Cycling from Arrowtown to Wanaka was never going to be easy but this day took difficult to the extreme. We had two options, either crossing the beastly Crown Range or travelling 116km on the notorious SH6 past Cromwell and the Gibston Valley. The Crown Range is a challenge on most cyclist’s “must conquer list” which explains why we saw so many on the route. Eager to join the club, we decided to give the 1079 metre climb a whirl.
By the time we’d had breakfast at an Italian restaurant in Arrowtown in was nearing midday. The sun was hot which makes a hard hill climb for even the most fittest cyclist. We reached the turn off and Mum took one look at the steep switchbacks which went up for a good 3km. “Don’t give up when you haven’t even begun” I told her. I reassured her that there was an area to pull in just 200 metres up if she was in need of a breather. Off we peddled. Astounded, I looked back to see that she was walking just 100 metres in. Her stubbornness got the better. I could have killed her. Mum could have cycled it no problem although to be fair she was carrying a fair bit of luggage. Still.
Despite suffering from a reoccurring knee injury I stupidly powered on. The pain was unbearable and I knew I was making things worse. Biting my lip in pain and cursing every pedal, it took me over an hour to reach the summit. I found myself singing a made up tune which slightly resembled Justin Beiber’s ‘Sorry’ at the top of my voice out loud – the ride had made me go insane! Mum was nowhere to be seen and on the second burst of steep bends I toppled off my bike in pain. My hissy fit at the side of the road lasted approximately 20 minutes and took a packet of jelly babies AND a bag of peanuts for me to get back on the bike. Even without an injury, this climb was tough and I salute the many who make it to the top without stopping.
Like with any challenging climb, it was all worth it once I had reached the summit. As I waited there for Mum I got chatting to some other cyclists including one very annoying man from Canada. He was still bragging and chatting shit when Mum rolled in. We waited what seemed like a life time for him to bloody well sod off so we wouldn’t have to cycle alongside him. Luckily we dodged him, even at the Cardrona Hotel where he was sitting with a beer when we stopped for lunch. I’m sure I’ve become less patience with people since travelling or maybe just with age. I just don’t have the time for dickheads.
The Cardrona Hotel is absolutely beautiful and I love enjoying a cold beer in the garden. It reminds me of the English countryside. Even with my belly a bit too full for comfort the whizz down into Wanaka was fun. Just out of Cardrona we passed Bradrona where hundreds of bras are hung to a fence to support breast cancer charities. I didn’t pack a bra so sadly I couldn’t leave my mark at what’s become a popular photo opportunity.
After a day of tough cycling we made it to Wanaka around 6pm with plenty of time to get some gelato and stock up on supplies at the supermarket. For the third day running, we struggled to find available accommodation this time due to Wanaka Triathlon taking place that weekend. Luckily the local campsites had space so I booked a site in Glendhu Bay, a beautiful setting about 11km from town. To be honest I was already regretting this as the last thing I wanted to do after cycling the Crown Range was to cycle another sweaty 11km to reach a shower. However, I had visions of Mum and me enjoying cheese and wine in the tranquil setting besides Lake Wanaka.
When photographing the iconic Wanaka Tree #thatwanakatree I saw a map highlighting a bike path to our campsite. I could have sworn that when I was cycle touring in India, Hugo (my brother) told me that the flattest roads hugged the coast so I took his advice and suggested we take the mountain bike track instead of the road. This was graded “intermediate” but how hard could it be? Coastal roads are best, as I remembered. This ended up being one of the biggest mistakes of my life as we battled for three hours over sand dunes and steep hills on touring bikes with 20kg+ of luggage.
Half way through I remembered that my brother had actually said that coastal roads are hilliest, I got mixed up. To this day I’ve still never admitted this to Mum. It was so bad we actually cried/laughed at one point and then it went silent. We were so tired, so hungry and so disorientated trying to find our way in the darkness. We finally reached the camp site around 11pm unable to see the scenery we travelled for. 11km in three hours, must be a world record that. We drowned our sorrows with a glass of wine and cheese board before crashing out. With the stress of trying to find accommodation, a painful knee injury and a few days of hard cycling, this just topped it off. Onwards and upwards, our luck just has to change.
1 thought on “Arrowtown to Wanaka: Cycling New Zealand P2”
I did this ride a few years ago and had to get the bus for the last 500m as my legs cramped up. Very hot day, thankfully we had accomodation booked in Wanaka.
Your account of the 3 hours on the mountain bike track , had me laughing my head off, but also thinking, I’d have maybe taken the punt that it would have been quicker.