Waiuta to Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Distance: 209 miles
Time on bike: 5.5 hours

We wild camped last night in the deserted gold mining town of Waiuta and it was absolutely freezing. After depositing just about every item of clothing in our possession over our bodies, we manage to make it through the night and get enough sleep.

There’s always a strange feeling when wild camping in that your senses are much more alert to sounds and noises from the outside of the tent. The flapping of the tarp on the bikes, at times, sounded like the rumble of car tyres over gravel and your mind races at what may be going on outside. We’re also sleeping directly above mine shafts, hundreds of metres deep. What if there’s a collapse, or a release of poisonous gas?

We’re awake at 7 am, just before sunrise and don’t waste any time getting packed away. There’s a frost on the ground around the tent, so there’s no disputing that the air was a bit chilly last night 455 metres above sea level.

At about 7.20 am the tent is packed away and the workers we’d seen yesterday evening return for another day of taking samples. Perhaps the days of gold mining here aren’t quite over. They don’t pay much attention to us, and maybe they don’t even notice we’re there as we parked quite far from the access road.

At about 7.40 am we get moving and it’s absolutely freezing for the four mile gravel road descent before we dare switch on the heated jackets. We’d used both bikes last night for charging the laptop and the batteries were a bit sluggish this morning turning over the engines, so we want to give them a bit of charge before plugging in. Even when we get back on tarmac for the remaining eight miles to the main road, we need to be cautious as there’s a thick frost by the side of the road.

Back on the road we get going, but only cruise at 50 mph to balance making progress, charging the batteries and not getting too much wind chill. After about thirty minutes Carl needs to stop and pull some rubber gloves over his thin summer gloves as his fingers are freezing. Béné has already switched to her Gore Tex gloves and has even put her winter liners in her bike trousers, but Carl is still hopeful of some warm weather to come.

When we stop, Carl opts to keep his engine running as there’s a bit of concern in the back of his mind about how much power the battery has. Unfortunately Béné cuts her engine and then finds out the battery is pretty dead and won’t restart the bike. It takes a few attempts and about twenty minutes before the bike fires into life again with a solid bump start.

Back riding again, we decide to leave the heated jackets unplugged for the remaining thirty miles to Greymouth to allow the batteries to get some charge. This really makes us appreciate how much value they have at keeping us warm when the temperature dips.

When we get to Greymouth we head straight for the McDonald’s and devour a hunger buster breakfast and only slightly abuse the heater in the bathroom. Afterwards we then pop in to see the local jade museum which as well as jewellery, has a nice collection of jade boulders. As always, seeing where and how the rock is formed and its significance for the Maori, gives us a bit more of an appreciation for the precious stone and the Maori legends surrounding it.

Before leaving Greymouth, we pop into one of the local shops and buy a couple of hot water bottles which should make any future cold camping nights a bit more bearable.

By the time we pull out of Greymouth it’s 11.45 am, but we have another superb day of good weather with no clouds in the sky. On the ride south we do a detour for a circular ride around Lake Kaniere, the highlight of which was seeing Dorothy Falls. It had a perfect pool for swimming at the bottom, but the air was just that bit too chilly to coax us into the water. Although we took a picnic to the lake, the sand flies were just a bit too unbearable so we postpone until we find a better venue.

On the ride back to the coast we take a twenty five mile detour to see the Hokitika Gorge, which turned out to be pleasant but nothing too special. Again we take our picnic, but again the sand flies are a complete pain in the arse. A picnic in Europe will never again be quite so appreciated in that you can relax, snooze and not continually be pestered and bitten by insects.

Back on the way south again, we stop off in the town of Kaniere for fuel and eventually manage to have our picnic and a quite picturesque position near to a glacial river. We’re aiming to get to the town of Franz Josef Glacier this evening and are looking forward to doing a ski plane flight which lands on the glacier. This is something that was recommended to us by a French couple we met at the Bay of Islands and we’re really looking forward to. We call ahead to the company that operates the flights and it sounds like we’ll be fine for doing this tomorrow and arrange to call into their office when we get to town.

The journey to Franz Josef is about ninety miles and is pretty nice with the clear blue skies eventually relenting as the sun goes down over the sea to the west of us. For the last ten minutes of the ride we’re in the dark and get to town for about 6.15 pm, calling straight in at the office to arrange the glacier flight.

As it happens, the office also runs skydiving over the glacier and as this is quite comparable in price but potentially more of an experience, we decide to think it over and decide in the morning what we do.

We then sort ourselves out with a nice little self-contained cabin as a bit of a treat and then pop to the local shop to get some nibbles, a bottle of wine and settle down for the evening to watch the Royal Wedding live on the telly.

Jour 376 – Vendredi 29 Avril 2011. De Waiuta au Glacier Franz Josef , Nouvelle-Zélande.

Distance: 334 km – Temps à moto: 5.5 heures

Il a fait très froid cette nuit, et quand on se lève, on voit que l’herbe est gelée au bord de la forêt, et heureusement pas autours de là ou on a campé… on aurai pu avoir encore plus froid !

On a dormi avec toutes nos épaisseurs, et on n’avait pas chaud. On ne traine pas ce matin, on déjeunera a Greymouth, on plie nos affaires au plus vite et on monte sur les motos. On ne branche pas nos vestes chauffantes tout de suite pour ne pas vider les batteries, mais dès qu’on sort des routes de gravier on peut enfin les brancher. Il fait vraiment froid ce matin. La vallée est très belle, couverte de gel.

On s’arrête pour que Carl puisse mettre des gants plus épais, il laisse son moteur tourner, mais j’oublie le risque de problème de batterie et je coupe le moteur… bien sûr, quand j’essaye de redémarrer, ma batterie est morte. Bref, on se réchauffe en poussant la moto sur la légère pente de la route pour faire la faire démarrer. Heureusement on y arrive enfin après une vingtaine de minutes.

On continue ensuite jusqu’à Greymouth ou on va directement au Mac Donald pour nous y réchauffer avec un chocolat chaud et un burger. C’est agréable de nous y réchauffer, et on a la chance de voir la météo dans un journal : il va faire très beau sur la côte Est pour les prochains jours.

Une fois réchauffés on fait un tour dans la ville de Greymouth. On va voir une galerie de Jade, la pierre précieuse sacrée pour les Maoris. On en lit la légende et il y a de nombreuses grosses pierres et de petites pièces sculptées. On va aussi faire quelques magasins pour y acheter deux bouillottes, et on a la chance d’en trouver, si ca gèle a nouveau ce soir on n’aura pas trop froid.

On reprend la route peu avant midi, il fait un temps superbe, il n’y a pas de nuages dans le ciel. On longe un peu la cote, puis on fait un petit détour autours du lac Kaniere. On va voir de belles chutes d’eau, les chutes Dorothy, ou on se serai bien baigné si il ne faisait pas si frais.

On emmène ensuite de quoi pique-niquer au bord du lac, mais les mouches de sable nous sautes dessus tellement rapidement qu’on n’a le temps que de manger un drôle de fruit qu’on a acheté : un Kiwea, c’est un peu comme un fruit de la passion, mais avec moins de gout, mais très déshydratant.

On retourne le long de la cote, et on fait un autre petit détour pour aller voir les gorges Hokitika, c’est un coin assez joli avec une rivière d’un superbe bleu, mais à nouveau, pas moyen de faire un pique-nique à cause des insectes.

On arrive a faire un pique-nique un peu plus loin sur une aire de repos puis on prend la direction du village de Franz Josef. On y arrive juste après la tombée de la nuit et on va directement au bureau de réservation d’un vol en petit avion au-dessus des glaciers qu’on nous a conseillé de faire.

Quand on arrive, la jeune qui fait les réservations nous montre la vidéo de son premier saut en chute libre d’avion qu’elle a fait cet après-midi… on hésite un peu, c’est le même prix que le vol sur le glacier, mais avec un saut en plus…on décidera demain, mais on fera un vol… et peut être un saut.

On passe dans un premier camping ou il ne reste pas de cabine, mais on n’a pas envie de camper ce soir. Heureusement, au camping suivant, il y a un petit studio de disponible, avec télé et cuisine, bref, on sera au chaud, on pourra regarder le mariage royal en Grande-Bretagne, tout en cuisinant quelque-chose de sympa. Super !