Lake Brunner to Arthurs Pass: The big up - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 17, 2022

Lake Brunner to Arthurs Pass: The big up

After a hearty country breakfast, we begin the ride up to and over Arthur's Pass, the main road route between the west and east coasts of the South Island.

It is a spectacular route. According to website, it is "the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps. It is a piece of extreme engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes." Well, that's  reassuring to know.

We leave the lodge around 9am and enjoy riding at our own pace around the lake. Stopping for refueling after an hour or so, we are handily placed to cheer on the whippets as they race by.  (They started 30 minutes after us.) The road turns after Inchbonnie to head up the Taramakau valley, joining the main highway on its way to the pass. We are also immediately joined by the bigger brother of yesterday's Head Wind, Big Head Wind, who takes no prisoners. On our own, Bruce and I are soon in trouble. But up ahead is the support van, surrounded by snacking riders.  They prepare to head off again, so Bruce seizes the chance to join the peleton, suggesting strongly that I need to as well.

In an instant, I make the decision to take a break. The bike is on the trailer and I'm in the van with Simon, one of the crew, as the peleton-plus-one rides into the wind. It's 20-odd km to Otira, the last bit of nearly flat before the road rises viciously. And I'm very glad to be saving my legs the grind.

The Otira pub, our coffee and lunch stop. Aside from the nod to The Lord of the Rings (look carefully), the saloon bar is filled to the brim with treasures past
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Two of the occupants
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From Otira it is a 400 metre climb to the viaduct lookout at the happily named Death Corner. I exit the van here, having decided to pull on my big girl's pants and ride to the summit - just up the road. Just up the road with a 16% gradient, that is. A wee ride and a wee walk later, I'm there. Here's the evidence:

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It's an enjoyable ride down the Canterbury side, more undulating than scary, and we arrive at our accommodation in good spirits.

Wilderness Lodge is on a 4,000 acre farm and nature reserve, built by renowned conservationist Gerry McSweeney in the mid-90s and run still by his family. In our short time here, we experience merino sheep close up, enjoy an early-morning bush walk through mountain beech ... and eat. Very well. All in all, it's quite an experience.

Those faces!
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Blade shorn especially for us
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Our accommodation
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I suspect none of our group managed to stay awake for the dark sky experience on offer. 10pm is way past a touring cyclist's bedtime. Good night all.

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Today's ride: 53 km (33 miles)
Total: 223 km (138 miles)

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