Free Bird

We got away earlier today and headed straight to the beach to see what we thought of New Zealand’s number 1 beach.

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Yes, it’s pretty nice, in particular the vista over the rocky outcrop isles.

Onwards and upwards..there were a few climbs to knock off in the first 23 km. The second climb was the longest and fortunately the temperature was a much more pleasant 19 degrees.

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Just cresting the top of climb

Free Bird was a great song written and recorded by Lynyrd Skynyard….a long song that is regarded as one of their ‘anthems’.  Often when I ride a song will play over and over in my head, and today I realised that had not happened riding the first three days. Maybe the heat dried my mind.   I realised this as Free Bird played over and over today as I climbed.

I thought about the song as I climbed today. For Lynyard Skynard it did not end well with three of their band members being killed in a catastrophic plane crash a few years later…but maybe they are Freebirds now?

Cycle touring is like a free bird. You can go where you want, in whatever time frames you choose. You choose your own pace which when touring is far more relaxed as you need to back up day after day.  You can stop whenever you like without feeling guilty – whether that be to enjoy the view, take some photos, eat, drink, caffeinated, pee, chat….whatever really!

It really appeals to me as I relax so much more as I feel no real pressure so therefore can totally chillax.

As can be seen below, the majority of the climbing was over and done with early, and my back behaved heaps better today thankfully. Today’s total ride length was 112 km.

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Today we rode on rail trail, more specifically the Hauraki Rail Trail. It started off quite crappy, with lots of drifts of very loose gravel, but after a period settled into a mixture of reasonably compressed clay and gravel to chunky gravel.

It was really very pleasant. Slow, as hard to do much above 16-17 kmh on the gravel, with bends, turns etc. We ended up doing 19 km on the trail. At one point our gps was taking back onto SH2, but a quick look and we shook our heads. The traffic was heavy with little to no verge.

We are so glad we did as the trail vista was great. This was the first bridge we crossed.

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I liked this sign advising to leave Rover at home. I love my dogs, but per the sign, they do not mix with wildlife or cyclists.  A guy at my workplace broke his pelvis last year after a dog ran under his wheel.

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At Waikino there is the old railway station with a great cafe inside.

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Inside the cafe I liked the warning sign.

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A section of the Karangahake Gorge.

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This tunnel was a kilometre long. We rode through. Very cool

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This section was fascinating. This is the ruins of an old battery station. On top of this cement there used to be huge containers containing potassium cyanide and crushed ore.  See sign below.

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Oh dear…guess what happened. Yes another puncture. Fortunately the team mechanic was available to assist. Thankyou Tony. The culprit was a pinched tube with two tell tale holes. The section of trail just before this had been pretty bumpy with larger rocks.

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Now this is more like it….but it did not last long.

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This was another great section, but less than 100 m in length.

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Lunchtime was at Te Aroha. My second trip to this funky town as I wanted Tony to see this unique water fountain.

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And this!

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But not this! Yes, she is wearing gumboots! What can I say?

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We were downing our ubiquitous ice coffees at the great cafe Ironique. The greatest loos too. I love this shovel themed sink.  Note the old bike tube in the bin! I do not leave mine just anywhere.

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I really like the door too!

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The rest of the ride was a bit of a slog, with a very slight gradual incline into a strong headwind.  The temperature was around 30 degrees but it did not feel anything like that due to the wind.

Now we are in Matamata, or Hobbiton as it is otherwise known as. This is the cute Information Centre.

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The weather forecast for tomorrow currently looks shite! Thunderstorms and rain! This certainly brings back memories. When Sue and I were doing our Auckland to Wellington ride earlier this year, the weather turned to crap here as well, and signalled the 1 in 100 year storm event. We bailed some 40 km into our ride, requisitioning a shuttle bus van  noted at the cafe we were holed up in.

The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and rain! Oh great, and we are riding one of our harder climbs to Tauranga and the  back to Rotorua. Over 140 km tomorrow!

Fingers crossed that the weather is not quite as bad as forecast, and that the meteorologists are overstating and then under deliver!  Bad weather chick magnestism!!

Today’s route.

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I have just finished eating some crayfish, courtesy of our Air BNB hosts. Bit lucky so I’m hoping my luck holds out.

Ooroo – time for some stretching!

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Duntroon dilly dally

Today is the shortest day of the Alps to Ocean journey. Hardly seemed worthwhile donning the lycra. Our preference would have been to ride out to Oamuru and make a day of it, but we’d had accomodation waiting in Duntroon, a small town with a population of 90, and we were told absolutely no shops open. The local pub and cafe had both closed.

So we procrastinated in leaving Kurow, then called in at the local cafe for a coffee and as it turns out a treat.

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Nice outdoor area complete with bocce
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Bikes and dogs are welcome
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Yum
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Interesting information

The trail today was all off road, starting at the eastern end of town between the museum sheds. A gravel track heads across to the Waitaki River which we followed down the valley.

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At the 5km point we rode bang smack into the middle of a winery that was also open for coffee but we were all coffeed out.

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The winery was lovely to cruise through reminding me of the Bordeaux wineries and other rides in France with an avenue of trees either side.

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From the winery we headed back towards the Waitaki River and followed the Waitaki Haul Road, also used by 4WD. The track was patchy in places courtesy of flooding and crossing creek beds. We crossed the Otiake River and then the Otekaieke River.

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The off road trail then followed adjacent the highway with lovely valley views.

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Waitaki River Valley

At the 23 km point, on the other side of the highway was a sign to Takiroa Maori rock art site. So over we went.

It was very interesting but sad that humans of the more modern era have come along and destroyed most of the art work in one of two ways. In the early 1900’s scientists removed a portion for museums, but in the process most was destroyed and little remains.

Secondly there are the bogan vandals who have carved names, words and initials into the soft stone, of the small amount that does remain.

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Table of the day

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The devastating effects of vandalism clearly depicted alongside the Maori art in this photo

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After visiting the rock site we needed to retrace our steps and continue on the trail back down to the Waitaki River.

A pleasant discovery on the outskirts of Duntroon was a wetlands walkway track, with numerous little bridges criss crossing the wet terrain.

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Having arrived in Duntroon by 11.30am we cruised around town and found quite a few quirky points of interest. Firstly there was a static blacksmith shop that is active some days, having been restored by locals.

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St Martins church is apparently one of the most photographed in New Zealand due to its gothic style and stone used. It was opened in 1901, same year Queen Victoria died.

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These two characters are outside the old goal
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The old gaol with a suspect character loitering with the intent of being a right royal pain in the neck.

Mention must be made of the local public toilets, featuring cycle friendly murals

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We are staying at the old Duntroon Railway Station. Amazing accomodation featuring large lounge, dining and kitchen area, two bedrooms ( 2 x 2 single very short beds), bathroom, as well as a large deck overlooking the Waitaki Valley.

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Deck view looking right
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Deck view looking left
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Duntroon Railway Station- sole occupancy

I have have enjoyed sitting out in the sun, skim reading a book on New Zealand, finishing a book by Juliana Buhring, falling asleep for a nap…trying to remove those knick  and jersey tan marks!

An extraordinary looking dinner and pure quantity of food has been delivered that we could not possibly eat all of…

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I notice that all the chocolates and the caramel shortbread cakes have been removed someone else’s safe keeping ( not mine, ha ha ha). For the record I have knocked off all the cherries though!

So despite today’s shorter distance and leisurely ride, Duntroon is a nice little town where I have chillaxed on the deck! So nice to be here.

Tomorrow is the final day of the A20 Alps to Ocean ride as we will arrive in Oamuru.

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Pump it up

Elvis Costello had the hit song, Pump It Up… some lyrics that I probably should not put in full in my blog, but great song with funky beat that will always make me move!  I thought of this song a few times today whilst riding – the chorus:

Pump it up until you can feel it

Pump it up when you don’t really need it

………………………………………………………………………………………

I awoke this morning to magnificent views. I just lay back and  soaked it in.

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Communal breakfast was scheduled to commence st 8 am. Drag myself away from the view! As is common with bike tours, we were the very first there!

One view was replaced with another! How awesome is this? It was going to be hard to leave such natural beauty, but leave we must.

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Breakfast views surely don’t get much better?

Starting from the Lake Ohau Lodge driveway, the trail traverses the lower slopes of the Ruataniwha Conservation Park, offering stunning views back across the basin to the Ben Ohau Range.

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We crossed numerous creeks including Freehold Creek at 600 metres above sea level.

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From here the track narrowed and became quite loose, slippery with numerous patches of larger rocks to navigate. Legs were pumping hard!

Pump it up Sharron!

I found I had to really concentrate too and could not turn my head left to look at the view as invariably I became unsteady on the bike. So eyes straight ahead looking to where I needed to ride, rather than what I wanted to avoid!

There are several false summits where the trail appeared to have reached the high point but instead kept winding upwards.

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Rest at Turnbrae

We then descended…what goes up must go down.

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Tony heard an ominous bang in his back tyre and had a puncture. The tube had already been patched so we used the one spare tube the hire bike company gave us for the two bikes.

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Awful view to tolerate whilst puncture rectified

Pump it up Tony!

There were numerous small streams to cross.

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We stopped off at the historic woodshed at the top of Quailburn Road.

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I am looking out the window
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Inside the old shed

From the signage I gathered that the woolshed was part of the Benmore Station.

The story goes something like this. 2 Scotsmen set off in search of new country to settle. Having come through Mackenzie Pass they crossed Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau rivers. They climbed to the top of the last terrace and saw straight ahead of them north facing tussock covered ridges sloping gently to rich grassy plains.

“I’ll take this country” said MacMurdo pointing to the range.

“That’s just the country I’ve decided to take” retorted Fraser.

They debated for some time, neither giving way. They decided to race to Christchurch to register their claim but that was over 200 miles away over rough country.

In the end they decided to race to a matagouri bush about a mile away. The winner was to take the land to the left, the loser the land to the right.

MacMurdo won the race and named the land Benmore after his birthplace in Scotland. The year was 1857.

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Old wagon

There were toilets at the woolshed, very welcomed by this female cyclist. I was taken with this message on the loo wall from 2 French cyclists earlier this year.

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Better than a lot of things I have read in public toilets! 

The terrain had flattened considerably and we were riding around farmland.

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With plenty of time left in the day we decided to take a return detour of 14 km along a gravel road to visit the acclaimed Clay Cliffs.

The Cliffs are on private property and the last 4 km in was heavily corrugated and not a lot of fun. We saw the most cars on this section as well with dust dust and dust.

I was not sure what to expect but once in sight it was “wow”. I also had my second spill of the trip climbing the last few metres spilling on loose gravel.

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Descending from the cliffs we stopped to climb through the farmers fence at the Ahuriri River to top up our bidons.

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A fence is not enough to stop me! 

Returning to Quailburn Road we took the off road trail adjacent to the highway, passing through Ahuriri Camp Ground where there were many tents erected and much activity on the river banks.

Exiting the camp ground we crossed the river and arrived in Omarama via an off road trail.

Great accomodation here in a well appointed unit. Cycling clothes all washed but not being dried in accordance with our normal conventions ( bra, knicks etc hanging out windows). This place has a clothes line and it is windy as! Bonus!!

Tea was at the Wrinkly Ram (!?!)

So a solid day in the saddle. Arms and shoulders can feel it from the constant hump and bump. Tomorrow we head to Kurnow with lakes, rivers and dams.

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Two of these bikes adorn the fence at our accomodation. Proud supporters of the A20 trail.

Here is a map of today plus the ascent/descent info.

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Nice backdrop! 

Boxing Day

0BC86F53-84A6-46FB-9A99-57A1ED96D433Boxing Day in Australia signals the start of a sporting extravaganza. As a child I always recall it meant the television was blaringly loud. We started with the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, with the massive supporting armada seeing the maxi yachts out of the magnificent sunny Sydney Harbour to the heads. The television would not change channel until the leaders were out the heads, heading to our state capital Hobart.

The television channel then swapped to the cricket live from the home of Australian sport, the MCG, or as Aussies call it, The G. The Boxing Day test is always played between Australia and the visiting international team. As the day rolls on, often hot, over by over, the mob on the hill get rowdier, well liquidated by the local amber ale.

Today looked nothing like that. Not one iota.

It started raining and raining and a little bit more for good measure.

Now today was to be a shorter day so we had time to kill. You can’t arrive to early, wet and cold. So we headed off to the Twizel shopping centre where there was shelter.

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Waiting for the rain to stop

Then we headed to the bakery and grabbed a coffee.

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Interesting sign outside the bakery

From there we checked out the local hardware store. Amazingly eclectic!

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Yes, a toilet tattoo that is reusable! I know carp will survive in anything but your toilet bowl? Anyway if you want one of these they  one for $19.90 at Twizel Hardware!

However I did purchase my third pair of locally produced wool cycling socks! They are really comfortable and these were a bit longer for the cooler day. It was 9 degrees. The chair was for sale and really comfy. $160 for the ‘mother of all chairs’ ( well that’s what the sign said).

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The mother of all chairs… recommended by me!

Still killing time we headed to the local toilets. I was impressed with the bottle filler fountain. Here we met Will, hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland who is on a two month riding tour of South Island. Poor guy has been in bed for the last week with pneumonia and was heading for Mt Cook.

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Tony and Will

Finally it was decided to ride on as the sky looked to be improving. We left Twizel following the Glen Lyon Road as it weaved its way around towards Lake Ohau.

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Lifting skies Glen Lyon Rd

We followed the Pukaki canal.

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Pukaki Canal shortly before it connects with the Ohau Canal

As we turned right to follow the Ohau Canal we had some lovely head winds but on the positive side, the temperature had jumped to 11 degrees. We had drizzle on and off but overall it looked like it was clearing.

The Ohau Canal appears to have a reasonable amount of salmon farming. The birds were keen. At least seals would not be a predator issue here like at home.

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Salmon farming on the Ohau Canal

 

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Ohau Canal

At the end of Glen Lyon Road the Ohau Canal enters Lake Ohau.

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The Ohau Canal meets Lake Ohau

We turned off the road and back onto gravel track for a further 10 km under the ever watchful dominance of Ben Ohau. The scenery was so reminiscent of northern Scotland so appropriate it is a ‘ben’.

Ohau Weir features a ramp up and over the tunnels.

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First shot of Ohau Weir

We then climbed a small rise providing a better view of the weir.

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The tunnels have old timber on top
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Downstream from the weir

We continued to follow the Lake Ohau track which was skirting around the edge of the lake. This section was my favourite part of today.

A new type of crossing appeared.

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Sharron, this is the wrong way to tackle! You wheel your bike through the left section walking through the right hand section.

One of the better view of Ben Ohau encountered today. A popular walk that takes around 4-5 hours, 810 metres vertical climbing.

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Ben Ohau 1522 metres

Following the track around the lake we came across an old hut.

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Old hut…

The track was lined with flowering lupin ( yellow and purple) which Gary grumblebum ( InterCity bus  driver from Christchurch airport notoriety) had told the passengers that the spread of lupin was from sheep eating the English introduced plant.

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Lupins in flower

The track also had the most incredibly prickly plant (matagouri) that you need to avoid close encounters with.

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Very nasty non cycle friendly plant with longer slender needle like protrusions.

Some final views from the track.

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Ben Ohau
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We are heading 10 km down that way!!
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Gate exit sign

Nice ride down the sealed road room is into the Lake Ohau village that has some very flash homes. We climbed up the village hill off the A20 route just because we could.

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Lake Ohau from Ohau Village

7 km down the road from the village we arrived at our destination, Lake Ohau Lodge. Our gear is here, bonus! Our wifi does not work here so have just bought a pack for $20 that you can only use in the communal areas.

The view from the Lodge is so reminding me of Scotland. Just beautiful.

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The hot tub called my name so I obliged. Looking stressed?

E9F4EE2D-C3DF-40A2-8EC1-722BFA7E7072Whilst writing this blog I have spied a table tennis table. Someone is in for a spanking…volunteers to take me on at the table tennis table? Roll up!

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Chillaxing on the job!