Otago here I am
Did I do well or did I do well not going anywhere yesterday. Today stage was what all stages should be like, a bit of flat a killer hill and a dazzling descent all completed under a warm sun.
I am now not only getting south but getting into the mountains. In New Zealand terms this is heading for the cold. I hope I have not left it too late coming out here and bad weather will not spoil the rest of the return trip up north.
I could not leave before 8 this morning. I had been awake since 6:30 but I remained in the tent for an additional hour, it’s incredible how homey I find it now. From a certain point of view I feel less in transit in this leg of the trip than I felt when I was going through Europe.
While I still sleep in a new place every night at least there is the continuity provided by the same bed and the same bedroom, which I did not have in the previous stage. You might think that those were real bedrooms and real beds as opposed to the termarest mattress and the tent, but once you’re used to it, it’s no big deal.
The reason I could not leave before 8 was that I had to hand back the DVD I watched last night and get my deposit back. Once that was done I was on the road. I stopped in Haast township for breakfast, coffee and muffin, and I picked up some tips from a family of kiwi that were just leaving.
The son told me that it was a waste of time to ride between Dunedin and Christchurch, it is flat, uninteresting and full of lorries. Better option is to get a bus back up to Wanaka and go to Christchurch the back route, hilly, yes, but much more fun. I’ll have to take it under review when I know what my post Invercargill legs are like.
The first half of the ride today was a shallow ascent following the course of the river Haast. I covered the first 32 miles in a bit more than two hours at an average speed of 12 MpH. I did however stop many times to take pictures as the scenery was just fabulous. The heavy rain of the past few days had filled the hills and there was a whole lot of water coming out of the ground, sometime in very spectacular ways.
Looking at the mountains though I find it quite difficult to fathom where the water is coming from. They are not that high, I’d say the ones that surrounds me were no more than 1500 feet above me, and the top is devoted of vegetation. None the less there are big waterfalls all over the place.
The first proper Waterfall I met was the Thunder Creek Falls. I went through the short path with the bike and took a few pictures, just in time, as a bus load of people were approaching.
Leaving the Waterfall also meant getting on the road for the 3 miles of mountaineering of the day. I think the stretch of road betweenThunder Creek Falls and Diana Falls is easily between 15%. I had to stop many times and any opportunity for a picture was taken.
The other thing I had to do in places was to zig zag using the whole width of the road. This is a last resort type activity that requires a great deal of attention as traffic can find you where you’re not meant to be and, more critically, where they do not expect you to be. It took a good 40 minutes to do the three miles in question but eventually I got to the second waterfall that I had yesterday identified as the end of the wall.
Diana falls is really a river rather than a water fall. I assume there was a waterfall at one point but it must have sided away with the massive landslide that they appear to be in the process of fixing.
It was good to get there and it now allows me to be proud of myself for having done it. the road proceeded uphill but at a much gentler rate until the next set of falls, Fantail Falls. As before I ventured on the path and even took the bike down on the river bed for a picture. There I found the couple that were in the camp ground in the morning with which I had exchanged a few words. They were intent in erecting a pile of rocks like there were many already and once they did they took a picture and left.
It turns out that these rocks …… well there is no answer on the internet and therefore you’ll have to find an answer yourself if you want it.
From there it was a short ride to Haast Pass. I got there and took picture but neglected the 30 minutes walk to the lookout point. I thought there was little to see that I had not seen already and the path looked terribly steep.
From the pass the descent to Makarora was in two parts, the first really steep but straight, the second just flat following the banks of the Makarora river. Being able to see what was coming ahead allowed me, in the steep bit, to let the bike go, at one point clocking 44 MpH which, given the load, felt a lot more like 144 MpH.
When at the bottom of that I calmly peddled the rest of the way ending up tin the camp for just after 15:00. the camp is quite basic but it’s also cheap. I pitched, had a shower and had some protein + muesli.
The lady at reception told me that the bar/Restaurant has a happy hour at 18:30 so I think I might just go along and see what’s good to drink around here.
Tomorrow it’s off to Wanaka and then in another day I’ll be in Queenstown where I might just do a crazy thing or two.