Made It! Over Highest metalled road in NZ

Self in the coolest of shades. Glad you were't with me, Kat and Sue. Cringeworthy, I know.
Self in the coolest of shades. Glad you weren’t with me, Kat and Sue? Cringeworthy, I know. But just look at that road. Awesome.

Boy, do I need a faster laptop for my next big bike journey (and maybe some classier shades?)

Lovely little Acer netbook, but it gets into the biggest spin (as Sue found out in India in the spring) when you ask it to do more than two things at once.

Winding Hairpins up towards Crown Range
Winding Hairpins up towards Crown Range
It's true. Lots of sheep in New Zealand
It’s true. Lots of sheep in New Zealand

It’s taken me nearly three hours to say this,  (to compound the Acer’s crawl, Wanaka has no free WiFi, curious), but today was One Almighty Riding Day, taking me and Raven across New Zealand’s highest tarmacked (Tarmacced? Tarmaked? – I know it needs to be capitalised, but not how to spell it) road, the Crown Range Pass at 3,500 feet between Queenstown and Wanaka.

Wow. Not just 3,500 feet, but 2 knees and 1 neck – and mine made it.

View over the Lake from Wanakabakpaka, surely the best-named hostel on the planet, where Kat worked on reception in her early months in NZ
View over the Lake from Wanakabakpaka, surely the best-named hostel on the planet, where Kat worked on reception in her early months in NZ

MOST gratifying, as I (started to) write this blog in the gloriously-named Wanakabakpaka lodge, where Kat worked for a time on reception when she first came to New Zealand nearly four years ago, and which (rather like Findhorn) gives me a wonderful glow of feeling less than utterly ancient, and, like Sue found in India, inspired by the young.

The view left, out over Lake Wanaka on a glorious summer’s day (weep and be envious, you UK-dwellers) is one of the best anywhere.

I’m pleased to have ridden up all the way today without pushing, and in parts, believe me, It Was Steep.

Hardy folk turn left, for the High Road to Wanaka. Wimps (or wumps as they're known here) go straight on, for the longer but oh so Low Road.
Hardy folk turn left, for the High Road to Wanaka. Wimps (or wumps as they’re known here) go straight on, for the longer but oh so Low Road.

Kat tells me that, when she first arrived in NZ in January 2009 with her own bike and tent (sadly nucked, OK, nicked, when her car was broken into in the North Island some months later, so maybe it’s only in the South that Kiwis are honest), she was so nervous about this Crown Range ride that she waited first a week in Queenstown and then a further four days in Arrowtown before setting out.

Off the Edge of the World - it's all downhill from here.
Off the Edge of the World – it’s all downhill from here.

She did make it, proudly, with help from a fellow camper who took lumps of her baggage by car.

So now that we’ve both done this, a few years apart and in our own ways, is a very special thrill. The Katie Brayne memorial ride continues…

The run down the sunny North face of the Crown Range (takes a bit of getting used to here how that it’s the north gets all the sun) into Cardrona and on to Wanaka was thoroughly lovely – though I discovered conclusively and rather frustratingly that whatever the gradient, Raven can’t muster more than 35 mph flat out.

The legendary Cardrona Hotel, straight out of the Wild West, ca. 1870, on the road down from Crown Range to Wanaka.
The legendary Cardrona Hotel, straight out of the Wild West, ca. 1870, on the road down from Crown Range to Wanaka.

The panniers, and the rider’s bulk, act as formidable airbrakes, but perhaps that’s as well.

If we were on Sunshine, our tandem, with Sue on the back, we’d have to crawl down with all brakes clamped to rim, or risk a torrent of bloodcurdling screams from the back worthy of Dracula in full flight – as I once indeed survived coming off the top of a pass with Sue in 2009 in, yes, Transsylvania.

Strange thing, this blog.

As many of my old friends know, I’ve long maintained that I loathe writing, which was why I had to get out of journalism.

But, it seems I don’t loathe writing this blog. Hmmm. Quite the contrary. Perhaps it’s to do with writing what I want to write and not having to worry about impressing editors and a picky public.

Lake Wanaka on a Summer's Day
Lake Wanaka on a Summer’s Day

The upshot, for the moment at least, will be a little more writing here in the coming days. Though tomorrow, I launch out into the unknown, taking the largely, I’m told, internet- and mobile coverage-free road north-west and then north-east past the glaciers of the NZ Alps and the coast road up through the rainforest.

In the morning, however, a visit to the Wanaka physio. Just to check that the knee really is behaving itself.

3 thoughts on “Made It! Over Highest metalled road in NZ

  1. Conquered??? Really Mark, v surprised by patriarchal-imperialist metaphor coming from one such as you! Maybe rather the road was hospitable, or gracious to carry you up? (Just giving a taste of that old journalistic irritation…) And lavish congrats on your achievement of course.JPW

    1. Indeed Janet, graciously welcomed of course. But don’t forget that Lugard is my middle name, so the old imperialism slumbers in me not far below the surface… Lots to relate on return, and am most curious to hear how the new job is going. xxx

      * * *Mark* *07711 888682* *www.braynework.com *

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