Hi gang! Tired Steve here, reporting from the shores of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. Boy, I think I need a day off from the bike. Today was a mere 64km, and only had about 860m of climbing, but I just felt tuckered out when I finally got here at the Purple Cow Backpackers. I was expecting a pretty easy ride today, so maybe that was part of the problem. I was greeted by a bunch of small, sometimes steep annoying climbs that seemed to sap all my energy out. Luckily, the views were pretty decent the entire way, so I was able to ignore the constant pain and sore muscles for most of the way. As usual, I’ve got my map put together, and some pictures for you to check out, so please do so, and read on for more about the day’s ride.
Last night I actually had a pretty good night’s sleep. I was the only person in the 10 bed dorm, so that was quite nice. I had my bike right next to me (well, not in the bed, but close by), and was able to get up and take all the room I needed and make all the noise I wanted to for a change. Normally, I have to be a little bit quiet so as not to disturb the other people in my hostel room with me, but since I was all alone, there were no fears of that. I was on the road once again by 8am, and was heading straight to a Cafe that was 5km down the road. That was my first bad news of the day. They were closed. D’oh! No breakfast for me. Too bad. Luckily, I had several bars, some crackers, and a bit of peanut butter left. I also found a forgotten banana in one of my bags, so I guessed I’d be alright for the 4 hours or less ride for the day.
I grudgingly kept pedaling, and put some good mileage on for starters. The terrain was just undulating, with great valley views to amuse me. Then, I got to Lake Wanaka. That’s when the road started making more significant climbs up and down in order to follow the steep hills that surround the lake on all sides. I went up one climb called the Neck, which is basically a climb to cross from Lake Wanaka to Lake Hawea. This only took me to 415m, and didn’t seem so bad. However, once on the Lake Hawea side, the hills kept coming, up to the pinnacle climb, a climb up to 475m by my estimates. I didn’t remember seeing that one in the profile map of the day. Had it grown overnight? Either way, it beat me down, and I took a nice break at the peak of that one, enjoying my crackers and peanut butter, a chocolate slice, and some pizza crackers. Then the Tour buses came. Two of them chock full of shutterbugs. I had to laugh when they wanted to take my picture, but I obliged them, and answered as many questions as I could. Bus tourists always seem quite fascinated by us cycle tourists, well, the older bus tourists that is. The backpacker buses mostly ignore you, as they are all secretly jealous of the freedom we have!
I rode all day alone, mostly my choice. Last night, I went out for a beer with 3 other German people, including Martin, who I’d cycled with most of the day. I mentioned at one point that I enjoyed cycling alone, and he took it to mean I wanted to be alone. Oops. I said that wasn’t really the case, but at any rate, they were getting started a little later than I was, so it worked out that I was alone anyway. But it is true, I seem to prefer cycling alone, so that I can talk to the animals, sing out loud, and just generally be left to my own thoughts. However, by the end of the day, I’m definitely in the mood for human contact. I guess if I was riding with others all day, I just wouldn’t feel as sociable at the end of the day, does that make sense? Anyway, that’s the way it is.
After the torturous little hills were over, I was basically at Wanaka. Wanaka is a town of only 4500, but has a pretty big resort town feel to it. It is the little cousin to Queenstown. Basically, you go to Queenstown for your adrenaline fix, then go to Wanaka for the outdoors fix. After all, this is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, and is the location of the headquarters for most of the mountaineering companies. I went to call in on them, but unfortunately, they are all closed over the weekend. I think it’s a sign that I don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a guided summit trip after all. I’ve re-thought my plans, and decided instead just to do another longer tramp once I get to Queenstown. I’m thinking of doing the Rees-Dart Track, and tacking on the Glacier Saddle Route, which is a bit more challenging and leads you to some spectacular views. I’m also planning on doing a 10-hour trek tomorrow around Wanaka that summits two peaks, but unfortunately, the weather sounds like it’ll be shit, so I’m not likely to see any great views, but get to enjoy all the misery of a long hike 😉 I think I’m a masochist, as that’s my idea of a day off!!
Anyway, not much more to report. I went to the tourist info place, and the DOC offices in Wanaka, and walked around the whole town to get a feel for it, and I really like this place. I’d like to spend a few weeks here, and do extensive hiking in Mount Aspiring Park someday, but not this time! I think I’ll move on on Monday, through the rain, to get to Queenstown. Hmmm… I better let Julia know that I’ll be showing up sooner than expected! Hope she’s been keeping tabs on my progress. I thought it would be the end of February, but I’ll be showing up on the 11th! This way, I’ll get to do more biking around the South of the Island, as well as follow the Catlins coast, and maybe even cycle towards Mount Cook. Here’s hoping! Hope you’re all doing well, I’ll check in again tomorrow.