Leaving Okarito, we drove back to the real world where there are things like supermarkets and dump stations and spent a day replenishing our water and groceries supplies. Since Thomas had come off his bike and hurt his hip, we made a last-minute call to change our plan from bouldering at Castle Hill to taking the Lewis Pass, to discover a new and unexplored area of the South Island for us.
First up on the tikitour was Reefton, a surprisingly pleasant little town. Reefton has a freecamp spot just off the main road through town, which meant we had shops, a library with free wifi and plenty of walking and cycling trails within close distance of the van. We decided to pick a cycle trail to ride the next morning, a nice little loop, or so we thought.. I think the grading of cycle trails might be different in the rural parts of the South Island though as the “grade 2 family trail” was already a hard slog up the hill, and the short stretch of grade 4 ended up being not cyclable for us, resulting in a hike with a bike.
After 12 kilometres of hiking or some very uncomfortable riding, we made it to a asphalt road. The remaining 12km seemed to take only minutes now that we were able to actually cycle! We definitely choose a loop which was a bit too much for either our cyclocross bikes or our MTB skills, but it was nice being out and the forest was beautiful, reminding us both of our recent trip to Germany and some of the hikes we’d done there. Back at the van, the sun was out so we had a picnic for lunch and were happy to lounge about for a bit. Later in the afternoon we managed to walk up the big hill at the far end of town, giving us a great view of all of Reefton below.
The next day, we only drove a short stretch before parking up the van near the top of the Lewis Pass. New vanlife rule: always make the most of passing a pass by going for a walk from the highest point! Within 1,5 hours of walking from the carpark we were well above the bushline with some amazing views of the mountains all around us. We spent some time on the top, out of the wind and in the sun, before returning the same way. A really nice walk and a great way to get some steep hiking practice in!
From Lewis Pass we made our way to Hanmer. We weren’t sure we were going to like it there, the village being pretty touristy, but we thought we’d check it out anyway. We found a nice enough place to camp, next to a big park with plenty of walking and cycling trails, keen to check some of it out the next day. Too bad for Hanmer the weather turned and we woke up to steady rain, which made us drive straight out of Hanmer again. Since it would rain for most of the day and some of the next, we decided to drive straight through to Christchurch, as we had quite a few errands to run which we’ve been postponing until we would be in a big(ger) city again. Stay tuned to find out how a boring week filled with tasks results in police reports, insurance claims and a new pair of glasses!