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2000 Biking New Zealand

Day 02, 9 December 2000, Saturday
Lumsden – Queenstown; 112.6km @ 14kph, Queenstown Motor Park, $40

We arose early, showered, having been too tired to do so last night, had coffee which Charl made in the hotel kitchen our hosts being still asleep, and hit the road at about 7.20am on a lovely morning. The terrain was immediately hillier than on our first day. And the scenery somewhat more dramatic. The mountains on the horizon – either barren or snow-capped – suddenly much closer than before and more substantial, more real than yesterday. Hills all around dense with grasses and trees and bushes – a myriad greens. Broom/gorse staining the valleys and hillsides and road edge yellow. And today lupins in their dozens lining the roadside: purple and lavender, cerise and rose, butter yellow and clotted cream. And now and then entire fields of foxgloves. (And on later days we saw agapanthus in their thousands – indigenous to South Africa, but growing profusely here. In fact, few flowering plants are indigenous to New Zealand.)

Earlier than expected David (Wall), with his wife Jude and new baby Lara unexpectedly in tow, pulled up in front of us to introduce themselves and to tell us they would be spending the day with us, taking photos where the scenery justified it. During the course of the day we learned to like them a lot. Learned too that they lived in Dunedin, that they had met on an overland trip through Africa, that he has a photo library of over 200 000 photos from which, for example, Lonely Planet purchases shots, that he does quite a lot of contract work for Next. (Dee Gordon had suggested before we left for New Zealand that I get in touch with Liz Parker, editor and ex-South African, and offer to write them an article – which I did, hence David’s presence. See Appendix 2.)

On a bike sights are seen in unavoidably graphic detail. And today as yesterday we saw dead birds and rabbits and possums in distressing numbers: the long-dead splat flat and sometimes skunk-striped by the road-marking brigade; the recently-dead reeking and fly-encrusted; the newly-dead wetly red. Try not to look, try not to breathe (difficult on a slow incline), try not to imagine yourself in the same mangled mess.

We stopped for a drink from our water bottles somewhere beyond Five Rivers and leant our bikes against a rural postbox while we rested. In minutes a bakkie drew up, out jumped a man who ran across the road to pick up his tossed newspaper, and returned to converse with us – as it was his post against which we were leaning. A delightfully cynical Mr Andrews. Who said – apropos I don’t remember what, a discussion about how things are in South Africa nowadays, I think – that it only took one idiot politician to screw things up and complained that any common sense exhibited pre elections seemed to vanish post.

We had another break, this time with the Walls, at the Lazybones Cafe (complete with hottub) in tiny Athol. Tea with rhubarb and ginger muffins. Yum. And lunched later on enormous toasted cheese and ham sandwiches in Kingston at the south end of Lake Wakatipu. Glacier-gouged Wakatipu is 80km long, ringed by mountains aptly named the Remarkables, and ‘breathes’ because of changes in atmospheric pressure – setting up its own weather patterns. Charl was somewhat scathing about my being impressed at this, commenting that trucks create weather patterns too – and, of course, particularly on a bicycle, the wind component is obvious!

The last 15km to Kingston from the old Fairlight railway station – now used only by the Kingston Flyer Steam Train which runs between Kingston and Fairlight – was made difficult by a strong headwind. So we arrived in Kingston with 46km still to go feeling tired and not entirely up to the remains of the day. In addition to which it was astonishingly hot. Though Fairlight was marked on the map, it literally consisted of only the station.

Charl was amused by the road-marking lorries which demarcate the roads at 60kph. We had greeted a crew at Fairlight who had passed us earlier in the day. Charl, cycling ahead of me, stopped to await me on the side of the road at one point when the lorry came by again actually painting at high speed. But still the driver saw and acknowledged with a glance and a wave Charl standing there.

The rest of the day to Queenstown was spent alongside the lake – the road literally hugging its eastern shore. Wakatipu is beautiful. Pure with mountains dropping virtually straight to its depths; turquoise at the rare shallows where sandy beaches join water and dense bush. Beautiful, but the route tough with several long inclines. Our bodies increasingly tired and sore. The sun sapping our strength. This was a day on which the totally unexpected happened, in fact. I began to resent the downhills – usually the best part of any cycling day. Because each downhill meant I had to fight and win the battle for altitude over and over again.

Luckily we had the Walls… All along the route they would appear unexpectedly – David climbing bluffs and bridges to take our photo. And Jude supplying orange juice – much needed and much appreciated – from a large bottle from which we topped up our water bottles and drank thirstily. And Lara sweet, sometimes sleepy, sometimes not. They had also offered to lug our luggage from Athol – which eased our burden hugely. And ended dropping it at the Motor Park for us.

We came out of the Kingston cafe to find I had a flat – which Charl mended then but later had to change the tube itself as we had obviously gotten back on the bikes too soon for the solution to properly dry. And when we reached Queenstown – eventually and exhausted – my pedal thread gave up the ghost. Despite it being a Sunday and after 6pm we managed to persuade Mark Angus of Small Planet Cycles to replace the offending bit there and then. He is obviously an enthusiast and told us every room in his house excluding only the bathroom is chock-a-block with bikes.

Then ‘home’ for a shower and back to stroll busy touristy Queenstown – sitting pretty on the northern shore of the lake. David mentioned that a recent TV programme had claimed it would take 41 days to do all the things on offer in Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World – mainly adrenaline junky activities like bungy jumping and canyoning and jet-boating and parachuting and….

While Charl drank a beer in one of the many pubs, I had a Shiatsu massage sitting on a chair in the open and overlooking the dusky lake. Given by a visitor from Tokyo who was spending and enjoying his second working season in Queenstown. And who bowed after working his magic and who had to remind me how to say ‘thank you’ in Japanese (arrigato) but was impressed with my remembered good night (konbanwa).

We decided on Pizza Hut pizza for supper, but as it was already late (and really amazingly chilly after the long hot day), and as it was quite a climb back to the camp site (we had in fact walked down the steepest section of road encountered today – a short cut to the lake), and as there were taxis awaiting work right outside Pizza Hut, we converted our order to takeaway and thoroughly enjoyed our meal in the ‘comfort’ of our cabin.

We’re very very tired! Oh, dear.

Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
Between Lumsden and Queenstown
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