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Wanaka - Queenstown

by Pamela Blalock and John Bayley

We stopped for the night at a backpackers on a sheep farm in Omarama, a wee cross-roads of a town. We stayed in a building that must have originally been built for the shepherd, but was converted to a backpackers. The poor shepherd now had a little metal shed out to the side, although he could use the shower at kitchen in the hostel! This hostel was only open in the summer, as the building had no real heat. There was a tiny space heater that I huddled in front of at breakfast. It is spring and was quite warm in Christchurch when we first arrived, but it snowed in Omarama overnight. The mountains all around us were dusted with snow, and we actually saw some flurries outside the window.

We eventually made it to Wanaka, where, we hoped to find an old fashioned bottom bracket spanner which would work as a coupler tool. These darn new fangled cartridge bottom brackets make it hard to find the proper tool !

After visiting three bike shops, we finally were able to buy a tool and got the bike back together. We had a lovely ride in the afternoon to the top of the crown range - between Wanaka and Queenstown. The Lonely Planet had indicated that this road was gravel at the top, but it apparently has been paved for a couple of years. Given our late start, we simply rode the 40 km out to the top, and then coasted back down. We had a pretty good tailwind for the return journey as well as that lovely long descent.

We had a great Thai dinner, and then wandered into another restaurant for dessert. We struck up a conversation with some locals at a nearby table, who highly recommended the area as a place to settle. They ordered an antipasto plate that looked fabulous, and I decided on the spot I wanted to stay another night, so we could come back for that dish.

So we planned a 160 km route for the next day that would take us out to Cromwell, down towards Queenstown and back over the Crown Range. The first part of the ride was relatively flat as we made our way down to Cromwell riding alongside a river. We stopped at a fruit stand cafe, and had a leisurely lunch. It was still a bit chilly when we got ready to leave, but we noticed a couple of touring cyclists enjoying ice cream! It turned out they were from Thailand, and were doing a round the world tour. It had been quite warm on the North Island, but despite the ice cream, they indeed did find it chilly here!

We continued down through the beautiful Kawarau Gorge, and the sun even poked out a bit to enhance the scenery. We passed several Bungee Jumping sites, but not once did I find myself tempted to jump off a perfectly good bridge with a bungee cord wrapped around my ankle.

We reached the turnoff for the Crown Range, and began the very tight and twisty climb. It started out steep, but eased off a bit before becoming steep again. After a while we saw the top where we had turned back the day before, and knew we had a relatively easy 40 km of mostly descent to go. The winds were still pretty strong and blew us home.

We showered quickly and headed out for that great looking antipasto, only to find the cafe closed early on Sunday, so instead we devoured an great Indian meal.

The winds had died down a bit from our day at Lake Tekapo, but so had the sunshine. It was a bit cool and overcast for our rides. So sure enough on Monday when we had planned to visit Puzzling World, the sun was bright and glorious. We spent the morning at the puzzle museum, followed by a bit of time inside a great maze where one of us took longer than the other...

Then we drove over to Queenstown, where we checked out the shops and avoided the hype and adrenaline activities that the town in so famous for. We'd planned to do a bit of offroad riding the next day, but some serious rain set in, so we changed our plans and decided to just head straight for Dunedin, passing through the towns of Clinton and Gore on the way. The sign makers here have a good sense of humour!