Most of you knows that we started our journey in New Zealand, we lived on the South Island for the past two years, and the beginning of the trip had to be there. New Zealand is a very expensive country to travel, not just from our point of view, but as of the many biker travelers we hosted through Warmshowers. So we can give you some tips and you can try to save as much as you can on your next trip.
If you are planning to travel by bike through New Zealand keep in mind that you will be constantly going up and down on a hill and/or mountains. Due New Zealand is a volcanic country, but the positive side of it all is the landscapes, that changes with each pedal, making your experience even more incredible.
It was a challenge to start the trip in a mountainous country, but at the same time, we believe it was the best way to learn, as today we felt prepared for the next countries that it is on our list. Had start in a difficult country has shown us that whatever comes after, will be easier or as difficult as it was New Zealand.
The roads in New Zealand has a good quality, but they do not have a shoulder-strap in most of them, sometimes they have a very narrow space that we do not even dare call a shoulder-strap. We tried at most to avoid the main roads, especially on the north island because it is more crowded. Cycle during the weekends, depending on the route, can be quite uncomfortable in places like Coromandel where the tourist or locals goes to spend the weekend.
The New Zealanders are not used to share the roads with cyclists. Cycling around the country is something new and has been invested more and more in this type of activity. But there are no campaigns to respect the cyclist. It is rare that you cross with signs of respect for the rider. The truck drivers were our main problem on the South Island, and because of them, every time we saw a truck coming on the road, we preferred to stop at the shoulder-strap and wait for them to pass.
The Chinese are the biggest nationality traveling around the country, you will cross with a good amount of them in a rented car. Although everybody spokes very poorly about them, we had no problem, they always seemed very afraid when they tried overtaken us, because of that they always slowed down to the point of escorting us, and when there was space they overtaken us.
Our recommendation is Auckland as your starting point. Although North Island has the most monotonous roads, our tip is still to start there for a few reasons. The first reason is that everything will be new, because of this the first cycles will be of discovery. The second, the North Island is more populous, has more access to supermarkets, warmshowers and couch surfers, so it will be easier to become familiar with the costs of the country and learn the tricks. The Third, it will depend on the season of the year, you will cycle from the hottest to the coldest region.
It is good to keep in mind also that the North Island does not have the big amount of hills/mountains as the South Island, however, does not mean that you will climb less, on the other way, the hills there are constant, perhaps more challenging than those down south, for example, in a day on the North Island, we rode 74km and we climbed 1100m, which for us was quite exhausting.
The route we chose on the North Island, the landscapes do not change often and the scenery was basically farms, cows, and sheep. Perhaps cycle through the center of the island the landscapes are more attractive and are also where the most of the country’s cycling routes are located. There are still beauties, but they are not so many, compared to what we saw in the South Island.
The South Island is in our opinion the most beautiful part, due to the numbers of many wonderful landscapes, the huge rivers, the countless blue lakes, the snow pic mountain, even that simple tree in the middle of nowhere, makes the cycle being incredible. Everything is very scenic, it is like a movie set, and that is why several movies have already been recorded there.
To help you choose your route, below are some websites and books that can give you more detailed information about the cycling routes.
We started our trip in early spring, many people said that it was not a good time, as it is a changing season and can rain a lot, luckily or not, we just had a day of heavy rain. We thought it was a good time to cycle, because it was not hot and not very cold, except when we were at the end of our trip in the North Island, the summer weather was already getting very hot and we had days of riding in the heat of 36 degrees.
Another important fact is that in the spring, the tourism in the country has not yet started, so the roads are not very busy. Most of the cyclists start cycle in New Zealand in November due to the warm weather, as it is the end of the spring and the begging of the summer, but the roads are busier and the national parks are very crowded. We do not recommend traveling around the winter season, as it can be quite cold, with very short days due to the sunrise be late in the morning and the sunset early in the evening, but this is also going according to the style of travel you want to do. In winter it can be cheaper in terms of accommodation and you can always try some discounts.
To get the weather information we always use the official weather New Zealand site: www.metservice.com.
There are three big supermarket brands, from the most expensive to the cheapest, they are: New World, Countdown and Pak N ‘Save, not counting the small brands like Foursquare, On The Spot, Fresh Choice or the dairy shops.
We had the habit of always buying our stuff at the Countdown, but since the beginning of the trip this has changed, we started to by at the PakN’Save, due be cheaper than the others, but this brand has only at the big cities. As we began our journey through a very remote region on the West Coast, the options of large supermarkets were very few. From Hokitika to Wanaka, there are only small supermarkets, where unfortunately the products are much more expensive. Coming out of Wanaka the options are better, making it easier to find good options. The On The Spot is the most expensive, it was always our last option, but at times we had to surrender to it.
The trick is the same for any supermarket, always look for the brands of each supermarket, this will make your shopping even cheaper. At the New World and PakNsave look for products with the Pams and Budget items, at the Countdown are the Select items.