3 days // about 200 kilometers
Step 1. Lindis Valley
After five days in Wanaka, it’s time to go. I leave my nice corner at the campsite of Glendhu Bay, Sunday, February 26 under a cloudy sky. Forty minutes on the hilly road to reach Wanaka and I head towards Aoraki / Mount Cook, my arrival point in 3 days. About 200 km separate me from the place I most wanted to visit during my stay in New Zealand. Since I have seen photos and friends have told me about the beauty of the place, it has become my point of interest No. 1.
I leave Wanaka on a hilly road. The clouds disappeared replaced by a strong sun. Around me the mountains are almost desert covered with yellow grasses. It looks like they’re thirsty. It’s beautiful but as usual, I have the wind in front! It seems that whichever way I go, I always have the wind in my face !! As if rolling on the New Zealand roads full of climbs and descents was not difficult enough. On the way, I meet a Quebecker woman with whom I discuss about thirty minutes. She travels for 1 year on her bike and comes to join a friend in Wanaka. She comforts me a little by telling me that the first few weeks are always difficult and that in addition I chose to start by the hardest part of New Zealand.
I arrive at Tarras around 2pm. The village consists of three houses, a school, a shop selling merino wool clothes and … a golf course! Lunch break in the shade of the trees and then I leave. Passage on a gravel road, relatively well (not too much gravel, rather earth) which offers me a long climb of 200 meters in full heat. Up when I thought I was completely alone in the corner, I saw a caravan of people on horseback. I do not know if it’s a historical re-enactment or something like that but I feel immersed in the past for a few seconds. I join the main road that sinks up quietly in the Lindis Valley and I camp by the edge of a small stream just before the start of the big climb to the pass.
Step 2. Twizel
The next day I attacked the ascent early. The road climbs very gently through the valley covered with yellow grasses. With the morning sunlight, it looks like the places are covered with gold. I do the majority of the ride by bike except the last two kilometers too hard for my taste. A little tired of these climbs! It is getting very hot again. While I rest for a few minutes in the shadow of a sign indicating “attention, dangerous corner, many accidents, be vigilant”, a car overtakes me, a little too close for my taste, before suddenly making zigzags on the road and then hit another panel! Nothing serious, only the rearview mirror is damaged. I do not know what happened, but it must have been a blow of the fate that it happens right there! I continue the climb by pushing the bike and I arrive at the top with relief. 965 meters above sea level. It was not too difficult. In any case, a little less hard than the ascent of the Cardrona pass.
I throw myself in the descent a smile to the ears. What a pleasure to sail down the slope without pain, the wind whistling in my ears. I make the 32km to join Omarama quickly. Of course, my dear friend the wind is accompanying me. On the road I see the Clay Cliffs. Impressive landscape. A good ice-cream Passion fruit-Yogurt offers me a little deserved pleasure as well as a little rest. Not much to Omarama if not … a golf course! Again ! Decidedly, it must be a sport dear to the Kiwis. I ride the thirty kilometers which separates me from Twizel with painfully. My legs are tired. A car overtakes me then stops a few meters away. And who I see passing the head by the window: Marex !! One of the cooks of Kepler Restaurant of Te Anau where I worked for 3 months! He has several days of rest and comes to visit Mt Cook too! Decidedly, life is full of surprise! Again full of energy, I travel the last kilometers. A salmon farm appears on Lake Ruataniwha and I am dazzled by the color of the water! Of turquoise blue. In the background I see the snow-capped peaks of Mt Cook and the surrounding peaks. It makes me happy without knowing why. I turn right before Twizel to spend the night in the very friendly Holiday Park of Lake Ruataniwha, located right next to the lake. I spend the early evening strolling along the small lagoon amazed by the beauty of the place.
Step 3. Reaching Mt Cook
I would have stayed several days at the campsite so much I find it nice but Mt Cook is waiting for me. I go to Twizel buy me some food. For what I know there is not much food shops where I go. Then I start on the road. I am in a hurry to see the turquoise water of Pukaki Lake, the big lake just before Mt Cook. But I still have to pedal for almost 20km before seeing it appears in a turn! That’s it, it’s there. The lake and at the bottom Mt Cook. A small rest area allows to appreciate the landscape. Two young Japanese cyclists arrive and we discuss a little. They’re coming back from Mt Cook. It is not the first Japanese I see touring NZ by bike. Must say that Nippons like to ride a bicycle and quite a lot of young people go to visit other countries by bike.
The road along the lake to reach the Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park (Aoraki being the name of Mt Cook for Maori) is visually gorgeous but hilly. In the early afternoon I arrive at Glentanner campsite at the mouth of Pukaki Lake and about fifteen kilometers from the village of Mt Cook. This is where I decided to establish my base for the next few days. Staying in the Mt Cook village costs too much and the DOC campground with reduced fees offers nothing but toilets and showers.
The Glentanner Campground is very friendly too. The pitches for the tents are located in a meadow with tall pines about fifteen minutes walk from the lake. I set up my tent and rest for the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view of Mt Cook and its eternal snows. I planned several hikes in the different valleys around Mt Cook for the next four days. I hope this is going to reach my expectations!
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.
All the photos published in this article are my creations. They are not copyright-free. Please do not use them without prior authorization.