• Tommy Hyland

The Great Coast Road

Sunshine, wind, rain, beaches, glaciers, lakes, mountains, farmland and forest. The last 8 days travelling down the west coast has given me all of the above moments and more in the most beautiful part of the world I have seen so far


Day 5: Westport

The first rest day. I had some amazing hospitality from an old family friend that made it hard to leave in a hurry so I took an unplanned rest day in Westport and I was amazed by how cool the little town was and everything surrounding it! Found a little beach called Shingle Beach to take some time to relax, play some ukulele, read a book, do some writing and be by the coast again. Ended the day with a beautiful sunset and somehow found a random pop up live rap concert!

Day 6: Punakaiki

Riding down the great coast road everything seemed like a scene out of Jurassic park; lush palm trees, deep green canyons, crazy rock formation and wild rivers. Felt like I was in Hawaii only a lot colder! Was really grateful for a French couple who pulled over to offer me some water as they saw my bottles were empty and some really cool friends from the UK who I had some really amazing conversations with about everything in life. Unfortunately the only pub in Punakaiki was shut on a Saturday?? So I couldn't take them to watch their first All Blacks game.

Day 7: Greymouth

An interesting attempt at laundry in a hand basin and hanging off bunk beds to dry in 5° weather didn't quite work out for me so I ended my first week of riding in wet clothes all day from the second I left the hostel. But the views and people I saw over the day made up for it 100x over! Pancake rocks and the surrounding caves were my first taste of real adventure and exploring not on my bike that I had done during the trip which was incredible. Had Peanut butter and my last dates for lunch on top of a mountain looking out over the Great Coast Road with a group of Weka to keep me company. Then onto Greymouth where I received so much love and hospitality from a close friend and his family which I am so grateful for! Got rid of a lot of sore muscles aswell by using a sauna and shakti mat to set me up for the big days ahead.

Day 8: Lake Ianthe

After an amazing breakfast and a bit of a tough goodbye I left Greymouth in the pouring rain but with my first tailwind of any significance. I was in such a rush to get out of the rain and make the most of the tailwind that I forgot to tie my shoe lace and tuck my water pants in at the bottom which led to ripped water pants and a shoelace stuck in my chain all in the first 5 minutes. Was a very good reminder that the small things matter especially on a big journey. After a not so desirable start the tailwind carried me down the coast road through some more beautiful scenery and rain to Lake Ianthe where I would spend my first night camping.

Was an amazing experience to wake up under the stars reflected in the lake and to watch the sunrise lift the fog off the lake from my sleeping bag. But even more amazing was running back into some friends I made on Day 3 again who purely by coincidence pulled into the lake for a look and after catching up decided to stay for the night too. I was very grateful to have some really nice company, stay warm in their van during the evening, have some hot water and learn my first German game Kinify (sorry Manuel I know that is spelt wrong...). The beauty of the lake and the reconnection with friends has made Day 8 my favourite so far!

Day 9: Franz Josef

Into glacier country! My first real grinding day of hills led to some burning thighs and some insane downhill riding over Mt Hercules. In the middle of one of the downhill runs my back tire ceased spinning and I lost control slightly before pulling over to the side as a bolt for my back panniers had snapped and the whole bag was wrapped amongst the spokes! Very fortunately it was an easy fix and no bad damage done asides from squishing my lunch... Arriving in Franz Josef I quickly checked in and before having time to eat went on a 8km bike to see the glacier before dark. Although it has receded immensely, I was still speechless at the raw beauty of this huge slab of Ice and the valley it had carved out which I was standing in.

Day 10: Fox Glacier

A short 21km day climbing into the mountains through snow, rain and hail all on a repeating cycle depending on the height as I rose and fell over the mountain range. My first time being in snowfall that I can remember was very special and made up for the brain freeze and purple limbs from the cold. After a long defrost in the shower at Fox Glacier the weather had completely changed and I walked to see the reflection of Mt Cook, the tallest Mountain in NZ, on the waters of Lake Matheson.

Photogenic is understatement for how perfect this lake reflects the mountains on a calm day and the serenity of the moment. Was dark by the time I left so hitchhiked the 8km back to my hostel for the night.

Day 11: Haast

Said goodbye to the glaciers on a very frozen morning with some parrots as the farewell committee sitting on the hostel roof. The scenery on the 121km of road through to Haast at the bottom of the west coast was so different to what I had seen. Little ponds reflecting the mountains everywhere, very little farmland, dense rainforest, huge towering trees and then ofcourse the rugged coastline for the last leg of the trip. Had a few friends if met over the past few days drive by shouting words of encouragement or stopping for a chat which was well needed at times during a full day of riding. Now I'm sitting by the fire at a small lodge in Haast feeling very grateful to be able to reflect on the west coast and all its beauty while preparing to start my trip into Otago for the next couple of weeks.