Monday, 30 January 2012

Cycling NZ - Queenstown to Te Anau via Mavora Lakes

Mud, rocks, streams, that's what I call mountain biking.
There are two ways to cycle from Queenstown to Te Anau (the base for excursions to Fiordland National Park). Supposing you choose the shorter, slightly harder and much more interesting route, you'd be taking the Mavora Lakes Road through the Mavora Lakes Park.

The road is 60 km shorter than the highway (110 km instead of 170), it's all gravel, deep in some places but manageable, and if you ever get fed up with pedalling, there are plenty of famous tramps in the area (Caples, Greenstone, Routeburn), plus some very cool and rough mountain biking, as you can see here.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Cycling NZ - Wanaka to Queenstown via Cardrona Valley (Crown Range Road)

There are two ways to get from Wanaka to Queenstown or vice versa. The easier and longer one is HW6, 112 km, around Lake Dunstan and through Cromwell. The shorter and of course tougher one, Crown Range Road, goes through the Cardrona Valley and although it's only 70 km long, it's quite a challenge with a 1076m mountain pass, which makes it the highest sealed road in New Zealand. Chains are required during winter.

According to Lonely Planet's Cycling New Zealand, part of the road is still gravel, but that's not true, it's all paved. That book is actually very old (written in 2000) and even my 2009 edition lacked up to date road information.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Thieves, haircuts and crazy manager make an ordinary day

Just another day in Blenheim. That's what I said to myself yesterday morning, oblivious of the events waiting to happen later on. Chasing thieves, consuming large amounts of alcohol, getting a cherokee haircut, fighting with the hostel manager... So, yes, just "another" day in Blenheim.

It starts with an ending
It was our last day at work and although the job we'd been doing wasn't nearly as boring as wire lifting, my previous task, we were glad it was going to be over. Even skirting (tidying up the plants, removing hanging and dead vines, etc.) gets quite repetitive after two weeks. Since it was hot as hell, we stopped by the river to soak our feet in the cool water. Heaven.

It felt so good that we wanted more goodness and went to buy some beer. Back at the hostel we were greeted by loud rap music coming from the garden, where a bunch of Kiwi youngsters was hanging out. Considering our strong dislike for that kind of music and the fact that our group outnumbered them, their decisions regarding the volume and playlist were quickly overruled.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Cycling NZ - Taking a break in Wanaka

Not just Pisa, Wanaka's got it too!
After beating Lindis Pass, celebrating my 6 months in NZ with a beer offered by a Jehovah witness on top of a mountain and riding for 80 km without seeing any sign of civilization, we set camp on a nice pine clearing just past Tarras. It was only 30 km to Wanaka, but it was almost dark and after the day's performance, we were sort of knackered. We reached Wanaka the following day at noon, with sunshine in our faces - a much better approach than stressing out about a late night's arrival.

Olivia went to a campsite a bit outside of town, while I stayed at the YHA hostel by the lake front. First thing on the list was to do some chores - shower after three days, laundry after almost two weeks, oiling the chain to stop unpleasant squeaky sounds, buy groceries and have a HUGE steak for lunch.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cycling NZ - Cyclists meet... again... and tackle Lindis Pass

Back to cycling stories. I've got such a backlog of posts that it's driving me crazy, but we'll get there eventually. So here comes the next bit.

Remember how I went to Twizel to "cure" my sore knee? Popping into town was a lucky stroke, irrespective of the knee business. I spotted a bike rack by the supermarket, and guess what was in it. Bikes! How strange... anyway, jokes apart, one of them belonged to Neil, the Taiwanese fella I had met before, and the other one to Olivia, a French girl I ended up travelling with to Wanaka. What a jolly cyclist gathering, eh?

Anyhow, we left Twizel too late and didn't make it to the next town. We put the tents next to the road and tried to gather some strength for the next day's big challenge, Lindis Pass (965m). However, if it wasn't for all the sugar in the morning's big muffin, even bigger coffee and bigger still home made steak pie (no sugar in there) in Omarama, I don't think I could have climbed the pass without switching to the granny gears.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Family reunion in New Zealand

Siblings and beer. Happy days (and gulps).
The world is full of funny coincidences. A few months ago my sister told me that she was playing with the idea of coming to NZ and was looking for someone to travel with. Practically at the same time I was discussing practically the same thing with a friend and former colleague of mine. So not just one visitor, I'd have too! Then it was just a matter of arranging a few details, putting the two of them in touch and now we're having a beer together!

Shaky welcome
They landed at midnight in Christchurch and what a greeting they received. Less than two hours after they got off the plane they were already sipping New Zealand beer in the rhythm of a 5.3 earthquake and a loud party at the hostel. Although the party went on right until people started to leave for work, we managed to catch a few hours' sleep and then we went for a walk through town. They opened lots of new streets and did a plenty of renovation work since my last visit, so it was interesting for me, as well. I can't say the city centre rebuilt with shipping containers is the most aesthetic one I've seen, but given the shaky circumstances, it's a pretty good solution - cheap, quick and easy to build and probably very safe.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

My bike and I: reunited

Almost a month has passed since I last rode my bike. We stayed in Cromwell for a while, then I had to leave in a hurry when I got a job in Blenheim. Hitch-hiking with a bike would have been a bit difficult. I decided to cycle back south, and despite some organisational difficulties, I managed to have the cycle shipped here (thanks Mira). There's some cleaning to do (not thanking Mira for parking it under a pigeons' toilet) and then I'm ready to go! Christchurch I'm coming!