Tour Aotearoa: South Island continued…
The Tour Aotearoa continued from Hokitika. A lot of the trail from there to Ross is pretty darn boring. Long straights of nothingness. This allows the mind to wander. If one is not careful, it can lead to a crash or a negative feeling of when is all this going to end. Mine was the latter. I was starting to feel tired. It was the first time I could actually say that I was fatigued. This coupled with my early morning knee pain, I was starting to feel down. Yet as soon as my knee warmed up, and the pain subsided, I was good as new.
We were riding towards Fox Glacier township. I’d never travelled down the West Coast before, and quite possibly I won’t again. The only nice thing about this section was the empty roads. The scenery was lush and green, but I’d seen a lot of green over the last few days. Possibly too much. I was certainly looking forward to arriving in Wanaka and Queenstown. And looking forward to some better food.
The 3 of us cruised to Fox glacier, but not before stopping for coffee at Franz Joseph township. We got there, or at least I did, just as the cafés were closing. We managed to grab a coffee and bite to eat. The 3 of us set off together. Between Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier townships, there are 3 good climbs. Neil, the mountain goat sped off and nailed the climbs. The second of which is stunning. Take your time to take photos, because if like me, they’ll be the only memories I’ll have of this place.
We checked into our accommodation, Rain Forest Motel. Then we went to the local shop before it also closed. Things close early in these towns that are solely reliant on tourists. It’s a strange dichotomy. Their businesses are about the glaciers, yet all of the tourists arrive in cars, vans and trucks, that ultimately kill their tourism. It happens the world over. I know, this isn’t a blog to solve the worlds problems.
Anyway, we went next door for dinner, Betsy Jane eatery and bar. A lockwood style building in which there was a restaurant. A daily plain looking establishment. We didn’t hold out much hope for good food. Sometimes good food is found in the most unsuspecting looking establishments. Definitely worth a visit. And the beetroot salad was incredible. The flavours were spot on. Who needed to go to Wanaka and Queenstown for quality food!
Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea was going to be a long day in the saddle. I was up early taking my meds for my knee. We all packed the bikes and were out before dawn. As soon as I started pedalling I knew I was in trouble. The first 20km are downhill, yet I was not only cold but suffering from excruciating pain. An 8/9 out of 10 pain. I was crippled. I sat on the side of the road, almost in tears. How could I carry on? The others were nowhere in sight. Not that I expected them to wait. It was -1° Celsius, and there was no traffic. I was stuck. If there wasn’t any traffic to pick me up, I definitely had to ride. After a few minutes, I regained my composure, straddled my top tube, and again I started pedalling.
After about 30 minutes I could see the tail lights of my compatriots. They’d slowed for me to catch up. The pain dulled, and I managed to catch them up. We all rolled into Haast in search of food. Knowing that we had 100 km to until we reached Lake Hawea and food. The food options in Haast were limited, as was the service. To top it off, I only went and left my phone in the toilet. I cycled back and waited for someone to vacate it. The lady didn’t even see it. Phew, that was lucky. I’d only just bought my new phone just before this event. And I couldn’t find a quadlock case, so kept on misplacing it.
It was getting to the point of the ride where it was everyone for themselves. My knee started to feel much better. As a result, I was able to ride on the front for a while. Just before the Haast Pass, we stopped for some food and photos. The transition from The Wet West Coast to a more arid environment was very clear. This is the point where the road points up. Yet, it’s nowhere as bad as people talk about. The pain only lasts about 1km before the road flattens off. It flattens off so much that I thought there must be more to come.
The summit of Haast Pass came far quicker than anticipated. I could’ve sworn I had another 500 metres of elevation to go, but I was glad to see the summit sign. From here I knew I had a great downhill section, according to the map profile. It was a lot flatter than I though. When I finally arrived at makarora Neil was waiting for me with a sandwich and drink. What a true legend he was. We waited for Gillian, and then rode to Lake Hawea.
The road from Makarora to Lake Hawea has to be one of the prettiest on the tour. The colours are brilliant. The mountains juxtapose the valley floor. The greens and blues sit in harmony. And the road surface is great. Although lumpy, the road is truly majestic. Being that the traffic was reduced due to Covid, this was the prime time to ride. The sun was going to be setting in the next couple of hours. We pushed on to Lake Hawea Hotel.