Tired legs, flat country with very hilly views and great weather. Splashing out on a helicopter ride up and over and around Mt. Cook, absolutely fantastic.
Day one : 09/11/10
It was a very early start for us to get to the bus, again to save some time and get to see more of this wonderful island. The good part of these bus journeys is that they stop at some of the attractions, like the Moeraki boulders and the steepest urban street in the world. We even had a stop that was long enough for us to stop and do the shopping for the day in Oamaru.
The Moeraki boulders are pretty amazing, big round things scattered around on the coast. They look like a giant kid had a game of marbles and left them there when his mummy called “DINNER!!!!” They have been around for a short while: only 20 million years or so.
On our bus journey we saw our second lot of cycle tourers. Though I suppose it’s a bit hard to call yourself a cycle tourer when you see others plod along into the wind, while you are on a bus.
We arrived at Omarama (apparently pronounced OmArama, with the stress on the first ‘a’) just before 14.00, found a campsite and after lunch we had a little siesta on our mats in the shade of a big tree, which I needed big time. The last two days my legs have felt tired, just like you have had a long ride or work out and you can feel it in them still.
The Omarama Holiday Park was simply stunning. Complementary white fluffy towels were handed to us when we arrived. A simple yet blissful pleasure for a tired touring cyclist who is using a tiny lighweight travel towel (albeit a good one) every day. We didn’t see other campers walking around with these towels, so I’m sure that they were saved especially for cyclists. :)
Day two : 10/11/10
Over the last few days we saw flyers everywhere about a scenic helicopter ride up to and around Mt. Cook. We entertained the idea of doing it. Mike (if I recall correctly, whom we saw at the start of the Otago Rail Trail) had encouraged us to do it if we could scrape the funds together, as it was a flight of a lifetime time, with massive and fantastic views.
Arriving at Twizel we had our lunch and tried to make a decision. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Where from if so – Twizel or Glentanner? And would the weather be good tomorrow? Or should we push on, or, or, or…?! It was a tough decision when parting with that kind of cash ($399 NZD per person). I finally grabbed the phone and gave them a call and the deed was done. We were booked in for tomorrow at 12:30 for the big ride. “Awesome!” as the enthusiastic lady said on the phone when she booked us in.
The road was nice and rolling but very open so not much shelter from the wind to allow me to rest my tired legs, so we made slow progress up and over the hills. Peli was well keen on getting as close to Glentanner as possible, but my legs didn’t have it in them. So, at Peters Lookout, around 15miles south of Glentanner and around 30 miles south of Mt. Cook we wild camped for the night in a great little spot overlooking the lake.
We had fantastic views over Lake Pukaki with its vibrant turquoise colour and up to Mt. Cook. We enjoyed looking at the sunset until the sandflies became too much.
Day three : 11/11/10
We woke up nice and early mainly because the excitement was getting the better of Peli and the weather was playing into our hands and was looking to be a great day.
We arrived at the helicopter centre nice and early and were told that since we had arrived early, we could go up as soon as the other couple was ready. So, we got a little safety briefing nearly 2.5 hours earlier than we had booked. Sweet.
Peli, was at this point swinging between “Ooh, I’m shit scared” to “I can’t hold my water since I’m bouncing around like a child on too many E numbers”. And I was playing it cool :)
We got on board and were greeted by our pilot for the hour, and off we took, floating upwards towards the mountains. I was lucky to get front row seat on the flight out and boy was that cool. I have never been in a helicopter and have always hoped that one day I would. We headed up the valley towards Mt. Cook before starting to climb up the mountains on the other side of the valley. Flying over the crags as they dropped down below you like in the movies, was great fun.
We climbed up to 2300 metres before he dropped us on the snow, with a fanstasic view over Mt. Cook, the Tasman Glacier and Mt. Something. I of course had to build a snowman up there :)
We then swapped seats with the others and then flew over the range with Mt. Cook and over to the range where Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers start. We had absolutely stunning views and could see all the way down to the valley where we had walked in the rain some weeks ago when we visited Fox Glacier. Though we would see that most of the
wet west coast was in for a cloudy day and maybe some rain, whereas we had sun and blue skies.
We even spotted a few mountaineers out for a stroll on the top of the glaciers and a ski plane on its way up to drop some skiers off.
We got right up to the other glaciers too and could see the proper colour they have. Not the grey gravel that we saw at Fox or on the Tasman glacier. The pilot was superb and very good at his job, we just glided in between the mountain tops, very close to the crag faces, and our landings we barely felt.
If you can and want to spend some money on one big thing while visiting New Zealand do think about a helicopter ride, it was money very well spent we truly enjoyed it big time and have zillions of photos and videos to relive the memories.
We then got our feet back on the ground I was well keen on doing that again though Peli was delighted she had done it but was keen to get back on two wheels. :)
We cycled the last 15 miles up to Mt. Cook, which didn’t climb much but the wind got harder and harder. It is great that in these glacial valleys you can cycle right up to these very tall mountains on flat roads. Mt. Cook village is at around 700 metres above sea level and Mt. Cook pretty much stands right there next to it reaching a further 3000 metres up.
We rested my weary legs in the DoC shelter in the village before we cycled out to the DoC White Lodge camp ground. Where we were greeted by the sandflies (I’m sure that they know I’m coming) and fell asleep listening to the sound of small avalanches and the glaciers rumbling through the night.
One note, do remember to pack up your food carefully as the possums will come into your tent at night and start to lay their table for a major feast. The one we saw didn’t even run away when we started to hit the tent and told it to go away. It just looked at us impertinently as if to say “Now would you two please go back to bed so I can finish my sandwich?”.
Day four : 12/11/10
We woke up and were way too comfy in bed so we ended up having a little lie in. We could see the sandflies sitting outside the inner tent waiting for us and clouds hanging low in the valley.
We got up and cooked our breakfast in the DoC kitchen come shelter as the light rain passed. We had been lucky to not have the “famous” north westerly wind at full force on our way in. But we did enjoy it on our way out of the valley. Glentanner around 15 miles from Mt. Cook arrived in double quick time, where we had a yummy lunch of toasted sandwiches and great chips. And the last 20 and a bit miles were enjoyed at 30+mph at times and we even rolled (were pushed) uphill, now that is what cycle touring should be all the time :)
At the bottom of Lake Pukaki we found a former DoC campsite with running water and a long drop loo. Shortly after our early dinner we passed out in our comfy beds and woke up to a beautiful sunset and no wind.
Day five : 12/11/10
One thing that is bad with most tents and especially ours, when the sun is on it it gets rather hot inside. And ours lacks a bit of ventilation, so we get up with the sun.
We rode along Lake Pukaki and joined the canal which woke our legs up big time with a big climb before 15miles of flat. The canal is also use as a salmon farm so we spotted a few fishers fishing after the few escapees from the farm. We arrived at the farm and spotted five other cycle tourers, the first we’d managed to chat to. Lots of Brooks saddles to be admired there! A good little mix there, some had done five weeks already and others were just four days into their tour. Happy riding, all.
The last few miles had unfortunately to be done on the Stuart Highway since the last part of the canal was closed. So we had to endure some rolling hills and traffic, the season has started as we saw quite a bit of traffic even on a Saturday. Yes, I had to double check on the days, the holiday spirit is taking its toll on the keeping track part.
The last two days flat and helped with the tail wind have rested my legs, so I’m ready for the last week cycling.
Click here to see all the photos : Back inland to Mt Cook