87km 2843 m elevation
My time in Wanaka ended the way it began, being guided along the outlet trail by my bike sister Kathryn. The air was crisp and cool, and the clear skies made for a beautiful sunrise. The day also started how it would continue, with lots of photo stops.
I met up with Scott and Nerena at the waterfront of Lake Wanaka. We headed out of town towards Cardrona which is the longest climb in NZ. The day remained calm & clear, getting warmer as the sun got higher. The gradient was very gradual as we headed towards the Cardrona Hotel, but the incline was real. The legs quickly told me one rest day wasn’t enough to recover from the efforts of riding the Haast Pass. It’s often surprising to me how they’ll just keep peddling tho. Sometimes in a very easy gear, but still moving.
The Cardrona Hotel is near the base of the road up to the local ski field, affectionately known as Cardies. I’ve been able to ski here a few times in the snow season, but haven’t been in summer, and definitely not on a bike. Going at a slower pace than a car allows me to experience things in a more intimate way. The hotel has been well maintained and there are some other lovely old buildings to see, well worth a visit in any season.
The road continues to climb from there and unlike the Haast Pass which has it’s steeper section at the start while your legs are fresh, the incline to this summit gradually ramps up to the hard parts over the last couple of kilometres. I was suffering near the end. My ribs started hurting again from breathing so hard, my legs were burning to the point I got pins and needles and I was sweating buckets. One thing that seems to help when I’m starting to feel sorry for myself is to remember that at least I have gears and can spin my way up in the easiest gear, whereas Scott is on a single speed. He has to grind his way up using the one gear no matter what the incline is.
I told myself stopping wasn’t a good idea. Sure, I might feel better for a minute, but then starting again is even harder. Rather than thinking about the climb as a whole, I broke it up into sections. At first it was in kilometres, then trying to make it to the next corner, finally it reduced to road marker posts.
Upon reaching the top I was shaking but jubilant. I tried to remedy the shaking by inhaling two peanut butter and banana sandwiches - food of champions. The views from the top were spectacular, we were above the clouds and could see down the valley towards Queenstown. The ride down the other side was fun, we turned off the road to ride Tobin’s Track down to Arrowtown. From there I was following the Arrow River and Twin River trails to Queenstown.
I’m fortunate to have cousins living in Lower Shotover so I peeled off route early to find them. The Watsons welcomed me warmly and made me feel at home, but I also felt very spoilt, I got to have a bath, then Mel pulled out the massage chair and after dinner we had family movie night.
Another big day done, it’s hard to accept there is only a couple of days to go.