Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wanaka & Aspiring (NZ part 15)

(NZ part 1 here)

In the morning, we continue south, with Lake Wanaka and the rugged mountains of Mt. Aspiring National Park on our right (Mt. Awful, Mt. Alba, Mt. Kuri, Mt. Jumbo, Mt. Albert, Mt. Twilight, and the Minaret Peaks), then cross a thin spit of land (the Neck) and ride with another glacial lake, the deep and brilliant Lake Hawea, on our left. It is a splendid trip in to Wanaka, and I feel at home almost instantly. We ride around the town, checking out the beach, before settling on a basic camp ground on the west end of town. The feel here is calming, and we wander around more, stopping at the local bike shop and discovering a funky movie theatre that we return to in the evening and watch Fight Club from one of the couches that serves as seating. (Someone beat us to the Volkswagen Beetle parked in a corner of the room.) The town seems to be full of fun and youthful souls, and we find ourselves in conversation with other travelers more than we have at any other time on the trip.

I enjoyed being in a town, especially Wanaka, but our adventure was still calling to us loudly, and at that point it was Mt. Aspiring that spoke to us. We studied our maps, and decided on a ride out the Matukituki Valley, to Aspiring Hut, near, but not in sight of, the namesake for one of New Zealand's World Heritage Sites.

We ride north out of town, again along Lake Wanaka, this time along the other side of it, on decent and quite roads. Soon we are on dirt, then on the longest washboard I have ever experienced in my life. Everything rattles. The suspension only soaks up so much of it, the rest rattles teeth and gear alike. I find there is only one speed that seems to keep things in harmony: slow. Dan is frustrated by the rigid frame on his bike and complains bitterly about the road conditions. I agree with him of course. We ride past the entrance to Treble Cone Ski Fields, where heavy machinery roars on the switchbacks overhead. Amazingly as we ride past, we hear and see car-sized boulders tumbling down the slope from the work site. Eventually we are at the end of the auto road and onto the track, which we ride without too much trouble, and to the amusement of several hikers making the same trip. At Aspiring Hut we take the wheels off our bikes and trailers so them can be brought into a vestibule area - we are warned that the parrots would likely destroy every bit of rubber on them if left outside. We enjoy a warm evening in the hut, cooking and eating with climbers there to explore the peaks around the Park. They tell stories and laugh easily.

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