Zen On Dirt

Tourist Buses on the Coast: Pancake rocks, oceans, fry bread, and glaciers

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There’s sometimes a debate going on in my head – What’s the best way to see a place? One could argue that the slower the pace, the more detail you see. You see more detail from a car than an airplane, more from a bike than a car, more from rollerblade than a bike, more from walking than rollerblades.

But, at the same time, when you can cover more distance efficiently, you get to see more places. The inbetweens are in less detail, but maybe the “highlights” are worth it.

I have no answer. I doubt I’ll ever have a comprehensive General Theory of Seeing Places the Best Way Possible. But I’ll keep trying.

Since Kurt and Kaitlyn were on a tighter timeline than us and really wanted to see Queenstown, the decision was made to hop on buses to make that desire happen. Unfortunately, for fortunately, it involved a two-day bus ride.

And we had to get to Westport, which was a solid 30 miles away from Seddonville, home of the greatest Holiday Campground that we’d found so far. And we had to get there in time to buy some food, disassemble the bikes to some level, and find the bus stop.

The 6am alarm clock hurt.


Kait, with a still swollen and painful knee, had decided to hitchhike. Kurt was going to try as well. So Scott and I set off towards the coast.


It was beautiful! Neither of us are really ocean people, but when we get to visit, we’re in awe of it. So. Much. Water. So much power in the waves crashing to shore! We were happy little bikepackers riding along the pavement – fueled by no winds and empty roads.

Kurt ended up catching us with 16km to go and we rolled the threesome into Westport where we met up with Kait and went immediately to the nearest cafe for second breakfast. I love the eggs here, the yokes are amazingly orange. And delicious.

Then onto the bus for the long drive down to Franz Joseph Glacier.

Luckily, one of the scheduled stops for the bus was at the Pancake Rocks, a unique rock formation on the coast that, during violent high-tide seas, causes massive blowholes of water to spout up. The rocks themselves, layered limestone, were pretty cool too, and even with calm seas and low tides, the water moving in and out was impressive. Nature is neat.


The next stop the bus made was at Hakatika, and with a 45 minute break, we completely forgot to eat lunch and headed straight for the beach. Well, after a stop at a food truck/trailer selling Langos, which is Hungarian fry bread. I couldn’t resist a garlic one and ate it while dancing in the waves.


Then back on the bus for one last push to Franz Joseph, where we got dropped off at the Backpackers, New Zealandese for hostel. We opted out of the hostel, but met a touring family from France who were staying there. The couple had a 10 year old boy on a bike of his own, and a girl who rode shotgun on a cargo-ish bike piloted by here dad. They’d spent 3 months in South America, were doing a month in NZ, and were then headed to Asia for a year of total traveling. How rad.


We rolled out of town eventually, after using the town toilets that had buttons to open and close the door, would open the door after you spent 10 minutes in there (pooping on a timer!) and wouldn’t flush the toilet until you washed your hands. And they played soothing music while you were using the toilet. It was amazing.

We finished the day up with a ride/hike up to the Franz Joseph glacier viewpoint. The amount that it has retreated in the past 6 years is amazing. And sad. The world is a changing.


In the end, we didn’t get to see the coast line in as much detail as we would have had we pedaled it, but, we got to see the Pancake Rocks and the glacier, and tomorrow I get to see my brother in Queenstown, so that’s pretty rad. And if we really wanted to, we could pedal back north this way…but only if the weather forecast is for ‘freshening southerlies.’ Headwinds suck.


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