Sunday, 31 July 2016

Tour Aotearoa Days 19-21

Day 19 Whitebait
Fox Glacier to Pleasant Flat 160km

To be honest, I found the riding between Ross and Haast a bit of a blur. You cannot deny the natural beauty of the region, but unfortunately the riding was all on SH6, so had a quite a feeling of sameness about it.  

As there were no off road sections it did make it easier to cover more distance though. I did stop for lunch at the salmon farm just north of Paringa and had a whitebait fritter with a bread garnish

The next stop was the Knight's Point Lookout and memorial

The ride into Hast was fast with a slight downhill gradient and a favourable wind. Again I had been crossing paths with other riders all day, but by this stage everybody was well settled into their own rhythms, so aside from a greeting and a quick chat everybody kept mostly to themselves.

there were quite a few riders at Haast and most had opted to stay there for the night, I decided to head for the camping ground at Pleasant Flat so I could tackle Haast Pass first thing the next day. 

Leaving Haast
I enjoyed the ride to Pleasant Flat, although slightly uphill there was a helpful wind. The scenery heading up the Haast valley is spectacular with steep hillside dropping down into the valley and a multitude of cascading waterfalls. Pleasant Flat is a surprisingly busy and well equipped DOC camping ground. I arrived around the time it was getting dark. As I was setting up my tent I was greeted by an American tourist who gave me a bottle of Steinlager. She said that they had passed me about 40 minutes earlier on the road and wondered if I was going to stop at the camping ground, she congratulated my effort and we had a brief chat. I continued setting up my tent and managed to tip the bottle over with some over vigorous tent pole assembly, I said a naughty word and only managed to save half the contents.

Day 20 Hills 
Pleasant Flat to Arrowtown 170km

There was some light rain around in the morning and the camping ground had emptied out early, I suspect, mostly, to avoid having to pay the DOC ranger who makes daily rounds. Haast Pass is not the biggest hill on the tour but it felt like the steepest, time for some more walking. On my way up the Pass a car stopped, the driver got out and gave me some Easter eggs, it was Alison, who I had run into at Ford's cafe in Nelson some days ago. At the top of the pass we cross over from Westland into Otago and bid the west Coast farewell.

I stopped and had lunch at Makorora, during this time the light rain eased up. From  Makorora we head into the lakes district first Wanaka then over the hill to Hawea. Hawea is a pretty little town by the dam, and certainly not as commercialised as Wanaka, and Queenstown. For the first time in two and a half days we were off road again onto the Hawea River Track, an enjoyable track with not too much up and down.

Lake wanaka
Coming into Wanaka it's onto the beach again, this time around the shore of lake Wanaka, certainly much more enjoyable than the last tine I rode on the beach in Northland. Wanaka is the last stop before Cardrona, I grabbed something to eat and stocked up on supplies, and headed off to Cardrona 24km away. I got to Cardrona relatively early and decided to push on over the Crown range to Arrowtown, first booking into the camping ground at Arrowtown. The Crown range is a decent climb to around 1100m, the highest point on the tour and at the top you can see the lights of Queenstown twinkling in the distance. The gradient though is not too bad only getting steeper as you near the summit. Near the top it was getting dark so I turned my lights on, only to have them fail in sight of the crest. Climbing without lights is bad enough but the descent was worse, luckily I had a spare torch, a small LED torch with 2 AA batteries. I did the descent with the the torch, holding onto the torch and the right handlebar with one hand  and the brakes with the other. The descent is quite steep and i was struggling to control the torch, handlebars and brakes all at the same time, my brakes by now  were making some disturbing noises. About half way down, the trail ducks off onto a gravel road to head down into Arrowtown. I was having difficulty keeping my bearings, so was stopping regularly to check the GPS on my phone. There was one more hair raising off road descent into Arrowtown. Late again, but the camping ground had a vending machine, snacktastic. This was to be my last night under canvas, it was also my longest day in terms of distance covered and probably had the most climbing as well. 

Day 21 Nadir
Arrowtown to Mossburn 139km

Arrowtown in the AM

I got scolded by the custodian for camping in the wrong place, at least I was paying, unlike the camper van parked on the road over the fence. I was aiming for the 12:30 T.S.Earnslaw sailing accross Lake Wakitipu to Walter Peak Station. I had allowed my self 3 hours for the 30 odd km to Queenstown, made up mostly of the Twin Rivers ride. What I hadn't realised was that my left knee had blown up overnight, probably a result of overdoing it the day before. It was a struggle from the moment I set out, in the end I got to he boat  30 minutes before sailing. The Earnslaw is a gorgeous old steam boat and even has a gentleman playing a grand piano to add to the ambience. I had some lunch on the boat and sat back and enjoyed the ride

 Walter Peak is a working station that does the "farm" experience, a good number of passengers were staying to experience the sights and smells of the farm. On the boat I met Dirk, a wave 1 rider, who had also stayed in Arrowtown the night before.

Landing at Walter Peak

We left together, but I soon fell behind, my knee was giving me some grief, the previous day it seems had taken more out of me than I thought. I sat down by the side of the track at one point feeling quite sorry for myself, this was my lowest point of the tour.

Low Point, Lake Wakatipu in the Distance
While sitting there having a sulk, a German cycle tourist approached from the opposite direction. She stopped for a chat, asking about the conditions further on, which broke the spell and I got moving again. Things were still not right, and I stopped about 10km up the road and had a little sleep on the side of the road. There was one more climb between me and Mossburn, which I walked.

 Across the Top

Once at the top and starting to head down I began to feel a little better, there were some long fast downhill sections, but the weather was starting to close in and I began to eye up shelter belts as potential camp sites. I stopped and sat in a bus shelter at the intersection with Centre Hill Rd. Remarkably I had cell phone reception, at this point I was around 36km from Mossburn, I phoned ahead and booked a cabin at the Mossburn camping ground for $35 as the overnight weather wasn't looking promising. 

The last 26km is on The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, I missed the turn off and had to backtrack a few km, I wasn't the only one, apparently the local anglers are a bit territorial and remove signs relating to the trail to keep cyclists off it. I enjoyed the trail it has a fast hard packed surface, there was also a tail wind most of the way to Mossburn. I passed Dirk who was camping by the river just after the start of the trail. With about 5km to go the sunlight was fading, I tried my lights again but they were only working intermittently, which was OK while they were going, but not so good when they cut out. I resorted to the hand held torch for the last few km to the camping ground. 

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading so far - look forward to the final instalment...!