A mostly easy start to day two of our cycling tour, riding past farmland and horse country and we even managed double figure kilometres (15kms) this time before our first stop at Clevedon for a coffee and OJ. Our early lunch stop was sandwiches under the shade of a tree on a deserted shell beach at Kawakawa Bay – we could get used to this very quickly, but it was onwards and upwards as we had to tackle our first real climb.
Te Motu Hill was fairly steep and winding, and with no gears to spare, a bit of huffing and puffing and one quick water stop we made the 170metre climb. We can do this now!
Contrary to what we’d thought would happen in terms of leading and following, we realise now that it’s better if I keep Dave in my sights – this should keep us to a slower, more relaxed pace. We’ve got great little rear view mirrors that we wear on our wrists, ideal for keeping an eye on traffic and each other. After all we’re on holiday and don’t want to be going anywhere too fast!
The remaining ride was for the most part down at sea level, passing stunning views and stopping to take photos left, right and centre. By the time we reached the campsite at Miranda we were ready for an ice cold cider before we pitched Olive, our little tent and home for the majority of the next few weeks. Soaking away the 70kms of today in the hot pools after a fish & chip supper was the perfect end to a beautiful day.
Day one and we’re off, a little bit later than planned thanks to the hospitality and heavy handed pouring last night by our good old Irish friend Debbie in Pukekohe.
We managed a whole kilometre in the saddle before our first pit stop for lunch! At this rate we won’t make it south of the Bombay Hills, never mind Nelson.
Bee stings & red lights
If there’s one thing that will stop you in your tracks its a bee sting, and that’s exactly what happened to Dave less than 15 minutes into our post-lunch ride when the little blighter got him in the neck. I caught up with him and was able to pull the sting out rendering him fit to continue for the afternoon.
The other thing that should stop you in your tracks is a red traffic light, but not me as I sailed on through one oblivious to the cop car following behind me. Thankfully he was in more of a hurry than me and carried on with his chase of real criminals.
Riding through traffic is one of the things we’re a bit apprehensive about, but today’s 30km route from Debbie’s place in Pukekohe to Marlisa’s house in Manukau wasn’t too bad. The Google maps bike option kept us on the secondary roads where possible.
With 5kms to go Dave announced that Marlisa’s address was Hill Road which could mean only one of two things, it was going to be either uphill or downhill, and yes you guessed it, it was uphill. But of course the good news is that when we leave for Miranda tomorrow we will have a nice downhill start. And after some traditional Kiwi hospitality and Dave’s favourites of roast lamb and pavlova from newlyweds Marlisa & David, we will need an easy start.
No visit to the Wakatipu would be complete for us without taking the time to enjoy a few of our favourite trails. The trail network here is better than ever with the Wakatipu Trails Trust doing an amazing job linking new biking/walking trails throughout the district. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to do all our old favourites, but we had fun biking in and out of town on the Frankton track, walking the Arrowtown River loop (more lupins – can’t have enough of a good thing!) and up Sawpit Gully. A Monday evening run out at Mount Creighton track with some of our old running buddies was just like old times.
Spending time walking and swimming and relaxing at our old favourite Lake Hayes was special, as was a hike up to Lake Alta with Barry & Beth (poor little Jack wasn’t feeling well that day so stayed at home with Ruth). Borrowing Barry’s kayaks was another wonderful way to while away an hour or two in the deep blue water of the Wakatipu. So many special moments in a very special place. We are two very lucky people.
Before we say goodbye to Queenstown we need to say a big blogging thank you to the beautiful Pick family for putting us up and putting up with us during the past two weeks. It was not only the Picks who made us feel so welcome in their home, but so many of our old friends who we managed to catch up with, or bump into, and who invariably greeted us with “Welcome Home”. Thank you to all for the lunches, dinners, drinks, coffees and cakes – we’ve a lot to burn off in the next few weeks!
It may be five years since we called this area home, and so much has changed in that time in terms of higher density development and the subsequent loss of the small town feel of the place (there’s traffic lights & traffic jams now!), but there is no denying the outstanding natural beauty of the mountains and lakes all of which are still so accessible. Its likely going to be a while before we get back here again, and until we do we will treasure the special memories always.
Today we went in search of the wild lupins, albeit a little bit early in the season, but we were not disappointed. The Glenorchy walkway and the banks of the Dart River delivered in bunches of pinks and lilacs underneath a clear blue cloudless sky, and we felt far from the madding crowds of Queenstown. Spring in this part of the world really doesn’t get much better than this.
The drive alone to Glenorchy is good for the soul, and no matter how many times we’ve done it previously, the lookout and backdrop of the snow covered mountains demands a stop and the obligatory selfie!
No visit to Glenorchy is complete without a visit to the fabulous GY Café for lunch in the garden, followed by a stroll around the quirky, quaint and tiny historic buildings. We love that the cute little church (seats about 25 people) is shared by different denominations, each taking a turn to spread their own version of “the word”.
The compulsory stop on the way back to Queenstown is of course Bob’s Cove, but it appears the secret is definitely out about this little gem. The car park where previously we’ve never seen more than 3 cars was jam-packed to over flowing. Practically every little bit of the cove’s beaches was full of young tourists with their inflatable beach toys and their bluetooth speakers blasting out a mix of tunes from around the world. To make matters worse one of the local tour operators brought a huge boat through complete with commentary via a loud speaker leaving a wake behind that shook the jetty and shoreline. Gone are the days when this was a pristine and peaceful place, and there is no getting away from the fact that the nature around it is still beautiful, and maybe we just hit it on a particularly busy Wednesday afternoon. Still it was worth the stop for a dip in it’s cool emerald waters.
Thanks to our mechanic friend Jonesy we had the loan of a set of wheels to whizz around the Wakatipu, a good old Subaru that had clocked up more than 300,00kms and runs perfectly well, but has probably seen better days (the Subaru not Jonesy). But oh did we give it a run for it’s money today with a trip up the Matukituki Valley to the start of the Rob Roy Glacier track.
A 40-minute drive on a gravel road with several fords to cross was nearly too much for the Subaru. The first few fords were shallow and manageable, but we hesitated at the second to last one and waited for another vehicle to pass through before we made the executive decision to carry on – “its only about 30cm” said another driver who was waiting to watch others cross. We can manage that we thought. Holding on tight, Dave picked his course and we went for it. Sloshing through the gravel we could feel the drag, but out we came the other side, phew we’d made it. But not for long, within seconds on dry land the old Subaru Leone conked out!
“Oh shit how are we going to tell Jonesy we’ve killed his car and how the heck are we going to get it out of here” were our first thoughts, not to mention a few other choice words better left unsaid here. Silence ensued before we did what anyone else would do in this situation which was get out of the car, open the bonnet and see what we could see. No sign of any damage, so we sat for a while in the sunshine to let things dry out before taking the air filter off and giving it a quick once over. Thankfully that did the trick and we got the engine going again and made the final 4kms to the trail car park.
The spectacular walk up to the foot of the Rob Roy Glacier was somewhat overshadowed by the nervous thoughts of the return trip via the fords, but it was impossible not to enjoy the stunning alpine scenery and the impressive views, and while we ate our lunch at the top we had the added bonus of watching a bit of the glacier calve, Mother Nature at work.
Suffice to say it was a fantastic day. It was hot, hard, and dusty, but we both completed the Queenstown marathon, 42kms of running in our old stomping grounds. Dave finished well in 4hrs 18minutes, and with a fair few walking breaks I crossed the finish line after 5hrs 18minutes.
This surely is the most beautiful marathon in the world and should be up there on every runner’s bucket list.
Reflections on running
Despite never having run the Queenstown marathon before (this was only the event’s fourth year) it was full of memories for us. From the start line in the ever serene setting of Millbrook where I had worked in The Spa, and Dave as a green keeper many moons ago; to running through the streets of Arrowtown, our home for so long; passing Lake Hayes where we spent many a summer’s evening swimming (and the occasional morning!); then following the tracks and trails with their majestic views on every twist and turn as we had done for many kilometres years previously.
It felt like we were home, especially because we saw so many friendly, familiar faces spectating and volunteering, not to mention bumping into the Race Director at registration who was none other than our friend Nicole, and being called in over the finish line by local stalwart Ferg who we’d met when we first arrived in Queenstown in 2001.
The event itself was super slick (we have to say that since it was our friend in charge!), but we were amazed at how many people were walking the route, were there so many people like me who had not done the training required to run a marathon? I truly believe had I done the training then this marathon could’ve been my personal best. Of course we’ll never know that, and I will just be eternally grateful to have made it to the start line and even more so to have crossed the finish line, especially in front of the man in the mankini!
Muscle memory is what I’m banking on for tomorrow’s Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon, that and the absolutely stunning views I know and love so well because sadly my training this year has fallen far short of what it should have been. Rather than running I spent precious time with my Mum before she passed away in September.
I’ve never felt so ill prepared for taking on the 42kms, but despite the lack of physical training and the increasing number of niggles in my shins, knees and hips, I’m as determined as ever to cross the finish line in Queenstown tomorrow.
The body will go where the mind takes it
My old faithful mantra “the body will go where the mind takes it” will no doubt be in full force tomorrow as I take on what I feel could be my final physical and mental marathon challenge.
I feel so lucky to have been privileged enough to live in this area for 12 years of my life during which time I ran many miles on what is now the Queenstown marathon course. It is yet another privilege to be here again and to soak up the scenery once more. Since I’ve practically made it to the start line, I’m sure I’ll make it to the finish line, albeit at an even slower pace than usual, but I’ll do my best to enjoy every step of the way.
With views like this how could you not enjoy it?
Wish me luck! And here’s to Dave who of course is also running tomorrow.
Public transport out of Portrush is poor at the best of times, but try get out on a Sunday morning and you’ve no chance, add to the fact you’ve got 2 big bike boxes to transport and there’s not a taxi that will take you. Thankfully our friend Tommy from TWV Sports Massage came to the rescue and transported us and our boxes to the bus station at Belfast for our 9am bus to Dublin.
Our first change of plan came as soon as we realised the boxes would not fit in the storage compartment on the express bus to the airport despite having phoned the bus company in advance to check. But not to worry, they did fit on the one that made stops along the way, so we still made it to Dublin and only 20 minutes later than the express bus. Besides we’d built in plenty of extra time to allow for a few hiccups.
A bit of last minute taping and a very helpful check in clerk at the Qatar Airways desk, along with some dodgy weighing scales, meant we came in under our weight allowance and everything was good to go, fingers crossed it would all arrive safely in Auckland.
It was all smooth sailing, well flying actually, with flights on time and three seats between the two of us on each of the flight legs - what a difference it makes to have that little bit of extra manoeuvrability on a 7 hour, followed by a 16.5 hour flight (Doha-Auckland is currently the longest commercial flight in the world). Less than a couple of hours waiting around in Doha was enough to stretch the legs.
Weary and bleary after a 36 hour door to door journey including countless, texture-less airline meals, numerous movies most of which we can’t recall watching five minutes after landing, and a little bit of sporadic sleep, it was a relief to see all our luggage waiting for us. Now to fit it into our friend Debbie’s car who is kindly collecting us and putting up with us, she doesn’t know what she’s let herself in for, let the holiday begin...
With only four full days left before we fly out its time to pack the bike boxes. We're flying with Qatar Airways from Dublin and not brave, or crazy, enough to ride the 150 miles from here to there in mid-November, plus the logistics of packing at the airport was too much to think about for us as first-time bike tourers.
One of the reasons we chose to fly with Qatar Airways was the fact they offer a 30kg per person luggage allowance and bike boxes are accepted as part of that allowance, not an additional charge as with so many other airlines. Another was the ability to fly direct from Dublin to Auckland with only one connection in Doha.
So today has been spent dismantling the bikes, deflating tyres, taping, tying, weighing and packing to fit everything in and keep within the 30kg limit. Thankfully we have a 7kg hand luggage allowance which we will use to bring our non-bike gear (running gear for Queenstown Marathon & clothes for the couple of weeks we'll spend there before starting the bike tour).
We have a bike box each plus what we call a 'worldwide shopping bag' each (you know the blue/red/white checked bags you find at every market worldwide).
Each bike box has the following:
Each worldwide shopping bag has:
We think we've kept under the 30kg limit, but its pretty close, fingers crossed we'll get it all through as it would be an absolute nightmare to have to repack in the middle of Dublin airport.
Sunday morning will be the final session of taping, and if possible we'll get the WWSB's wrapped at the airport.
This 9-week trip to NZ is not all about biking. We start by dropping the bikes in Auckland, flying to Queenstown to spend a couple of weeks and to run the marathon. Fly back to AKL and ride south to Nelson via Eastland & Hawkes Bay, before returning from Wellington to AKL by train.
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