Why the new category: “Adventure South”?
All posts in this category are related to trips I’ve done with a New Zealand adventure/cycle tour company: Adventure South. They operate mainly in the New Zealand’s South Island but also offers some tours which venture into the North Island. Over the years I’ve had a quite a few people contact me after finding trip photos & related posts on my blog to ask more about the trips. I decided to collate them all with a special category and post this Q&A here based on the things I’ve been asked. This is an unsolicited story of how I found Adventure South and why I continue to go back.
- This info is based on my experiences and relates to the trips I’ve done at the time I did them.
- For current information refer to the company website: www.advsouth.co.nz/
- The images are mine, all taken during trips, not copied from a brochure!
- Disclosure: I knew literally nobody on my first trip but since then have kept in contact with both staff and clients who have become friends. It’s not uncommon to see familiar faces making return visits turning many trips into mini-reunions, surely a recommendation in itself.
Did you explore other options and, if so, why did you pick Adventure South?
I’ve have now completed four trips (just booked a fifth for March 2007) but I ended up doing the first one totally by chance. I was sitting at home in Auckland (North Island) on a miserable winters day and turned on the TV. There was a travel show that featured the Adventure South Milford Wilderness cycle. The scenery looked stunning, it was filmed the previous summer in perfect weather, and it looked like a great trip. What made a real impression were shots of a descent from Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound. I love fast down-hills and this road looked like one of the best. Since then I’ve done it by mountain bike, car and helicopter and it is!
I had been meaning to “see” the South Island as prior to that had only been for short work related visits and made some enquiries with Adv Sth for the following summer. To be honest I didn’t do much research on other companies, I wanted to do that trip, that downhill on that perfect summer day. What I didn’t know then was, the following summer, I would!
I’d never done an organised tour of any sort before, let alone a cycle tour. I tend to prefer “unorganised” travel, a rough idea where I’m going but choosing the days route & activities to suit the conditions. I have a total dread of the organised “dawn till dusk” tour, arriving at the same place, same time, taking the same photo, as everyone else & then on to the next stop till dark. I’ve haven’t done one like that and never intend to!
I was a little apprehensive as didn’t really know what to expect with the cycling – a 200km/day sprint race or a 30 km crawl? Adv Sth provide good trip notes and advice on what to bring but being the first time I wasn’t really sure. I try to do one (occasionally two) 70-120 km day rides in the weekend & was actually regarded as one of the quicker riders but, like everyone, just did what suited me. Some of the rides are so stunning you just don’t want to hurry.
Initially I planned to do the Milford Wilderness trip followed by West Coast Escape to end up back in Christchurch but an unexpected trip (to Australia for Formula One Race) clashed. I only did the Milford trip which started in Christchurch and went to Milford finishing in Queenstown. The weather on the first day was a cold & windy but (Guide) Merv promised he had programmed good weather for the rest of the trip and whatever he did worked, the rest was perfect!
Are the tours “organised”
The guides are friendly, keen to please, and although they have done it before there was no sense of the “stale tour guide”. What you noticed was that in spite of the unstructured feel of the trip everything happens smoothly. There was a lot of organisation going on in the background but it wasn’t “organised”.
The days are roughly mapped out, as seen in the trip notes, constrained by the need to pre-book accommodation, which is often limited in the smaller/busy towns. What happens during the day is flexible and can/will be changed if the weather demands or some opportunity makes it worthwhile. As an example in the photo below from the “West Coast Escape” we were actually riding east, the wrong way, towards the previous days overnight stop.
Bas (Guide) had rung ahead & found the weather “west” was awful, blowing hard & raining. We did a magnificent ride on the east side of the alps, in the sun with a tailwind, had lunch & then got driven west by which time the weather had cleared so we rode the best part of the planned ride to Haast in the sun. There is no fixed “the book says we do this today” so you’ll ride into a headwind in the rain…
What about the road & weather conditions, clothing, equipment?
The South Island is great for cycling, although the roads can be narrow in places the traffic is generally light & the routes avoid main highways where there is an alternative – often there isn’t. Thanks to geography & location NZ weather is very changeable – if you don’t like it wait 30 min and it will be different. The trip notes have comprehensive details on equipment/clothing you will need. The bikes, helmets etc are provided but you can bring your own gear if you prefer: especially seat, shoes & pedals. They will advise on likely weather for the time you book. Remember you don’t need sunny weather for a memorable time, the photos below cover just three days, fine, to overcast to fine again – that’s New Zealand!
What was the average age of the people you were with , did they all ride a lot, and where were they from?
The ages have ranged from mid 20’s to early 80’s! I would say the average was 30–50’s with a mix of single and couples. People come from all over the world although on some trips I was the only Kiwi. I think this mixture of ages and common interest in cycling is one thing that makes these trips a bit special. Everyone is “sporty”, within their limits, and the dynamic of the groups was great.
There is no pressure to ride more than you wish, no limit to how much you can ride other than daylight or the very occasional need to meet fixed deadlines (boat trip or ferry timetables). We had one couple where the husband rode a lot, his wife not much at all yet she enjoyed the trip due to the mix of other activities you can do. This may be hiking, kayaking and even jet-boat trips, depending on itinerary, so it’s not all cycling.
How would you rate the places you stayed at, was the food good?
Most of the accommodation is mid range Motel or mid range Hotel in Queenstown. Occasionally there is a home stay at a farm or similar. These will be specified in the trip guide.
Don’t worry about food as its fantastic, in fact plan on gaining weight in spite of the cycling calorie burn. Breakfast is often in a café (usually better than a motel/hotel breakfast), the guides arrange lunch, usually a picnic, and dinner is a mid range restaurant. These are typically smaller casual restaurants, certainly not “coach tour cattle feed places”. They used to do mostly pre-paid group meals (order what you like, pay for your own alcohol) but now mix in more “independent” meals where you can do your own thing if you choose. Some places this isn’t possible because there is only one place to go (west coast!).
www.advsouth.co.nz/ – "Small Groups, Great Guides, Superb Holiday"