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--- News and reports ---

 

Nr.XIII: New Zealand,Southeast Asia

07.04.2011 (New Zealand) - 26.12.2011 (Vietnam)

 

 

 

31.12.2011, Los Angeles (USA): In the morning of the 24th of December we celebrate Philipp’s birthday together with M@x (www.x-sound.at) in Ho Chi Minh City, later on that day Christmas. Christmas in Vietnam’s biggest city is different indeed. Everywhere speakers are blasting American Christmas Songs through the streets loudly – with a touch of Asian rhythm. Decorated plastic trees are also everywhere and amazingly ugly. The later the night, the more motorcycles fill the streets. Whole families sit on them on their way into/through the city center. Kids wear Santa Claus Costumes and snack on candyfloss and roasted insects. All the exhaust from the motorcycles and all the noise in the streets create not exactly a "Christmas-atmosphere" for us. It is more a "shrill night" than a silent night. When we have seen enough, we go to a restaurant and have a Christmas-Pizza, which is almost becoming our travel-tradition now. On the next day the Christmas-Spook is over and we pack up. We change the continent again and fly to Los Angeles with a stop in Seoul. As two years ago we are staying with our friends Marlies and Setso, who have a bigger family now: baby Milo is here since nine weeks. We enjoy sleeping without ear plugs (the baby does not scream loud enough), the clear air, the beaches, the sea and the neat city. We will celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Metodi’s, before starting to cycle east to Miami...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  


23.12.2011, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam): After two days and lots of rain during the night we leave Siem Reap early in the morning. Via a bumpy road we get to a small jetty at the Tonle Lake and put our bikes on the roof of a small wooden ferry. The next eight hours we chug across the northern part of the lake and then some flooded areas and natural canals. We see floating villages, where neighbours visit each other by boat. Floating shops, floating petrol stations, floating restaurants and floating residential houses – no land in sight. The villages seem very clean and well looked after - because garbage also floats, and floats away downstream. People wave and say hello. Small rowing boats regularly come alongside and some locals get on our ferry or get off, collect their mail or send some parcel with our driver. The accelerator pedal breaks, later the steering and we get stuck in a shallow water area. No problem, Cambodia is a land of improvisation and with a few blows of the hammer at the right spot everything works again (perfectly) and with loud tattle and wild gesticulation we get free from the sand bank. The journey is exciting and brings us through this wonderful water area. In the beautiful town of Battambang we climb out of the ferry. Back on the road we do quick kilometres in pancake-flat Cambodia. Rice fields and coconut palm trees together with poor looking huts and small villages dominate the landscape. The Cambodians are experts at loading everything with wheels and all the time we see motorbikes, cars, rickshaws and trucks that look so fully loaded that one thinks they must tip over - but somehow gravity works differently in Asia. The small towns are cosy, people xtremely friendly. Although toilets in the hotels are pretty disgusting. We stop for two days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, where we meet M@x again, who had taken a different route (see cyclists we met), and get to know Bauke and Elske (http://baukeandelske.wordpress.com), two more nice cyclists, who are having a break from cycling here. Through areas subject to flooding and roads with very little traffic (and therefore well suited for drying rice), we get to the border to southern Vietnam at Tinh Bien. The wide roads of Cambodia (well, they would be - if the meter of drying rice on both sides would not be there) stop here. In Vietnam an alley awaits us, where houses stand side by side and with a constant highly concentrated stream of motorbikes on it. In contrast to "sleepy" Cambodia, Vietnam is quite hectic, lively, buzzing and antsy. We meet three cycling students, that go around the world - as a university project (see cyclists we met) and later our path crosses again with M@x. Our route leads us through the Mekong Delta, via Cantho, Vinh Long and Mytho. We try to cycle small alleys and narrow streets and therefore have to cross plenty of small waterways with small ferries, as there are not bridges everywhere. Then we get back to the main road with gigantic bridges and cross the main arm of the Mekong. Besides that we have a look at the Cai Rang floating market. Eventually we roll - accompanied by squadrons of motorbikes - into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). With almost 4.300 kilometers we have reached our final destination in Southeast-Asia. We will celebrate Christmas here in the hectic metropolitan town of southern Vietnam and finally say good bye to Asia. Just before New Year we will cross the big lake to Los Angeles and will start another traverse of a continent (California - Florida), before cycling home early from Lisbon next summer...

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  


08.12.2011, Siem Reap / Angkor Wat (Cambodia): Just before sunrise we get on our bicycles and roll out of Luang Prabang. Ahead lies a mountainous stretch, where we have to do over 2000 meters of climbing within 80 kilometers. The road winds up into the mountains until we reach the small village of Kiukacham. We spot a small guesthouse with far-from-spotless bed sheets (as in many of the guesthouses here). In the evening the air becomes cooler and we are looking forward to a good night’s sleep after a long day of cycling. But that does not happen! At dusk a pick up car parks right in front of our guesthouse. It has huge speakers, which blast music in an ear-cracking volume. We have to scream at each other in order to hear what we are saying. Nobody else seems to be bothered by the noise. On the next day we enjoy a long downhill and get back into warmer temperatures. Down in the valley we stop at hot springs, where we find a room for the night next door. While we are soaking and chatting in the hot springs with two British and one Belgian cyclist (see cyclists we met), the locals wash themselves and their clothes with soap and shampoo in the same pool. The Brits cycle north to where we come from, but Michel (the Belgian) is on the way south as we are and we end up cycling together for the next few days. Laos is the most bombed country in the world. The USA dropped 260 million (!) bombs over the country in the Vietnam War – this is more than in the whole Second World War. Despite their dark and sad history, the Lao people seem to be a happy bunch and are very friendly. Everybody waves and smiles at us, while we are slowly climbing the mountains of this beautiful country. When we get closer to the town of Vang Vieng, the waving of the locals suddenly stops, and soon we realize why they are not so fond of tourists in this area. Vang Vieng is backpacker destination and party town number one. What we see here is quite shocking. At a beautiful river loud disco music is played in several shoreline-bars in the middle of the day and western youngsters and wanna-be-young-guys in bathing clothes stagger around completely drunk and silly. Alcohol of all kinds is sipped from big buckets. Once "the candidates" are filled up, they board a car tube and float down the river. "Red neck" meets "Prolet" and all others, that should better stay home and not torture a developing country with their stupidity. In the early evening one continues drinking in the bars of the town - still holding on to a bucket full of alcohol and lying on some sort of beds, all facing big tv screens, where "Friends" and other crap is played. We are amazed. What a sight. We learn about a "culture", that is very strange for us. Leaving that place quickly, 15 kilometres further down the road the familiar hello-hello-wave-hello-Laos starts again. What a delight! We pedal over the last hills and the land becomes flat as a pancake. Rice grows everywhere and is harvested, filled into bags and transported in small trucks. On a bad road we reach Vientiane, Laos’ capital with 350.000 inhabitants. For being a capital it is a very quiet city and to us it has more the feel of a sleepy village. We cross the boarder to Thailand over the friendship bridge and the difference between the two countries is suddenly very obvious. Thailand is much richer and the villages are more modern than Vientiane. Roads are free of potholes and have a paved shoulder for us to ride on. There are supermarkets and traffic rules. Together with Michel we cycle via Udon Thani and Khon Kaen southwards along big wide roads. Here we face another form of tourism, which we don’t agree with. The ugliest men (mostly over 50) of the world come here to have sex with Thai women. Without shame they sit in the bars already in the morning, drinking beer and looking over to the "girls on the market", or sit there with "their girl" already. Pretty disgusting. Finally we are past these sex tourism destinations and reach the small towns of Phimai and Nang Rong. Both places have beautiful ruins of temples, which where built at the same time as Angkor Wat (approx. 12th century). Our way parts from Michel’s destination Bangkok, so we say good bye to him and head towards the Cambodian border post called O’Smach. From here on good roads are past tense, supermarkets and traffic rules never heard of. Dusty dirt roads, dusty villages, no electricity, no running water. Hotels re-use the bed sheets and cleaning is done with air-refreshing-spray. Coming from the north we cross one of the biggest minefields of the world, which was put in place by the Vietnamese along the Thai border – and still is a huge problem for the region. Cambodia is quite poor (especially in the north), but despite that and the brutal and long war history people are friendly and welcoming (waving hello all the time). We arrive in Siem Reap, where we visit the temples of Angkor Wat close by. Again we meet other cyclists (see cyclists we met) and cycle/walk around the temples for two days. Awesome!

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 


18.11.2011, Luang Prabang (Laos): Early morning in dense two-wheel traffic we head out of Hanoi. Soon we leave the noise and hustle and bustle of the city behind and cycle through small towns between rice fields. On our way to Mai Chau (where we overnight in a traditional wooden house on stilts) we meet the Swiss couple Martina and Roman. We cycle with them for the next four days (see cyclists we met). The route we chose leads us into the Northwest of Vietnam into the mountains, where we find plenty of climbs but also nice descents and good views. In the evenings we check into small hotels in dusty towns that usually have big markets. Valeska’s dreadlocks are attraction number one, when we wander between fruit stalls, alive chickens, dead dogs, vegetables on the floor and women in traditional dresses. People do not have the feeling for a respectful distance; therefore up to six women touch Valeska’s hair at the same time. Funny at the beginning, but tiring after a while. Even in the countryside Vietnam is a quite lively place with lots of waving, laughing, hello-shouting people. In the town of Dien Bien Phu we get to know cycle tourists from New Zeeland, Emma and Justin (see cyclists we met). We are deciding quickly that we will cycle together to the border of Laos. The border is very quiet, almost no one there, still we need three hours to arrange paper work. First the officials go on their lunch break (from 11:20 to 12:30), after that it takes many people and time to issue visas and put stamps in our passports. We pay not just for the visa fee, but also a dollar and some kip extra to the guy with the stamp, the cashier and the other guy watching. The corruption here is so obvious and "official" that there are even signs telling you how much you have to pay "extra". But those fees do not appear on any of our receipts in the end. The asphalt surface of the road ends at the border and we find ourselves jolting over a dirt road through lush green hilly countryside. Laos is distinctly poorer than Vietnam. Villages consist of wooden shacks, meals are cooked over open fire and traffic is almost not existent. We keep cycling over high hills, up and down. The small towns at road crossings remind us of African towns – the best house between the ten huts is the "hotel", where we get one of the four basic rooms with bucket shower. The people in Lao are very friendly and a very relaxed bunch – even the fact, that in neighbouring Vietnam three rice harvests are done per year and just two in Laos, does not seem to bother them. Every kid waves and says hello in Lao: "Sabaidee!" Valeska’s hair gets the well earned respect and nobody wants to overcharge us. Being on the road as a gang of four is good fun and after a day’s hard work we sit in small eateries and let the pride of the nation run down our throats – beer Lao. On our twelfth day of cycling from Hanoi we reach Luang Prabang, one of Laos’ famous tourist destinations. Here we run into lots of tourists, but city planners have managed to keep the place (which is a world heritage site) neat, cosy and quiet. Well renovated houses, beautiful temples, yummy restaurants, good hotels – what do we want more? In order not to become a backpacker’s party destination, the city has made up and follows strict rules: pub closing time is 23:30 and every tourist has to be back in the hotel by 24:00! It is a pleasure having arrived here after exhausting cycling days and having time to relax in this lovely town on the Mekong.

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  


31.10.2011, Hanoi (Vietnam):  A Chinese-imperialistic eight lane road leads us to Nanning’s outskirts. This is where we change directions and within a second we are on a better donkey-trail with potholes and rough gravel parts. We pass through small dusty and little appealing villages and friendly small towns with large markets. Asking on every junction for directions we find our way to the Vietnamese border. Getting across is easy and straight forward and suddenly we are in Vietnam. Villages are never ending and we roll along endless lines of houses. Chinese deservedness does not exist anymore. People wave, we are followed by a constant "Hello! Hello!" and school kids are riding their bicycles with us and practice the three sentences English they know. "What is your name?", "Philipp. What is your name?", "Mao. How are you?", "I am fine. How are you?", "I am 13. I love you!" Mattresses here are not bone-hurting hard as a brick, but soft and comfy. There is real coffee, real bread and in the capital even real Vietnamese Emmentaler, which doesn’t need to hide from its eponymous Swiss prototype. Glorious! After some weeks of noodles with soy sauce, cloves of garlic and vegetables in China – this is a good change. But since a long time there is also real rain. Friends told us to avoid Hanoi by bicycle and to bypass the city in a big circle. This is what we wanted to hear and ride straight in. On the last 40 kilometres the traffic (all mopeds) gets denser, but stays at an acceptable level and we have fun fighting with our two wheeled colleagues about every centimetre of road. Vietnam is a country where the stronger has the right of way. The trick is not to show that you know you are weaker. Look ahead not behind you. This way it works quite well, but one should always keep in mind that in the hierarchy and pecking order only the pedestrians are lower – the poor ones. And because everybody is driving as if he is the stronger one, the chaos on the roads is pre-programmed. Mopeds, bicycles and taxis, together with a mass of pedestrians, form a honking knot at every intersection. We enjoy playing the game and cruise Hanoi’s old quarter for a while before we search for a place to stay. The city has atmosphere. Colonial buildings, narrow streets clogged by mopeds, hawkers selling toe clippers and bananas, small food stalls on the sidewalks, everything is floating criss-cross along and at lake Hoam Kiem photographers are shooting bridal couples. The old centre has something in common with Bangkok’s Khao San Road, but it is larger, more pretty and not only a tourist-ghetto. To be in Hanoi is like diving into a wasps nest – so much energy is in the streets. The city is fascinating and we are glad we decided to go through and not around.

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  


22.10.2011, Nanning (China): We have lost lots of time. Philipp should still take it easy and the National-Day weeklong holiday is blocking all public transport. Since there is no chance to get a train ticket, we take a flight to get further south to Guilin, in order to start cycling from there. At our host’s Craig and Buling we get an insight into a Chinese-American marriage and the real life in China. Here is no hiding in a posh apartment; the two are right in the middle of loud and bustling China. Since our visa expires we have to get it extended here. But still every office is closed for days due to the national holiday. Finally (on a Saturday) the visa-extension-office is open, but the process needs another six (!) days (including Sunday). We could cry! Philipp is finally fit for fight, but we can’t start. When we eventually have our new visas in the passports, we notice that they have cancelled the last days of our old visa and the new one starts with the day of application. This means, that six days (out of 30) are already gone, when we get our passports back. We start cyclin along the Li river on small roads to Yangshuo, southern China’s tourist destination number one. The city itself is loud, hectic, full of people and we have enough of it already before we are there for long. But we find accommodation some kilometres away from it all at the "Outside Inn" in Chaoyang village. It is quiet, relaxing, a small oasis between rice fields, small farms and chickens. We find ourselves in the middle of one of the most impressive and surreal landscapes in the world. Steep cockpit karst mountains all around, when we hike and bike in the area on daytrips. Hardly ever we have been somewhere, where a landscape is as striking as here! We also met other long distance cyclists around here - see cyclists we met. Then we are heading southwest – Mengshan, Danzhu, Guiping... Rice fields everywhere. Big roads, lots of traffic, dusty and shabby street-villages. Then sugarcane fields, friendly cities with spotless squares, where people meet for gymnastics and Tai Chi in the morning and dancing in the evenings. There are markets where we find snake, toad and dog – everything that tastes delicious. There are days when we ride on small country roads, which are winding their way through the hills. Factories are spitting dirt and trucks are helping to pollute the air to a no breathing quality. Yes, China is diversified when riding overland. Hotels vary from dusty holes with dirty bed sheets to rooms where we get the English newspaper China Daily delivered in the morning. The people we meet along our way are extremely friendly and start talking and questioning as soon as we stop for a break, for lunch or in the evening. To begin with, the words are repeated 20 times. Strange, that those foreigners still don’t understand? Now paper and pen come handy and a line of Chinese characters appears in front of us. How come that those Europeans can’t read – even with being alphabetised a 100 percent over there? It is always funny when we ride along – the somehow childish laughing and giggling when we stop somewhere is contagious. Leaving Heng Xian we hit a "road under construction", and through dust and potholes, through sand and over stones, we reach the city of Nanning with seven million inhabitants. There is hardly any other country in the world where riding into big metropolitans is as relaxing as in China – bicycle roads lead us (and thousands of electric scooters and bicycles) from the rural areas all the way into the heart of town. Fascinating! We get a Vietnamese visa, organize and read about the stretch ahead of us and start riding towards the border...

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 


02.10.2011, Beijing II (China): Packed up and ready to go we say goodbye to our hosts Ray and Florence and hit the road out of Beijing. Big roads, many cars, but whoever was planning the city did not forget to put bicycle lanes alongside every single lane! This surely is amazing and riding the almost 50 kilometres out of town until the hills start is almost a pleasure, if the air quality wasn’t so bad. Into the hills we climb via a narrow road until we reach the Great Wall at Badaling. During the day thousands of (mainly Chinese) tourists roam the wall, but coming late, we enjoy the sunset at the wall with just three others! Already while cycling Philipp didn’t feel too well. With the night comes the fewer and after a day half dead in a shabby hotel room and a complete health crash during the next night, our Beijing friends organize to pick us up. We return to Beijing, Philipp goes straight to a hospital and sees a doctor. Smog encloses the city – worlds end. After some days the sun is back and being treated with the right antibiotics life comes back to Philipp. But “no cycling for the next weeks” is ordered. We take it easy, see more sights, but feel that we have to get moving at some point. We make plans to send the bikes ahead by mail and do a train trip until health is back. Sounds good, but there is one fact that is messing up everything - the national day on the 1st of October (which is a week long holiday). All public transport is sold out for two weeks and there is no way to get away from Beijing… except flying. We stay some more days and book a flight further south to Guilin to get started again after full recovery. The good news is that we managed to get around the Great Chinese Firewall and can update our website now :-)

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 


20.09.2011, Beijing I (China): A long flight brings us (with a stopover in Bangkok) to Beijing. Everything is different – left-turning vehicles are taking the right of way, eating is done with sticks, writing with signs, nobody understands us but everybody is looking at us. Beijing is modern – mopeds, bicycles and rickshaws are driven by electric engines across wide smooth streets, everywhere monstrous television screens are flickering and illuminated advertisements are covering mirroring skyscrapers above posh boutiques. Beijing is also poor – beggars are lying on the streets behind expensive cars, plastic-can-collectors are searching the garbage and grandmothers are selling steamed corn on the sidewalks. Whichever way one sees Beijing, it is hard to miss that the capital (and the country) is rapidly uprising and that the growth of the giant had just begun. We are doing our laps around the city by bicycle and with the subway, pushing and squeezing ourselves with the masses of Chinese tourists through the Forbidden City and across the Tien Amen square. We buy Chinese roadmaps, plan our start out of town, chopstick through the delicious cuisine, meet Stef and Angela (see cyclists we met) and do our best to help filtering the bad air of the metropolitan with our lungs. Beijing is a fascinating city and we are looking forward to the rest of China ahead of us...

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 


12.09.2011, Graz (Austria): While we are hiking with guests across Svalbard’s tundra and spot for polar bears, our bicycle sponsor Rodsport Kotnik (www.kotnik.at) is busy to renew our bikes. After the arctic season we stop again shortly in Austria and get our completely rebuilt bicycles (new frames, new suspension forks, new cables, etc.) and lots of gear handed over! Many, many thanks!!! We will stay a few more days in Austria, to meet friends, get organized for our next year on the road and then we are off to China...

 

  

 


25.08.2011, Longyearbyen (Svalbard, Spitzbergen): After a short stop in Austria, where we meet friends and family, see doctors and get all vaccinations for the next year, we head further north. As every year we are working as guides on a (relatively) small expedition-cruise-vessel on voyages around the Svalbard archipelago (Spitzbergen) – for clients, who get bored on a normal holiday (www.oceanwide-expeditions.com). Sunshine, snowfall, rain and storm. Polar bears, seals, walrus and reindeer. Birds, tundra vegetation and polar desert. Exciting hikes, stunning glaciers and wide open landscapes. We love these barren islands, their rough climate and isolation. The season is passing quickly and while Valeska is doing one more trip around Spitzbergen, I (Philipp) am travelling to Swedish Lapland. Here I stay in Birgitta’s little cabin in sub-polar birch tree forest, from where I started my 23.000 kilometre journey by bicycle to Sydney in 2001 (see www.philipp-schaudy.net)...

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  


26.05.2011, Auckland (New Zealand): On bicycle tracks and quiet roads we roll out of Wellington northwards. The land becomes flat and one rain shower follows the other. At a - actually closed – campsite we are invited to stay and on the next day we reach Wanganui. There we visit Andy, a cyclist we had met in Cartagena, Columbia, before, as he was cycling with another Andy and Wai Lin from New York to Rio (see cyclists we met, post from 23.03.2010). We stay for a day and then start into the rain again. Although it is raining cats and dogs, we try to make some progress. We choose the small Wanganui river road, that leads us through Athens and London to Jerusalem, where we find a convent, and a bed under a roof for us. This road winds up to almost 900 meters and finally we pass New Zealand’s famous inland vulcanoes, which never show – they stay covered in thick grey rainclouds. Eventually the weather improves. We visit the tandem cyclists Sue and Brian on their farm (www.warmshowers.org) and cycle with Brian through the nice hilly countryside on small back roads to some geothermal sights. Fumaroles, hot springs, boiling mud pools, sulphureous odour is in the air – all around Rotorua. We get some sunny days, still we have cool autumn temperatures and it is getting dark too early (17:30). When we are not visiting other cyclists, we choose small huts on the campsites. Their equippment varies between very simple to a comfortable mini flat, and so we can have – with electricity - longer days than we could in our tent. Further north traffic increases and we have to share the road with trucks, busses and lots of cars. There are many avocado and kiwi plantations alongside the road and still the usual sight of cows. Palm trees adorn lots of gardens and the grass is green and lush. We are heading towards Auckland via Tauranga and Waihi. Again on small quiet roads, often along the coast. But before we cycle into Auckland, we take the ferry to Waiheke Island, just off the coast of Auckland. We have an invitation from Emily, Robin and Theo, who we got to know on the way. Their yellow Mini brings us to the far eastern end of the island, where we hike along the coast. After some more sunny hiking with Emily and Theo, we relax in the evening in front of their pizza oven in the garden and have delicious home made pizza. Back to the north island and to Auckland, our final destination in New Zealand. Here we are invited to Roland and Belinda and her family. Roland and Belinda have cycled with their tandem from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego at the same time as we have (www.cyclingwithsally.com). We had email contact with them, but never managed to meet. Now they are back home and we can visit them – small world :-) We pack up our stuff. It is time – as every year – to give our bikes a break and put on working gloves. We head up north to Svalbard, the european Arctic, where we will work as part of the expedition team on a small passenger ship...

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 


11.05.2011, Wellington (New Zealand): After a day-trip to Invercargill with Joss from Te Anau and another one to Milford Sound with Angie and Charlie, friends from Austria, it is time to get back on the bikes and head towards the West Coast. The weather improves, the land gets higher and temperatures lower. During the nights we get frost and we freeze in our thin sleeping bags. The days are also cool, but sunny. Once we stay with friends (thank you Terry and Stephanie!) on their farm and therefore escape the coldness of the night. The road leads through farmland, past autumn coloured trees, still lakes and – the closer we get to the West Coast – through dense green forest. Once across the Haast Pass, we dive into the atmosphere of the West Coast. Villages are far apart, traffic almost not existent and there is cold rainforest as far as you can see. The annual rainfall is about 3000 mm in this area. The forest is full with mosses and lichens, big tree ferns grow in the dark, damp and magic environment. The weather is still fantastic and behind the rainforest New Zealand’s highest peaks reach into the blue sky. We walk towards the Fox Glacier, a small glacier that is accessible to everybody. The main attraction is – for us – the warning signs, which are put up everywhere. It has been a while that we met cyclists on recumbent bikes, well, here we bump into a couple from France, Laure and Pierre (see cyclists we met). In the small town of Hokitika we are hosted by Kevin (www.warmshowers.org), when the weather changes and suddenly the sunshine is replaced by heavy rain. We stay for three nights, and during the few hours, when no rain falls, Kevin takes us on hikes through the beautiful forest and to the glow worms (during night time of course). The weather gods don’t do us any favours, but create wet and uncomfortable weather, as we start cycling again. Drizzle, scattered showers, heavy rainfalls – we seem to get it all. As the forecast is also bad, we just have to take it as it comes and still make better progress than expected. We find big trees or some other shelter beside the road, in order to put our tent under for the night. Over another pass – this time in fog – then we cycle out the wide Wairau valley with grape and olive orchards towards the East Coast. Eventually the weather gets better and we arrive in Picton with sunshine. Here we board the ferry to Wellington and the North Island...

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 


20.04.2011, Te Anau (New Zealand): We hug Monika goodbye and fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, where we stop for two days and dive into the metropolitan. Street markets, street artists, street music, street tango, streets full of people and streets full of colourful atmosphere. For a last time we suck in the south-american flair, the rude noise-level of the continent, the cosy restaurants, the good food and we are still surprised, that even in the capital city, when there is siesta – there is siesta!

 

  

 

  

 

A long flight gets us to New Zealand, Christchurch, where we stay with the Allan’s. The city has been (as everybody knows) struck by an earthquakes on the 22.02.2011 and (in parts) heavily destroyed; Steven and Carol are giving us a tour. It is as shocking as it is fascinating to see, what only 20 seconds can do to a city. Living areas are demolished, houses flattened, streets ripped open, bridges moved. The city centre was hit worst and is, due to cleaning up, closed. High rise buildings are crooked, facades collapsed, houses almost gone down and cars sandwiched under rubble. In these seconds many people have lost their home, their job or even their lives. We are sad for Christchurch. One sees things like that on TV, but usually not where it happened. We had booked our flight before the quake and Steven and Carol had convinced us to come anyway. Their opinion is that life goes on, the city will shine again, and we are impressed by their positive thinking and how they manage the situation. After two days in Christchurch (in which we experience a couple of small aftershocks) we have recovered from our jetlag and start riding southwards along the east coast in marvellous sunshine. It is astonishing – after such a long time in South America – to see clean and looked after gardens and houses, traffic rules are accepted, drivers care about cyclists and often we even find bicycle lanes. To get in contact with people on our way has almost become the central part of our travels – thanks to www.warmshowers.org, www.couchsurfing.org and www.hospitalityclub.org we again learn to know many interesting and nice people from all social classes on our way through New Zealand. YOU, as travel-blog reader should check those pages out too! Along the coast we ride through hilly terrain, but get rewarded with fantastic vistas. Reaching Dunedin, the warm and sunny weather comes to an end and a long period of bad weather is pushing across the island. We wheel on in thick fog, rain and against the wind, and turn west at Balclutha. The weather stays changeable, cold and wet. We ride across rolling hills with many sheep and little villages. Shortly before Te Anau we meet the first cyclists (see cyclists we met) and three young fellows, who are walking from the northernmost to the southernmost point of New Zealand (see other vehicles). Temperature drops below zero at night and snow covers the landscape, when we get into Te Anau via a small pass. We have some friends in Te Anau, get hosted by Joss and Woody and enjoy a couple of days in the small village, where everybody knows everybody – and us ;-)

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  

   

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