March 1 - Oamaru to Queenstown (~310 k)

March 1. Odo reading 47325

So - 487k yesterday. No wonder we are all exhausted. The day is grey with low cloud - the same as last night. We have breakfast and briefing, and head out.

We head south, through Kakanui, along a twisty, secondary coastal road. Even the sea is coloured like the lakes yesterday, just greener. The incoming waves have a gentle surussus that says "I'm the Pacific Ocean, at the moment." Just before Palmerston, we pull off to see the Moeraki Boulders. They erosion patterns are fascinating, and there are a couple broken open, that look like Alien Egg pods.

While there, we see several antique cars driving by, or pulling in, with U.S. plates. It is a U.S. Antique car group, that shipped their cars here for a driving tour.

A light drizzle starts as we pull away. Those of us not in full Gore-Tex look at the sky, and try to guess what's coming. In Palmerston, we turn north-west, on Rt 85 for Alexandra. The drizzle lightens, and the sun comes out. We head up the Shag River (Yeah, baby!) over the Taieri and Rough (no kidding!) ridges, then turn south-west in the valley between the Rough Ridges and the Dunstan Mountains, into Alexandra.

We gas up at the first Shell station, much to the delight of the 19-year-old girl working the pumps. I get restaurant recommendations from her. We ignore KFC, her first thought. She is effusive and chatters with everyone, even those with little English. (Jurgen says something in German that everyone finds hilarious - I'm told it a proverb along the lines "She'll never get married, she talks so much". Funnier in the original, I suppose.) Anyway, we take her first suggestion, and go to the Briar and Thyme. We dine al fresco in the herbarium. Kevin, the host, is a delight. He takes our picture for his web site. As we are leaving, Kevin comes running out and tells Christian something.

Christian leads us off - to my thinking, the wrong way. We end up going to a lookout over Alexandra. We are above the huge clock, looking south-west. Silke, Chris and I are all apprehensive about the trip back down, so we leave a couple of minutes before the others. From there, we head along Lake Dunstan, again through high-speed sweepers. It's beautiful. We stop for a photo break in Old Cromwell, where some old buildings were moved when the lake was created.


At about 4:30, we stop in at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, where Jim and Ulrich jump. I try to take a picture, without much success, but the Picture Book sure attracts attention. From there, we head up to the lookout at the start of the Crown Range road. It's way more twisty than the Alexandra lookout road, but what a sight. We head to Arrowtown, for a quiet drink in the shade. The sommelier impresses Christian by recognizing his accent. We have a bike-related chat with him, when he susses that we don't want alcohol.

From there, we head to Queenstown, stopping only to ride up a 8 km, one-lane, drop-off road to the Coronet Peak Lookout (1620m). It's stunning, but the road is terrifying. We look out over the bowl where Queenstown sits, towards the Remarkables - so called because the peaks point north-south. We go back down, with me trying not to look over the edge, then go to the hotel.

This hotel, The Rydges, is probably the nicest we've been in so far. All our rooms, and the restaurants, look out over Lake Wakatipu, to the Remarkables. We have dinner, and discuss our options for the rest day tomorrow. Six people are driving to Milford Sound. 4 of us (including me) want to fly to Milford and back - 600 km round-trip? Hey, I'm on vacation. Christian, ex-Isle of Man TT finisher, wants to go drive the extreme dirt roads of Skipper's Canyon. You go, boy. I try to book the travel for the next day, but it's too late after dinner. I return to my room, and try to connect to the Internet, without success. I go to bed.