Wrapping it up: Wānaka to Queenstown - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 25, 2022

Wrapping it up: Wānaka to Queenstown

Just to say upfront . . . that 79km distance posted for today really bugs me. If I weren't being drafted into our hotel carpark by the tour leader (the real tour leader, that is, not Bruce), I would've carried on up the road for 500 metres then turned back. Legs willing. However.

Again, what a day to finish the tour! It's  another scenic, interesting ride in beautiful weather.

We leave the aptly named Edgewater at 9.30, psyched up for the climb from Cardrona up to the Crown Range saddle - a formidable challenge.  The Crown Range, one of two routes from Wānaka to Queenstown, is New Zealand's highest main road at the saddle, at some 1120 metres above sea level. It's also the one pass (of three) that I have set myself the challenge of crossing in its entirety. Bruce completed both Arthur's Pass and Haast Pass so he needs to complete the trifecta.

After 5km, we stop for coffee at Florence's courtyard café just out of town. It's a very pleasant place to linger but we have a hill to conquer.  The next 25km of gentle uphill takes us to Cardrona, a wee settlement  that's world-famous in NZ for its historic ramshackle pub. This is to be our final-day,  matching-jerseys photo opportunity. It's also a good chance to cram in a gel and muesli bar, fuel for my legs.

The historic hotel is iconic...but I took photos of these instead
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15 kilometres separate Cardrona from the Crown summit, and 15 slow kilometres they turn out to be. I'm at my happiest, when under pressure, to bike at my own pace, so am quite content to see Bruce fade into the distance. It's a gradual 2-3% incline at first but ramps up to double figures before the summit. I walk the bike a wee way, keeping a wary eye out for traffic, trucks in particular, but am able to remount.

The final 500 metres beats me though. Simultaneously, I think about walking again, try unsuccesfully to unclip my pedal and end up on my back in the roadside ditch with the bike on top of me. This is extremely injurious to my pride though absolutely nothing else. I wave a concerned car driver on then reassemble myself and locate my dignity before continuing the hike up the hill. Just before the top, I find myself back on the bike, nonchalantly pedalling to a halt at the summit sign.

See, perfectly fine!
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The descent is a swooping freefall down to a plateau, then an even steeper series of switchbacks - all on smooth tarmac and relatively free from traffic. It's not far from here to lunch in the historic and vey pretty gold mining town of Arrowtown. 

This photo of Arrowtown's main street was taken 6 years ago in April, at the height of autumn colours. I was more interested in eating lunch today than taking photos, apparently.
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Dawn HunterWe were hopeful that you would bike through Arrowtown as its beautiful in Autumn!
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Dawn HunterIt absolutely was beautiful - and busy too! Lunch on the grass by the Chinese miners' huts was pretty good too.
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1 year ago

The last 20 km to Queenstown has its ups and downs, literally. My legs are so, so tired and need constant positive reinforcement to keep me moving. There's no mucking about though because, as usual, we are the last two on the road and have been scooped up by Jonny. Eventually, we roll down absolutely the last of so many hills on this tour, into town and then along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to our hotel and journey's end.

The evening is a blur of bike packing, final dinner and farewells to new friends. We fly home tomorrow, taking with us a huge sense of achievement along with the laundry. Bruce has climbed more than 8,000 metres over 11 days, while my Strava record shows 7000 metres.  Amongst other achievements on this trip, I've learnt to climb without fear of failing.

Now, I just need to work on getting out of those clips more quickly! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown
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Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 794 km (493 miles)

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Jacquie GaudetLooks like it was a fantastic tour!

About those clips: have you got the release tension on both sides of both pedals adjusted as low as it will go? I do this to all my SPD pedals and have never released unintentionally. Also, what is the gearing range on your bike? I live and ride in a hilly area where replacing the cassette, and if necessary the rear derailleur, is fairly common. Many bikes just don't come stock with appropriately low gears.
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Jacquie GaudetHi Jacquie. Thanks for this info. I had just changed the offending cleat the day before to get rid of an annoying squeak. Pedals had been adjusted but Bruce agrees now that they probably need to be checked again. I also think my tired brain and tired legs didn't do a great job of communication! Rear cassette 11 - 34, which LBS guy said was as low as it could go.
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1 year ago
Dawn HunterCongrats to both of you from us! What a wonderful achievement! We have loved 'joining you' for the ride through your prose, albeit a tad shorter and a day later. 😍
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Dawn HunterThanks, Dawn. Love your comments!
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1 year ago
Rich FrasierGreat trip and a great journal! I enjoyed it immensely! Thanks for taking us along.
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsThanks, Rich. Our thoughts are turning more and more to touring in Europe now that NZ is opening its borders to foreigners. We miss it!
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1 year ago
Sandra LawnCongratulations to both of you

Enjoyed following your journal revisiting with you lots of places I have cycled through. I did a lot more walking than you guys, so we’ll done.

With not many cycle journals out there at the moment thanks for making the effort to post every night, when all you want to do is cycle, eat, sleep, repeat!

Cheers from Nelson untill next time we see you on the road
Sandy
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Sandra LawnHi Sandy
Yes, you're right about finding the time and energy to post every night. Sometimes impossible! We were so lucky with the weather...I feel as though if it had been wet, we would have had our heads down and missed so much!
We should try to catch up with you next time in Nelson.
Cheers
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1 year ago
Susan Carpenter Well done Robyn! Congrats on reaching the Crown Range Summit - a great achievement even with a few steps and tumble. After making it Haast Pass I bailed on the Crown Range and jumped in the support van at Cardona - it's something I still regret 12 years later.
Great trip - great journal. Thanks.
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Susan CarpenterThanks. Susan. I think I'd have tackled the Haast climb if it were not such a long day all up. Well, possibly!
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1 year ago
Toni LinkFabulous journey! We were able to pretend to be there with you, although I’m sure I would have been in the bus more often! We’re so impressed by your trek and loved the pictures, too! We want to cycle the Loire Valley. Shall we meet again in France? Glad to hear New Zealand is opening back up to tourists like us!
Toni and Bill
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Toni LinkHi Toni! It was a fabulous trip and I certainly surprised myself. We are signing up for a Northland tour with these guys before Christmas..but would love to be in France next year. Probably around Tour de France time - July. The bikes we left behind in Geneva in Sept 2019, before Croatia, are still waiting for us. Thanks for riding along with this journal!
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1 year ago