For this morning I had decided to not go back into town to have breakfast with the group, but rather stay at the hotel and sleep a
little longer as we would later meet up at the hotel to start our ride anyway.
So I used some of that time to take some photos of the hotel’s garden before getting ready to start the ride.
Last night I had learned, that it was not my lack in training that had made me feel weak but the fact that my pannier bags holding my camera equipment as well as some clothes had gotten very heavy. I had never thought about it before, but it made sense. So for today, when we are on one of the hardest parts of the entire tour, I decided to take as little as I possible could with me and have the rest being transported in the bus.
Because this time we rode our bikes on the Crown Range Road, which is the highest main road of New Zealand, reaching an attitude of over 1000 meters.
For us it meant a continuous climb over a distance of 37.15 kilometers. And I mean continuous as in never having a really flat area and never having a real downhill - actually even what looked like a downhill was going up the hill.
On the last 2.68 kilometers this climb reached, according to my calculations, the so called Hors Category — that means that the climb is very long (more than 16km), very steep with average grades between 8 and 10% or very high (above 3352.8 meters) — as we ended with a climb of 8.32%.
To illustrate today’s ride see my GPS-data of the entire route below.
Solo and I had decided to go on this day’s ride together — uphill we are pretty much at the same slow speed, he due to having only double cranks on his road bike, and I, well mostly because I tend to never use the lowest gears. Instead I leave at least one, preferably two, as my “psychological gears,” because the road cannot be too hard if you’re able to do it in third gear, can it?
Before we entered the area of the big climb our guide was waiting with the bus, so those who wanted could get a ride in the bus to the top of the mountain instead. At this point I had put all my luggage except my water bottles into the bus to have as little weight to carry as I possible could.
But this is what we have been training for on all the other days that we have been riding our bikes here in New Zealand. And actually having this climb here now was part of my plan when I booked this trip going from the North to the South. When I was told that my originally-booked tour was cancelled, and that I could switch to a tour in October going North, one of the reasons why I did not want to take that tour was actually that it had those climbs on the third or fourth day.
But as most of the time with a climb, you get rewarded with a view once you have mastered it. And so did we.
The following downhill turned out to be demanding in its own way, as it was one with many hair-pin bends where you could not go very fast and where you had to be careful not to end up in the other lane, and for the first couple of kilometers with gravel too. But even here you get a reward for doing this, as we found a little parking lot with a nice viewpoint. After a little bit of wall climbing, I had taken the photo that I wanted and we were ready to go on to our final bike destination of Arrowtown.
After we had finished the downhill we continued on an almost completely flat road. Shortly before we had to turn right into the road leading to our final destination, and already having slowed down to make the turn, my chain came off. For a split second I believed I would end up having a double crash, the first one crashing my bike because I had difficulties getting out of the clicks in time, the second one because of the car behind me which then might not be able to stop in time. A little shocked, I screamed, and Solo at this point being a couple of meters ahead of me in the turn, stopped immediately after the right-turn and looked back at me. As he told me later, he believed in that moment that I had gotten hit by the car. So I yelled over to him that it was only my chain that had come off, while finally getting out of the clicks and safe down from the bike. I cleared the street as fast as I could and walked my bike around the corner into the street in which we would continue our ride. Before I could put my bike down to fix the chain, Solo had already bent over and fixed it for me, and within just a very few minutes we were ready to go on to our final destinations without further unwanted surprises.
In Arrowtown we found a nice little café/pub and enjoyed a nice cold drink while we were waiting for the bus. The town would for sure have been worth a little walk through, as it is described as a little town left over from the gold rush era, but we just needed some time and some drinks to recover from the ride, and far too soon the time had come once more again to pack our bikes on the trailer of the bus and take another transfer to the next hotel being located in Queenstown, where we should stay for two nights, giving us a day to rest and possibly explore the touristic attractions that this region has to offer.
Here you can find more of my photos from my journey on the South Island of New Zealand