3 days // about 100 kilometers
Step 1. Arrowtown
Saturday, February 18, I leave Glenorchy behind me to return to Queenstown. But the ride is not made by bicycle. No, I did not have the strength to go back on the same road. I took a bus. Or rather a minibus for me alone. The lady who drives the vehicle ties my bike to the back and we are gone. Barely fifty minutes will be necessary to do what it took me seven difficult hours by bike. Some negative thoughts cross my mind, in the style “I should have buy a car, after all”. I go shopping in Queenstown and finally buy a Fergburger. The previous times I came to Queenstown, the waiting queue was so long that it had discouraged me. But this time, I go there at 10 o’clock in the morning. Just 15 minutes to wait to put my hands on the famous burger almost world renown. My choice was on the Tropical Swine: beef, bacon, cheddar, pineapple, salad, tomato, onions, aioli and tomato relish. Well it was good. And it filled my stomach. But it was not the burger graal that everyone had spoken to me. Well, that’s alright.
I take the road, along Lake Wakatipu on a bike trail. The Queenstown Trail takes me along the Kawarau River under the sun. I roll through the fields lulled by the song of the cicadas. Unfortunately, big steep climbs await me and I arrive at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge completely dead. I do not know if this is the trail combined with the heat but I have exhausted all my resources. Yet I barely made 26 kilometers! I spend a good hour resting in the shade and admiring the crystal clear waters of the river flowing in the gorge. It is here that Peter Jackson implanted the Pillars of Kings (huge statues) that one sees when the community sails on the waters of the river Anduin in The Lord of the Rings.
I go back to Arrowtown around 5pm at the pace of a snail. It is always very hot. My initial plan was to spend an hour Arrowtown, get back a little, turn on the Cadrona Road, start climbing the Crown Range and camp in a quiet corner. I pass the beginning of the Cadrona Road (Arrowtown being a little further) and my last forces abandon me. The road climbs damn hard! My thighs yell at torture, it’s already 6pm, I decide to stop tonight in Arrowtown in the only camping of the village.
Step 2. Day of rest in Arrowtown
The next day, I do not have the strength to attack the climb. I have almost 900 meters to climb get to the pass located on the Cadrona Road. In addition I find it a pity to leave Arrowtown without even taking the time to visit the village. So I spend a quiet morning resting. And tletting my thighs recover. The campground is quiet and pleasant. At the end of the afternoon, the heat having dropped a little, I leave to make a small excursion on the Tobins Track. The dirt road rises along the mountain to reach the top of Crown Range! The road I am supposed to do tomorrow! From the top I have a nice view of the surrounding. I even see Lake Wakatipu in the background. So I decide to take this way by bike tomorrow in order to do the first part of the climb. This is not going to be much easier than the road but at least I would not have to pay attention to traffic.
I go down into the village and visit its main street, with houses with preserved architecture. Arrowtown is a village of the gold rush. The whole area, from Glenorchy to Cadrona, was built on the gold veins found around 1860. In 1862, gold was found in the Arrow River and it was the beginning of the village. 15,000 people came to prospect, including many Chinese who built a small community a little apart whose remains are still visible today.
What a pleasure to walk in a village with a preserved architecture! Even though it’s only the main street, I’m pleased. Houses and stalls have much more charm than New Zealand houses today. With the mountains covered with forests that surround the village, I have no trouble projecting myself back then.
Step 3. Wanaka
Monday, February 20, it must be resolved, it is today that I will have to make the climb. I start early in the morning, while it is not too hot, on the Tobins Track. I make half of the bike ride before confessing to forfeit and dismounting. The climb is too steep and my equipment in the back of the bike too heavy. I take my backpack on my back and push my bike along the slope. I meet several people doing their “morning training » that encourage me every time. A lady even takes my bike to push it on a hundred meters! I move slowly but surely, the arms a little painful. Finally the top appears and I rest for about thirty minutes before attacking what’s next. It was not as hard as I thought. Thirty minutes on a gravel road across the plateau to reach the Cadrona road. A young German also travelling by bike join me and we discuss a little before entering the traffic. The road climbs gently until finally reaching THE big climb. A dozen steep laces are offered to me. I resolve myself to push my bike with my bag on the back. The ascent was long. And as there are two bags in the back of the bike, the load to push is still heavy and my arms needed to have regular breaks. Also, the sun beating hard, I quickly caught hot. And with the traffic, it was not very funny.
Around 3/4 of the climb, a viewpoint allowed to take a picture of the valley below and I took the opportunity to take a break. A couple of Kiwis, also cycling enthusiasts came to chat with me, impressed by my load. A young woman, also by bike appeared but rolling on a racing bike without load. She was accompanied by a young man in a car and is going around the NZ by bike to generate donations for the Cancer Society. I resumed the climb always pushing and I finally arrived at the pass at 1119,7 meters of altitude.
The descent on the other side was greatly appreciated but not long enough for my taste. The landscape began to change a little, the mountains becoming almost desert, only covered with tufts of yellow grass (tussock). The small village of Cadrona (also, ancient village of the gold rush) appeared with a nice hotel and church preserved. The road was again wavy and as usual I found myself with the wind in front. At least the landscape was pretty. In the late afternoon, I finally arrived in Wanaka. Small break on the shores of the lake to enjoy the view before going to settle in a camping near the center. A second trip a bit painful but I am glad to had done it!
Trail notes is the gateway to my current journey and all that implies. This means lots of fun and adventures but also lots of interrogation points.
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