29.8 mi / 8.3 mph / 2625 ft. climbing
Home: Mrs. Woolly’s Campground
For three weeks since we hit the West Coast at Greymouth, we’ve been roughly following Tour Aotearoa route, the primary north-south cycling route down the length of the country. But a few days before that, we had heard our campground neighbors in Hanmer Springs watching “The Fellowship of the Ring” one night, and they showed Rett their “Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook” and recommended we take an offshoot to Glenorchy. Around the same time, Facebook fed me an amazing drone photo, also from Glenorchy. So we’re off to ride up the shore of lightning-bolt-shaped Lake Wakatipu.
The road to Glenorchy is essentially a 27-mile dead-end, so I hoped traffic wouldn’t be too bad, but if only a fraction of the Queenstown tourists looking to “do things” decided to drive out, it could be a nightmare, especially with the up-and-down hills that I knew filled the route. In the couple of things from previous riders I found to read, they were quite unpleasantly surprised with how hilly it was, but I hoped that the main problem was the surprise rather than the hills themselves.
Well, traffic wasn’t all that bad (mostly the usual shoulderless NZ riding with the occasional tight-pass-for-no-reason asshole), but the hills were tough even when knowing about them. The headwind was probably what made it tougher than either of those things though. But its billing as “one of the most-scenic roads in New Zealand” was legit, and that certainly helped balance the downsides.
We had been riding through an incredibly beautiful landscape, one where I let Rett ride ahead a bit so that I could capture her in front of the lake and mountains the way that I see her when I’m riding behind. The idea that it could get much better was neither a possibility nor a disappointment. But now I am disappointed that I wasn’t there when Rett came around a curve where the scene that opened up literally stopped her in her tracks, and she reported that she yelled “HOLY SHIT!” I essentially did the same thing, gobsmacked by the vista, that for me included the extra feature of her looking on equally-gobsmacked.
In this land of superlatives that we’ve been riding through, while we don’t quite run the risk of becoming inured to the beauty, it can be difficult to remember that one day’s 9-out-of-10 is no less-enviable just because the next day was a 9.5-out-of-10. So it was actually a relief to learn that when a 15-out-of-10 presented itself to us, as it did here, our minds and hearts could still instantly recognize it as such. Our retinas have not yet been burned out by the searing magnificence of New Zealand.
Even better, traffic became significantly lighter the rest of the way, allowing us to keep our attention up and ahead rather than distracted by annoyances from behind. It might have been time-of-day, or just most people turning around at the Bennett’s Bluff viewpoint after walking up to get a similar view (we were proud to be able to just pull our bicycles to the guardrail on the no-space road, something a car could never do).
Our original plan four this fourth-and-last day of clear weather had been to head out to a DOC campground 15 miles past Glenorchy, but even before we set out we realized that yesterday’s long tough ride would make that nearly impossible today, so we were definitely glad that we’d decided to book a spot in the in-town campground. Especially since we certainly didn’t need to be out in the wilderness for great mountain views; they were surrounding us in town too!
At Mrs. Woolly’s Campground, we were a little surprised to find $2-for-7-minutes showers, but I went ahead and got change in the store. Which we never used, because cold water was free, and after the long tough day (and in the already-stuffy shower building), cold showers were just fine. Mrs. Woolly’s Store has more gift items and clothing than practical items, but a scan showed that their grocery section, combined with their cafe, would allow us to stay here a week, as Rett now was now suddenly determined to do. It was then funny (and helpful!) to discover the Glenorchy Hotel has a super-tiny store that is even better-stocked than the 10x-larger Mrs. Woolly’s (except no fresh produce) that wasn’t even mentioned on Google Maps or any of our intensive research before heading this way.