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Our Great New Zealand South Island Bike Tour

Week 2

by Pamela Blalock with (most) photos by John Bayley

We left our backpackers at Omarama and headed toward the Lindis Pass. Just like the evening before, the wind was being funnelled down the valley directly in our faces. We passed several paddocks full of merino sheep, and as good cyclists, clothed in merino wool, we stopped to admire their warm fleecy coats.

After a while the climb began in earnest, but was never very steep. And once the climb began, the winds eased, so it was quite pleasant. At some point, we looked up and saw Tas-Man taking a photo-op at the top, but he was well on his way by the time we reached the summit.

John enjoyed playing with the digital camera a bit, using it as a rear view mirror, checking out what's behind him (me). We often joke about whether John would like to be on the trip, as he takes 97% of the photos, so rarely gets to be in one himself. I convinced him that he should get credit for climbing the Lindis Pass.

On the way down, we caught up with a large group of touring cyclists, some with panniers, a couple with trailers. It turned out to be a group from the Coromandel, although their leader was an immigrant from California. He and his partner had moved over a few years before and had worked on their local cycling group to get them to try touring. They had started in Nelson and were headed down to Invercargil. We all stopped for a snack in Tarras, before they continued south with a tailwind to Cromwell, and we turned north into the wind to Wanaka.

We stayed at the YHA in Wanaka, where we met up with yet more touring cyclists, including another from California. We got in early enough to do some laundry, write some postcards, and see a film at the infamous Paradiso cinema in Wanaka. This is a pretty cool place with sofas and comfy chairs, and even an old Morris Minor for seating. I'm ashamed to admit that we had not yet seen the third film in the LOTR trilogy, and fortunately it was playing that night. They actually have different films every night, and when I went in to ask what day it was (so I could figure out what was playing), I was told how lucky I was. Honestly, they have to get that question all the time from tourists! The intermission was great, as was the ice cream.

The next day, we planned a short ride over the Crown Range road to Arrowtown. Just as we approached a new cafe in Cardrona, we met up with a couple of folks from the Netherlands. We sat down at the cafe and compared notes on cycle-touring for an hour or so. When we finally headed out, we met up with yet another tourist, and chatted away for a while. We didn't have a lot of distance to cover that day, so it was nice to meet up with so many folks.

The ride over the crown range is challenging. The climb is good, and twisty. We had tailwinds for the first part, but not so helpful winds on the rather technical descent. We've done this road now several times in both directions. It is one of my favourites, and I highly recommend it!

We stayed the night in a BBH hostel in Arrowtown, after enjoying great coffee at a local cafe. Arrowtown is one of our favorite places. The locals have made a real effort to retain the charm of the old main street, and many of the homes as well.

Our final day on the bike for a while was through Queenstown and on to Glenorchy. We planned a stop at the big grocer in Queenstown to buy food for the tramp. This store has underground parking and a ramp inside the store to get up from the lot. We rode into the garage and up this ramp, and parked almost inside the store. We quickly selected food for the next several days (lunch and dinner today, plus 3 days tramping). We came out and disposed of excess packaging and cramming all this food into our two small front panniers. One was already reserved for food. The other has rain and cold weather gear. Each of the rear bags is for our off the bike clothing, toiletries, etc. We were very proud that we could get everything in. I must admit that over the last 18 months, we have gotten pretty good at shopping and packing for tramps, but it seems we take more food on each successive tramp. It's a tradeoff - more food means more weight. But we don't like rationing food at the end of a tramp!

And we not only had to carry this food on our backs for the tramp, but we had to carry it on the bike up and down all the hills between Queenstown and Glenorchy! This road is magnificent. The views are among the best around, and the road rolls along up and down and up and down, next to the lake. It is a tough but rewarding ride. It also ranks among my favourites, and those I recommend to others. In fact the whole area around Queenstown is just remarkable for cycling.

We got into Glenorchy and checked into the campground where we had booked a cabin. We had shipped our backpacks, boots, poles, etc down, and had arranged to leave the tandem there for the time we would be walking. We picked up our packs, and then headed over to the DOC office, where we picked up our tickets for the Routeburn. Then we made our way around to Glenorchy Cafe for some of their great coffee and pastries. That evening we traded cycling shoes for boots, saddles for walking sticks, and panniers for backpacks, and shifting from cycle-tourists to trampers.

The next morning we began our tramp on the Routeburn Track. After the tramp, we'd scheduled a rest and shopping day, which we used instead as a day to cruise the Doubtful Sound. Then we walked the Milford Track, before finally returning to Glenorchy to collect the bike and resume our bike tour.



Vital Statistics

date destination distance climbing magpies
Monday 22 March Wanaka 105 827 21
Tuesday 23 March Arrowtown 60 905 1
Wednesday 24 March Glenorchy 72 1029 0
Thursday 25 March Routeburn Falls Hut 9 ??  
Friday 26 March Mackenzie Hut 11 ??  
Saturday 27 March The Divide - Te Anau 12 ??  
Sunday 28 March Doubbtful Sound - Te Anau -- --  

Week 1

Enough of this biking stuff. Jump straight to the
Routeburn Track

Milford Track

Doubtful Sound

Franz Josef Glacier