Daily Archives: April 24, 2015

Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 1 – Christ Church to Omarama

Part 1 – Christ Church to Omarama

After a four day stay in Christ Church to put bikes together, adjust to the new time zone, and buy warm clothes and camping equipment we headed west on Hwy 73 towards the Inland Scenic Route. Memories of the first day cycling in NZ include stopping at our first tavern for coffee, heavy cross winds on Hwy 77 as we turned south towards Glentunnel, and pitching our tent for the first time. We also learned that the Dairy (a small mini-mart) does not carry beer or alcohol and that a 3 km drive back towards the package store seemed too far for the pleasure of a beer.

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This tavern makes a great place for a coffee stop. You can also turn off the main road and cycle along the river for a less busy option.

 

Other stops on this ride included Methvan where we discovered an excellent bicycle store, ordering parts overnight, and having a mechanic going out of his way to fix Eric’s bike. We also enjoyed our first pub meal, and discovered the Postie for mailing packages and for buying cute post cards and souvenirs.

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Just south of this bridge you turn left towards Methvan.

 

The ride to Geraldine was scenic but long, windy and slightly hilly. Rain was forecast so after tenting the first night, we splurged on a cabin for the second. Two days in one town lifted our spirits and gave us the rest we needed to continue onwards. In Geraldine we enjoyed going to the old cinema and sitting in the comfort of well-used Salvation Army quality sofas.

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Some well-needed R&R in Geraldine.

 

A beautiful ride along the canal to Lake Tekapo and onwards to Lake Pukakai where we caught our first glimpse of Mt. Cook made for a beautiful day. About 10 kilometers before Twizel, Eric’s back tire blew so we improvised a patch with a tube patch and lots of duct tape. The hardware store in Twizel actually carried spare 26-inch bicycle tires so we set up camp in that town and replaced Eric’s tire.

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Lake Tekapo

 

Our next stop was Omarama where we met up with tons of supported cycle tours on the Alps2Ocean route. It was here that Eric also had his first glider plane ride to celebrate his birthday at the world renown glider training center. Omarama was a big cycling decision time. We could have headed east to Oamaru by following the A2O trail or turn inland over Lindis Pass towards Queenstown. We choose the Queenstown option because we were anxious to meet up with some cycling friends and get information for the rest of our trip.

Eric's gliding lesson.
Eric’s gliding lesson.

Eric was also itching to cycle two great mountain passes, Lindis Pass and the Crown Range, enroute to Queenstown.

Cycling the South Island NZ – Part 2 -Omarama to Queenstown

Part 2 – Omarama to Queenstown

 

The morning of our departure from Omarama was noticeably colder than before. Heading southeast towards Lindis Pass was very windy and both of my feet were really cold. We contemplated turning back but once we left the wide open Canterbury Plains and got in the valley towards the pass, we were protected from the wind and the uphill climb did not seem too bad. As we got closer to the top of Lindis Pass the grade got considerably steeper even forcing us to stop and rest before the final ascent to the summit. In spite of all it’s hype, it wasn’t the hardest climb we’ve done. It was also during this ride we came across the largest congregation of cycle tourists – 8 of us all converging at the summit.

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Lots of cyclists congregated at the summit of Lindis Pass

The ride downhill to Tarras was fun and we rewarded ourselves with a nice coffee at Tarras.Another 20 km on rolling hills brought us to the Luggate campground – a cricket ground/super cheap/almost hippie commune – where Eric enjoyed a neck message and we both enjoyed a pub meal rather than look into the communal, mold-filled, uber-gross camp fridge.

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The Luggate Campground is really a bunch of tents and caravans parked around the local cricket grounds.

We appreciated the short, but beautiful descent into Wanaka. Being early in the day, the first campground we viewed would not let us check in, so we explored another place, The Mt. Aspiring Campground which came highly recommended. It was much better than the first but also a 50m climb in elevation – not a big deal early in the day, but enough of a climb that we did not go back to town for dinner that night. Eric opted for a rest and I took a hike on the Rob Roy Track for a view of Lake Wanaka. The next day we left our packs at the camp and cycled on a great mountain biking track to Glendhu Bay. This ride was pivotal in helping us branch off paved surfaces an on to more dirt tracks.

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The next day we started early for the Crown Ridge and descent into Arrowtown. This was a challenging ride but easier than Lindis Pass, I thought. The downhill was great fun with switch-backs and a steep descent.

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Summit of Crown Ridge

 

 

We found a great campsite in Arrowtown and enjoyed a pub meal with life Irish music.

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Enjoying music and a pint at the local tavern in Arrowtown

The following day we toured the excellent history museum in town before cycling on the Hayes Lake track into Queenstown to stay with our friends.

The next two days were bicycle rest days but full on tourist days. We traveled by car to Queenstown, took the Steamship Earnshaw to Walter’s Peak for a delicious buffet lunch, played bowles at the Queenstown Bowling Club, drove to Glenorchy, ate some blue cod fish and chips, and shot some pool.

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The Steamship Earnshaw parked at Walter’s Hill, home of a delicious buffet and working farm.
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Eric preparing to bowl.

Most of all we enjoyed conversation with fellow cycling friends.

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Our friends and hosts in Queenstown, Paul and Elizabeth.

Cycling the South Island of NZ – Part 3 -Queenstown to Te Anau (and Milford Sound)

On our final morning in Queenstown, we rode on the Queenstown Track to the boat dock for the Steamship Earnshaw for another ride to Walter’s Peak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the track leaving Walters Hill heading towards Malvora Lakes

This time we cycled off the boat and on to the dirt track to Malvora Lakes where we had our first DOC (Department of Conservation) camping experience.

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This was a very secluded and pretty campsite at Malvora Lakes.

 

We had a lovely night at a primitive campsite, but it was sure hard to get out of bed the next morning and start riding due to the cold. My favorite memory of the night was watching a movie in our tent because we didn’t feel like making a fire and sitting outside in the cold.

We arrived in Te Anau in good time and splurged/warmed up in a dorm room at a campsite. We made reservations for the bus/cruise to Milford Sound and went to bed early. My biggest memory about this place was the dirty kitchen at the campground.

The bus ride and cruise to Milford Sound gave our legs a nice rest, our eyes a scenic feast, and Eric a bad case of motion sickness. Mostly we relaxed and enjoyed someone else being in charge of our day. Milford Sound is spectacular and the trip was worth it.

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One of the many beautiful sites from the cruise in Milford Sound.