Queenstown to Cromwell – 66.5 km (by bike)
We are on the traditional territory of the Maori
New Zealand’s South Island is considered even more beautiful than the North Island and it’s easy to see why. Rugged fiords, snow-capped peaks, deep gorges, raging rivers and fertile valleys reminded us variously of the BC Coastal Range and Okanagan valley, English moorland and the Yorkshire Dales, all with the addition of thousands of sheep! The temperatures were slightly cooler on the South Island -we were told that snow in September is not uncommon in Queenstown – but as we travelled east, we noticed trees beginning to bud and fruit trees coming into blossom and even the occasional daffodil. We realized that spring has been a constant and delightful feature of our trip since leaving the cherry blossoms of Victoria in May!
New Zealand has a fairly extensive cycle trail system, but as yet the routes are not linked by cycle-friendly roads, nor are they generally paved. We had read that the Otago Rail trail was suitable for all bicycles, so we had planned to cycle that trail, via the Queenstown trail.
Heading out from Queenstown on a clear bright morning, we followed paths around Lake Wakatipu, along the Kawarau River, past the scene of the Pillars of the Kings from Lord of the Rings and then on to the Kawarau Bungy Centre
, where the sport started in 1988: the video is not of either of us! The Queenstown trail, which is designated as more suitable for mountain bikes, was a bit slow-going, but manageable, the surface a fine gravel with some rocky sections and many steep, windy inclines and descents. At the end of the trail near Gibbston, we had to ride on Highway 6 through the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell. The road was narrow at times and the hard shoulder intermittent and covered in treacherous winter grit. Fortunately, the traffic was not as heavy as it might have been. Out of the Gorge, we were pedalling past orchards and vineyards, reminiscent of the Similkameen Valley. The valley is apparently renowned for its winds which we soon discovered as we met a strong northeasterly head-on close to Cromwell. It was chilly and tough going at the end of the day.