We left Queenstown on the slow boat, actually it was the only boat. It also made for a late start, the ferry didn’t depart until midday, but we left in perfect weather. The ride along Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak was a delight, clear blue skies and hardly a breath of wind, the scenery was spectacular. The ferry is really just a tourist cruise boat, a lovely old steamboat, you could even go into the engine room to have a look around. The late start was well timed really, I wasn’t feeling completely well, so half a day off the bike was just what I needed. Once off the boat we did what we tend to do best, stopped and had lunch. Whilst there, another cyclist arrived heading for Queenstown, he was German and from the next suburb of Berlin that Christine is from. The next 90 odd kilometres turned out to be some of the best so far in New Zealand, spectacular, remote, and with the dirt road to ourselves as it came to an end at Walter Peak with only the passenger ferry connection to Queenstown. After just 10km I wanted to stop for the night, the views across the lake were mesmerising (photo), we were looking down on the area where much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, not that I am into such rubbish, though I did sleep well through the first one. Christine was accommodating as usual, “If you want to stop we can” she told me, but I really wanted to push on at least a little further, I was sure more good scenery would lie ahead of us. We left the lake behind, but I was right, the scenery remained good the whole time, just fantastic. We came to a river crossing, but by the time I arrived Christine was already on the far side, so I just followed her tyre tracks to where she had crossed though this lead me to the deepest spot with the largest rocks. I didn’t make it across, I had to put my foot down which resulted in a very wet foot and being as I was wearing shoes and socks I wasn’t best pleased. Sandals are so much better, it really doesn’t matter if you get wet feet, they dry out so quickly. Once across I then discovered that Christine had taken a much better route through than I had done, she had just disguised her passage through very well. We met another German cyclist heading the other way followed by a couple of Americans, there were more bikes than motorised vehicles. We stopped to camp the night in a valley just before a long climb. I hoped I would be feeling a little better by morning making the climbing a little easier. During dinner we started a discussion though before long it turned into an argument. I can’t remember what it was about, I turned to Christine and said “Do you realise it is a Monday….God is tuned in. At least he won’t be disappointed!”, she laughed, it even defused the situation a little. But we both agreed it was great to be camping again and what is more the food was better, we felt so much more comfortable than being in town. Neither of us had really warmed to Queenstown, other than tourism there is little there, too many flash packers getting their fix from an instant adrenalin rush. Incidentally we later read that Queenstown is second only in the world to Mumbai for the drop in price of its hotels in the recent global recession. I guess this is because people come here to spend money on the activities and if you are not going to partake in any of them there is little point in going there in the first place, few pass through as we have done. Later in the evening we had another argument, this was the most fierce we have had so far, in fact I rather assumed that it would result in us going our separate ways the following morning. I said to Christine “God is rubbing His hands together in glee, He is getting an omnibus edition this evening”. Really, it had been a very interesting topic, the different concepts of relationship, but ironically what had really fuelled the argument was my crap memory. Apparently I had forgotten what I had said during a conversation on the ferry earlier, though I denied ever saying it, it was something I simply didn’t believe in, how could I possibly have said it? I can only assume I had said it in jest, never expecting it to be taken seriously. Amazingly enough we managed to resolve our differences, there is never a dull moment.
It was a cold night, it was only 2 degrees when we go up, though by the time we left it had shot up to 4 degrees. We had only gone a few hundred metres before we saw the first cyclists of the day, they were from Rotorua on the north island. Christine asked them about all the hot springs, something she loves dearly. Then it was into the climb, a steep one that thankfully only went on for a little over 3km, the prize at the top being a great view that was bathed in sunshine, we had been climbing in the shadow of the mountain, we needed the climb to warm us up. Once on the plateau at around 700m the area was just perfect, it had a lovely feeling of complete wilderness, the track making its way through the wide valley towards the mountains at the end, we rode along wondering how on earth it would find its way out. Every now and then the track would plummet to a river, crossing over a small bridge, then climb sharply out again. We arrived at another crossing without a bridge and despite stopping and looking for the easiest route through I still managed to get wet feet. The track had a good surface, we also had a tail wind for a change, we raced along, it was pure joy. Eventually we returned to farming land, we passed through herds of cows, “We could stop and milk one so that we have milk for breakfast” Christine suggested, “Have you considered that it might not be that interested, it might want to run off” I replied, “That’s what you are here for, to hold on to the thing whilst I milk it”. Hmm….she is a city girl, she’s not from the country! We met another cyclist as we were having lunch, he and the group he was with were from Wanaka, we had now met two people today who lived in places we would pass through and there had not been a single invitation to stop over with them, that would never have happened in Australia. Maybe there are just too many cyclists here, they don’t have the novelty value. By the end of the day we were back on tarmac, had passed through a little town and were soon looking for somewhere to camp on flat farmland. We turned down a gravel track and entered a field through a gate and tucked ourselves in at the end sheltered from the elements by a thin strip of trees though we still had a nice view of the mountains. We set up camp and the dining room. Christine has changed so much since we first met. I remember that first night together when all she had was packets of dried food, all she was concerned about was keeping the weight down, she wasn’t into the cooking side of things. Now however she just loves it. Due to the fact that we may not have seen a store we left Queenstown with 3 days supply of food and this evening she went through a long menu for me to chose from, I could hardly believe my ears. Once we had decided what we were to have she sets about the tasks of cooking with such joy, she really doesn’t want me to doing anything towards the dinner, she probably thinks that if I touch anything I will cock it up, I guess I can see her point of view. My only job in that department is to produced an endless supply of hot drinks, though Christine will only have one tea where as I get through 3 or 4 coffees. This works so well for both of us, Christine loves the cooking and we both love the food, the best food I have had in ages. The only problem is that the supplies we carry regularly are getting bigger and bigger, we now seem to have acquired enough herbs and spices to warrant a spice rack, we regularly carry the likes of cream and now Christine wants to increase our utensils starting with a grater, so what happened to the “ultra light” person I met a couple of months ago? She also takes a liking to everything I buy. Over a period of a few days her opinion will completely change. Take the cheap crappy plum jam I bought in Queenstown for example: “What did you buy that rubbish for? If you don’t finish it before we leave you will have to throw it away, it’s a waste of money”, “Pass me the plum jam”, “I quite like this plum jam after all”, “We are running out of plum jam, we will have to get some more”. After dinner we sat and looked at a really pleasant sunset when Christine turned around and pointed out that it was even better through the trees the other way. We walked across the road armed with coffee and cameras and watched the changing colours of the fantastic sunset (photo), pure bliss! During the evening we selected a little extract from the Peace Pilgrim book that had caused us so many problems before, it made for a really good discussion. It was all about our own life mission, something I had not thought about before. Christine had, she thought hers was to be open minded and to make others open minded. Well, she has certainly had an impact on me, she certainly makes me see things from a different angle that is for sure. We discussed what mine might be, she even gave me “homework” for the following day, to come up with three qualities that I am good at that could be used on my mission in life that could be of benefit to others. We also discussed the effect possessions have on our lives, how the more possessions you have the more they tie down your lives and make us inflexible. This trip has really brought home that fact to me.
Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight! Shepherd’s here seem to like bad weather as after a few days of fantastic weather the morning was looking pretty bad, heavily overcast. Early on we passed an apple tree, Christine has the ability to spot fruit tree at half a kilometre, I have the ability to crash into them and still not realise they are laden in fruit. Once my front panniers could take not a single apple more we set off again, the drizzle starting to fall on us. During the day I could often hear Christine curse, we were passing more apple trees when she had been convinced we had passed the only one we would see. We stopped to eat outside a village hall then Christine went inside to refill her water bottles, but apparently they were far from welcoming, it all seemed too much effort for them. We were now heading north and back towards the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, suddenly we were heading into a brisk headwind. It was depressing, a long, long straight that seemed to take forever to cycle along, it slowed us down considerably. We stopped for lunch before riding along the shores of the lake and amazingly by the time we set off the wind had dropped, the road twisted along the banks of the lake with high mountains on either side and suddenly life was really good again. We were approaching the “Devil’s Staircase”, we have those in Britain, it’s always bad news for a cyclist, it means a bloody steep hill with switch backs, though not apparently in New Zealand, it just meant it went up a little bit and the road wasn’t quite straight, though it still looked dramatic alongside the lake. We camped in another field with great views of the lake and mountains. We crossed the field passing two sheep, then tucked ourselves out of sight behind a group of trees. Over dinner I had to hand in my “homework”. I find it very difficult to look at myself and see the good points, but I came up with being diplomatic, being positive and being a calming influence, though some might just say I am laid back. (Having a good memory is not one of my finer points, I just had to ask Christine what I had said I was good at). After a long discussion Christine gave me her view, that I was good at talking to people and having empathy with them. It began to drizzle again, a signal for an early night.
As we retraced our steps across the field in the morning the two sheep were in exactly the same place as when we had seen them the previous evening. After a short climb to start the day it was downhill all the way to Frankton, where we turned right having decided not to turn left and return to nearby Queenstown, our original plan. We had already ridden this short section of road on our way into Queenstown and this gave Christine another chance to display her skills with fruit trees, remembering exactly where she had passed some grapes hanging down at the road side. They were a little small but delicious. Before the long and steep climb to cross the Crown Range we stopped for a brief snack, to me that meant a biscuit, but Christine takes any food very seriously and out came crumpets and a jar of Nutella amongst other things. I was the perfect gentleman and put a very thick layer onto one of the crumpets and passed it to her, “What’s that?” she asked, “It’s for you” I replied, “Where’s the Nutella?” was all she could say, a thick layer to me is a light covering to her. Before we set off she said “I am taking this packet of sweets, don’t expect there to be any left”, “Whenever there is a packet opened by you I never expect to see the thing again” I replied. I reached for the biscuits “What are you doing?” she asked, “You have already had one” she added. “That’s my exact point, you open a packet, I have one and you have the rest, now do you understand why I am so possessive about my poxy white chocolate?” And so we were into the climb, starting with a steep series of switchbacks. Christine had been dreading the climb, but I don’t know why, she went up without any problems. There was then a gentle climb for 5 km before another steep section that took us to the top of the pass, where there was a plaque stating that at 1074m it was the highest sealed road in the country, something that really surprised me, I had assumed we were in for much bigger climbs along the west coast. From there the sign indicated it was downhill for the final 40km to Wanaka. The first few kilometres were steep, I whizzed through the bends heading down into a steep sided gully, though I was only going so fast because my brakes are just about knackered. I stopped to take a photo, but it was like trying to stop an oil tanker, I needed about 500m. We passed through Cardrona, well known for its historical hotel. As we continued Christine yelled out “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!”, it sounded urgent, very urgent, it couldn’t possible be an apple tree, I guessed she must have spotted a plum tree, I was right! It was the first plum tree we have found, we picked a bagful and continued to Wanaka, Christine delighted that she had picked apples, plums and grapes all in a single day.
The forecast was for a very wet day, it was right. We stayed put in Wanaka which gave me a chance to replace all of my brake blocks, it will be quite a novelty stopping where I actually want to!