“Not all those who wander are lost.” — Bilbo Baggins

Bikepacking Cape Reinga to Bluff

New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the country of the great white cloud, home of Hobitton, my favorite Marlborough wine, glow worms, penguins and more sheep than people. Also home to a bikepacking route that stretches about 3,000 km starting on the northernmost tip of the North Island (Cape Reinga) and winding to the Southernmost tip of the South Island (Bluff). And I do mean “winding”. The entire length of New Zealand is only 1600 kms.

We have not seen a “River/Sea” segment on any other gravel bike trail – conjures up a vision of needing Moses like powers.

Most details will be figured out day to day. I expect it will take a few days and perhaps a few kms before Nav Guy has honed his skills again. But it is a fairly narrow country and we are already expecting to cycle twice the length of the entire Country. So really, how many wrong turns can we make? Did you know that Dunedin has the steepest street in the world at 19 degrees? Not that I lack confidence, but I will route us completely around Dunedin.

There are organized groups of cyclists that do the route – in January or February. Using our hurricane experience from Newfoundland has led us to ignore this glaring fact and book our flights for early October. Whatever.

3000 kms in 10 weeks. Allowing for logistics and days off, that should average about 60kms a day. We averaged 90 kms a day on our X-Canada trip. We think this is a reasonable goal. But who knows. We need time for Hobitton, glow worms, and Marlborough wine (lots of it). So our Christmas cards will be late. And who writes Christmas cards anyway?

First cycle day is on 90 Mile Beach. We hope to stop at a lodge along the beach but they, and in fact every accommodation I have emailed, have not replied. Apparently it is off season in New Zealand. I am concerned about my flawless record of not setting up a tent. But it would appear that a lot has to go right in order for there not to be a tent night or two in the first few days. So we packed 4 days of food and lots of Red Rose tea. I suspect there is a flask of scotch hidden somewhere too.

Friends and family have asked whether we’ve been training. Definitely – Transcona Training. Cold beer; gin martinis; wine on deck at 4:17 pm. We’ll get our real training in the first few hundred kms.

We will bring our experienced Kona gravel bikes with us. We ordered next generation gravel bikes 8 months ago. They haven’t arrived yet and no word on when they will. A lingering Covid supply hangover apparently. But we did manage to find new tires and a lower gearing for both bikes. Something to do with aging joints says Gear Guy. Must be talking about a bike part.

There are alot more logistics to long term bike-packing internationally – notably no support network like we had in Canada – family and friends in every province supplying us with cold beer, hot showers and clean wash. But interestingly, as soon as we committed to the trip and started telling people, we have made some wonderfully unexpected connections. Perhaps it is how desperately unprepared and unorganized we look? Our friends Kate and Stephen who moved to Nelson, New Zealand about 7 years ago offered us their home as a refuge and a bike part cache. And it only took a little wine when they visited us in Fernie this summer! We also ran into a server at Island Lake who is from Invercargill, the exact southern town that we plan to fly from after completing our ride. She offered up lots of useful intel. And we also just learned Thorna’s nephew is a bike mechanic in Auckland. Speed dial Will for parts.

This is our blog to chronicle our adventures. Feel free to “unfollow” if you are busy with say, reading your junk mail, cleaning baseboards, counting tractors in farm yards or any other more engaging pastimes. Except you Mom(s) – you both have to follow us.

And so starts our adventure. Going in the wrong season, with old bikes and questionable maps in a covid free world. Jay just tested positive.

¡Kia Ora! (Which means see ya down the road Mate!)

18 thoughts on ““Not all those who wander are lost.” — Bilbo Baggins

  1. Margareth Carrothers

    Jay and Deb enjoy your trip and we look forward to joining you on your journey.

    Jay praying for a quick recovery.



  2. Chris Baillie

    Deb & Jay,
    I am so excited for you two! 33 years ago a buddy and I did a similar ride on our Miyata 1000 touring bikes (kind of a precursor to today’s gravel bike). We spent 3 months riding in NZ and loved almost every minute. Happy and safe travels!


  3. Leila Wiebe

    Fabulous! I am so glad you have arrived in NZ and are on your way. I was wondering about cycling and if you would ship your one bikes. Good update!
    Stay safe – enjoy the trip!
    Love ya both.


    1. gordotto

      You know when you get to the end it’s just a short sail to Antarctica. You could take the bikes and… well, just an idea. Probably too few tractors at the South Pole to be of interest anyway.
      What side of the road do they cycle on down there? Not that it would matter to Jay.
      Look forward to your journaling. But I expect it’s gonna be like Lord of the Rings and I’ll be left wondering “Why didn’t they just ride those giant birds from the beginning?…”


  4. Geoff McMillan

    FYI, Alan Harvie’s youngest brother Will Harvie lives in Christchurch. Another name to add to your list in case you need some help. Have a great trip! Geoff



  5. Greg Radway

    Your next bike adventure looks awesome. Been to Dunedin through to Auckland and enjoyed the scenery and friendly people. My fav is Napier. Good luck, pleasant journey. Lets hope nav-guy does not turn into lost-guy 🙂


  6. Vicky

    Wow Jay and Deb another wonderful adventure to look forward to. Loved the New Zealand wine when we were there. Who won’t. Be very interested to hear all about your travels. You should contact one of the travel / leisure shows to chronicle the trip. You guys would make great tv!!


  7. So great that you are on another adventure!!! Sorry about Jay and testing positive. Karen and I both got quite sick with Covid during our trip to Norway in June… not recommended.

    New Zealand is one of my favorite countries. We spent 6 weeks there more than 10 years ago. A few highlights I remember, that I recommend you try to do: North Island: Coromandel Peninsula: Hot Water beach and Cathedral Cove Go Zorbing in Rotorua Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

    South Island: Abel Tasman coastal park Wanaka, include a visit to “Puzzling World” Eat at Fergburger in Queenstown Do the Routeburn trek Central Otago rail trail Bungee jump at the Nevis

    Have fun!!! I want to hear what it is like to bike over the one lane bridges… I hope the drivers are still courteous and friendly.

    Dave J


  8. Luanne Wilson and Joe Remus

    Hi, we hope Jay is doing ok with Covid – speedy recovery! Take care Deb, hope you stay well. We enjoy reading about your adventures!


  9. Andrew Adam

    Hi Jay and Deb,
    It was great to meet you briefly this morning as you entered Auckland.
    As soon as I saw you with your bike-packing set-up I knew I had to say hi!
    Having completed the Tour Aotearoa earlier this year I know exactly how much you are going to love the entire trip.
    Good luck, safe travels and I’ll definitely get in touch when I am up your way to ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2024.


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