Cycling NZs South Island #5

Connections are spreading like wildfire. On the New Years Eve of 2011 I got wasted in Kathmandu and woke up in bed with two Aussie lawyers, Yenda and Jason. They saved me from doing anything terrible and we catch up in Sydney annually. A few days ago I asked the Facebook world if anyone has contacts in New Zealand, and Jason suggested his friend Laura. I got hold of Laura, and she organised me a place to stay with Kelly and Carl on their farm opposite the Remarkables just out of Queenstown. And now I am drinking a beer at The Ranch in Te Anau waiting for Laura and will stay with her tonight near Milford Sound. God bless the World Wide Web and Good People! 

I didn’t fit into the hostel in Wanaka. First of all, I smelt like a wet dog. A wet dog that got its canned food all mushed in its fur (sorry Mum). I haven’t washed my clothes properly in nine days, but it doesn’t matter when you’re away from the civilised people. I like to go to bed early and wake up early, I carry funny bags and get way too excited about the wind direction. I loved the all you can eat $5 breakfast though, and rode out of the pretty orange and red town perched on the Wanaka River full of vegemite toast. I didn’t know it, but I was about to cycle the highest sealed road in New Zealand. The sheep scurried and stared. Road cyclists waved at the speed of light. My feet froze in wet socks with altitude and I had a suspicion I was climbing a gradual mountain. The claim to fame for New Zealand colonial history was the Cardona Hotel, built during a gold rush. It was quaint and unsuspecting on this lonely Crown Range Road. A sceptical couple of grey nomads munching mint slice warned me that I shouldn’t dare attempt the pass to Queenstown and I thought; challenge accepted. Riding through the high and dry mountain range felt like a Mongolian desert. Eagles soared above, and around every turn there was another puzzle of passes. The sun was at my back, hazing any understanding of where the road had come from. It was like a wild optical illusion from the contours of the mountains, because it looked like the road was going downhill but I finally realised it was a constant ascent.

The final few bends to the 1200 metre summit were so tough that all my pores opened up to breathe… Then snapped shut from the wind on the summit. This created stabbing little pains on my back, and subsequently a bra-less afternoon on the bike. A chicken sandwich and eagle eye view over Queenstown made the day one to remember. The road spiralled down, down, down. A reckless insect smashed me in the eyebrow and I almost hurtled off the edge, but made it safely to Kelly and Carl’s perfect farmhouse opposite the Remarkables Ski Field. I rolled up amongst golden trees, pruned hedges and 1700 acres of sheep-land to a very calm and spiritually connected woman who hosted me for the night. A Scottish wwoofer, Katrina was also staying there and we decided to hike up the Remarkables for the sunset. After the dodgiest road winding to the ski resort, we hiked amongst insane mountains to the peak. Orange tufts cling to the curved expanses like a sleek fur, and the sun was just setting over the wonderland of Southland as we scrambled over the edge.

Another Swedish wwoofer turned up for dinner and we ate lamb from the farm, talked herbal remedies and enjoyed great company.

Kelly sent me off hitchhiking in the morning with a little tub of calendula for my sandfly bites, a wrapped up a piece of cake and a mozzie net for my face. I stood with a cardboard Milford Sound sign just long enough to get a picture of the rainbow over the house before I got picked up by Issy, Dagne and Ollie. The German drove so we were there in no time. The rain fell in sheets but we could still see the highest waterfalls tumbling over the black vertical stone cliffs. Dark tunnels, gushing rivers and water drenched pockets of mossy forest define the basically uninhabitable fiordlands. There was so much rain that the four of us have decided to go back again tomorrow for a cruise in better weather. The others drove back to Queenstown and I stopped halfway at Te Anau to stay with Laura. I think she’s just about to arrive! 


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