January 23, 2006

1/23/06 Queenstown NZ

80.7 km / 1196 km total

Last night on the evening news, I made my TV debut with our interview with Channel One near Franz Joseph. Mike and George just happened to be near a TV when the spot aired. Cool, I'm famous, at least for 60 seconds in New Zealand. [smile]

We knew today's climb out of Wanaka was going to be a hot one, so we tried to leave early. We hit the road about 7:45AM.

George's 'loaded' bike compared to Jim's

Right off the bat, we had a steep climb just to get out of the city limits. That got us warmed up real fast. But even though we were always climbing, it was gradual and we made good time and speed.

I've heard about it, but just didn't know what to expect when we rode by the 'Bra Fence'. All I can say is the newer additions were quite colorful.

The 'infamous' Bra Fence

The Cordrona Hotel

At Cordrona, we saw the Cordrona Hotel, established 1863. This area is supposed to be a very popular cross-country ski area in winter.

Cordrona also was where our climbing started to get harder. Soon, Mike surged ahead, with George followed soon there after. We had some serious climbing for fifteen miles through arid alpine landscape.

The last several kilometers were so steep and tiring. I ended up walking part of it. And to add to our fatigue, it was very hot, about 29ÂșC. So different than the West Coast.

But what a view. At 1000 meters, Hope Saddle is the highest paved road in New Zealand. We could see all the way to Queenstown some 30 km away. The ride down was a lot steeper on this side of the pass. Pretty scary.

A 'monumental' feat

Too steep for my brakes!!!

I had a death grip on my brakes almost the whole way down, hands cramping real bad. The middle ten kilometers was less steep but our final descent into the valley was by a series of quick switchbacks almost straight down. Mike and George were waiting for me at the bottom, as I had to use my foot on pavement to brake because I couldn't hold the brakes tight enough to stop.

We headed to historic Arrowtown for lunch before biking our last kilometers to Queenstown. We took a back road to miss the heave Hwy 6 traffic, but even here, we had pretty fast cars and trucks whizzing by.

We're almost there!

We had a final roller coaster ride against a headwind as we finally reached town. Maybe fate was telling us to keep riding and skip this town. Mike had been here 15 years ago and didn't recognize it. This is one large tourist mecca and it showed both on the streets and in the shop windows.

Our campground is ultra modern and new, with lots of cyclists. We met Dan from Switzerland and later Thomas and Rahel showed up again.

Tenting finally!

I think everything was working against my psyche - the heat, my fatigue, the frantic town and our getting lost looking for the campground – that I blew up at George. He didn't take offense but it wasn't how I wanted to end our last few moments of our ride.