Glenorchy, NZ to Queenstown, NZ

Day 4

Yesterday morning we looked out of our motel room window and saw new snow on the mountains. This morning, we saw a rainbow. When we first got to Glenorchy, Rett found the area so beautiful that she determined we should stay for a week. I thought that was too long, and would cut into our time too get to other places, but oops, somehow we’re now booked to be here for a week. The snow-and-rainbows is making even me not feel bad about it.

Mountain rainbow.
Mountain rainbow.
Mountain rainbow not being blown away by the stiff wind.

Day 5

When we arrived in Glenorchy, we spent our second night at a WarmShowers house, partly because the Glenorchy Hotel (the cheapest roofed accommodation in town) was fully booked (they did say they had a big hiking group). So it’s surprising (but nice!) that over the five nights we’re staying here, I think there have been about two room-nights booked besides ourselves across the 10 rooms.

An electric kettle is the only cooking equipment in the room, and there is no kitchen (odd for something with “backpackers” in the name, but we got the impression that they’ve made the business decision to push business to their restaurant). So we’ve (unusually for us) been managing with take-away items from Mrs. Woolly’s, no-cook meals, oatmeal breakfasts, and yes, visits to that restaurant.

My lower back has been bothering me for the last couple weeks, which happens every six months or so. Riding the bike 50 miles is no problem, it’s putting on my socks that sucks. It might have been getting slightly better, and the long bike-and-hike of a couple days ago also wasn’t painful, but it probably wasn’t the best idea for continued recovery. So it’s been good to have two more rest days, though to keep things loose and enjoy Glenorchy one last time, we did a 3 mile sunset walk from our door around a lagoon on a nicely constructed trail.

A bit of the Rees River.
Rett observing the mountains shattering the sun.
Shards of sun, shards of tree, shards of mountain.
Something about these gray giants makes them seem even more untouchable than the snow-covered peaks.
There was flattened grass where I knelt for this photo; I guess I’m not the only one who wanted to set up this framing.
Something wild happening with the light as the sun drops behind the peaks.
Exterior of the Glenorchy Hotel and restaurant, our home for five nights.

To Queenstown

7.0 mi / 8.3 mph / 266 ft. climbing
Home: Weird House

The wind has been howling out of the mountains and down the valley for four straight days, not even abating overnight. So if we had left Glenorchy on our bikes at any time over those days, we would have had a relatively (a key word!) easy ride back to Queenstown. But even before we had completed our tough ride into Glenorchy, Rett had decided that she didn’t want to ride back, so this morning we would be taking a bus back to Queenstown. With some rest and a tailwind I think she would have found the ride back about 10 times easier, or at least easier than the logistics of getting our bikes on a bus, but I was fine with it if she took care of everything.

The reason there is a bus option at all is because it’s the same bus that we were thinking of using to shuttle us to the Routeburn Track (the “Info & Track”, which originates in Queenstown). When Rett had initially called, the receptionist (being “honest with us”) made it clear that dispatch/the drivers really don’t like taking bikes, because then they need to add a trailer, and it causes all sorts of issues on their end (or they’re just typical NZ bus-driver cyclist-hating jerks). So my heart sank when the bus showed up without a trailer attached, but the driver was like “no, they’re just going under in the luggage hold.” Not only was he happy to help loading them in (we removed all their bags and then sort of stuffed them back in the hold to stabilize the bikes), he was also super-sympathetic and understanding about the travails of cyclists riding this road (or any road in New Zealand). It probably helped that there was only one other passenger on the 44-seat bus, but score one for Rett vs. my take that the headaches and challenges with transporting our bikes usually outweigh the effort of riding them.

We got dropped into center of the teeming tourist hordes back in Queenstown (there was a full load waiting on the sidewalk to board the bus as soon as the three of us got off), and then had to do a short ride out of “downtown” and over to Frankton, where the airport is. There are so many mountains tumbling right into the heart of Queenstown that there is just a single road running along the lake that connects these two regions, but there is also a lakeside gravel bike path even closer to the water. To get there, we had to cut through a shared street, and then a hilly park, and Rett did an amazing job riding through the pedestrian nightmare. Just a year ago she would have stopped in frustration and walked her bike the whole way through, but this time she bobbed and weaved, slowed, surged, climbed, and charged, all the way through without ever putting a foot down!

Yet another Lord of the Rings filming location, seen from the bike trail: the warg battle from ‘The Two Towers’ was shot on this hill. It’s easily visible from much of Queenstown, so I bet there were a lot of people using their binoculars 25 years ago during filming!
The first part of the trail (when it was just paralleling the road with no intersections) was really good, but it got a bit goofy when the land widened again and it had to navigate around buildings and streets. But here’s a school playing field, and do the kids who use this field know that this backdrop is not normal?!?

Not only was our accommodation in Frankton, it’s also the center of Queenstown’s big-box shopping (the main downtown part of Queenstown doesn’t have a single full-size supermarket), and Rett needed some specific items not available in small towns, so we got access to those and cheaper accommodation by coming out this way.

The huge auto-centric “mall” in Frankton, again, with those mountains always there, not caring how mundane or unnatural the scene that lies before them is.

The “mall” nature of the area meant that there was a McDonald’s, so we did a long lunch there waiting for our accommodation to be available (one downside to not doing the ride means needing to kill time!) It’s one of the strangest places we’ve stayed, essentially a house in a residential neighborhood, set up with 6 or so guest rooms. We’ve done such places via AirBNB, but the only place this was listed was (with not great reviews), and after we booked, we got a message asking for us to pay via PayPal, which seemed super-scammy. But reviews said that was normal, so we paid, and our room, while not exemplary (I needed to clean gobs of hair out of the shower drain so the water would actually go down), it was better than I expected! Queenstown is just so insane and crowded that we were willing to take a risk to get a halfway-decent price (at US$109, it was still the 6th-most-expensive place we’ve stayed in NZ, and definitely not the 6th-best!), but it worked out. I mean, we had zero cooking ability (I think it’s literally the first place we’ve stayed in NZ besides a DOC campsite that didn’t at least have an electric kettle), but just like every other pedestrian thing in Queenstown, it still had the mountains right there!

The view from bed in our room. The Remarkables mountain range competing with Pamela Anderson.
Our basic accommodation. And hey, it was big enough that we could easily roll the bikes in, which has been somewhat rare in New Zealand.
View of the Remarkables from the front yard of our accommodation.
You can at least half-understand why Queenstown is so overrun with tourists.
Down to just a stripe of sun across the mountains, it almost looks like a geological band in the rock layers.


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