Our slowest speed yet 04/04/06
We're off towards Queenstown today, the forecast is for a southwesterley so we will at least get wind assist by the Haast river; we ride away from Haast Township into a northeasterly which stays with us all the way along the river - ho hum!!
Our progress is slowed by photo stops at every waterfall we see, they are all very impressive since the rains of the last two days. We reach the Gates of Haast and the road goes up, a lot. We get off and push, doing the next mile in about an hour. Thankfully the road levels out considerably once we are higher up the pass and we can remount and ride again, albeit rather slowly. We make it to the top by 5pm and roll down the other side into Makarora where we get a cabin at the Wildnerness Resort before taking advantage of their "all you can eat" buffet - the potato option gets decimated!
The next day we ride to Wanaka, the route takes us past Lakes Wanaka and Hawea and has a couple of hills to make you go "Eeek" but is generally rolling. The only
time we see a lot of traffic is when we stop at a view point to Lake Hawea, I'm just about to dash behind a bush when two coaches pull up, followed by a Maui, two cars and three motorbikes - think I'll just keep my legs crossed!
Wanaka is very busy and it takes a while to find accommodation, we finally get a place at Mountain View Backpackers which worries us, as places with words like "mountain" or "view" in their titles tend to be uphill. Thankfully this one isn't, although it does have cracking views of the surrounding mountains.
We spend a day in Wanaka and visit Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World where we get lost in the maze, nearly fall over in the sloping room and spend ages trying to work out various optical illusions. If you're ever in the area give this place a visit, it will blow your mind.
On the 7th we ride off to Cromwell, again it's a rolling road without too much effort needed and we make good time, riding into Pinot Noir country by the early afternoon. We get a room at a motorpark and both comment on how much it
reminds us of halls of residence from our student days, but it's warm and dry!
We would particularly like to thank the wind for the last two cycling days as we have had tail winds all the way from Makarora - HURRAH!
Normal service resumes 08-10/04/06
The last stage to Queenstown makes up for this as we are heading west into a head wind. The ride through the Kawarau Gorge is good, no steep hills and no obvious wind, but as we round Nevis Bluff it's like somebody has turned the fans on and we slow down considerably. We stop to recover at Gibbston Winery and spend some time tasting the products in the Cheesery (yes, honestly, and we avoid re-enacting the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch).
As we near Frankton it starts to rain; we've been expecting the falling wet stuff for the last few days, but it's still annoying that we didn't get to shelter before it started. By the time we get to the backpackers we are drenched.
We spend a couple of days in Queenstown and manage to avoid doing any "adventure" stuff while we are there, concentrating instead on the really interesting stuff
like laundry, blog and money sorting - YAWN! Oh yes and another doctor's appointment to try and banish the lump once and for all, it has reappeared so often that I've named it; in honour of Dennis Potter the irritating lump is now called Rupert! So once again I'm on antibiotics, thankfully these ones are to be taken with food.
It's the end of the world as we know it 11-15/04/06
The weather forecast is for "possible" rain, so we take our chances and set off south again. SH6 takes us along the side of Lake Wakatipu for about 20 miles, the road rolls a fair bit and we negotiate a number of one lane bridges over the feeder streams for the lake. We stop at a viewpoint to look for the Devil's Staircase, unfortunately it is camera shy and remains firmly behind its cloud.
Time for another "small world" moment, we get chatting to a couple who have also stopped to look for the elusive Staircase, they are from the Isle of Wight.
We finally leave the lake behind as we near Kingston and just as the water lying on the ground disappears the water falling from above
starts, we stop for a coffee and to sit out the rain, half an hour later the rain is still falling and it has been joined by a strong southerly wind. We ride across the road to the motel and get a room, we'll try again tomorrow.
We decide to try a new mode of transport from Kingston to Fairlight - the Kingston Flyer, it's a lovely old steam train with original carriages and they happily take the bikes for no extra charge. This trick means we avoid seven miles of road and one hill.
Back on the bikes the road is pretty near flat and we pass through farmland, as we get near to Atholl we see a touring cyclist stopped by the roadside and we pull over for a chat. Vernon, noticing his Isle of Man flag, asks "Are you Manxman?" Turns out that we have "met" Colin in cyberspace. We exchange route details and generally chat for a while before Colin heads north and we continue towards the bottom of New Zealand.
We are expecting trouble in the shape of Jollies Hill so it comes as a very pleasant surprise to find ourselves at the top
of it without realising that we're on it. The road rolls on to Lumsden where we get a cheap room in the hotel.
In the morning the hotel manager tells us the road is fairly flat to Invercargill, once we're over Jollies Hill! We're both convinced we rode over that yesterday, but are unsure of the local geology so we just nod and smile. A few miles down the road we climb Ram Hill and that's pretty much it hills (and interest) wise for the day, we are riding through farmland and once we pass Winton the road is straight for miles to make the ride even more sleep inducing.
We reach Invercargill and the end of SH6 at 2.30pm to find the hostel shut for lunch, so we sit on the verandah and eat our own meal while we wait.
On Good Friday we put new rear brake blocks in and ride out to Bluff which isn't the southernmost point in New Zealand, that honour goes to Slope Point just down the road in the Catlins where we will be going in a few days. Anyway Bluff has one of those signposts with pointers to places all over
the world and a rather expensive and mildly disappointing cafe. We take photos of the bikes under the signpost, have a coffee and ride away again.
On our return to Invercargill we try to get some food as we have nothing to eat tonight, sadly the supermarket is shut as is everywhere else in town. Finally we find a Thai restaurant which is open, so we eat out; on the way back to the hostel we fancy a beer, but all the pubs are shut. Ho hum, early night it is then.
The next day we find out that everywhere shuts on Good Friday with the exception of some restaurants, it's a legal thing and fines for ignoring the law can be very high. We are also warned that tomorrow (Easter Sunday) will be the same so we head off to the supermarket to get supplies while we can. We notice that there is no "beer and wine" aisle in Countdown so we ask the checkout operator where we can buy alcohol, she explains that food shops in Invercargill are not allowed to sell alcohol and directs us to Liquorland. It's all a bit 1970's.
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