Geraldine, NZ to Mount Somers, NZ

31.0 mi / 10.5 mph / 885 ft. climbing
Home: Mount Somers Holiday Park

For much of our southward journey on the South Island we were on the same roads as the Tour Aotearoa, the 3000km bikepacking route defined by the Kennett Brothers. It’s similar to an Adventure Cycling route in the United States: a well-mapped and well-described route that anyone can ride at any time. But it also hosts a yearly “brevet”, a non-race event where hundreds of people challenge themselves to get through the route in as few days as they can (truly leaning-in to its resemblance to Adventure Cycling’s northern-to-southern border Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which hosts an annual “Tour Divide” race). The 2024 brevet kicked off (at the northern tip of the North Island) about 5 days after we had reached (near) its end at the southern end of the South Island. I was kind of glad to be “off the road” before they all came through, because it meant we wouldn’t be competing for accommodation and amenities.

But the Kennett Brothers have created a second, South Island-only route called Sounds 2 Sounds, which traverses the eastern side of the mountains whose flanks we have since been heading back north along. This route also has a brevet, and the 2024 Sounds 2 Sounds started (in three waves, heading south) in just the last week.

I signed up for the Sounds 2 Sounds Facebook group, because it’s a really good source of timely bike-touring information for places that the route touches, but that means that I also knew exactly why a bunch of lightly-loaded bikepackers stopped at the Geraldine Cheese Shop yesterday. We later talked with a few of them in the campground, and they were all cool and friendly and interesting, but also just as insane as expected. One guy gave us a bag of peanut M&Ms (my favorite!) because he didn’t want to carry the weight anymore (uh, but don’t you want to carry the energy?) Another talked about how a day or two ago he spent an hour in the middle of the night, with his arms above his head, bracing his tent to keep it from being crushed by gale-force winds. He didn’t even understand how he eventually exited it to acrobatically take it down (he then spent the last couple pre-dawn hours inside a toilet before riding on). The third was maybe the most “sensible”, having just taken a day off, but only because the back-to-back 120-mile days he did previously threatened to end his brevet via sores on his butt (he started with just a single pair of bike shorts, and wasn’t even carrying pants, despite the fact that it snowed on much of the route two nights ago). He was slightly-envious of the “normal” (non-clip-in) shoes I was wearing as we all stayed warm in the holiday park TV lounge (Keen sandals aren’t even especially “normal”), and I don’t think his mind quite accepted the words when I told him that Rett carries four pairs of shoes with her!

In short, we will not be signing up for the 2025 Sounds 2 Sounds, because it sounds like the opposite of fun! Taking a day off to avoid some wind is certainly not anything these guys would consider! They had all just completed the Molesworth Trail two or three days ago, which we did immediately on our arrival to the South Island a couple months ago, and it was pretty cool how universally impressed they all were that we did it on our super-heavy, non-suspension, skinny-tire bikes.

Everything packed up but the groundsheet (and Rett’s shoes) at the impressively-treed Geraldine Top10 Holiday Park.

Given how late some of the S2S guys had appeared in camp, and how stiffly some of them were hobbling around, I was wondering if they would be late to get going, but no, they were all gone before we even got breakfast started.

Geraldine was our temporary low point (400 ft. above sea-level, and we even glimpsed the ~10-miles-away ocean from a hill outside of town), and now we’re heading back up and somewhat more-inland along the “Inland Scenic Highway” which now gets us off that mainline coming from Christchurch for the first time in a few days. Traffic was definitely lighter, and while a couple assholes still snuck through, most people again were quite respectful in this farm country. When you pass through an area where the whole sky smells like dill pickles, how can you not be chill?

We passed through a half-mile of incredibly-dense, incredibly-healthy corn lining both sides of the road. Corn is a relatively-rare crop in New Zealand, so I think this single farm contained more corn than we’ve seen in all the rest of our NZ travels combined. Partly due to the acreage planted here, but also due to the yield likely doubling other NZ corn farmers.
It’s even harder to find a gap on the other side of the road.
This mountain that we rounded for the early part of the ride was unusually and attractively green.
Yeah, that’s back to more “normal” mountain colors on this dry side of the Alps.
Moo-cows and mountains, some of these seemingly hanging on to that fresh snow from a couple days ago.
Whoa! The fact that we only glimpsed this ice-king briefly, through this one gap, heightened the surprise of what we should really know as just “normal” in New Zealand by now.
More “normal” abnormal New Zealand…of course the rivers are still saturated turquoise with glacial flour, even if the rest of the place seems a million miles from any glaciers (the earlier glimpse of that ice-king allows it to make slightly more sense).

We had really pleasant near-windless riding conditions for most of the morning, but faced a forceful and persistent headwind for the final 7.5 miles. A slight turn left combined with the later hour combined with reaching a new section of the wind field all brought the forecast to fruition exactly as expected (10 miles behind it would have still been nearly-windless), but the brilliant-accuracy of modern weather models did nothing to make the riding easier, especially since the day-long gradual climb also tipped slightly-steeper at the same point (however, despite the entirely-uphill day, finishing 850 ft higher than our start, it might be the first day in all of New Zealand where there was no hill steep enough to require shifting to our small chainrings!) Anyway, this was the wind that we had taken a day off to avoid; otherwise we would have been riding into it for an entire day, not just the last 25%, on a much tougher road. The Sounds 2 Sounds guys wouldn’t have even remembered it!

The tiny town of Mount Somers is slightly inland off the highway, and our plan was to spend two of the next three nights here, but that plan depended on the Mount Somers General Store (1) existing, and (2) selling proper food. It’s always a challenge to figure out what kind of products a small-town store might carry, with close-inspection of Google Maps reviews/photos usually being the least-bad method (anything refrigerated? any produce? just a few bags of chips?), but this was the first time in my memory of such a store not even having a marker/listing on Google Maps (or any other maps service I checked!) Only because other websites/bike-journals referenced it did I know where to look, and I exhaled when it was not only there, and open, but had plenty inside to cover all of our needs.

We started directly with a couple of hot (Fairlie!) meat pies, a bag of Doritos, and sodas for lunch (even served on plates in a cute seating area!), and had a nice chat with another Sounds 2 Sounds guy having his lunch break before continuing on (enjoy your tailwind for at least 7.5 miles!) Their produce was quite limited (a few onions), but they had plenty of frozen items (including vegetables), baking supplies, pasta, etc.

The hostess at the again monumentally-treed Mount Somers Holiday Park gave us a gorgeous corner, sheltered site which later on seemed even more luxuriously when late-arriving Sounds 2 Sounders ended up pitching their tent in random unused spaces (not that those guys mind, and credit to the hosts for accepting them!) When I saw one couple roll in while I was computing in the lounge, I brought up the Sounds 2 Sounds live tracker, and used to not only identify them, but read a bit of the interesting Facebook journal they’ve been keeping (she’s on an ebike for the first time, while he’s still old-fashioned). They didn’t seem too put off when I “guessed” their names, which is good because I know that I would find it cool if a stranger had been tracking us and reading about our journeys!

A unique thing about doing a lightly-loaded expedition like this in New Zealand is that, if you can manage to stop at holiday parks, you would be able to cook your own meals without needing to carry any of your own cooking equipment. But surprisingly, of the ~8 S2S riders here tonight, the stalked-couple were the only ones using the kitchen, and even then only because they had a “trail angel” friend coming from their home in Christchurch and cooking for them. I guess most riders must just get completely in the mindset of getting all their calories uncooked, or from restaurants, and don’t want to spend time/effort in a camp kitchen?

For us we made an excellent goat cheese and bacon pasta, not because the General Store had goat cheese (they may have had bacon!), but because during our day off yesterday I had time to precook a pack of bacon, and we had leftover fancy cheese-shop cheese.

Our magical corner garden campsite at Mount Somers Holiday Park.
Lights strung between the redwoods? Is this Rotorua?!
The last of the sun reflected in this UFO cloud.
Our glowing tent below tall black trees and blue-black sky.


Last Updated:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *