Friday 24/2/12 The Crowning Glory
The dry night at Queenstown was celebrated like a new mother. We rolled out of town reluctantly encouraged by the brooding sky. About 20km later, The Millbrook resort marked the arrival into Arrowtown. Swarming through the delightful settlement in preparation for the climb up the Crown range, we added to the village hum.
To wear a raincoat or to not wear a raincoat...that was the question. The drizzle had caught up with us. The ride up 600+ meters was going to be warm work but the ride down, snap freezing.
I opted for warmth all the way. Once the incline began the peloton split instantly. The 'pro' riders raced to the top leaving the 'survival mode’ riders inching their way up every meter. As a first timer, not knowing where the end was made pacing difficult. In a group of four we turned our wheels in silence, one revolution at a time until we saw the magical lights of our van illuminating the top.
In a bid to retain warmth in the now driving rain, I didn't stop to encounter my dominating position overlooking Wanaka from one side, and Arrowtown the other.
The slippery slide into Wanaka was natures own theme park ride. Cautiously we descended to the bottom whereupon we raced to the Cadrona hotel desperate for food and warmth.
Forming a rotating peloton around the welcoming fireplace we slowly dried out. After a full clothes change for some, the sun decided to co-operate as we reluctantly left behind the old world charm of the iconic hotel full of bonhomie and varied confections.
Uphill grinds long forgotten the four teams set off at 2 minute intervals for a team time trial. Sunshine, downhill and backwind assisted as we raced in unison for Wanaka. Fellowship wrestled results and fellowship won.
The Clearbrook Motel provided a comforting sojourn with full facilities for domestic duties catch up. Keen to accumulate more miles, the testosterone and tranquillity of the area spurred on the group to a further sixty kilometres. A shopping window opened for others.
What is even better than cycling?... Watching other people do it. Fortuitously, a local criterion passed by directly in front of our chosen waterfront watering hole.
Urban Grind; synonymous with our lives and recreational choices, was a great venue for the team. Invading the alfresco tables the bicycle blether continued well into our tapas menu and nightly awards presentation. Exiting full of fare and beer some made a B line for their inviting beds while others caroused a little longer unconcerned with tomorrows impending mileage.
Saturday 25/2/12 Tekapo or Bust
Waking up in Wanaka beside a babbling brook, apart from allowing alliteration is a truly surreal experience. The panorama engulfs. The teams systematically emerge from their units and ablutions ready for their longest and final leg...200kms to Tekapo.
Unwillingly we depart, torn from the quietude in resignation. First stop, Tarras. ‘Home of ‘Shrek’, our hirsute iconic ovine. The sunshine, cinnamon apple pinwheels and sense of freedom start the day off well. Abundant merino fashion is coveted briefly before the group forming whistle cries.
The quintessential country backdrop cannot we wasted as we pose en masse before departure. Heads down, tails up we press on to the Lindis Pass looming ahead. A flat tyre means a wheel change and the peloton is slowed to a grinding halt. Support vans execute a grand prix style pit stop while those uninvolved lay languorously along the berm.
A week of enforced togetherness removes all privacy barriers as pants are dropped alongside the jaws of passing tourists on the highway by opportunists glad of the break.
Pre-climbing preparations made, we snake deep into the Lindis in the full heat of the sun. Sweat and tears stream from our pores as we fight with those around us and ourselves to prevail.
Our blessed support crew wait encouragingly at the top and provide a boost to our physical and emotional needs alike.
A compensating 20km downhill to our lunch stop proved motivating and the slower riders were sent ahead as fodder for the chase. The pros; *real and *imaginary, catapulted downwards, bearing down on the unsuspecting targets at speeds exceeding 65km, long after the downhill assistance had waned.
*REAL depicted in this instance as a certain Californian born on Feb 29, 1960; 1988 World Ironman champ with over 200 podium finishes throughout his career as opposed to....
IMAGINERY: the ‘weekend warriors’ exhibiting superior cycle website honing skills, budgets without caps and lust for pack cycling dominance.
The snapshot of gliding into Omarama alongside an actual glider was lifted straight from the cover of ‘NZ Life & Leisure’ magazine. ‘The Wrinkly Ram’ an adequate depiction of the road spent riders as well as our chosen cafe, spread itself generously over some prime town real estate.
A wedding reception quality buffet awaited. Anxious not to repeat previous gluttonous refuels we showed exemplary restraint. A long tranquil pit stop enabled digestion but disabled momentum.
With one hundred down and one hundred to go I chose the van. Crawling along in a van at under 35km/hr isn’t as boring as imagined.
Leaning out of the windows for the perfect shot at a whole new angle, I too was drawn to the roadside like the Argonauts to Medusa, at the impassable image of Mount Cook illuminated in the mid afternoon sun.
Upsetting the natives; unrestrained of mouth and bosom, with our creative parking, we took our shots and left rapidly.
Poppies Cafe, Twizel was the final scheduled stop for the last leg. Swingball and lawn cricket left over from the seventies and Twizel’s boom time catered for those able to assume the upright position.
The van proved a sage decision as I witnessed from my front row seat, the gruelling climb up to the salmon farm for our final unscheduled but necessary, regroup of the day.
Starting with the pack and finishing with the pack was my objective, minus some of the ‘icky’ bits in the middle and I was right on target. A little encouragement from my spouse to ‘join the party’ was all I needed to climb out of my leisure pants back into the Lycra®.
The Canal roads of the McKenzie country are a special place. So special that some of the roads are closed to normal people. High on Peak fuel™ and self importance we hoisted our bikes over the cautionary blockade and then took photos for posterity.
Like RAF squadrons, we flew in sequence, eight wide across the road in the final burst for home. Competition now over, survival and merriment high on the agenda those that could, did race up the last less serious climb to pop up in the town of the Good Shepherd.
Exalted by our accomplishment, we joined the peloton’s posse that had made it all possible. Elevated at a lakeside retreat, we toasted good health and fortune on champagne and beer overlooking the glory of Lake Tekapo.
A spruce up at The ‘Residence’, Tekapo expedited. We luxuriated in the accommodation that was promised and delivered, then returned to resume the festivities.
Like MasterChef entrants, our talented support crew redefined barbeque and presented a banquet spread for the enjoyment of the revellers.
The holidaying guitar finally made an appearance and stayed well into the night competing with exhaustion for pole position. The closing awards ceremony consisted of team pursuits at holding a tune and golden awards presented by ‘podium chicks’ complete with bouquets.
Having completed only sixty per cent of the week’s riding, by my calculations I still had forty per cent more revelling to do. My husband did not concur as he escorted me to the waiting van, reminiscent of Security guards from a recent concert.
Sunday 26/2/12 Game Over.
Brekkie supplies exhausted, we snacked on milk-less cereal and dried toast in our post party wake up. Pack up day is a drag and amplified with the drizzle and mess. With lightened vans loads, we departed obediently by 10am in varying vehicles with our GPS™ set for ‘home’.
An unremarkable stop at Fairlie for fats and hydration broke up the three hour ride. A broken roof and window on two separate buildings was a reminder of proximity to home and the 4.3 quake registered twelve hours before. Upon further investigation, a fire and an unlicensed youth were responsible for these calamities.
Casual chatter and slumber filled the van as we drove the remaining hour and a half into Christchurch. Back at point A where it all began we gathered our gear, group hugged and sang Kumbaya as we made our way back to our families and lives, richer for the experience.