New Zealand 2014

Day 17

March 31

  Since we decided we'd get out early this morning, I picked up a little 'morning refreshment' at the store yesterday.  
  We get the girls loaded up and are ready to roll about good day break.  
  We stop to give Muffin and Bubbles a good bye, but Muffin obviously is pointing us out the door as quickly as possible.  
  The old man mountain is just barely visible as the sun peaks over his snow covered mantel.  
  We're back across the long one lane suspension bridge and on our way to Queenstown.  
  It's a beautiful morning and another great day of riding to look forward to as we will go over Haast Pass and Lindis Pass.  
  The thing that I have come to appreciate about New Zealand is the constantly changing scenery from runs the ocean along the highway ...  
  to down in the valleys surrounded by the mountains ...  
  to thick forests overhanging the road ...  
  to empty glacial rivers ...  
  to beautiful tranquil lakes. It's a never-ending, always-changing views that add great enjoyment to the ride.  
  This morning, the ocean views from the highway are particularly fascinating ...  
  as we make our way southward.  
  New Zealand is just a place of incredible visual beauty around every bend and over every hilltop.  
  Suddenly we come to a one lane bridge that give us pause. It is so long that seeing the other side is impossible. Fortunately, once we are on it we see that it has 'passing' bays which are a relief but a little different than what we have encountered.  
  We are making good time this morning as we have the roads all to ourselves on the way to Haast Pass.  
  It's a great run up to it along Highway 6 where we turn inland.  
  This road was not fully paved until 1995, so it would have been pretty tough sledding on a motorcycle prior to that.  
  Soon we come to what is know as the 'Gates of Haast', a long one lane bridge leading up to the pass.  
  When we see this sign, we proceed cautiously since we don't know if we can count on the cattle to stop or not.  
  But evidently they stopped as we do not see them. Or else they are just taking a break out of sight.  
  I snag another pass sign and we are on down the mountain. Haast Pass is slightly less than 1,850 feet in height, making it the lowest of the passes that cross these 'southern Alps'.  
  Soon we are back down in the valley, keeping an eye on the darkening clouds.  
  It looks like we are for sure going to get wet ...  
  but then the sky lightens up and for that we are thankful.  
  Off to our right is the lovely Lake Wanaka, New Zealand's fourth largest lake.  
  We run along it's shoreline for quite a while ...  
  and the road is a series of lazy sweepers ...  
  which give us some leisure to enjoy the beautiful scenery. It measures almost 1,000 feet at its deepest point.  
  Within a little over a half a mile, we come upon Lake Hawea.  
  It is a really popular location for all sort of water sports all year long.  
  It is over 1,200 feet at its deepest point. Not much flat land around until you get to the southern end of the lake where the Hawea River starts.  

Suddenly our attention is focused directly in front of us. I have to wonder -

'Why did the sheep cross the road?'

This poor thing is scared out of its wits as it tries to find a way to get back on the proper side of the fence. It may have got what it wanted, but now I think it does not want what it got. Fortunately, it finds a place to squeeze through the fence and out of peril.

  It's about time for a fuel and hydraulic break, so we take advantage of the next place we come to. It's a pretty fancy outhouse if you ask me ....  
  We have to take a slight 'detour' on Highway 8A then Highway 8 to get to Lindis Pass. I am guessing that the pass is somewhere in the mountains we see up ahead.  
  We cross the Clutha River which is fed from the Hawea Lake we just passed.  
  It appears that we will be coming up to what I call a 'high desert'.  
  And along the way, we are reminded by the ever present signs about the perils of speeding on New Zealand highways.  
  This is proving to be a wonderful 'detour' as the road twists and turns as it climbs up ...  
  and over the mountains.  
  And again we are warned of the perils of traveling too fast. Sometimes the signs make you feel like your mother is standing along the way shaking her warning finger at you.  
  Lindis Pass, at 3,186 feet, is the highest point on the South Island's state highway network. It is not 'technically' consider an 'Alpine' pass as it is in the dry interior of the South Island.  
  But the view from the top ain't bad at all ...  
  and I grab a calendar shot of RubyRed at the 'official' summit sign.  
  I run on down the pass a bit and then head back the way we came.  
  It's a lovely run as you can see a long way and setup for the bends before you come to them.  
  Soon, we see another 'mother sign' admonishing us to be careful.  
  It's back over the mountains toward Queenstown ...  
  and down to the valley below.  
  Off to our right, we see a strange bit of 'artwork'. I guess one man's art is another man's junk ...  
  Soon we are running alongside Lake Dunstan, a man-made reservoir not without its own controversy.  
  But today I manage to get a lovely shot of the surrounding mountains reflected perfectly in the calm surface of the lake.  
  We have the pleasure of passing through Cromwell, 'the most inland city in New Zealand.  
  The road back to Queenstown is a bit of a twisty affair through the Kawaru Gorge.  
  The road snakes its way through the mountains ...  
  and gets a bit technical in some spots ...  
  but we don't complain much at all.  
  As we draw closer to Queenstown, we get back into wine country with the vine 'hair nets' in full display.  
  It's over one more ridge before we come to Queenstown proper.  
  We are booked into Queenstown for two evenings, so we have some 'ride out' routes we need to get sorted. Since we already did Lindis Pass, we will be making some 'adjustments' for our ride tomorrow.  
  Again, Te Waipounamu has knocked it out of park as far as accommodations are concerned. We are in a nice apartment-like facility with full kitchen and two bedrooms.  
  We decide we'll take a walk downtown for supper and see what we find.  
  This looks like a place that will work ...  
  and it does. I order the steak and it is mighty fine.  
  And there's nothing left but ashes after the fire is gone - and one solitary bone.  
  On our way back, we pass a statue of the New Zealand Moa that went extinct about 200 years ago. It was the largest living mammal in New Zealand and the tallest bird in the world during the time of its existence.  
  Since we have a full kitchen and we'll be here for two days, I decide I'll pick up some breakfast fixins. I figure I can cook my own for the next couple of days which will be a break from meat pies and tater chips. Way above us on the mountain is a curious building of sorts that appears to the terminus for a ski lift.  
  But it also doubles as a launching pad for intrepid hang gliders as they float back down over the city.  
  Back in the room, we break out our GPSs and my netbook and decide where we want to ride tomorrow. Since we've already covered some of the area that I had planned, we can explore other areas. The Crown Range is high on our list, so we'll do that first thing. With the routes out of the way, I shower and then go check out my bed to see if it will support me after that heavy supper I devoured.