Monday, October 30, 2023

Day 9 Haast to Wanaka

Distance: 150+ k
Time: 9 hours 18 minutes +
Travel Modalities: Cycling, maybe 30 m of walking when death seemed imminent.

Not quite as cold as yesterday, but still incredibly uncomfortable for anyone hailing from Maui. I stop to photograph the full moon because once again, I've left too early.
My bike gets pushed to the left by some invisible force. I look around to see what's happening and then I turn into the headwind. I am distraught. My strategy for days with hills is to expend no energy until the hill. The monstrosity called Haast Pass is 50 km away. I hope the sun will come up and the wind will diminish. There is no shelter anywhere and I need chocolate. This is the first time I intentionally lay the bike down. I have so much mounted to the fork, I am unsure if I can safely do this.
The road is much like riding to Hana. I follow a river forever. There are waterfalls flowing off the hills. The mountains are much higher than in Hana and covered in snow.
The climb is the steepest I've ever not walked up. Maybe it would have been easy early in this trip or without the 20 something pounds of luggage. I plan on walking when the Garmin says I'm at 12% and it gets steeper. Instead I stand and sort of walk in the pedals. I stop looking at the Garmin. Kilometers go by. I reach a plateau.
There's a stone sign at the pass poiting to Westland in one direction and Otago in the other. 
The West Coast is beautiful in a rugged way, but I'm instantly reminded that they call this area Godzone as I cross the pass (maybe that's the whole country, but I always think Otago). I try to photograph some sheep for Nico.
I stop in the first town I've seen in 60 km. And by town, I mean there's a cafe. It is overrun with Americans on a tour bus. The kitchen is closed while the tourist are there, counter items only. The cashier asks the cook if they'll make an exception, but another bus is on the way. They can't have me eating pancakes when everyone else has to have sausage roles. I order a cheese toasty and a flat white. I eat a lot of chocolate today.
I ride along Lake Wanaka for an hour. The beauty of the lake is impossible. The road is windy and narrow and I don't know where the cars have come from as there were none in Westland, but they're all in a hurry. All of that to say, I am unable to take any photos until I get to the uglier part of the lake.
I pass the Neck, the road between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. There's not a lot of shoulder so I don't stop here. You can see both lakes from the spot, but it's less impressive than it sounds because they're in opposite directions. Unless you're a goldfish, you can only see one lake at a time.

I resist taking pictures of sheep, as I remember our first tandem ride was Wanaka to Lake Hawea and there were sheep everywhere. I assume I'll see more. [See below]

I reach the town of Lake Hawea. There's a hotel with a restaurant that's probably not open and a store/cafe. I had planned on sleeping here tonight, but I've had enough one pub towns. I am so behind on calories, I order a real lunch even though I have 25 km to Wanaka. The man at the table next to me has an e-bike out front. He keeps giving me advice on how to get to Wanaka without riding on the roads. I keep telling him I've got a Garmin I've been following for 10 hours and any deviation will result in me getting hopelessly lost. He persists and tells me I can cross to the opposite side of the Cluthu river and approach Wanaka from the lake side. He warns me this path is very technical. I am glad I don't understand his directions.
I find the gravel path I'm supposed to take to Wanaka.
It's beautiful until I get to this swinging bridge that an old woman walking a dog tells me I can bicycle on. I walk across.
This is either river or Wanaka Lake outlet.
The trail is unlike anything that exists in the US. I am 10 meters above the water. There are portions of the path that are washed away. Walkers and dogs and mountain bikes come at me from the opposite direction.
I have been to Wanaka at least twice, but remember nothing of the town. It is so built up, I think I'm riding into Queenstown when I finally arrive. I promise myself I'll stay up late and not depart until after breakfast.

I think the GPS missed like 5k and 100 m of climbing. Here's the video.

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