Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cycling the North Island - Day 02 - Cape Palliser

The lighthouse at Cape Palliser, the North Island's southernmost point.
Sunday 25th November
Yesterday evening I was happily pedaling on HW53 towards Martinborough, the North Island's premium wine region, when I saw the sign for Cape Pallister (the island's southernmost point) and decided to go there, literally on the spur of the moment (ok, not on the spur, but after ten minutes of thinking and checking Google Maps). I had been originally planning to go there, but then scrapped the idea as not time effective, since it's a dead end ride 70km each way, plus it was supposed to be very hilly, difficult riding partly on gravel, at least according to the Rough Guide. Never trust guidebooks. It was a beautiful, pleasant ride and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.


Look closely, do you see the snowy peaks
in the background? The South Island!
I spent the previous night near the junction with HW53; since there was no camping ground and every inch of the road was fenced up on both sides, I had to ask a farmer for permission to pitch my tent on his property. This is one of the few things I really dislike about NZ - there are thousands of hectares of open spaces, mostly deserted or grazed, but you can't pitch a bloody tent anywhere, because it's all private land surrounded by an electric fence. The 90-year old couple whose door I knocked at at 8pm was a bit surprised, but had no objections for me to stay. After a sound sleep it was time to resolve a big dilemma - should I cycle all the way to the Cape, with a nice tailwind, or leave the bike somewhere nearby and hitch-hike there and back to save time and energy, since I'd have to go back the same way anyway? I kept turning the thought over and over in my head, while enjoying a beautiful ride through farmland, slightly downhill and with a favorable wind, until four hours later I eventually reached a long steep descent down the cliff almost to the beach.

A little bit windy...
After a break and a short walk to the Putangirua Pinnacles (where Peter Jackson filmed some scenes from King Kong and also one of his early splatter movies), I eventually did hitch-hike to the lighthouse at the end of the road, and the local guy who was giving me a ride said that it was possible to get to Martinborough without going back the same way. I'd have to cross a 10km section of coastline on a very tough 4WD track through some private land, which would bring me to another dead-end road, also going to Martinborough. That caught my interest, so I hitch-hiked back to my bike, jumped on, enjoyed a splendid coastal ride with good tailwind to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, jumped a gate and now here I am, at the other end of an unmarked track joining two roads leading to the same place. It was no easy task, though. The track is very tough, involving big rocks, mud, several gates to jump, and a huge sand dune. Add extremely strong wind gales throwing shingle in your face and you get something only for the adventurous. As I'm writing these lines, the wind is blowing so bloody hard that it would send my tent flying if I weren't sitting in it!

All things considered, I'm really, really glad I rode to Cape Palliser. It's a beautiful ride with the most amazing views of the South Island; you can see its snowy peaks, looking as if they were floating in mid-air, and apparently during winter, when the whole Kaikoura Range is covered with snow, the views are even more fantastic. That alone is a reason to come back!

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