Cromwell to Owaka

Cromwell to Owaka

I briefly mentioned in my previous post, I’d been offered the opportunity to fill in for management at the The Catlins YHA in Owaka. So backdown I head ⬇️

At long last, we (bike and I) set out from Cromwell after Christmas and New Year. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve ridden the bike in touring anger. Except for a few excursions around Cromwell and my previous feeble attempts to make headway over the Nevis Range ⛰️

I depart my brothers after midday as I’d lost a strap off one of my panniers. Once found, on the road the sun ☀️ is high and dry. This time the road is pleasant compared to my previous attempt the day before New Year. Once through the narrowing Kawarau Gorge the road opens out following the river 🏞️ Enroute I pass Alvira, a cycle tourist too. We stop and chat. I overtake her again with my video camera rolling.

I turn back at one point thinking I’d missed the AJ Hackett bungy bridge 🌉 I’d not. As I turned around there’s my brother pulling over. He was on his way back from Queenstown, and kindly passed me two McDonald’s cheese burgers. A pleasant surprise. He did say he was hoping to hurl them at me as he drove past … seemed to amuse him 🙄

I’d previously done my bungees in Cairns, Australia, while backpacking 2001/02. Four in total, I think that’s enough for one lifetime! From the bridge I mount the trail towards Arrowtown.

This town was once vast in gold 🥇 with a lot of Chinese arriving during the gold rush. Plus everywhere else in New Zealand by the looks of it!

Signs abound saying ‘No Freedom Camping’ … well barhumbug to that! I meandered about half a km up the 4WD 🛻 track leading out towards Macetown. Here, I find a perfect spot next to the river amongst the small trees. No one will discover me here. That’s unless you’re a sand fly, then you’ll all find me! Bug repellent applied called, Goodbye Sandfly 🪰 Obviously the sand flies haven’t read the instructions because they just carry on with their god-dam right to bite regardless! And, they do bite, which you know about.

I splash in the river and duly to bed.

Periodically I’d hear 4x4s 🛻 traversing the river towards Macetown or returning. As I listened to one such vehicle, it seemed to take a turn for the worse ie. me! 😲 Driving up the embankment, I was pitched on. Not that it would’ve got far as it was too dense with vegetation. Nevertheless, I jumped out of my tent and made them very aware I was here. Waving like a lunatic! 🙌 They stopped, they reversed, they departed! Knobheads! And, they tell me, be careful not to damage this/their pristine environment. I’m sorry, Kiwi’s 🇳🇿 seem to remain the biggest culprits in my book.

Arrowtown is quite special as it possesses an air of the wild-west about it.  It also attracts a lot of tourists. So photos 📷 taken and quickly out of the tourist populated dodge!

Now on the trail that winds to Queenstown via Lake Hayes and through Arrowtown golf course. The lake includes a narrow track, but serves effectively enough for a bike 🚵‍♂️ Once I’d made an initial steep climb it was generally flat or downhill. The trail rides over the ShotOver River where many of the jets boats from Queenstown ply their trade Carrying tourists on hair-raising-white-water-knuckle-rides.

I’d initially planned to board the Earnslaw Steam Ferry ⛴️ to cross Lake Wakatipu, to Walters Peak. But, I’d made the dreadful mistake of asking the folks in the Queenstown I-Site (info shop) what the conditions were like for a bike They put the fear of god-in-me 🔱 No, it’s too wet, it’s too hilly, there’s no camping allowed before Movora Lake … bla bla bla! Why did I ask? I should’ve just boarded and being done with it! I witnessed the ferry depart, thinking hmmm … I should be on it. In hindsight, don’t ask, just do!

I head off with a leaden heart 💔 Exploring the gardens and bowling green as I make my way out of Queenstown. Glad to be leaving nevertheless, far too many tourists. Again!

The Queentown trial winds back over a bridge and follows the Peninsular Road onwards to Kelvin Heights. It’s now 3 o’clock, and I’m mindful for a camping spot for the night. But, as the peninsular and Kelvin Heights are relatively built-up areas 🏘️ I’m not so sure where I’m going to find something. They’re occasional signs along the water’s edge indicating ‘No Camping’. Plus, most places could be considered a walking or cycling thoroughfare, so no good ether. At Kelvin Heights, I’ve a golf course on one side and the lake on the other, with a line of coniferous trees 🌲🌲🌲 separating them. I scurry up, down and through the woods seeking an ideal spot, also out of sight of pedestrians and vehicles. I discover a spot. Open from the trees and private.

The ground is not perfectly flat. So I set about with my trowel on a bit of landscaping. A slight gradient in the ground is enough to make ones sleep restless. Therefore the ten minutes of reconstruction is worth it. I’d be happy hiding away here for another day 🎪 I do have in mind my next camp spot is also good, so up and away is not so bad the next day.

Once again, as I cycle the Queenstown to Kingston Road it’s shrouded in cloud ☁️ I can’t win! Arriving at Kingston, the weather has now abated. This time in passing no train, but the weather has definitely improved for a splendid shot of my trusty ride at Fairlight railway station. This station is at the other end of the line for The Kingston Flyer 🚂

After a hefty headwind into Athol, I find my river spot again, resting on the Erye River. With days to spare I decide on a layover day here as planned. The weather is good. Would be foolish not to!

I’ve tried a few times to record my journal while on the road, but once I start, I just can’t be asked! Why, when one could be relaxing or taking a look around the area.

Athol chiefly consists of, well not much. It has a jolly good veg’s shop, a tourist’s cafe, school etc. that’s about it. At least I can spend a bit more time and prepare a healthy vege curry for dinner 🍛

Nothing better than waking on a morning and being greeted to the wonderful marvels of nature: a rainbow 🌈 Back on the road and heading towards Te Anau.

Another piece of apparel is discarded: my winter cycling leggings. These have enjoyed good use for two winters ❄️❄️ in the UK, but I’m not likely to use them this year or journeys onwards (bet I eat my words later!) So that’s got to be near on another 1/3rd kg lighter. Whoop whoop!

I enter Mossburn, which is the final stop before the 50 km’s to Te Anua. Supplies topped up at the stores. The weather enroute had already been windy 🌬️ and light rain 🌦️ After shopping, I take a rain stop at the rugby ground stand, along with a bite of lunch.

Looking towards the west, it doesn’t look good. Dark, wet and windy. If you think I’m heading into that, your av’ing a Giraffe! (Cockney (London) rhyming slang) The east looks blue and clear. Damn it, let’s ride the azure sky ☀️ with a tailwind. All of a sudden I’m not battling the weather and enjoying some very pleasant quiet back roads, wind assist. Happy days.

As I wish not to backtrack too many roads I head towards Centre Bush. Southerly. The weather behind has truly caught up now. Once at Centre Bush I scout around for a spot to camp. I follow the sign towards the community centre (always worth a look in). As I’m about to pitch under the overhang to the Rugby club, I notice a door open 🚪 I look further. Changing rooms. That’ll do fine. It smells a bit musty! But after a sweep and a wipe of the surfaces, we’re ready to settle in for what looks like a blustery night.

At one point a car pulled up outside 🚗 I’m expecting to be busted. But, after an hour the couple make-off after making out 🏩 It looked like some clandestine meeting as I sneakily peaked through the grubby windows! That night, the heavens truly opened up. It felt at times the roof was going to blow off. It was a welcome sight to witness it had all passed by the morning.

The route promptly bore me back to Mataura. I enjoy the fruits of a tailwind. 

If you wish to see where the wind blows predominantly, just check out the orientation of the school run bus shelters 🛖 Soon after leaving this brief stop, I hear what must be every cycle adventurers dreadful nightmare. A strange clanking/rattle noise emulating from the rear 🚴🏻‍♂️ Had something broken? I hesitate to stop, afraid of what has occurred and hoping it might go away! But also the requirement to stop abruptly and assess immediately is crucial. We don’t wish to exacerbate any further damage. I pull in behind a hedge to escape the wind. One of the worst things possible, an eyelet on the frame has snapped off, but its still attached to the hex bolt, which is still on the Tubus rack. All I can do at this stage, is attack it with a frenzied assault of Zip ties 🗜️ It holds.

Off we go. Periodically checking my handiwork, all seems to be fine. Rock solid. The frames eyelets would’ve only been designed to take mudguards or a light rack. Not my 15 kg of luggage 🧳 I believe this’ll hold until I arrive in Owaka. As long as I stay clear of corrugated-gravel-roads. I’ve a feeling that the damage was caused when I descended the Nevis Range back in my last post. With a steep descent and corrugation under tyre, the eyelet/s did get a genuine work out. Not surprised. My own fault really!

Arriving at the playground (domain) I brew myself a coffee. Next, the local pool for a swim 🏊 and a hot shower’n’shave. Never a fan of community baths, but it was quiet. Nice and relaxing after day in the saddle.

This time I improve on my location at the tennis courts 🎾 embedding in the corner of a solitary court.

I was approached by boys smoking cigarettes 🚬 around the play frames. They were more alarmed by how far I’d cycled and sleeping in a tent. Pretty much implied, I was nuts! In thought afterwards, these lads being, what fourteen to fifteen years of age, smoking, but still not able to break away from their childhoods by hanging around the play equipment! Bless them, ruins their hard man image!

Instead of undertaking the more direct journey to Owaka, I head the 13 km’s towards Gore (northerly) as from there the railway line 🚆 travels eastwards. The road follows the line, so with my infinite wisdom, surely then, the road should be relatively flat?

When in Gore I scout out a spot for the night. Tucked up in the corner of the miniature railway line. It’ll do for later. The rest of the day is occupied in Gore library 📚 catching up on nigelsbicyclejourneys.com, emails and everything else that emanates into and out of the ether.

Except for a few kids coming near, spotting the tent, then running away screaming, otherwise a peaceful time!

As I’d hoped, following a railway line (full sized now!) that the road too would also be comparatively flat. It was, with a smidgin tailwind. It took me sometime to reason why they call this road the presidential highway 🛣️ when there’s only a Prime Minister. Then the penny dropped, I’m riding from Gore (Al) to Clinton (Bill). Bit slow I am today!

On reaching Balclutha (Clutha is Scottish) and 72 km’s now under my belt for the day, with 30 km’s to Owaka, and expecting a headwind, now is the time to stock up on those sugar reserves. It’s becomes a jelly bean 🍬 frenzy!

As I enter The Catlins once more, I’m greeted as before to headwinds 🌬️🌬️ The last 30 km’s from Balclutha with hills and winds was extremely tough, but then I’d already done some mileage before Balclutha, so no surprise. I call into the Four Square stores for supplies in Owaka, before I make the minute cycle to the The Catlins YHA backpackers.

Sit back, relax and manage a backpackers for the next two weeks. Sweet! 👍🏻

Photos shot with a Samsung EX1 24-72mm f/1.8.

The map is interactive. Click on the route or icons for detail.