On the road. Te Anau to Glenorchy

3 days // about 176 kilometers

Step 1. Mavora Lakes

Saturday, February 11th, I finally start my bike travel. I leave Te Anau and the Fiordland on wobbly bike under the weight of my luggage. First step: join Mavora Lakes about 70km from Te Anau. Contrary to forecasts, the weather is not too ugly. Good, I do not want to start my first day of cycling in the rain. The kilometers pass quietly until the intersection indicating Mavora Lakes, 40km. I begin the gravel road and I quickly disenchant. It’s a real hell! Riding a bike (loaded) on a track full of small and large pebbles is a hazardous undertaking and it is physically painful. It jumps on all sides and to make things a little more difficult, I now have the wind in front. I travel the miles with difficulty. The landscape is pretty but nothing more. In addition, the weather is now overcast depositing a gray and sad filter on the landscape. Exhausted I finally arrive at Mavora Lakes, one hour before sunset. Several scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed in the neighborhood, including the scene where, in the first movie, the fellowship docked on a shore after descending the Anduin River.

Step 2. Walter Peak Station

The next day the weather is still overcast and I leave the lakes slightly disappointed with my visit. It is sure that with a nice weather, it must be more impressive. Next step: crossing the valley behind the lakes to reach the shores of Lake Wakatipu about sixty kilometers away. First big difficult climb and the valley unfolds before me. It’s impressive. The Eyre Mountains are on the right. I go into the valley and run into a wall. The gusts of wind are so strong they almost prevent me from moving! I have four hours of cycling to do in this direction, again on the gravel track and my mood is at the lowest. Decidedly my bike trip begins with difficulty. Fortunately the track does not go up too much. The landscape scrolls slowly to the rhythm of my tired knees. It’s raining. Even if the bad weather does not do it honor, the landscape is superb. The valley is filled with crevasses, the mountains are covered with grass and not New Zealand beech as in Fiordland and cows graze freely. After two good hours dragging myself in the valley, I finally reach the end of the plateau. A big steep descent takes me to the next valley below. An hour later the shores of Lake Wakatipu finally appear. Despite the fact that I have already visited the area three times, its bluish reflections and its size remain impressive. The last hour of cycling along the shore is splendid.

Southland - New Zealand - © Claire Blumenfeld

Step 3. 12 Miles Delta campsite

Walter Peak High Country Farm finally appears and I step down my bike, my legs a little quivering. I have an hour to wait before taking the steamer TSS Earnslaw that crosses the lake and will drop me to Queenstown on the other side. The farm is beautiful with pretty buildings with red tiles covered roofs. The boat appeared and sounded two horns to signal its arrival. Launched in 1912, the boat known as the Lady of the Lake, provided an essential link between isolated farming communities along the lake. 48 meters long, it was the largest boat that sailed on the lake and was able to transport passengers, livestock, mail and supplies. The interior is very friendly and a pianist plays vintage songs. I hardly have time to rest my legs than it’s Queenstown already. The day is not over. I still have a dozen kilometers to go to 12 Miles Delta, a DOC campsite where you can camp at reduced fee. The return to the tar is a real pleasure but the road only goes up and down very steeply and kills me completely. I resolved  myself to push my bike. After liters of sweat spent, the campite finally appears. The place represents Ithilien in The Two Towers, second film of The Lord of the Rings. It is notably where Frodo, Sam and Gollum stopping to rest see Oliphants appear.

Step 4. Glenorchy

The next day I woke up in a wet tent. It rained a lot during the night. Only 36km separates me from Glenorchy, my destination, but considering the difficulty of the road, I’ll spend most of the day. I start under a beautiful weather, soon replaced by clouds. A whole part of the mountain burned recently. It still smells ashes in the air. After two difficult hours and having barely made a third of the way, the rain makes its arrival. But not a little rain. No. A real deluge falls on me while I am on a cornice at the highest point of the road. The gusts of wind and rain are so strong that they almost send me waltzing beyond the protection barrier. Three hours of cycling in the pouring rain, it’s not funny. I pedal in automatic mode, hoping to see only one thing: the appearance of Glenorchy at each turn. After hours of suffering the village finally unfolds and I almost weep in relief. I’m completely soaked from head to toe. Definitely in lack of luck, the only backpacker of the village is full. I fall back on the tiny camping and it is always in the rain that I set up my tent. Everything is soaked, it’s hell. Luckily a good hot shower and the stooping of the rain during the evening cheer me up. Tomorrow may be foggy but the following days are supposed to be magnificent. I finally reached Glenorchy, I passed the first part of my bike ride!

 

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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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