Since I haven’t written anything about our latest noteworthy experiences in the South Island, I suppose I’ll skip to the here and now and come back to the others later. Steph sadly left us a week and a half ago. We overlapped her last couple days in Queenstown with Carmeny and Boulton as guides. It brought back memories of family dinners at the Aucunas’, with Steph’s never-ending generosity towards anyone who looks hungry. A Greek mother to the bone. Still trying to entice Carmeny and Boulton to move back to Park City… Although this place isn’t too bad either. After wishing Steph a tearful farewell we headed onto Wanaka to get things sorted for our next trip – Touring biking through Central Otago.
Carmeny had planned the trip and sorted out all the gear we’d need through her parents in Christchurch – padded bike shorts and all. It’s sure good to have great friends! Her family had done the trip several years back and knew it would be a cool way for us to see the countryside. At first, I wasn’t really sure what she meant by ‘bike touring’… Were we going to stay in hostels along the way? Camp? How would we carry all our stuff? ‘Bike Touring’, it turns out, meant sleeping along riverbanks and traveling with our food, water, and camping gear snug neatly into nifty little bike panniers, aka ‘saddle bags’. Thankfully our first-time endeavor was on a former ‘rail trail’, meaning it was fairly flat(ish).
We started in the town of Clyde and ended in Middlemarch, 150kms down the trail. The area became popular for tour biking after the railroad was converted into a gravel track. The RR history keeps the excursion interesting with historic pubs, post offices, and replica to stop at along the way. Our first night was spent in the country town of Omakau. With no camp ground in mind we asked for a suggestion from a local. Naturally, as Kiwis do, he let us camp on his land which provided river-side access and views of the local historic red bridge. Day two we steadily climbed up a gorge, traveling through two long dark tunnels built in 1901. It was definitely an intense experience to bike through total blackness. ‘Just keep swimming’, I kept telling myself. We re-hydrated at a pub before climbing to our highest point in the trip… A whopping 618m above sea level. The last two days were all downhill, a relief after consistently climbing for two days. Our last night camping was entertained by adapting the game of ‘penny can’, from Cougar town, into ‘pinecone can’ (if you haven’t seen the show, this game can easily entertain you for hours). With tight calves and sore butts, we cruised onto to our final destination on day four… Ready for a shower.
I think what I loved most about bike touring was the championship. After biking at a slow and steady pace with someone for four days, you begin to learn a lot about them. Nothing remains secret except the stories forgotten to tell. We all became quite in tune with each others bathroom tendencies and were very ‘comfortable’ with our natural odors. We swapped childhood and travel stories and whatever other stories came to mind… Little did they know, I went to theater camp and sang a solo of ‘I Can’t Say No’ from Oklahoma at the recital (nerd alert!).
Good company always makes for great memories. Looking forward to the next bike tour.