Saturday, 17 December 2011

Cycling NZ - Mt Cook... in the name of My Bad Knee

Click for more photos.
I haven't had much time for blogging during my cycling trip, so there'll be a lot of catching up. Here's some to start with.

Day 12 - Thursday 10 Nov 2011
Distance Ridden: 101km; Route: Lake Tekapo - Lake Pukaki (via Canal road) - SH80 to Mt Cook village; Weather: clear sky, hot, windless; Terrain: flat along the canal, few climbs around Pukaki, few climbs and steep drops to Mt Cook.

After three dull days in Tekapo (too lazy to do anything interesting, as explained in the previous post) I finally decided to continue my journey. Life poured back into me incredibly quickly with the advent of more cycling. I guess pedalling is what gets me going, after all. I jumped on the bike, kicked into the pedals and inhaled the wind with a big smile on my face. I'm cycling again! I'm alive!

The day was perfect: sunny, warm and totally windless as I made my way along a system of canals connecting the lakes in the region, all part of a hydro-electric power station system. The canals are followed by a flat and almost completely traffic-free road, ideal for cycling and sightseeing. The Southern Alps make for stunning views, especially here, where they're crowned by New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook (3754m), and especially on such a clear day (rare, according to some locals).

Aoraki Mt Cook, NZ's highest mountain (3574m).
Riding to Mount Cook...
By 15:00 I had ridden around Lake Pukaki and reached the turnoff to Mt Cook National Park, a one-way 55km ride. Still with the amazing mountain in view, I tackled the road, which was supposed to be a long and difficult climb according to some people. Nonsense. It did indeed involve some climbing, but nothing too serious. Besides, every climb was rewarded by a much steeper ride downhill (an absolute treat, unless you're cycling back...). If my good friend Westerly Wind was present, thing would have been a lot different, but for once he took a day off, bless the bugger. It was an amazing ride, with the mighty Mt Cook always in front of my eyes. I'm glad I cycled to Mt Cook and hitched a ride back, instead doing it the other way around as some people suggested.

Is this the end?
...with a sore knee
Why did I hitch a ride back? Because my left knee went on strike. After 80km it started hurting like hell and I had to stop several times, unable to bend the leg. I had no idea what was wrong and I got really worried. Why would the knee start hurting all of a sudden? Was it just a temporary ache, would it go away overnight, or was it the end of my cycling? It's true that I had started feeling some weak flashes of pain a few days earlier, on the way to Tekapo, but I blamed a squeezed nerve, adjusted my seat and after three days' rest everything was fine. Anyway, at 20:00 sharp I somehow arrived to Mt Cook village, had a hot shower and hoped for the magical curing powers of a good night's sleep. How naive was that?

The morning brought grim prospects...
The first thing I discovered in the morning, as you've probably guessed, was that sleep is not a good knee doctor. The short walk I went for turned into a painful nightmare and considering that I wanted to cycle for at least three more weeks and had no idea what was wrong, things looked rather grim. Luckily, there was Cristina, a pretty pretty Spanish traveller I'd met at the hostel. She had a car and gave me a ride (not an easy feat, considering that my bike was bigger than the car) and saved me 55km of pain.

In the end it was money that cured me. I cycled just a wee bit to the next town, Twizel, found a doctor who wanted to charge me 115 NZ$ for a consultation, and suddenly all the pain was gone!


  1. Did you also took an arron in the knee? :-)


  2. LOL, luckily i didn't take an arrow in the knee, otherwise i'd feel pretty ordinary with all these guys :)

  3. I hope you didn't pay the guy $115! That's daylight robbery!
    -Amber xxxxx

  4. of course not. like i said, when he mentioned the price the pain was "suddently gone" and i cycled on :) i remembered i had some painkillers in my first aid kit, but didn't need them, either. all got sorted in queenstown, a physio saw me for free and made an acc claim.


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