SuperMario and Rainbow Road
map of the journey
Reefton the 'City of Light' was the first city with electric lighting on its roads in New Zealand back in 1888 and at some places in that quaint little town you may think that time stood still from then on. Lewis Pass is less spectacular than its bigger brother Arthurs Pass, but no mountain parrots ripped my tent apart there and Hanmer Springs is a nice place to soak yourself in hot pools. Next morning a bit of rain and a rainbow to show me the way: Rainbow Road.
120km unsealed road between Hanmer Springs and St Arnaud, many river crossings via fords, some of them deep. Heavy rain and very strong wind with some violent gusts, uphill on a washboard track to New Zealands highest pass, Island Saddle (1350m) and some people in big 4WD cars returning because they could not get across some rivers after the rain... made me opt for a short day, I stayed in Island Gully Hut just after the Saddle, a small hut with 4 bunks and a place to light a fire to dry your clothes. I had a backcountry hut pass still left from Gillespie Circuit, where I slept in my tent because of all the people snoring in the huts.
Sunshine next morning and within a few hours I arrived in Rainbow Homestead, a tollgate, because it is actually a private road: 2$ for a bicycle. Some tourists in a small rental car without 4WD were not so lucky: got stuck with their car (there are signs '4WD only' everywhere) in one of the fords 80cm of deep, ice cold water with big rocks. No phone reception. 17km to Rainbow Homestead or 70km back to Hanmer Springs, took me 1,5h on my bike to cycle that 17km and cross the rivers (and take a few pictures), where I informed the farmer, that a few ill equipped tourists tried to complete SuperMarios last level called Rainbow Road in a very unsuitable vehicle.
After I completed that level and reached the main road close to St Arnaud I gained 100 credits and had tailwind downhill to Blenheim.
Next day a visit to Kaikoura by bus, unfortunately the weather was a bit rough and whale watching trips were cancelled that day. But Kaikoura has nice walks around the peninsula and some seals and birds could be watched instead. But Kaikouras mountains were hiding in 256 shades of grey...
A short trip to Picton and with a ferry to Wellington, where I will stay in Upper Hut for 2 days, campsites are just a third of the price that is charged in Lower Hut and you need to take a bus from there to Wellington City as well if you want to avoid the traffic along the bay, and there are frequent trains from Upper Hut to Wellington.