Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Week 2 in New Zealand

It has been almost 2 weeks since I have arrived in New Zealand. After a week in Dunedin (South east of the South Island) I started travelling West. A very welcoming couple who I connected with through let me stay with them in Alexandra (between Dunedin and Queenstown). The climate and the terrain was very different from Dunedin. Less green, more brownish color. It was fairly flat (compared to Dunedin). Afterwards, I headed to Queenstown, the notorious adventure town where bungee jumping was invented. What a beautiful scenery towards the lake and mountains. Yesterday I headed to Christchurch. Although the city is flat, the group ride this morning introduced me to some serious climbs which seemed to pop up from nowhere.

My conclusion so far:
Only a few hours of driving lead one to a totally different climate, landscape and terrain.
Dunedin: very hilly with steep climbs, fresh and green and wet, plenty of great routes with spectacular scenery, vibrant city
Alexandra (Central Otago):dry climate, flat in general with a few mountains which are mostly accessible via mountain bike, tiny town
Queenstown: fantastic views, great climbs (Crown Range Rd, Coronet Peak), a lot of riding options, very touristy
Christchurch: flat, unfortunately due to the earth quakes a few years ago some roads are not accessible and in rough shape, a lot of bike lanes, big cycling scene

Some pictures in no particular order:

Just to get the bearings of New Zealand. I started in the Southeast of the South Island, in Dunedin, travelled West to Queenstown and then headed Northeast to Christchurch

Christchurch - That doesnt look exactly flat to me. The city does have some great climbs.

The view towards Mt Cook with the Pukaki lake in front. The lake color is turquoise due to the refraction of the glacier particles in the water. I have never seen that anywhere else before! (Unfortunately, my camera does not do justice)

This farmer must be very popular. On Crown Ridge Rd from Wanaka to Queenstown.

Southern Alps. Awesome climbs!

One of the few days where it was sunny all day long. Weather changes quickly.

On top of the ski hill in Queenstown.

Queenstown has great downhill tracks.

The water looks unreal. (On the way to Queenstown)

I barely made it through the coming cow train. 400 cows on the way to get milked. They yield 10 liters of milk each.

That was a steep downhill into a river bed which shot right back up


Monday, December 23, 2013

A week in Dunedin

(Written Dec 18) I have been in Dunedin now for a week and it has been quite an adventure. Riding is excellent here. Hills after hills. Steep and relentless. Kiwis dont seem to bother to design their roads for the cars, if they want to have access to a certain point, they just built the most direct way, no matter if it is a 30% grade into a 90 degree turn that might be impossible for trucks to drive. If brakes dont work, well, good luck!

I absolutely love climbing all these hills. It's a max effort every time. As a miserable descender I have learned to wonder every time I climb a hill, if I could descend it or if it would just create sheer terror. I learned this the hard way when I descended rather cautiously one of the mountains. It became so steep that I could not stop. I saw a sharp turn ahead. Straight ahead was a cliff with an even faster way down. I panicked. After a lot of calming self-talk and talk to my brakes, i finally came to a stop. I ended up walking down the road. Now, i am more careful about the road signs. One sign in particular.

On my 113km ride up a ridge I suddenly found myself in the middle of nowhere. I thought riding in rural Iowa was in the middle of nowhere. Nope. I found a even more middle of nowhere.

Only sheep. Steep descents and climbs. No houses, only an occasional farm. Once in a long while a car. Maybe every hour one human being in a visible distance. On the one hand, it was worrisome. All possible bad scenarios went through my head. But on the other hand what else would I need right now. I have my bike, food and water and I am surrounded by a stunning scenery.

Twice it happened to me that while riding up a steep hill, I took my eyes of the pavement and found 20 cows staring at me from the meadow next to me. When I passed them they started running next to me along. It was really funny!
If I can make any recommendations for one piece of gear to take a long, it would be a very good rain jacket. In those six hours of riding, I got rained on four times. Good brakes is another useful asset to have for reasons stated earlier.

Most of the rides i have done by myself. My cycling friends know that i dont like riding by myself. However, time flies while riding here. There is so much to see. Plus, the hills automatically push me to the limits and do not offer enough breath for a sophisticated conversation. I stayed in dunedin for a week, now travelling west into the southern alps searching for even longer and tougher climbs. Lord of the rings was filmed there.
Kiwis are a nice bunch. From the culture, I feel like i travelled to Europe. Dunedin is also very international. I meet more foreigners (mostly europeans) than kiwis.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First impressions of Dunedin, New Zealand

Today I had the chance to discover some parts of Dunedin on a bike. I made the following observations:

There are a lot of hills in Dunedin, A LOT!

Those hills start all at 6% grade. (For my Minneapolis friends: Ramsey hill on every corner)

The views on top of the ridge were stunning. Not only had I be cautious to ride on the right lane but I also had to be careful I don’t fall off the cliff while taking in the stunning view, the deep blue ocean, the juicy green grass decorated with white spots and an occasional baa. (Sheep)

I almost made a head-on collision with another cyclist. Believe it or not, bike paths have the same left side rule.

Car drivers do not care too much about cyclists. Barely any bike paths around. Even more a reason to ride the beautiful remote countryside.

Although the sun is hiding a lot, it is strong. I already got sunburnt. Plus, sunset is at 10pm!

Almost every day is a group ride going on in Dunedin! Sweet!

The picture of the day: