The alpine village of Hanmer Springs has been a holiday destination for New Zealanders for generations. Surrounding Hanmer are vast forests offering over 50km of walking and mountain bike tracks to explore.
Although a seasoned commuter and mountain biker, this was to be my first real experience cycle touring. Perhaps not geographically the easiest of cycle tours, Banks Peninsula rewards you with spectacular views, exhilarating downhills, gruelling uphills, and - once off the main roads - relatively stress free riding.
Taking a Friday off work, we headed up to Hanmer Springs from Christchurch mid morning. We saw on the weather maps that there was a front passing through the mountains on Friday but it was to clear Friday night and Saturday was to be a beaut. The St James Cycle Trail is 64km in length. This is measured from Maling car park through to the St James Homestead. If you wish to make the trail into a loop, you need to add another 25km of gravel road to your speedo.
Although our combined bike quiver and talks about Hope Hubs and other bike bling screams otherwise; my collection of friends and I like to think of ourselves as adventurous cyclists that don’t take biking too seriously. With a desire to make the most of our weekends we hatched a plan to escape Christchurch and check out Kaikoura despite an ominous weather forecast. Late Friday afternoon we knocked off work early, loaded up with supplies and drove to Kaikoura.
The 1973 pastoral map of the South Island showed Clarence Reserve Station as one of the country’s largest, next to the Molesworth (comparatively and literally). Our first trip into this country revealed one of the reasons why many a farmer had struggled or completely walked off the land. At dusk the hillside moved with a plague of rabbits that infested the whole area.