Thursday, January 27, 2011

Glenorchy, NZ: If You Don't Like the Weather, Just Wait a Day

Queenstown is adventure central for New Zealand.  From here there is paragliding, river rafting, bungy jumping, skiing, tramping, kayaaking, etc.  It is a compact town built on the northern shore of glacial Lake Wakatipu, a long sinuous body of water that looks like a giant scour mark on the map.  We arrived by midday after our steamship ride across the lake, and there were tourists of all variety milling about the streets.  We had no intention of staying here, and after obtaining some artisan bread and other groceries, we headed along the north shore towards the head of the lake.  Once again, our quest to see the end of the road shadowed the warning signs.

We were told this road to Glenorchy had some ups and downs and steep climbs.  Oh, hills are no problem for us -- we did the Coromandel!  And then there were the norwesterly winds, blowing into our face.  Oh, they don't seem too bad, and we can get protection from the trees alongside the road!  And then there was the mist shrouding the peaks -- it wasn't forecast to rain till later, right?

So 24 kilometers down the road and two hours later, John stopped and turned to me and said he was questioning our decision to ride this road.  It was like riding in a moist wind tunnel on a treadmill set to maximum resistance.  We pondered our options, which included turning back and going up the many downhills we had just finished.  A couple of day cyclists came by from the opposite direction, and we had a 15 second conversation that verified that it was not raining at the end of the lake, and the terrain flattens out in "5 to 10 kilometers".  We didn't have a chance to ask about the wind.

So we pushed forward, rolling down a long, steep incline that we both knew was the point of no return.  And for the next 26 kilometers and three hours we dug deep into our reserves and pushed the uphills, and due to the wind, the downhills and flats, too.  It was a wild ride, with clouds moving around the peaks and light constantly changing the hue of the water.  We had a final rest just a kilometer out of the village of Glenorchy, at a broad opening of a road with a fairly impressive fence and stone sign.  A fancy SUV came out of the road, and the driver rolled down the window.  For a moment I thought he might invite us to stay at his fancy house.  But he asked if we were lost, and we replied, no, just tired and resting.  He chortled, and said it was not far to Glenorchy, wished us luck, rolled up the window, and drove off.  We later learned that the Blanket Bay resort rents rooms for over $1400 a night, so fat chance of us getting an invite to stay there!

It was a kaleidescope of colors and clouds on the cycle in.
We were beat, and slept like the dead that night.  We had planned to stay a day to explore the surroundings, but shortly after breakfast it started to rain.  It rained all morning, it rained when we walked to the local cafe for lunch, it rained the two hours we sat in the local library, it rained as we walked back.  The campground was one of few comforts, and we hung out in the kitchen in the late afternoon.  We ended up talking for a good while with Karen and Gary, early retirees and like-minded travelers from Australia.  The skies cleared, our laundry dried, we were well-rested, and all was well with the world again.

Water hazards formed all around us as the rain poured down all day.
The next day was fantastic -- not a breath of wind, blue skies, and stellar views of the high country that was obscured on our way in.  And the dread of traveling back on that road that was so tortuous just the other day proved to be no problem without a headwind.  Easily, our best day cycling in New Zealand.

All is forgiven when the sun is shining!

Looking northwest towards the peaks surrounding Glenorchy.  The turquoise color of the glacial waters of Lake Wakapitu was stunning in the morning light.

Healthy and happy!
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