Insights & photos by Perry
Banks Peninsula was the last of the South Island Relay group legs, so time for the final push north - but why take a direct route when trips like this are about a whole lot more than just the destination?
With a mate from Christchurch joining me (Kent Gibbons) we set off.
Travelling via bike from Christchurch to Nelson can be a little tedious with long stretches of road.
The magic often lies in the in between - so for Hanmer to St Arnaud we thought we'd mix it up a bit.
From Hanmer there is 112 km's of gravel road (known as the Rainbow Road) that shoots straight up the guts of the Upper South Island crossing both the Rainbow & Molesworth Stations.
We headed out of Hanmer and up and over Jollie's Pass, then the road splits; the Molesworth on the right taking you to Blenheim & the Rainbow Road on the left (skirting the St James) taking you 110km north up to St Arnaud. Into a headwind, with a broken spoke only 10km's in - off & up we pedaled.
At 1347 metres Island Saddle is the highest point on the Hanmer to St Arnaud route & claims to be the highest publicly accessible road in NZ. The pass straddles the boundary between Marlborough and Canterbury. Once you're over the saddle, it's on to Lake Tennyson & then down the Wairau River.
Eventually we arrived at the entrance to the Rainbow Ski Field and then it was on to St Arnaud.
9 hours of pedaling - a fantastic day - and we ended it with a well earned steak and chips at the wonderful St Arnaud Alpine Lodge.
The next day it was an early start to connect with Thomas from Nelson Helicopters who gave us a lift onto the Old Ghost Road's Lyell Saddle....
Joining Kent and I for this leg was Sam Ng - an ultradistance runner and Nelson businessman.
The Old Ghost Road is a world class shared mountain bike and walking track from Lyell (near Murchison) to Seddonville (near Westport) - 87km of Alpine terrain. We would bike it - Sam would run.
We gave Sam a 90 minute head start & then the chase was on!
Over a mountain - through a boneyard - stinking hot weather - and murderous sandflies.
Seven very sweaty hours later - with 1km to go - we had an eye on Sam ahead!
Did we catch him ? Would you have ?
After fantastic but long days in the saddle, walking & kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park with seals, stingrays, singing cicadas & Ian Galley was a perfect compliment.
Darryl Wilson (boss & CEO of tour provider Wilsons) welcomed us into their space. 8 generations of Wilsons have lived in the Abel Tasman & it was great fun staying & paddling with their team.
We were with an interesting group of international travellers that included judges, professors & Wall St fund managers. The homestead is the perfect place to relax & the night sky at Awaroa is simply breathtaking.
A quick visit to Nelson Hospital with the baton...
And then it was back on the bike to Picton via the Maungatapu Track - which is infamous due to the Maungatapu murders in 1866. Five people travelling from Picton to Nelson were robbed for their cash & gold then murdered by the Burgess Gang who were convicted when one of the gang turned on the others & provided the evidence needed to convict them. They were the only people to ever be hung in Nelson. It's a grade 4 track with lots of altitude changes that brings you out at the Pelorus Bridge.
After touching base with the team at Wairau Hospital, it was on to Picton.
That's the South Island complete... from Bluff January 5th to Picton on February 12th.
On Friday 16th weather permitting the Orthopaedic Flying Squadron transports us to Wellington & the baton literally passes to the North Island....bring it on!!