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.

When all tasks on my to-do list had been crossed out, I started worrying; Olivia wanted to leave that same day and go to the West Coast, and I didn't feel like exploring Wanaka on my own. It's a place best enjoyed in company, otherwise it gets boring. That's why I was so happy when she turned up at the hostel later on. I had also met the Japanese couple from Tekapo, who were staying at the same hostel, and I made a new cyclist friend - Robbie, a Scottish fella with flaming red hair, brave (or nuts) enough to have cycled all the way from the North Island on knobby mountain bike tyres. We all sat with beer in our hands and enjoyed this little cyclist gathering. It was really nice to be in company of other people sharing the same hobby. I met Robbie several weeks later in Alexandra, completely by chance, and among other things I found out he's a certified mountain guide in Scotland, so my next holiday's sorted - Lochness, I'm coming!

Olivia, Robbie and I spent a couple of days together, went for a few walks around town and had a generally good time. The Clutha river has stunningly clear water, you can see big trouts as far as the other bank. The only fly in the ointment was my sore knee, which made me even give up and turn back in the middle of the steep climb to Mt Ray, Wanaka's most impressive walk. Impressive not for the walk itself, which is very dull (just grass and sheep crapping everywhere), but for the views of Lake Wanaka, the town and the surrounding mountains. Also for its steepness - turning back after one hour's climbing gave me a start - how the hell did I get so high so fast?! With my sore knee it was quite a stiff walk back.

Then it was time to split up again. Olivia left off for the West Coast just when the weather got really bad (I was surprised she didn't get blown back to Wanaka by all the headwind) and I too moved on to my next challenge: the 1076m Crown Range Road pass, the highest sealed road in New Zealand. More of that in the next post.

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