Stage 4: To Queenstown, Te Anau and Invercargill

This stage includes a bus ride (red) and day of hiking on the Kepler track. We cycled 367km in eight

omarama-hotelJanuary 4, 2005 It rained overnight and we dressed for cold weather. However, while packing and loading our bikes, the weather improved by the minute. In the span of a half hour, we stopped twice to take another layer of clothes off. But eventually we had our bikes loaded and were ready to go.

santa-wavingJanuary 4, 2005 Santa Claus waves us goodbye under cloudy skies as we leave Omarama. Despite the rain, the temperature was good and once the sun came out it warmed up quickly. The few lingering Christmas decorations seemed very out of place to us northerners, who associate cold with Christmas.
One thing I enjoyed about Christmas in New Zealand was that Christmas decorations aren’t nearly as elaborate as they are in North America. You might see some like this one along a main shopping street in a town, but that’s about it. No tacky lights on houses; no Disney-like displays in stores. Very peaceful.

050104_d70_0514The road out of Omarama was straight and flat. The wind wasn’t bad and it was nice steady pedal. We knew that in a little while we would have a substantial hill to climb, so we enjoyed the flat while we could. After a few kilometers we cycled past these cliffs, which, under the changing light of the threatening skies kept changing colour. They were really quite remarkable.

dutch-cyclistsWe made it to the top without falling of our bikes! Time for a break. It had been a  slog. The road had slowly started to rise for about 10 kilometers, and then a real climb started, which lasted about 2 kilometers. But we made it. As we approached Lindis Pass we had caught up to the Dutch couple, as well as a German cyclist we’d met the day before. The five of us made it slowly up the mountain, providing moral support to each other. Like most climbs, this one was followed by a decent, in this case a nice long 20 kilometer one.

As we continued, the weather turned again and dark grey clouds followed us. For the rest of the day we would just manage to stay ahead of the showers, provided we didn’t stop for too long. Fortunately, by the time we reached Cromwell the sun was shining and the clouds far behind us over the hills.

Cromwell is an old town with little evidence of a past. A large hydroelectric project nearby created an artificial lake that submerged most of the old part of town and today the town is mostly a new development, with very few signs of anything historic.

kawerau-gorgeJanuary 5, 2005 Leaving Cromwell, the first part of the route took us through the Kawerau Gorge, a pretty gorge with a busy road. The cycling was challenging due to heavy traffic, many ups and downs, and a strong headwind. Little ups and downs are worse than a big climbs when cycling; they tend to be steep and more exhausting. We didn’t get much benefit from the ‘little downs’ because of the headwind; we were pushing hard all day.

One of the tourist stops in the Kawerau Gorge is “Meg’s Head”, a stretch of the river with a lot of whitewater. Here a group of people river sledging go by.

bikes-on-busJanuary 6, 2005 Rather than ride to Te Anau from Queenstown, which would have taken two days on busy roads, we opted for the bus. We had arrived in Queenstown the day before and spent the evening exploring the town. In the morning we hopped on this bus with our bikes securely attached to the back. The bus ride into Te Anau was only two hours.

te-anau-cabinJanuary 6 & 7, 2005 Our home at a motorcamp in Te Anau, where we spend two nights, including one day hiking part of the Keplar Track (see next post for details). Our daily laundry is hanging out to dry. Unlike campgrounds in North America, motorcamps in New Zealand offer tent and RV sites as well as cabins, like this one. It didn’t have its own bathroom, but some cabins do.

ing-in-rainJanuary 8, 2005 We were heading to Tautepere, enroute to Invercargill, where we planned the next day. Today was the worst one we had weather-wise. It was drizzling when we left Te Anau. But after our coffee break in Manapouri (approximately 20km south of Te Anau), it started to rain in earnest. It didn’t stop all day. Here I’m slowly making my way up a hill. We had come from the valley you can see in the background.

hotel-tautepereJust over 100 kilometers for the day, with no decent lunch break, but finally it’s over. We’re in Tautepere. The hotel may not look impressive, but the big room with its king size bed and ensuite bathroom felt like heaven. Roy rigged up a drying closet by hanging our wet stuff in the empty closet and putting the space heater in there as well. Apart from our hands and feet, we had managed to stay reasonably dry. It had been cold though.

south-coast1January 9, 2005 The south coast of the south island. There is nothing between the Antarctic and us. Today we leave Tautepere and head to Invercargill.

Here we are about 10 kilometers south of Tautepere. The weather still wasn’t great, but we were happy with just wet fog and drizzle compared to the steady rain of the previous day.

south-coast2south-coast3The stretch of south coast reminded me of Scotland, both in scenery and weather. Hard to believe it really was summer. The beach was magnificent though.

ghost-townOne of the things you have to be prepared for is the lack of towns and services. The map showed several small towns on the way to Invercargill, but most of them didn’t exist any more. Roy had spotted a sign for a cafe, so we went in search of our morning coffee. However, despite its “open” sign, the tavern was only open in the evening; the town didn’t offer any other services. This old building across from the tavern was one of the town’s more quaint attractions.