Bike Trail Nirvana

Well, we managed to get our mountains of stuff to New Zealand and into the car. Further, my spiffy $9 suitcase made it all the way with out cracking open in the belly of the plane. In Hawaii, I did have a bit of a tense tête-à-tête with Annie over my lovely, if somewhat suspect suitcase’s ability to fly across the Pacific. However, the impasse was resolved when I promised to publicly declare “Annie was right” if it did not make it. I will admit, it was a bit touch and go, but thankfully I will not have to eat crow on that one. Whew.

We had a nice stay in Auckland, then got up early and caught a flight to Dunedin. Amy (the people we are dog sitting for in December and January) was super sweet and picked us up at the airport. It was really windy and cold in Dunedin, so we just smashed all of our stuff into Otis and headed out to Cromwell where we were going to be staying in an Airbnb for a couple of days.

The place in Lowburn, just outside of Cromwell, was a lovely little house back in the hills. It was pretty roomy, which was good, because we had a lot of recombobulation to do with all of our stuff. We were both a little exhausted from the travel and the weather wasn’t very good, so we spent the first day just figuring out what we needed for our Routeburn trip and reorganizing into more rational arrangement. It was a big task and we were both wondering how we were going to deal with all of it until we had a more permanent location. The other good reason to just hang out was the World Cup was on and we are both big fans.

The result of uncontrolled breeding

The next day, I really wanted to go ride the Lake Dunston Trail. It is a brand new cycle trail that was built along the lake and in some places, had to be bolted to the side of a cliff. But first things first.

The Argentina vs. Netherlands game was on, so we had coffee and watched it. It was an amazing game and went into penalty kicks and also carried on for so long that I was wondering if I was going to have time to get my ride in. Argentina won and I quickly loaded up the bike and Susanne drove me down to Clyde so that I could ride back to Cromwell. Susanne was going to do a hike while I was out.

The day was pleasant, but a bit warm. I have gotten used to riding in the winter, so 20 degrees C feels pretty hot. The trail climbed up past the Clyde dam and then started winding along the shores of Lake Dunston. The views were great and the trail was super cool. There were a couple of Cat4 climbs and I could tell I hadn’t been on the bike for 6 weeks, but they weren’t too bad. At times the trail was very narrow with a lot of blind corners you had to take pretty slowly. The exposure was pretty substantial at times as well—you would definitely not want to go sailing over the edge.

As I got closer to Cromwell, the wind started to howl. Headwind, of course. Plus I was running late due to Messi et al, and if I rode all the way home we would miss our chance at wine tasting. I decided to text Susanne to meet me on the edge of Cromwell. This would allow us to go wine tasting and save me from some brutal headwinds. It wasn’t a super hard ride, but not easy either. But it was one of the coolest rides I have ever done. I so appreciate that the kiwis have decided to invest so heavily in these cool community projects.

A little sidebar on the cultural attitude differences between here and the US: it seems that in the US, many of us have lost our belief in community good. We have moved to a purely “pay for use” model with the assumption that if you don’t use something then you get no benefit from it. The willingness to pay for public access infrastructure like parks, bike paths, etc. is almost non-existent, or at least significantly decreased. I think this is pretty narrow-minded and ignores a lot of data to the contrary. Go to Google Scholar and search “economic value of green spaces” and you will see what I mean.

Talking to people in and around these cycle trails they have built in New Zealand, it would be hard to find someone that didn’t espouse the incredible value they have been bringing into these areas. That’s just the obvious benefits from people like me buying food and wine and lodging. It doesn’t even start to account for the great health benefits of these types of public access resources. Maybe someday the US will get back to the times when they really did invest in these things, but for now I am glad to be here in cycle path nirvana! Ok, moving on.

While I was out enjoying the cycle path, Susanne opted to try out the nice hike near the place we were staying—45th parallel way, named for its starting point on the 45th parallel.

Susanne picked me up and we headed up to the Mt. Difficulty Winery which was not far away. We had tasted a few of their wines before and knew they were good. The cellar door/restaurant was situated at the top of a hill looking out at the valley and the surrounding mountains. It looked lovely, so we decided to sit in the restaurant and order some food and wine. They brought out a lovely platter with seafood, cheese, veggies, nuts, and some spreads. It was awesome! Way mo betta than what we got at the over-rated Poppies winery in Martinborough. The wine was quite lovely too and we decided to buy a couple of bottles of Pinot.

The only difficulty was deciding!
She’ll be right!

We finished off the day at Te Kano Winery which was just across the street from Mt. Difficulty. Coco, the woman serving the wine, was super nice and we had a great chat with her. She had tried to see the yellow-eyed penguins in Oamaru but never saw one. Susanne showed her the video of one and she was amazed. They had a great Sav Blanc and pretty good Rosé and Pinot. We bought a couple of bottles and headed home.

It was a lovely day and I would say that Cromwell is a very nice place—lower key and more affordable than Queenstown. We will have to come back and spend some more time in Cromwell enjoying the wine, hiking, and biking.

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