Queenstown – Ben Lomond Hike
Queenstown – Cromwell – Omakau – Ranfurly – Middlemarch – Dunedin = 332kms (5 days cycling + 1 rest day)
Dunedin Otago Peninsula – 60kms
Total: 1408kms (21 days of cycling, 6 rest days).
From Wanaka, we set off for Queenstown; initially we were going to break up the ride into 2 days until we found out it could be done in 1 day via the 'Crown Range'. We were advised* there were ‘a few steep bits’ but that the views were stunning… The night before we set off, we met someone else who had just driven his car over the Crown Range; we told him our plans to bike it… once he stopped laughing, he told us his car struggled to make it over the mountains… naively, I had thought the Crown Range was the name of the highway, it turns out it is an actual mountain range. The final blow in this nightmare was that the Crown Range turned out to be 75kms, not 57kms as advised by Daryn… *In hindsight, it would appear taking advice from a friendly but overweight motorist might not be the best way to choose cycle routes… and that Daryn might be dyslexic.
Arriving in Queenstown, we decided that we deserved 2 days off the bikes; after 1 rest day we were bored so we thought we’d do some ‘light walking’ to keep the legs limber… within about 3 minutes I managed to find the most difficult day-hike there was in Queenstown and dragged Daryn up to the peak of Ben Lomond; 8 hours of hiking later, we hobbled back to our campsite and self-medicated with equal amounts of tiger-balm, ibuprofen and gin & tonics. When comparing what hurt the most at the end of the day, Daryn remarked that even his toenails hurt.
Unbelievably sore, we opted to cross back over to the east coast via ‘The Otago Rail Trail’ – a 150km train route which has been converted into a bike trail. We decided to break it up into 3 days to give our poor legs a rest given it was a 2 person job to get in and out of the tent as our legs were refusing to cooperate. Daryn’s logic was that trains don’t go up steep hills so this should be a piece of cake… we even had a fancy pamphlet that confirmed the elevation didn’t increase more than 1 vertical meter for every 5 horizontal meters… this might sound comforting after crossing a mountain range, however, climbing at this rate for over 60kms - on touring bikes, carrying 35kgs, riding on gravel - is enough to make you want to hunt down and punch every single person who had anything to do with that stupid fancy pamphlet because it was not the easy ride we were expecting. Reviewing the content of this particular entry, I think Daryn and I really need to work on managing our expectations a bit better…
Being so preoccupied with the stupid people who made the fancy pamphlet, we neglected to check if there was a shop in Middlemarch – the town at the end of the Rail Trail. Turns out there were no shops which meant our dinner options were limited to plain porridge, plain couscous or plain spaghetti (that would have to be mixed together if we wanted enough food for both of us), freeze-dried peas and berry-flavored chewing gum… After staring at the food and then each other over and over, we agreed we couldn’t face any combination of those carbs and headed off to the pub.
Somewhere along the way, a small breakdown in communication occurred… Daryn said something along the lines of ‘hopefully Middlemarch to Dunedin is flat or downhill because 85kms is a lot to do for day 5 of biking’. What I heard was ‘Middlemarch to Dunedin is flat and downhill, you are awesome Jana’ - an easy misinterpretation; turns out the road to Middlemarch to Dunedin is similar to the Crown Range, the only difference is that it’s longer with the worst hill at about kilometer 80, we nearly had simultaneous heart attacks when we looked at a graph of our route about 30 minutes before we left. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mother Nature for the strong headwinds along the way; watching the birds struggling to fly and the wind-turbines nearly blowing apart made the time fly by…