We left you last time in Tarras after our climb over the Lindis Pass – so called because, from a distance, a homesick Englishman thought its shape reminiscent of Lindisfarne.
We stayed in the lovely Kanuka Lodge B&B in the village of Luggate. It was a very hot afternoon cycle ride from Tarras to Luggate. By chance, on the way, we met our B&B host as she was cycling to the nearby river for a swim. So we tagged along for a refreshing dip in the snow-melt waters of the River Clutha – it was literally breathtaking!
We stayed on at Kanuka Lodge with Heather, Graeme & Patch (the dog) for an extra night so we could have a ‘rest day’ exploring Wanaka, which we had heard was as picturesque as Queenstown, but with less tourists. Graeme kindly gave us and our bikes a lift into Wanaka so we would have time to see the town and cycle back ‘the long-way-round’. We started our day with some wine tasting at the Rippon Vineyard, followed by a long, lazy lunch and a little provision shopping in town.
We then cycled the Lake Wanaka Outlet Track around the Wanaka peninsula to Albert Town, followed by the Upper Clutha River Track back to Luggate. I thought a ‘river track’ would entail a meander along the edge of the river, i.e. be flat and easy. In fact, it was a mountain bike track that went from the river’s edge, up to the cliff top, then along the top of the cliff and back down to the river (and repeat several times!). The path had the challenges of gravel, sand and tree roots, with steep climbs and descents and cliff top sections with no fences or barriers …. and I have a tendency too be clumsy and accident prone! With each little wobble and skid (and accompanying sound-effect squeal), I could hear Ruth and Rachel in stereo saying “what were they thinking!” However, it was great fun, the views were amazing and thankfully there were no mishaps. Mr G reckons he must be the only person to cycle the length of that mountain bike track with a pannier full of groceries for dinner 🙂
From Luggate we set out on our most challenging day yet – 1000 metres of climbing over the Crown Range. After 30kms of slow climbing we stopped for coffee and cake at the Cardrona Hotel. Established in 1863, it is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels – and said to be the most photographed pub in NZ.
The road then got progressively steeper until the final few killer kilometres to the summit at 1076 metres. We had fabulous views for our windy picnic lunch at the top, followed by fast, fun hair-pin bends down the other side to Arrowtown.
We camped on the outskirts of this quaint historic gold mining town, which is now a popular and relatively sophisticated tourist destination – popular with day trippers from Queenstown and with hikers (or ‘trampers’ as they say in NZ).
We cycled along the pretty Queenstown Cycle Trail from Arrowtown via Frankton and into Queenstown. It was heaving with tourists but we managed to get a camping pitch for two nights. We spent a day mooching around the town and lake front and took the Gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak for the wonderful views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables.
We had two very entertaining evenings with our ‘campsite neighbours’ – thank you John & Jo for your company, your home-brew, the chocolate and the loan of your full-sized cooking equipment! 🙂
We left Queenstown by catamaran, crossing Lake Wakapipu to the Mount Nicholas Farm Station on the south shore. From here we cycled up into the deserted River Von valley. This was an incredible days cycling – 46 kms along good gravel roads, with ever changing scenery, only a handful of vehicles and just one challenging ascent.
It was a very hot day and there was no shade available all day, so we were quite frazzled and dusty by the end of the day. The perfect antidote came in the guise of an idyllic free-camp on the edge of the South Mavora Lake and an end-of-day dip in the cold water. It was an amazing camping spot, with fantastic views and wonderful bird-life (plus the dreaded sand-flies).
The route from the Mavora Lakes to Te Anau was also gravel but this time with the challenge and dust of more vehicles on the road.
Once we got onto sealed roads we had our strongest headwind to date and it felt like a long battle to complete the last 20kms into Te Anau. Once again we had much appreciated ‘end-of-day comforts’ – this time courtesy of Stephen, a Warm Showers host, who welcomed us into his lovely home. We cleaned off the dust (from us, the bikes and the bags!) and enjoyed an evening of food, wine and cycle-touring tales ….. planting the seed of inspiration for cycle touring in Asia 🙂
We left our bikes with Stephen to go on an organised overnight trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound. OMG – what an amazing place! I had seen photos of the fjords but being there and seeing it all around you makes you realise that photos just don’t do it justice. The scenery on the drive there was wonderful and once on the boat in Milford and sailing out into the fjord, it was spectacular. We were lucky enough to have clear dry weather on day one – for photos and kayaking – followed by rain overnight and a wet, blustery morning. This meant that on day two we got to see the amazing waterfalls that appear as the water cascades down the rock faces and gets blown around by the wind.
After returning from Milford Sound we collected our bikes and cycled to village of Manapouri, where we had fun exploring the campsite’s Morris Minor Rest Area!
We followed the Southern Scenic Route out of Manapouri and found a lovely picnic spot on route at the Clifden Suspension Bridge – ironically there is a nearby settlement called Clifton but unlike Bristol the suspension bridge is in Clifden.
We stayed overnight at the funky Last Light Lodge in Tuatapere. Rural towns in NZ have an entertainingly ambitious way of promoting themselves. One of Tuatapere’s PR claims is that it is the ‘Sausage Capital of NZ’ – we later read that its one sausage shop won a regional Southland Radio sausage competition …. once!
The most ambitious (aka misguided) bit of PR we have seen was in Papatowai, where they listed the recycling centre in their promotional tourist leaflet!
The landscape in South Otago was lovely and varied – with many volcanic hills and the cycling ascents that go with them! Then within a half days cycling the hills had gone and we were cycling through ‘flatlands’ and the farms were more arable than livestock. The roadside vegetation also changed as the lupines were replaced with pampas grass and flaxes. One thing that doesn’t seem to change, no matter where we are, is the lovely song of the skylarks.
It was back to the ‘big smoke’ for our next destination of Invercargill where we Couchsurfed with the lovely Cross family who helped us determine our route for the next leg of our trip – thank you Ant, Sue & Tim for your advice and your generous hospitality.
Invercargill is the southernmost and westernmost city in NZ and the service centre for the Southlands. The city has wonderful green spaces and its Tuatarium at the is home to the endangered Tuatara. These reptiles are endemic to New Zealand and are the only survivors of the Rhynchocephalia order, which flourished around 200 million years ago!
Other Invercargill’s tourist highlights include a Victorian water tower and a hardware store! The latter, E Hayes and Sons, boasts the longest DIY aisles in the southern hemisphere (including a range of tool-belts – ohh-err) and also houses Burt Munro’s famous 1920’s Indian Scout motorbike.
Munro was a NZ motorcycle racer, famous for setting the under-1000 cc world record, at Bonneville in 1967, which still stands today. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record. His efforts and success are the basis of the film The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins.
The DIY store also houses many other great vintage vehicles, including a New Hudson motorbike, which was built in Birmingham and a motorised bicycle powered by the bizarre ‘Smiths Motor Wheel’.
Its ‘baa-lamb-for-the-chop’ time of year here in NZ. In the last couple weeks we have, more and more frequently seen lambs in road-side pens ready for collection and been passed by livestock transporters. Its quite distressing for a vegetarian and (in my opinion) the only ‘blot on the otherwise idyllic landscape’.
We have had another couple of brilliant weeks. We have been blessed with continued good weather, enjoyed fantastic cycle routes, met some lovely people and experienced wonderful hospitality. Many thanks to Ant, Sue & Tim (our Couchsurfing hosts), to Stephen (our Warmshowers host), Heather & Graeme (our B&B hosts) and John & Jo (our campsite companions). Thanks also to all the other folks we have met along the way for great conversation and a lot of laughs.
Our photos are on Flickr – pictures
Our track, so far NZ track
Join us again soon for news of our meander around the Catlins, the Cutha Gold, Roxburgh Gorge and Otago Rail trails and the railway journey from Middlemarch to our final destination of Dunedin.
Until next time……