It all started with a single email:
So the planning began. All four of us – Alby, Cal, Dave and myself — had leave passes negotiated, payback to wives in order, and tickets booked.
I’ve always wanted to go riding in New Zealand. I’ve been there a few times before, but it was always to do some hiking with my wife. But during the drives to our hikes I always took quiet notice of how awesome those windy roads would be to ride.
I’m not sure if the phrase “proximity syndrome” even exists (I can’t find it on Google) but I’ve always thrown it around to mean: the resistance to discovering your own backyard because there are many more far-off exciting places to visit.
It seems that most people I know have never been road riding in New Zealand either. While nearly every keen cyclist seems to have had the good fortune to ride in France, Italy or Spain, it always baffles me why a three-hour flight to New Zealand is rarely on anybody’s agenda.
You needn’t travel all the way to Europe to ride through picturesque valleys, over looming mountain passes, and alongside turquoise lakes. It’s all right here in our own neighbourhood. The Kiwis have the best-kept secret on Earth. It’s hard to nail down just one place in New Zealand to visit, but we only had a few days and the South Island was made for this roadtrip.
Cycling vacations are now more often than not described as “boutique”. I can appreciate the desire for nice food, fine wine, premium accommodation, mechanics cleaning your bikes and giving you the pro treatment, but it’s not what I crave.
Just like anyone I don’t mind being spoiled once in a while, but my simple needs only require clean accommodation (okay, I don’t enjoy sleeping head to toe in a double bed with a bloke anymore – we stayed at Wanaka Edge Apartments which was perfect for a group or a family), a big breakfast, black coffee, and to ride my bike from dawn to dusk and come home with absolutely nothing left in the tank. That way I feel like I’ve earned the gluttony that comes afterwards.
We set off from Melbourne at a reasonable time on Tuesday morning and after a brief connection in Christchurch we were in Queenstown by the late afternoon and ready to ride. Queenstown airport has a bike assembly area with a work-stand (such an awesome typical Kiwi thing to do) which made it easy and convenient to get our bikes together.
We rode out from Queenstown with the intent of basing ourselves in Wanaka for the week. About 20km from Wanaka we got the scent of a wood-burning fireplace and came across the rustic Cardrona Hotel. A quick pint was calling our names.
By the time we needed to leave (to catch the last remaining daylight) we had had far too many beers and were a bit too jolly to ride the remaining 20km to Wanaka. So we settled in for the evening, got another round, and ordered every single item off the pub-food menu (literally every single item off a substantial menu).
We had only ridden a measly 60km from Queenstown, so we figured we’d simply jack up tomorrow’s k’s and chalk this night up to “carb loading”.