Not exactly waking early after a good night’s sleep, we breakfasted and prepared for a longer day on the bikes. Leaving all our overnight gear to be picked up by Mum & Dad we continued on the road around the lake to Lake Ohau Lodge.
From there the trail switches direction south and starts the largest climb on the route. It’s off road through the Ruataniwha Conservation Park. There’s about four hundred metres of elevation to gain, but it’s at a very gentle gradient (about five percent or less) and the views are a good distraction too.
More lupins, this time bordering a mountain stream. The flowering manuka bushes became more apparent.
The views of the lake and the Ben Ohau Range improved as we gradually got higher. It was rather a grey day, and the headwind that would hang around all day began to plague us.
Most of the riding was through open grassland, we saw a few other small groups of riders and as showers passed through we played the on-again, off-again game with our rain jackets.
Occasionally the trail would cross a larger stream, usually at such places we would ride through a few hundred metres of native bush.
The manuka became more prevalent.
Still we climbed, ever so slowly gaining height. Despite the breeze and cloud, it was pleasant riding.
I stopped plenty to admire the view. Lake Middleton, where we camped, is just visible below the near short of Lake Ohau.
Eventually we could see a bit more of where we were going. The weather didn’t look any more inviting, especially with the breeze picking up. But it wasn’t cold – so that was nice.
Reaching the crest of the climb, we paused for a snack and looked down on the trail stretching away.
The downhill was fast, easy and fun. There were even some convenient little banks to ride up around corners.
Just as you near Quailburn Road, a new stretch of trail has been built diverting riders up towards a historic woolshed.
We poked around said woolshed a bit before heading down the road towards Omarama.
Surrounded by lupins again, it was a long gradual downhill to the highway. However, with the breeze in our faces coming up the valley it didn’t feel that much of a downhill.
Irrigators stretched into the distance – this one not looking like it’s doing a particularly effective job.
We toiled into the wind, I did my best to tow Adele along – but as many rides home from work with colleagues has shown me: I’m hopeless at getting the pace right leading other cyclists.
At the busy Wrinkly Rams cafe in Omarama, we met Mum & Dad (who had been to pick up our camping gear) for a large lunch. Although most of the rest of the day would be down the Waitaki River valley, there was still seventy kilometres of headwind to go. Shortly after we had left Omarama, Mum joined us for a lovely downhill section to and alongside the western arm of Lake Benmore.
About to join the highway for a decent climb, I paused at this quiet jetty while the extra bike was packed away.
The highway stretch was pretty horrid with little shoulder – thankfully there weren’t many trucks. Cresting the rise after fighting the wind, it only strengthened for the steeper descent down to Otematata. So, one of those annoying times of having to pedal down a steep hill. Thankfully we turned off the highway, although that did mean skirting Otematata – which would have been a homecoming of sorts, as Mum & Dad a holiday home there for a few years.
Back on a cycle path, we headed towards Benmore Dam listening to the roar of jet boats as holiday-makers zoomed around.
The last notable climb of the day stood before us – holding back the largest hydro lake in the country.
That achieved (it’s a reasonable climb, but short lived), we looked out over the boats, the Waitaki River and the hills beyond.
Leaving Dad and Mum, who’d met us at the top, there was another nice downhill back to the river level. Into the wind. There was thirty-five kilometres left gently down to Kurow; which all involved continued leaning into/against various angles of wind coming up the valley. It was slow work, but not raining and not cold – so that was helpful.
Mostly the quiet road (which became a lot quieter after passing the last camping ground) followed the shore of Lake Aviemore, so we were able to look out over the choppy waters and watch the kite-boarders and wind-surfers enjoying the wind more than we were. We crossed the Aviemore Dam and rejoined the highway for the last section of the day to Kurow.
As the shadows lengthened we followed the Upper Waitaki Irrigation Canal for some distance. Which is a useful segue for plugging Dad’s book.
As an aside, I spent a lot of the latter half of last year doing the first rough edit of Dad’s book that he’s been working on for a few years. I found it fascinating reading as a great mix of history – agricultural, social and engineering – focussed on irrigation in North Otago. It was published in December and I’m very impressed, and proud too – maybe one day I’ll have a book in me (I write enough here, I should have). Water, North Otago’s Gold details over a century of efforts to bring water to the fertile, but dry, lands of North Otago – leave a comment if you’re interested in a copy.
Shortly before seven o’clock we rolled up to the pub, stashing our bikes in the back bar we settled down to a well deserved steaks-all-round meal and some local wine (I’d no idea there were vineyards around Kurow). I’m unsure why I still get surprised at Adele’s ability to put in such long days – especially on a bike where she spends little time. It was another great day of bike riding through a lot of countryside.
A little wander around Kurow before trying to get some sleep – I slept better in the tent.