefly mentioned in my previous post, I’d been offered the opportunity to fill in for the management at the The Catlins YHA in Owaka 
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. So backdown I head.
  • Cromwell 5th January 2013
Finally we (bike and I) set out from Cromwell after Christmas and New Year. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve ridden the bike in touring anger. Except, for a few excursions around Cromwell and my previous feeble attempts to make headway Best Laid Plans.
Goldfields Kawarau Gorge
I leave my brothers after midday as I’d lost a strap off one of my panniers. Once found, on the road the sun is high and dry. This time the road is quiet compared to my last attempt the day before New Year. Once through the narrowing Kawarau Gorge the road opens out following the river.
The Nevis road
En route I pass Alvira, a cycle tourist too. We stop and chat. I pass her again with my video camera rolling. See video below.
I turn back at one point thinking I’d missed the AJ Hackett bungy bridge. I had not, but as I turned around there’s my brother pulling over. He was on his way back from Queenstown, and kindly passed me two McDonald’s cheese burgers. Nice jester, and a pleasant surprise. He did say he was hoping to throw them at me as he drove past…. seemed to amuse him!
AJ Hackett bungy viewing
I’d previously done my bungees in Cairns, Australia while backpacking 2001/02. Four in total, I think that’s enough for one lifetime!Jump
From the bridge I mount the trail towards Arrowtown.
Kawarau bridge & bungy
This town was once big in gold, with a lot of Chinese arriving during the gold rush. Plus everywhere else in New Zealand by the looks of it!
Signs abound saying No Freedom Camping, well humbug to that! I meandered about half km up the 4WD track leading out towards Macetown.
Here I find a perfect spot next to river amongst the trees. No one will find me here. That’s unless you’re a sand fly, then you all find me! Bug repellent applied called Goodbye Sandfly. Obviously the sand flies haven’t read the instructions because they just carry on with their god-dam right to bite regardless! And, they do bite, which you know about.
I splash in the river and duly to bed.
Arrowtown river
Occasionally I’d hear 4x4s crossing the river towards Macetown or returning.
Arrowtown camp
As I listened to one such vehicle, it seemed to take a turn for the worse ie. me! Driving up the embankment I was pitched on. Not that it would’ve got far as it was too dense with vegetation. Never less, I jumped out of my tent and made them very aware I was here. Waving like a lunatic! They stopped, they reversed, they’re gone!
And, they tell me, be careful not to damage this/their pristine environment. Kiwis, I’m sorry, seem to be the biggest culprits in my book.
Arrowtown house
Arrowtown is quite special as it has an air of the wild-west about it in its buildings, with this, it also attracts a lot of tourists.
Arrowtown stome walling
So photos taken and quickly out of a tourist populated dodge!
Overlooking Arrowtown
Now on the trail that winds to Queenstown via Lake Hayes and through Arrowtown golf course.
Arrowtown Lake Hayes golf club
The lake has a narrow track, but serves well enough for a bike. Once I’d made an initial steep climb it was generally flat or downhill.
Lake Hayes
The trail rides over the Shot Over River where many of the jets boats from Queenstown come and ply their trade carrying tourists on hair-raising-white-water-knuckle-rides.
Shotover bridge
Trail into Queenstown
I’d initially planned to board the Earnslaw Steam Ferry to cross Lake Wakatipu across to Walters Peak. But, I’d made the dreadful mistake of asking the folks in the Queenstown I-Site (info shop) what the conditions were like for a bike. They put the fear of god-in-me! No, its too wet, its too hilly, there’s no camping aloud before Movora Lake bla bla bla….! Why did I dam well ask? I should’ve just boarded and being done with it!
I watched the ferry depart, thinking hmmm…. I should be on it. In hindsight, don’t ask, just do!
Earnslaw steamer
I head off with a heavy heart. Exploring the gardens and bowling green as I make my way out of Queenstown. Glad to be leaving though, far too many tourists, again!
Queenstown bowling club
The Queentown trial winds back over a bridge and follows the Penisular road onwards to Kelvin Heights.
Lake Wakatipu from Kelvin Heights
On the peninsular trail with Queenstown in the background.
It’s now around 3 o’clock, and I’m mindful for a camping spot for the night. But, as the peninsular and Kelvin Heights are relatively built up areas, I’m not to sure where I’m going to look. There are occasional signs along the water’s edge indication no camping. Also, most places could be considered a walking or cycling  thoroughfare, so no good either.
At Kelvin Heights; I’ve a golf course on one side and the lake on the other, with a line of fur trees separating them. I scurry up, down and through the woods looking for a good spot, also out of sight of pedestrians and vehicles.
Kelvin Heights woods
I find my spot. Open from the trees and private.
The ground is not perfectly flat so I set about with my trowel on a bit of landscaping. A slight gradient in the ground is enough to make ones sleep restless. So the ten minutes of reconstruction is worth it.
Camping Kelvin Heights
I’d be happy hiding away here for another day. I do have in mind though my next camp spot is also good, so up and away is not so bad.
Queenstwon to Kingston Lake Wakatipu
Once again as I cycle the Queenstown to Kingston road it’s shrouded in cloud. Can’t win!
Rose cottage Kingston
Arriving at Kingston the weather has now abated and I can take some photos that were not possible before. Rose Cottage above been one. Not sure that’s its name?
King Wheel cottage Kingston
King Wheel cottage though is certainly apt!
Fairlight station The Kingston Flyer
This time in passing no train, but the weather has certainly improved for a good shot of my trusty ride at Fairlight railway station. This station is at the other end of the line for The Kingston Flyer.
After a hefty headwind into Athol I find my spot again, resting on the Erye River.
Eyre Creek Athol
With days to spare I decide on a layover day here. The weather is so good, would be foolish not to!
IT dept!
I’ve tried a few times to write up my journal while on the road, but once I start, I just can’t be asked! Why, when one could be relaxing or taking a look around the area.
The Vege shed Athol
Athol mainly consists of, well not much. It has a very good veg’s shop, a tourist’s cafe, school etc, that’s about it.
The Vege shed motor
Athol school
At least I can spend a bit more time and prepare a healthy vege curry for dinner.
Curry dinner
Nothing better than waking in a morning and being greeted to the wonderful marvels of nature.
Eyre creek morning
Back on the road and heading towards Te Anau.
Another piece of apparel is discarded, my winter cycle leggings. These have had good use for two winters in the UK, but I’m not likely to use them this year or journeys onwards (bet I eat my words on that one!) So that’s got to be near on another 1/3rd kg lighter. Whoop whoop! 
I enter Mossburn, which is the final stop before the 50 km’s to Te Anua. Supplies topped up at the stores.
The weather en route had already been windy and light rain. After shopping, I take a rain stop at the rugby ground stall with a bite of lunch.
Looking towards the west it doesn’t look good. Dark, wet and windy. If you think I’m heading into that, your av’ing a Giraffe! (Cockney (London) rhyming slang)
The east looks blue and clear. Dam it, let’s ride the blue sky with the wind behind. All of sudden I’m not battling the weather and enjoying some very pleasant quiet back roads, wind assist. Happy days.
Near Benmore rain rain rain
As I wish not to backtrack too many roads I head towards Centre Bush, southerly. The weather behind has truly caught up now. Once at Centre Bush I scout around for a spot to camp. I follow the sign towards the community centre (always worth a look in).  
As I’m about to pitch under the overhang to the Rugby club, I notice a door open. I look further, ‘ changing rooms. That’ll do fine.
Centre Bush rugby club
It smells a bit musty! But after a sweep and a wipe of the surfaces we’re ready to settle in for what looks like a blustery night.
Rugby showers
Shower corridor, just the job.
At one point a car did pull up outside, I’m expecting to be busted. But, after an hour the couple make-off. It looked like some clandestine meeting as I sneakily peaked through the grubby windows!
That night, the heavens truly opened up. It felt at times the roof was going to blow off.
Rugby club
It was a welcome sight to see it had all passed by the morning.
The route now took me back to Mataura. I enjoy the fruits of a tailwind. If you wish to see where the wind blows predominantly, just check out the orientation of the school run bus shelters.
Wind shelter
Soon after leaving this brief stop I hear what must be every cycle adventurers worst nightmare. A strange clanking/rattle noise emulating from the rear. Something had broken? I hesitate to stop, afraid of what has occurred and hoping it might go away! But, also the requirement to stop quickly and assess immediately is crucial. We don’t wish to exacerbate any further damage.
I pull in behind a hedge to escape the wind. One of the worst things possible, an eyelet on the fame has snapped off, but is still attached to the hex bolt, which is still on the Tubus rack. All I can do at this stage is attack it with a frenzied assault of Zip ties! It holds well.Broken eyelet repairs
Off we go. Occasionally checking my handiwork, all seems to be fine. Rock solid.
The frames eyelets would’ve only been designed to take mudguards or a light rack. Not my 15 kg of luggage. I believe this’ll hold until I arrive in Owaka, as long as I stay clear of corrugated gravel roads.
I’ve a feeling that the damage was caused when I descended the Nevis back in my last post. With a steep descent and corrugation under tyre, the eyelet did get a true work out. Not surprised, my own fault really.
Mataura playground
Arriving at the playground (domain) I make myself a coffee. Next, the local pool for a swim and a hot shower’n’shave. Never a true fan of community baths, but it was quiet. Nice and relaxing after day in the saddle.
Mataura tennis court
This time I improve on my location at the tennis courts, embedding in the corner of a solitary court
Tennis court camping
I was approached by boys smoking cigarettes around the play frames. They were more alarmed by how far I’d cycled and sleeping in a tent. Pretty much said I was nuts!
In thought afterwards, these lads being, what fourteen to fifteen years of age, smoking, but still not able to break away from their childhoods by hanging around the play equipment! Bless them, ruins their hard man image!
Mataura plant (meat processing)
The above photo is the Mataura River flowing past the Mataura processing plant before Christmas, and below now. I said we had some rain the previous night.
Mataura river after rains
Instead of making the more direct journey to Owaka, I head the 13 km’s towards Gore (northerly) as from there the railway line travels eastwards. The road follows the line, so with my infinite wisdom surely then the road should be fairly flat?
Gore library
When in Gore I scout out a spot for the night. Tucked up in the corner of the miniature railway line. Will do for later.
The rest of the day is spent in Gore library catching up on, emails and everything else that emanates into the ether.
Gore home of brown trout
Also the Gore river has broken its banks.
Gore river flooded
My secluded spot besides the miniature railway line.
Camping Gore playing fields
Except for a few kids coming near, spotting the tent, then running away screaming, otherwise a quiet time!
Gore playing fields
As I’d hoped, following a railway line (full sized now!) that the road to would also be fairly flat. It was, with a of a smudging tailwind.
Railway crossing
It took me sometime to reason why they’d call this road the presidential highway, when there’s only a Prime Minister. Then the penny dropped. I’m riding from Gore (Al) to Clinton (Bill). Bit slow am I today!
Predsidential highway
Seems most little towns have a Masonic Lodge tucked away, Clinton been no exception.
Lodge Clinton
On reaching Balclutha (Clutha is Scottish) and 72 km’s now under by belt for the day, with 30 km’s to Owaka, and expecting a headwind, now is the time to stock up on those sugar reserves. It’s becomes a jelly been frenzy!
Jelly babies
Complimented with crabsticks!
As I enter The Catlins once more, I’m greeted as before to headwinds.
The Catlins
The last 30 km’s from Balclutha with hills and winds was particularly tough, but then I’d already done some mileage before Balclutha, so no surprise.
I finally call into the Four Square stores for supplies before I make the minute cycle to the The Catlins YHA backpackers.
  • Owaka 12th January 2013 – 477 km’s
Sit back, relax and manage a backpackers for the next two weeks. Sweet!


Wild/stealth camping spots can be viewed when zooming in on each location. Also, click on the icon for a photo and another click will open it up in Flickr.


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




3 responses to “Cromwell to Owaka

  • Michael Odesse

    Just been following your travels in New Zealand as my wife and I would like to do a similar trip. Great to see all the info you’re loading onto your site. Much appreciated. Wondering though, just how bad are the sand flies? Heard a lot about them being quite a bother. Is that true? Cheers!


  • Nigel Francis

    Hi Mike,

    The east (east of the Southern Alps) and south I’ve had no problems with either sand flies or mosquito’s. But! now as I’m cycling up the west coast, my world has changed from pleasant camping to a challenge! Advice if your not prepared to deal with SF is stay at accommodation if possible.

    I’ve spent two nights at a Backpackers in Fox Glazier (camping in garden) to just rest from them!

    While cycling though OK. It’s just when you stop in the evening but far worse in the morning.


  • Nigel Francis

    Sandflies can be beaten, just cover up big time. It’s the only thing that really works. Sandflies I found are only really dominant near water. If you can get onto higher drier ground and in a breeze, you should be fine.

I look forward to your comments

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