Day 1: Oamaru – Warrington (95 km)
This morning Carmen, Lena and I had the biggest breakfast that you could imagine: oatmeal with nuts and dried fruits, home-made applesauce, bread, fresh fruits, muesli, yoghurt,… We kept eating for more than one hour. Sadly, Oamaru was already at the crossroads of our biking trips: Lena had to go back North to Christchurch, Carmen, as me, planned to head South along the coast to Dunedin, but wanted to stay a bit longer in Oamaru in order to have some rest and sort out some paperwork. For sure I would have loved to bike for longer with these two nice girls, but it is better to see it the other way: I was lucky to meet them on my way and the three of us enjoyed the short time we had together as much as we could. Indeed, during the morning I managed to find a whole series of good reasons to delay the start of my biking day. I cleaned my gear train that was really dirty after all this mud and gravel roads, and I also noticed that I had lost one of the nuts that Damien had installed on my panniers’ fixation system in Hobart to replace the unreliable initial pin.I remembered that one of the nuts could not be tightened firmly because it would hinder the opening of the mechanism. With the many vibrations of these last days, the nut was probably getting looser and looser until it got completely unscrewed. Fortunately, I could buy four new compatible nuts in an hardware store in town. At least I have a solution if the problem happens again!
Finally, I even had a last lunch and a nice chat with Lena at the hostel before finally leaving Oamaru a bit before 3:00 PM with a little pinch in the heart and apfelkompott in my paniers. The campsite where I planned to sleep tonight being 95 km away from Oamaru, I had better unlock the warrior mode for today’s time trial. After a flash tour of Oamaru, I started pushing like a beast on a very scenic and quiet road along the ocean. The wind was helping me in my task, I was biking at 30 km/h and this fantastic ride made me forget the sadness of being on my own again. Riding the bike in such circumstances gives you fantastic feelings of freedom and happiness.
After 30km of pure riding pleasure, I had to bike for another 60 km on Highway 1. Even if this is NZ’s most important road, the trafic was really reasonable and I did not feel unsafe. Because I was really fast, I decided to make a small detour to discover the Moeraki boulders, a set of spherical rocks lying on the beach. These boulders are in fact concretions created by the cementation of Paleocene mudstone, enclosed in a softer host stratum. The eroding action of the wind and the waves and the landslides cause the blocks to become apparent on the beach, creating this astounding landscape.
A few kilometres later, I entered in the Otago region, whose history is profoundly marked by a series of gold rushes, as we will see further in detail later on.
For the last 25km, I could leave Highway 1 for a nicer road. Until now, the ride had been really easy thanks to a relatively flat terrain and favourable winds, but after the little village of Karitane, a very steep climb was awaiting for me. I had not expected such a climb and after 85km at full power, it was a bit painful. Fortunately, the very rewarding view from the top of the hill erased the pain in my legs as if by magic.
A quarter later, I was at the nice free campground in Warrington, and could pitch my tent and eat my applesauce and other leftovers of the day before.
At the campground, I met Sophie and David, a young French couple also cycling around New Zealand.
Day 2: Warrington – Dunedin (27 km)
This morning I woke up early and went for a walk on the beautiful beach near the Warrington beach, enjoying the sunrise.
I talked with Sophie and David about their itinerary in New Zealand and future biking project in Norway. They left the campground before me because they were faster to pack their stuff (what a surprise…), but I quickly caught them up in the long but well graded climb of Mount Cargill (8km, 400 m elevation gain). Once at the top, I could enjoy beautiful view on the Otago peninsula before continuing on a fast downhill towards Dunedin.
I met Sophie and David again and we had lunch together in the town’s nice botanic garden. After this very short biking day, I spent the afternoon visiting the city. Dunedin is Otago’s capital and the South Island’s second largest city. It has strong Scottish influence, hence the nickname “The Edinburgh of the South”. The city counts indeed a few beautiful buildings of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, such as the railway station and the buildings around the Octagon, Dunedin’s main square (I guess we can say that they invented the octagonal square 🤣).
The city also has a very active street art scene and many pubs and night life, because it hosts NZ’s oldest university and its 20000 students. I was there on St Patrick’s Day and I can tell you that that the atmosphere in the city was crazy!
Day 3: Side-trip to Otago Peninsula (82 km)
I spent one more night in Dunedin in order to make a side-trip to Otago Peninsula with an unloaded bike. The peninsula is a must-see for its wildlife: sea lions, blue penguins, seals and albatrosses can be spotted there. The road to the peninsula was very enjoyable, with many bends and great scenery.
On my way, I met David and Sophie for a third time! At the tip of the peninsula, I could see some seals but unfortunately I did not spot any albatross because of the fog sticking there. On my way back, I went to Allans Beach, a beautiful place where I could watch sea lions very closely.