Day 43: Lake Pukaki to Lake Ohau
Distance cycled: 59km
High point: beer with a view
Memorable because: a camper performing a 27point turn
Treats consumed: chocolate muffin, carrot cake
In the morning we followed the lakes edge, the cloud cracking into clear blue sky once more. On the trail, a narrow gravel road, we encountered an American couple trying to turn around. They had ignored the no exit signs and were now confronted with a rock blocking their exit. It was hard not to laugh as the woman instructed him back 10cm then “turn the wheel” to go forward 10cm. She was clinging on to the van as if she could stop it toppling over the edge, her efforts interspersed with “I can’t believe they put a rock in.” It was priceless.
We shared a track once more the the Te Araroa trail and cross countried into Twizel (pronounced tw-eye-zel) and simultaneously decided it was a two cake kind of day. The trail then joined Lake Ohau for the next 38km. We met a walker, 2874km into the walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff. His beard told of over three months of accomplished walking and he was pleased to have some company for a short distance. We missed the camp we had seen on the app, and would have to go 6km off course to go to he next one, so we stubbornly set up camp on the banks of the lake, hidden from view of the road. It was windy and there were Sandflies. We were early into camp and with no people around, and no devices with life to play music, we headed to the lodge nearby to finish off 2 jugs of beer. The view was vastly improved from the sofa.
Day 44: Lake Ohau to Omarama
Distance cycled: 45km
High point: long downhill stretch
Challenge: spiralling 4km climb
Memorable because: defeating the breakfast buffet
Treats consumed: ice cream, chocolate reindeer
In the morning we knew we had a tough climb. With the Sandflies grinding our gears we decided to go up to the lodge for breakfast. There was no budget option. Just a buffet costing $17 dollars. There was no way we were going away dejected so we decided to make our money’s worth and sat for over an hour devouring muesli, toast, fruit, coffee and yoghurt.
The breakfast gave us the fuel for the first 10km, the first 6 were a gradual climb, the second 4, a spiralling and continuous hill but with a breathtaking view. Then the descent was an amazing downhill. I kept having to stop as my possessions flew everywhere as I refused to take the terrain slowly. At the bottom it was a long, flat 20km to Omarama. The type of ride that is beautiful but soon with nothing to challenge you, you just realise how much your butt aches.
Distance cycled: 68km
High point: showering after 5 days, laundry
Challenge: not swallowing Sandflies
Memorable because: Richie Macaw’s home town
Treats consumed: muffin, choc chip cookie, S’mores
We left our riverside spot and cycled on to Otemata making good time to get there for a mid morning stop. The trail then climbed to cross the Benmore Damn, a massive structure holding back a wall of turquoise water. The view down onto the town was like a small settlement on the moon, or in the middle of a sci fi movie in the midst of bare brown hills.
The ride continued along the banks of Lake Aviemore to another epic sized damn, before rejoining the road to reach the third display of hefty hydraulic power. Along the way Sandflies emerged in swarms, flying into you in their dozens before disappearing for a few kms. The camp spots along the lake were filled with tents and caravans and appeared untouched and abandoned for 20 years, not a person in site.
We finished our days ride in Kurow and had showers and laundry, my first proper clean up in 5 days. There shouldn’t be spectrums of clean but it felt amazing. We walked down the “high street,” this little town having produced 5 All Blacks, most recently, captain Richie McCaw. There was very little in the street, mostly shut down or sleeping, but at a real camp we relished the other signs of human existence and watched a movie whilst making s’mores on our little camp stove.
Distance cycled: 78km
High point: Last day of cycling
Challenge: Cafe closed, head wind, hills, getting lost, getting sprayed with fertiliser
Memorable because: Elephant Rocks
Treats consumed: Ice cream, muffin, chocolate
The day started excellently. A tailwind to Duntroon meaning we completed the first 23km within the hour. We stopped to see some Maori rock art which was beautiful, if not much smaller and discreeter than I expected. The Maori are so comparatively recent to settle this country, it seems strange to associate them with rock art in the same way you do with indigenous Australians or African tribes, but the beautiful curling style of drawing was interesting.
Then it all went wrong. From the amount of cake we consume you may believe there is a cafe on every corner, but really our sugar fixes are a carefully planned art. We would only pass 2 towns this day, the second not until late in the day, and the cake is an essential part of motivating the legs. Duntroon was empty, the hotel showing no sign of life and the cafe already closed for Christmas (it was the 8th December. That’s one big Christmas party!)
We ploughed on encountering a toug headwind which quickly zapped any energy. Still, the Elephant rocks made for an impressive morning stop, despite being hammered by a strong wind. The bulbous large formations reminded me of many things, the ruins of a castle maybe, Stonehenge, but none of them naturally occurring. The bloated stones a clue to the limestone below the surface, revealed to the elements over the years.
From here the route was much hillier than our rough brochure indicated, and the wind had tired our quads sufficiently. We pressed on only to end up at a fork with no sign. We had either missed a sign or it had missed us. We had been several hours since our last break but had felt little progress. We tried one direction, only to turn around and try the other one. I was getting hangry (hungry angry) and we heated our can of beans to refuel, then I called the visitor centre in Oamaru, trying to describe our surroundings. The lady reassured me that if we pressed on we would rejoin the trail.
The map boasted several names and we played ‘real or not’ in relation to these places, deciding it could only be considered a place if it had a sign indicating you were passing through, and an amenity of some sort where you can spend money. Enfield had a pub so that passed, although Windsor we didn’t realise we had passed until we started to see signs to it going in the opposite direction.
We now mistrusted the trail and were tired so avoided the dog leg route of Alps 2 ocean and stuck to the quiet highway. We managed to be soaked when a farmers watering system over aimed onto the road and we both agreed that up until that point, Alps 2 ocean was our favourite trail, however the last day relegated it a few pegs!
We made camp eventually at a camp on the harbour, trying 2 spots and almost having the tent blown away, before settling on a second and heading to town for takeaway pizza. Parts of town remained frozen in Victorian era and had a strong Steampunk link, our local park being fashionably on point with elements of the steam era. Our camp was also at Friendly Bay, the harbour where the little blue penguins make home, and after dark we went out to discover much squawking and a few glimpses of their nest under upturned boats.