Friday, March 13th: Well, it was cold last night. Probably a low of 6c. But I stayed warm wearing all the clothes I listed last night; and the beanie sufficed. The Lake Hawea Holiday Park was excellent, with a beautiful location by the lake…and a food truck serving healthy food last night. Below is my tent and bike this morning, and the first touch of sun on the peaks behind.
I set off just after 8am down the cycle track along the Hawea River. It was colder away from the lake, 4c my computer said. But my long fingered gloves were in the deepest recesses of my most inaccessible bag. So my fingers got cold very quickly. I had to slow down to ride with one hand at a time up my shorts. But the views were worth the cold start…mist rising from the Hawea River and the sun catching a cobweb.
The first of my three very social stops of the day was in Wanaka, meeting Wayne and Jane, friends who moved down from Auckland many years ago. They’re keen cyclists, with a friend on the TA, so we had a very lively catchup in a fine cafe while I consumed my old friend, Bacon Eggs Bene.
Wanaka was chocker, what with the A&P show today and tomorrow and the Motatapu mountain bike race tomorrow from Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka over the mountains to Arrowtown. I set off from town up the Cardrona Valley for the climb over the Crown Range. Cars were pouring over the pass from Queenstown and speeding down to Wanaka. Judging by type of vehicles (a mix of luxury SUVs and lots of utes) and the intense rivalry, well, disdain actually, the two towns have for each other, it felt as though marauding Queenstowners were racing into Wanaka to rape and pillage at the A&P show.
The road rises gently, some 300m in the first 25km, to the classic old Cardrona Hotel. I paused outside to fuel up with a bit of food before the climb stiffened over the next 11km before getting steep for the last 3km to the top. I didn’t dare stop to take a photo on the steep section for fear of being unable to get going again. Magically, a light, cool tailwind suddenly emerged from the stillness as I started to overheat on the climb.
I have a very special memory of this last short stretch of road to the top of the 800m climb. On February 13th, 2010, I was struggling up it. It was the penultimate day of the Heart Foundation’s fund raising road ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff. We’d average 170km a day to ride down the North Island in seven days, and the South Island in six. This day was going to be a 200km one from Twizel to Arrowtown, over the Lindis Pass in the morning, lunch at Tarras, then over the Crown Range in the afternoon.
As I looked up eagerly searching for the summit I saw in the distance a woman jumping up and down. Next time I looked I thought she looked a bit like Lynn. The third time I raised my head I realised it was her. She had sprung the surprise of meeting me at the top to be with me for the last day of the ride to Bluff. On that last day, 225km, our little Heart Ride peloton was accompanied by about a dozen Queenstown Pedallers, the cycling club organised by my oldest Kiwi friend, Peter Atkinson. We enjoyed their company, and they were very willing to protect us from the nasty cross wind we had much of the day.
Today on the summit I found five TAers picnicking, like me some of the last of the first wave of departees from the Cape on Feb 17, who I’ve been riding with a lot – Rex, Anita, Steve, Rebecca and Jane.
Needless to say, the descent is thrilling. If you didn’t touch the brakes you’d feel as though you were on the glide path to Queenstown airport. Halfway down, at the Terraces, our route took us right on to a gravel road then on to Tobins Track, a rough, steep, old and very direct route down to Arrowtown, with some fine views of the town on the way down.
I stopped in Arrowtown for an hour and a half or so to visit Peter and Heather. As I mentioned, Peter is my oldest Kiwi friend. Shortly after I arrived in Auckland, I was riding home along Tamaki Drive one evening from my job at the Herald, on my old Dawes touring bike with my trousers tucked into my socks. This tall, thin cyclist with a classic, smooth riding style came along side and said “G’day…nice evening for a ride.” We got chatting and in no time Peter had invited me to come ride with the Manukau Veterans Cycling Club. He and Heather had been among the handful of people who turned up for the first gathering some years before organised by two old timers.
Over the years we’ve had a great deal of cycling fun together…such as eight Taupo’s as a two-man team, three Motatapu MTB races in his beloved local Otago hills and river valleys, and our ride across the South Island on the longest day of 2009 with members of the Queenstown Pedallers. We left Sumner as the sun was rising out of the Pacific Ocean and 255km later we arrived in Hokitika as it set in the Tasman Sea. Peter had organised it specially as training for me for the Heart Ride the following February.
Peter is always helping and encouraging cyclists, and advocating on our behalf — the 600 current Pedallers and the thousands of others in Auckland and elsewhere over the decades before. He has taught me a huge amount about cycling, greatly enhancing my skills and enjoyment. Thanks to him I’m riding comfortably and confidently down the country. We had a great time together this afternoon reminiscing about rides past and discussing great rides to come.
Then I pushed on in glorious late afternoon sunshine to Frankton to briefly catch up in a bar/restaurant with Pete Yarrell, another great old friend who is the founder and organiser of the five Tour of New Zealand road events since 2012…with the sixth all set for 2021. We had a very jolly time before he had to scoot across the road to the airport to pick up yet another relative of his coming in for tomorrow’s Motatapu race.
I sauntered on into Queenstown to my motel taking the three photos below of the Remarkables, the far side of Lake Wakatipu, then further around to Walter Peak. I’m heading to the latter tomorrow morning at 10am in the Earnslaw, the old steam-powered tourist boat. A lot of TAers will be on board too, such as the five on top of the Crown Range with me. From Walter Peak, we start the last leg of the Tour – 240km to Bluff which most of us are planning to do in three leisurely days.