Prologue to party town
I got into Otago yesterday but the change from what I’d seen before was not dramatic. Part of it is as I stopped just into the region, but mostly is that I did not reach the lakes. Otago is a region of which I did not know the existence only a few months ago but that as sort of become the spiritual destination of the trip.
Between Adam telling me about the glory of the Remarkables, Davide talking about the skiing paradise of Wanaka and Andrew highlighting the Otago Rail Trail as a must do of the New Zealand cycle tourist, it was easy to see how this region was coming up on top of the expectation list.
More on that later but first let me tell you about last night. I made some new friends, they are Yael and Tal. As you might guess from their names they are from Israel and I met them as they arrived in the Makaora campsite. Their camper van was parked not to far from my tent and we started a conversation that lead to, first have a drink together in the pub “happy hour”, and then with them inviting me for dinner.
As I have said before I have found that all Israeli I’ve met in this trip to be really nice people, but Yael and Tal really are the coolest. We spoke a great deal about culture, politics and discovered that there was much more that united us than set us apart.
Aside from their political views that I believe were very similar to mine, I found that there were true similarities in our life experiences. I was telling Tal how difficult I found getting to grip with my culture of origin, Italy, after having spent so much time in my adoptive one, Great Britain. He said he ad a similar experience after the 8 years he spent in the US. Coming home and reintegrating in a noisy chaotic and “in your face” type of culture was tough. Perhaps there is something that makes all the inhabitant of the countries that front the Mediterranean Sea a bit the same.
They are realist but optimist about the future but we both bemoaned the drain of talent that afflicts Israel as well as Italy. On the whole meeting people like them has made my interest in visiting their country almost irresistible and I guess, with a little of research on what the best way to do it is, perhaps it’s something that could be on the card for one of the mid seasons in which it’s neither preferable to be far south or far north of the equator.
I set off reasonably early this morning as I wanted to have as much time as possible in Wanaka. I have heard a lot about this town and about Queenstown, the next stop in the trip. being real fun towns, with Wanaka being a little more sedated that its neighbour to the south.
The wind was behind me and it took me very little time to get to lake Wanaka. I was to follow its coast for quite some time and I waited a bit before I took the first shots. Sadly for the first time I have cocked up something in the transfer and I have lost a few of them. In fact I have lost all of the shots of lake Wanaka but one.
After 10 miles or so I turned inland to switch to the coast of Lake Hawea. These lakes remind me both of the great lakes in the north of Italy but also of the lochs in Scotland. As a matter of fact I was close to messaging Emma to tell her that there were mountains round here that looked just like the Campsies at the back of Blanefield.
Just before turning for lake Hawea I crossed path with a lone cyclist on a racer that was going in the other direction. She caught my eyes as she was wearing one of those rearview mirrors that are mounted on the glasses rather than on the handlebars. I am in the market for a replacement mirror as the one I had fell off at some point in the last two weeks and I am now rearview blind.
Anyway shortly after I stopped at a viewing point where as usual I did the stupid thing of taking the bike onto the viewing platform for a picture, I saw her again.
As I was coming down and restarted to ride she was down at the bottom taking a little break. She had obviously got to where she wanted to go and turned back, made fast by the lack of baggage. We waved at each other and I kept going.
It was not long after I took the Craigburn picture that I heard somebody coming up behind me and talking to me.
Her name was Tanya from Boulders, Colorado. She was down here on holidays with her husband and we rode most of the rest of the way to Wanaka together. It was funny as she was much faster than me on the climbs and I was way faster on the descents, mostly due to the weight I was carrying.
We exchanged details and she told me that she had friends that have done coast to coast in the USA and I might be interested in the info they had. I mentioned that I was thinking of doing a coast to coast in Canada but, coming to think about it, there would be nothing stopping me starting early in the year and going one way through Canada and then come back at a much lower latitude though the USA later in the year. David would be very pleased to see me cycle up his drive one day, I think.
When I got into Wanaka I set myself up in the camp, did a bit of washing and hopped to town for a sightseeing walk. I walked on the lake front where the good people of Wanaka were busy relaxing and then I stepped into a local pub where I had a nutritious meal based on carbohydrates and amber liquid medication.
As I was writing this I decided that more medication was required and unluckily I had stepped into “happy hour” so my half pint intention was crushed by the fact that full pints were priced as halves.
I fee as I have to go out again now as this town is just to alive to be missed. Considering that this is the more sedate of the two I wonder what Queenstown is going to be like. I guess I’ll find out as I am spending three nights there.