New Zealand, 2008
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The Otago Peninsula and Dunedin
It took us two days to cycle the 140 kilometres from Owaka to
the Otago Peninsula.We passed through the fairly big town of Balclutha,
on the Balclutha River. North of the Catlins, the countryside
opened up, with gentler slopes and longer views. Still, those
gentle hills came one after another, each a little higher than
the one before! We spent the night of Wednesday, February 6 at
Lake Waihola, not a particularly great campground, but a fine
Stopping for a break beside the bridge at
Open countryside between Balclutha and Lake Waihola
Clipping one of the hedgerows seen all over
the South Island
Lake Waihola, from the campground
Leaving Lake Waihola on Thursday,
February 7, we decided to follow the scenic, coastal route. It required
possibly the hardest climb so far, something over 300 metres in
about 3 kilometres of riding, an average of 10 percent but certainly
steeper in some places. We made it without walking but did stop
(to take photos, of course) before reaching the top. Wally said
that the climb gave us a wonderful sense of accomplishment, but
we didn't need any more accomplishments today!
Climbing the tough hill south of Lake Waihola
View from the top the sea still beneath a blanket of fog
The climb was worth it. What fabulous views! We zoomed down equally
steep hills to Taieri Mouth, where the Taieri River meets the ocean.
Near the bottom, we met an Australian couple who were already pushing
their bicycles up the hill. They were much younger than us
Riding along the coast, we passed one unspoiled, white-sand beach
after another, and the cycling was easy for the longest time. We
went through Brighton, a small seaside resort.
Soon after Brighton we faced another choice a more direct
route into Dunedin, or continuing on the southern scenic route.
We stayed with the scenic route, perhaps a mistake. We had to earn
another great sense of accomplishment a hill away from the
coast that was brutal, below.
Beach near Brighton
Barb nearing the top
When we finally reached the top,
we began to descend into the Dunedin suburbs. San Franciso is
famous for being hilly, but it has nothing on Dunedin! (According
to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dunedin's Baldwin Street
is the steepest paved street in the world, 38%! We will not be
Barbara was glad to reach the top of that
Another view from the top
Along the shore of the Otago Peninsula
To reach the Otago Peninsula,
it is necessary to ride through the outskirts of Dunedin. We asked
a taxi driver for directions.. We also asked him about the terrain
along the way. He said it was all flat. Good thing, because if there
had been any more serious hills, we would have changed our plans.
The information we got was reliable. The road was indeed flat, but
it was narrow and twisting along the shore, with lots of traffic,
often no shoulders, and very strong headwinds. We arrived at Portobello
exhausted after only 65 kilometres of cycling.
We decided to stay two nights at Portobello,
mainly so that we could ride out to the end of the Otago Peninsula
and visit the Royal Albatross Centre. These huge birds, with their
9-foot wing span, nest here, and the area is strictly protected.
It is, however, possible to go with a supervised group to visit
the nesting area. We skipped it because it would have cost us
over $60, but it was still a beautiful place, and well worth the
visit even though we never saw an albatross.
On the cliffs beside the Albatross Centre
The Royal Albatross Centre is the complex
by the parking lot; the lone building atop the bluff is an observatory.
On Saturday, the 9th, we cycled into Dunedin. It was a very short
ride, over the same shore road, so we had a great deal of time.
We stopped at the Glenfaloch Gardens along the way.The prayer on
the right appeared near the entrance to the garden. Below, a scene
near the entrance, and zzxs in bloom.
|Shortly after the gardens, Wally's bike had our
first flat tire in over 1700 kilometres of cycing. Replacing the tube,
he discovered a broken spoke on the rear wheel. It must have happened
at almost exactly the same time since the wheel was still close to
true, not even touching the brake pads. It turned out that the spare
spokes we had brought from home were just a couple of millimeters
too short, so we used one of our emergency spokes, basically carbon
fiber strings with a tricky little fitting that threads into the spoke
nipple, and it worked perfectly.
It was still only late afternoon when we reached our
accommodation in Dunedin, a "backpackers" called Hogwarts. It
was part way up a STEEP hill, but worth it. A friendly, comfortable
place except for the soft, saggy mattress on our bed with
good facilities. Most of the guests were young people from all over the
world, but there were a couple of older cyclists like ourselves as well.
Hogwartz is the grey building to the left
of the church.
Left, the view from our window over Dunedin
On Sunday, our layover
day in Dunedin, we walked a great deal, visiting a little festival
of some sort at the Otago Museum. Much of the day was taken up with
shopping, getting a proper replacement spoke, and dealing with this
A word about Cycle Surgery,
a small chain of bike shops here on the South Island: In the Dunedin
shop, they were helpful and friendly, answered various questions,
searched for some washers we needed, and then pulled Wally's gear
cluster and installed the new spoke all for $2!
On Monday we take the Taieri
Gorge Railway to the start of the Central Otago Rail Trail.
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