Not so Big Hill

(22 Kms)

Wednesday, 13 Jan, 2016

Queenstown - Beaumont

We were up early to make sure we had everything packed in the panniers in time for the bus. As it turned out, it all packed easily, so we had half an hour to sit around and enjoy the glowering clouds and wind over the lake. According to the NZ official weather site it was 9 degrees in Queenstown, felt like 6 degrees and three layers of clothes were recommended. We could only hope that the weather would improve by the time we arrived in Lawrence.

The glowering clouds and wind over the lake

We didn't take their advice however, and only dressed in two layers for our ride to the bus station. We were well acquainted with the route, and knew that it was all uphill so we were nice and warm by the time we arrived. The bus was on time, and our bikes quickly loaded and we were on our way.

Bikes loaded onto the bus

We passed some of the same area we had ridden, marvelling that all that effort took about five minutes in the bus. The scenery was magnificent, made even more so by the low hanging cloud. We could only imagine how beautiful it would be under snow.

Our route to Lawrence mapped the same path we would be taking on the bikes, and it was interesting to catch an advance glimpse of some of the towns we would pass through, making careful note of the location of supermarkets and roadside fruit stalls.

Once offloaded in Lawrence, our first stop was Jan's butcher and deli, where we heard a little of her story and reasons for moving to Lawrence, after spending some years as a butcher in Australia. We took her recommendations of venison burgers for tea, and some pork and sage sausages to cook up for lunch. Next door at the tourist information centre we bought our passes for the ride, and were dismayed to find that they didn't take credit cards, and the machine did not recognise our Citibank debit cards, not a promising introduction to regional NZ. All was not lost though, as there was no problem with the cards at the supermarket, so sighs of relief all round, as we could still manage to feed our starving teenagers.

Jan the butcher took our photo

Bikes packed with provisions for the next few meals, we got into conversation with a lovely Scottish lady who had been cycling in NZ every year for the past 25 years. We wished we had more time to hear her tales, but lunch was calling and we still had to ride 20km to our night's accommodation.

After our picnic of leftover roast lamb and salad sandwiches on the ciabatta bread that seems to be everywhere, we hit the Clutha Gold trail. It meandered along streams through farmland, with lush green hills dotted with sheep. After the hills of the Queenstown trails it was easy cycling, however, we knew that today's ride had the Big Hill, and it was the highest peak on the trail. We did notice the trail start to climb, but our legs must have been well acclimatised because we were soon at the top. Not such a big hill after all. We passed through the 438m big hill tunnel, lamenting that there was only one torch between us.

On the Clutha Gold trail

Big Hill tunnel

The views were glorious and the cool weather perfect for cycling as we sped down the other side and through gorgeous countryside to Beaumont, and the Golden Gravel accommodation where we were staying for the night. The key was in the lock of one of the apartments so we let ourselves in and couldn't believe how lovely it was. There was even breakfast provided. We had booked to stay somewhere else, but they had double booked us and arranged alternative accommodation but not with breakfast. We rang the owner, Ali, just to check we were in the right place and then feasted on fresh apricots from Ali's farm in Cromwell before settling in for showers, set our music playing through our new Bluetooth speakers (thanks Chris) and a chance to study future options for NZ cycling thanks to a book we found on the shelves.

On the way to Beaumont

Clutha River from the Golden Gravel

We hadn't travelled with the necessary beer before dinner, so adjourned to the nearby pub, which together with a few houses was all there was to Beaumont, in the hope that there would also be WiFi as there was no mobile cover at the house. There wasn't. So this post will have to wait till we find some mobile coverage to enable us to upload.