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  1. #1
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    nz, general camping & wheel questions

    got a bit of a plan to do 3 weeks in the south island of new zealand (aiming to do a "u" from hokitika down to queenstown then up to christchurch) in early december with a bunch of complete touring novices (myself included) and was hoping to get a little advice on a few tihngs.

    first thing is to do with nz itself and the wind there in particular. everything i've looked at suggests that the winds blow out of the n/nw. bearing in mind that most of the fun of the south island seems to be concentrated down the west coast does that mean that it's recommended to ride south down starting from somewhere like hokitika rather than trying to finish by riding north up there? bearing in mind that we're all novices i'm a little concerned that that coast might be a little too "rugged" as an introduction.

    second question is more of a general touring bike question - i've got an '07 520 and have had major wheel problems. i've recently taken delivery of a warranty replacement rear wheel (bit of a stuff up though - it's 32 spoke instead of 36. grrr.) but from some of the stuff i read on here it almost seems worthwhile keeping a spare "touring rear wheel" with 40 spokes. does this sound worth the hassle? i haven't the faintest about wheel trueing but from some of the stuff written it sounds as though by having a different spoke count one needs to use different spokes. am i reading that right? weight is of no consequence as speed is of no consequence.

    last question is a bit of a brainwave and perhaps more of a general camping question with specific nz interest. apparently the sandflies there are enough to drive one batty. as there is likely to be 5 or 6 or possibly even 8 of us traipsing around i has thought to make a portable mosquito netting canopy by getting a big sheet (say 6 metres square) of the stuff, putting 4 connecting points in the "centre" and tent peg holes around the outside so that we can throw some ropes/strings/fishing wire into the trees to suspend it above our cooking/sitting/hanging out area using tent pegs around the bottom to pull the "walls" outwards. anybody done/seen anything similar or can think of any obvious pitfalls that an avowed novice might have missed? that stuff folds down to nothigna nd weighs less - i had thought that perhaps it would roll into an old sleeping bag bag - about 1ft x 1.75ft or so.

    any feedback would be greatly appreciated. cheers.

  2. #2
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Actually, the prevailing wind on New Zealand's west coast is different from the rest of the South Island. It seems to come from the SW on that side of the alps, and I saw quite a few trees pointing north when I was there last year. The other thing you have to remember, is that the country between Queenstown and Christchurch is, for the most, very exposed. Conversely, the west coast is hemmed in against the alps, and much of it is covered in rainforest.

    East of the alps the strongest winds by far will come from the NW, so keep that in mind. Basically it means that at some point you'll be riding against the prevailing wind, and I think the west coast is the place to do that, so start riding south from Hokitika. Be aware, however, that in New Zealand, the wind can swing 180 degrees in a split-second. Also be prepared for rain, and I mean real rain. The Haast pass at the southern end of the west coast averages 6 metres of rain per annum. That's the sort of rain we're talking about. It's manageable, but be prepared. Go to a camping store and get some dry bags for your clothes. Rain is much more bearable when you have something dry to change into at the end of the day.

    As far as the issue with novice cyclists goes, the most important thing to consider here is keep the days short and manageable. Don't set targets of riding 100km/day if you've rarely done that in your life, and stay flexible so that if you do strike a patch of really bad weather (and remember that really bad in NZ is a lot worse than really bad in Victoria) you can bail pretty easily. Also watch the section between the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the west coast, not huge climbs, but short and very sharp.

    As far as the sandflies go, I've heard horror stories but I can honestly say that for the most part they didn't bother me all that much when I was there. Maybe it's because of all the vegemite that I eat, perhaps it's because it was cold enough to wear long layers most of the time (this was in February/March), but apart from Lake Gunn near Milford Sound and Owen River further north, I barely noticed they were there. I carried insect repellent, but rarely used it. I'm told it's only moderately effective anyway.
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  3. #3
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    The wind in NZ is just like Melb, (NZ gets what you get about 2 days later)depends on where the High pressure systems are. The winds can be a tailwind from heaven one day followed by the headwind from hell the next (thats what I had going from Te Anu to Invercargill).
    Sandflys are really bad on the west coast , but I didn't seem to have too many of them once over the mountains and into the Mckenzie country and Southland.

    The 32 spoke rear wheel should be OK, 36 would be better, but I would be wary of 40 spoke wheels as rims can be very hard to find. For any repairs in Melb go to Abbotsford Cycles at Richmond Rail station, they are the touring gurus in Melbourne.
    Last edited by fks; 09-02-07 at 02:55 AM.

  4. #4
    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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    Whatever you have heard about the sandflies is probably not true.
    They are 10x worse that that!
    Though I did do a few days on the west coast in feb (10 day loop around the top of the island, 1000km) and had no problems, so might depend on when you go and exactly where.

    Get a copy of "pedlers paradise". Its great.
    http://www.paradise-press.co.nz/ppguides.html

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    thanks for the responses.

    regarding distances we are all pretty much prepared to just go as far as we can manage and spend the first few days redistibuting weight to try to find the right blend. 100kms a day is not really a target though 70 odd would be nice. we're planning a few weekenders in the build up and all of us either are or are soon to be commuting to varying degrees of regualrity. even our "weaker" riders have done a few 100km plus days (unloaded) so we're hopeful that with a few months training we should be able to at least make 50kms plus without anybody hurting themselves.

    regarding the winds and weather - thanks very much, i'll admit that in spite of all the journals that i'd been reading i had been thinking "ah, that's not in december, can't be that different to melbourne december!". i'd really been looking forward to the haast pass - looks like it'd be pretty incredible. also looks like there's a stretch there with no facilities.

    funny that there seems to be conflicting reports on sandflies - perhaps very early on we'll discover whether any of us have the right tasting blood!

    thanks again.

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    re: peddler's paradise - will definitely be grabbing a copy. cheers.

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    The other thing to know about NZ is that there are numerous hostels, so if the weather is really crap you can sleep indoors. Most holiday parks (campgrounds) have indoor kitchens, with stoves/hot water/sinks/fridges. Don't bother bringing a stove unless you are planning to wild camp. Do bring cooking utensils, though.

    The sandflies aren't THAT bad, and they do dislike deet based bug repellent, but not citronella based ones, If they are really awful at camp, you can go into the kitchen to escape. I only ever really had trouble with them in the southwest, wild camping.

    Haast pass is pretty freakin' steep, as are the roads around Franz Joseph. If you are really novices to cycling as well as touring, i would change my plans to stay (or at least start) in the east instead, the hills are much shorter and less steep. It's downright flat around c'church. The northeast coast is beautiful, a vacation. The southwest is incredibly rugged and goregeous, but you pay for it with hills and rain. If you do go there, don't miss Milford Sound, it's worth getting a ride out there and doing some boat thing - I did a 1/2 day kayak trip, it was super cool.

    Wanaka is a million times cooler than queenstown, if you have a choice between the two. It's like q'town without all the tourist ripoff crap. But the pass between the two cities (crown range rd) is one of the steepest roads in the country, at least south to north, so you might want to go around the long way.

    and as someone else said, the wind changes direction daily. for me it changed 90 degrees per day, seriously. so you just have to practice an attitude of acceptance.

    100km/day is a LOT in NZ. It's very hilly. Think Laver's Hill over and over and over and over again all day every day, only steeper.
    ...

  8. #8
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clipperton View Post
    regarding distances we are all pretty much prepared to just go as far as we can manage and spend the first few days redistibuting weight to try to find the right blend. 100kms a day is not really a target though 70 odd would be nice. we're planning a few weekenders in the build up and all of us either are or are soon to be commuting to varying degrees of regualrity. even our "weaker" riders have done a few 100km plus days (unloaded) so we're hopeful that with a few months training we should be able to at least make 50kms plus without anybody hurting themselves.
    Definitely sneak in a weekend tour or two before you go. It gives you the chance to test both yourself and your equipment. That will give you some idea of the capabilities of your group.

    I think the most important thing with the days is flexibility. When the weather turns nasty in NZ, it turns really nasty (and I rode through a cyclone a couple of years ago, so I have something to compare it to). Seriously, I had a couple of days over there when even 50km was a major effort. You're not going to Invercargill, so you won't cop the absolute worst of it, but it's good to be prepared for it. This is, of course, at the extreme end of the scale, most days probably won't be that bad.

    Someone mentioned hostels, something to remember here is that while they are plentiful, they also fill up quickly when the weather is bad. If it turns nasty, it's a good idea to try to have your accommodation sorted by around 2.30pm -- otherwise you may find yourself caught short.

    For all that though, the scenery in the South Island is breathtaking, and definitely worth it.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  9. #9
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    thanks valygrl and chris.
    there are definintely plans afoot for a few practice runs around country victoria, hopefully taking in a few hills. personally i'm working my way up to it owing to my designation as group "mule" - getting in between 250 - 350kms per week depending on study commitments (guess what i'm meant to be doing right now?) and tackling as many hills as i can find.

    just found your tour on crazyguy chris and loved it - much food for thought there (and, as mentioned before, much procrastination from study). if anything it has me thinking that our best bet might be to ride west from christchurch then down the coast to haast and inland to queenstown hopefully riding though potentially bussing to milford sound before bussing it back up to christchurch. we're there 7-25 december (xmas morning flight) so probably only really have 12 days riding with 4 or 5 rest days.

    thanks again for your advice, inspiration and accessory to procrastination - i'll blame you when i get my marks back.

  10. #10
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    Bring me over 6 bottles of tokay and three of overproof bundy. I'll meet you at the airport, cobber! :-).

  11. #11
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Yeah, if you're short of time, you could base yourself in Queenstown for a couple of days and take a bus trip to Milford Sound and back. See if you can get a cruise out there, it's a lovely area. I'd say head out of ChCh toward Cromwell (another interesting town), then to Queenstown, onto Wanaka and up the west coast. You could possibly then take the tranzalpine train back from Greymouth to Christchurch.

    Just one other thing, is the December date set in stone? You'll be hitting the school holidays toward the end of it, which might mean a lot of tourist traffic on the roads and harder to find accommodation. I got away with it when I did Tasmania a few years back, but I'm not sure I'd try it in NZ. If you could bring it forward, even by a couple of weeks just to avoid the peak holiday period, it might make things a little easier.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
    "We invite everyone to question the entire culture we take for granted." - Manic Street Preachers.
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  12. #12
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    sadly, (well, actually, gladly - no backing out now) the tickets are booked - we actually brought it forward from a boxing day departure for that very reason. i reckon that the make up of the holidays this year (take 4 days leave for an 11 day break) will see most folks not doing much until after christmas. i will undoubtedly be proven heinously wrong in this assumption.

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