Sunday, 10 April 2011


Well we've had four nights in Wanaka in the end, today is Monday 11th April and tomorrow we start our cycle to and then up the West Coast. The first day was spent sorting a repair to one of the bikes (bottom bracket if anyone wants to know) and then just some pointless wandering. The second day however was much more productive with a walk up Mount Roy (1578m high), the weather was lovely and the views over Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park were quite something, hopefully you can see from the photos. Today is admin and food shopping ready to hit the bleak and empty West Coast. We will hopefully be able to access the internet in some places so we can update the blog but it might be even more random than now, sorry!

Cycling Days Seventeen and Eighteen and Arrowtown

We left Queenstown on Wednesday 6th April with just a short 19km to Arrowtown, I think this was one of the hardest cycling days we've had! Arms aching from the river boarding, legs aching from the mountain biking, bikes weighing a tonne for no apparent reason, lots of dead things on the road and our first puncture, it was just a poor day. Arrowtown however made up for it, the campsite was newly refurbished with a lovely kitchen and underfloor heating in the bathrooms - believe us this is bliss!

Arrowtown is another old gold mining place, we stayed an extra day due to inclement weather and mooched around the museum and Chinese settlement and then had a walk along the river admiring the autumn colours. Finally a drink at a micro brewery in town. Just what we needed to rest for the following day. Arrowtown is one of the nicest places we've been to.

Day eighteen of the cycling is one of the biggest we'll undertake, the Cardrona Pass over the Crown Ranges, NZ's highest sealed road at 1078m high. It took us just under two hours to get to the top of all the switch backs etc, we were deceived by the first section which wasn't too bad, the second section was hideous. However we made it without pushing and the views at the top were reward for all the hard work. A long downhill then to the Cardrona  Hotel and a burger and beer reward. An easy run then into Wanaka and the reward of a cabin for the night instead of a tent.


Well we had four nights in Queenstown and we didn't bungee, we did something that in the end seemed far more terrifying! We started off with a very entertaining first day on the gondola and luge, the views of Queenstown from the top of the mountain were spectacular and the luge was so good we bought more goes - we got air on some of the dips on the advanced course, fab at the time but we'll probably be crippled with arthritis when we are older!

The next day was spent waiting for and then participating in river boarding, this was scary as anything. You jump into the Kawarau River clutching onto a body board and then ride the rapids clinging on for grim death, the rapids are grade two and three and with names such as The Maneater and Oh Shit you can imagine they are quite intense. There was a total of 7km of river to ride down, the guides were fab dragging you back into the part of the river you needed to be in for most safety if you were struggling, but I must admit the views were lost to us, just not drowning occupied our every thought! At the end of the rapids we were dragged by jet ski down the river a little further and then there was a cliff jump, a board slide and a swing across the river - Ruth's back is bad from landing badly (on her backside) from the 10m cliff we jumped off - makes cycling a little uncomfortable now! A great day in retrospect but never again, our arms are still aching a week later from the death grip on the board.

After that we, for a last bit of adrenalin on our last day (but not too much), hired downhill bikes and tackled the single track alongside the gondola, it was perfect, you get the gondola up so no hard pedaling and then ride back down as many times as you like. Gary was good at the mountain biking so had a go at the harder tracks, Ruth stayed on the green track (avoiding the boardwalks) and tested the hydraulic brakes to the limit but did improve her skills and enjoyed it. Definitely something to do more in the UK.

And that was Queenstown done, apart from the two Ferg Burgers we had, delish!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cycling Days Fifteen and Sixteen

This was a two day leg from Te Anau to Queenstown, 31km on tarmac and then 70 on gravel. The first day was hellish, a strong headwind most of the way, and the gravel was deep and hard going, the only bonus was very little traffic. We camped at a DOC site that night at Mavora lakes, we just got the tent up and out stuff away when the rain that had threatened all day started. We spent a couple of hours trapped in the tent dozing, tipping puddles off the tent roof and killing some of the swarm of sandflies that had sneaked in. It was pitch black up there that night, no light pollution at all and we were the only ones there, Gary had a poor nights sleep however with the base jumping possums and their antics - including attacking our rubbish bag and dislodging guy ropes! The second day dawned beautiful, mist that soon cleared, a frost and stunning views over the lakes, well worth the lack of shower. The trip down to get the boat to Queenstown was long but enjoyable, 56km of gravel, mostly along a huge glacial valley and then following the River Otiri to Walter Peak Station and the steam boat over to Queenstown.


Well we left Invercargill in the most torrential downpour, thank goodness we'd booked onto the bus for the hop over to Te Anau. As we were soaked and cold we upgraded from the tent to a cabin, it was fab, little kettle and toaster, heater, marvellous!

Our first day was to Doubtful Sound, it was misty, rainy and cold but very beautiful. The rain meant all the temporary waterfalls were in full flow, the Tasman Sea when the boat left the Sounds was quite calm and the silence when the boats engines were switched off was amazing, you rarely get total silence like that at home, usually some car will pass and spoil it! A final thrill for the day was the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that accompanied us for a while. The return trip to Manapouri involved a stop at the hydro electric power station, the threat of earthquakes is never far from your mind when you are down a 2km tunnel under a mountain!

The following day was the trip to Milford Sound, this was really fab. It was a 2 1/2 hour coach trip to get to the Sound with a few stops on the way for photos and a wee stop at Knobs Flat (a classic if you are cycling I think!). The scenery along the Milford Road was quite immense, a long trek along a glacial valley and then just sheer cliffs and glaciers once you go over The Divide to the Hollyford Valley and then the Homer Tunnel. Once through the tunnel our views on the way out were a bit restricted by mist but on the way back you could see how stunning and frankly scary these mountains are. The weather cleared for us out on the Sound and again having had rain the waterfalls were great - the boat gets steered under a couple of them so that you can get soaked at the front if you chose. Where Doubtful Sound was beautiful Milford Sound is awe inspiring, quite the most amazing place we've ever been. See the pics below.

Our last trip for that day was to the Ta Anau glow worm caves, these were across the Lake (6 boats in 2 days!), there was the usual Kiwi disregard for health and safety. You had to crawl or crouch along a low tunnel in the dark to get into the caves, once in there you walked along dodgy board walks and concrete walkways alongside the stream. The lights were fairly random, no hard hats and really wicked stairs. All very entertaining though. We then had to scramble into a boat and the guide climbed along the side to the front to pull us along, the lights were switched off and we were in total darkness. The glow worms were great, it was like looking at the night sky and when they were in big enough numbers they did cast a faint glow that could illuminate the boat. We were at the back of the boat, it was very comical how quickly everyone scrambled out, virtually a stampede!

A great couple of days.