Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dunedin to Queenstown

Otago Rail Trail
After the heavy traffic all the way to Dunedin I was now looking forward to the Otago Central Rail Trail, an old railway now converted into a bike trail. I expected this trail to be popular, but I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people on it. This is definitely New Zealand’s equivalent to the Danube bike trail in Europe. There was no car traffic, but hundreds of cyclists coming the other way shouting words of encouragement to me as we were going against the preferred direction. Beside too many cyclists the trail was very nice indeed: Beautiful scenery with river gorges, wide valleys and sweeping views. And of course no camping problems. And of course the food included new culinary highlights as I have become a specialist for making apple crumble on a camp stove. You need rolled oats for apple crumble and that leads to the annoying fact that we were also having porridge for breakfast for an entire week. There were so many apple trees along the trail that I had a hard time not to stop every five minutes. Unfortunately, there were only a few pear trees and no plums. Bummer!

Otago Rail Trail
As usual the weather was against us. Most of the time we had a very strong headwind and progress was slow again, but we are not in a hurry. Unfortunately the wind seems to come directly from the Antarctic and was freezing cold. Add a light drizzle to that and you have a perfect recipe for hypothermia.

We eventually made it into Queenstown with a short delay. On the very last km’s John had a puncture. I was riding in front of him and when he did not show up after a quarter of an hour I got really worry mostly due to the fact that he is usually going downhill at 70 km/h which I think is a perfect recipe for getting yourself killed. I cycled back to look for him almost expecting to have to scrape him from the road. And I did not even know where to send his remnants to... Luckily I found him working on a puncture next to the road. You can’t leave a man alone for a second - as soon as you turn your back to them they will do something stupid. Knock on wood: I have not had any further bike problems yet after my flat tyre in Western Australia.

Cycling into Queenstown
Queenstown is a dreadful place - it is fun capital of New Zealand, instant gratification guaranteed. You can spend a fortune here with bungy jumping, jet boating, white water rafting and the like. The town is full of adventure types and flash packers - which leads to a dizzying array of accommodation and restaurants. We ended up in one of these flash cafes ordering moussaka for dinner - the amount of food we received was not even enough to serve as a starter for normal people not to mention as a main course for cyclists. Of course I could not keep my mouth shut and I complained about it to the waitress - and to my great surprise I received another, albeit small portion of moussaka on the house! I must admit that John is always sending me ahead when it comes to food: The other day we went to an AYCE buffet where you were only allowed one helping and John send me to get his one helping as well. You claimed that I would come back with much more food than him - he would be too embarrassed to pile up huge amounts of food on his plate whereas I do not have any problems with that.

Sunset on Otago Rail Trail
The biggest event in Queenstown was John’s birthday, but I have to explain this a bit. John’s birthday is on October 12th and like me he had had a crappy birthday then with no one around to congratulate him and the worst possible weather. So we had decided earlier on the re-celebrate our birthdays on a more convenient date and he chose March 21st. I love this sort of celebrations and spend days on planning the event and thinking of presents. Due to his puncture we arrived pretty late in Queenstown so I had to do all my birthday shopping in one hours - but that is chicken shit for an efficient German like me!

Most of John’s 40 kg of ultra heavy cycling crap is held together by elastic bands which he is very anal about. Unfortunately these things tend to break which seems to really ruin his day. So as first present I gave him a huge packet of rubber bands that even he will not be able to break during the rest of his trip.

Terminus of Otago Rail Trail
John wears a whole shebang of necklaces around his neck - everything from Muslim prayer beads, leather bands and the key to his bike padlock, but he did not have a cross. He was always looking for one but I was quite sure that he is way too frugal to buy one. As you can never leave a man alone without him doing something stupid I felt he needed some extra protection and therefore he has now Allah and Jesus peacefully dangling from his neck together.

The last present was purely selfish. John is totally useless when it comes to sewing and so far I have already been repairing his tent, his stuff sack and God knows what else. On top of all that his wash bag was now falling apart - no decent ultra lighter would carry a wash bag but you cannot talk any sense into these cyclists. In order to avoid having to sew his wash bag I just gave him a new and very small one - hopefully the size will force him to reduce gear!

My 2nd birthday will be next - I am already getting excited now! I want to celebrate mine on the North Island where there are thermal springs to soak in on a rest day!

We will cycle around the National Parks now and slowly move northward as the weather is turning colder and colder every day. The weather forecast for tonight predicted frost…..

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