March 3 - Queenstown to Wanaka (80 k over alps)

March 3. Odo reading 447710

Never touched the bike yesterday - but I will today. Up for breakfast - once again, the sunrise over the Remarkable's is breathtaking.  It sounds like I'm blasť already, but as I was sitting in the lobby, typing, I was actually getting teary-eyed.

First event today- Shotover Canyon Jet Boat. These things are way cool - they run up and down the canyons, inches from the rock walls, snags and sandbars. And, they can spin 360 degrees in their own length. Yee-ha!

We then proceed to Skipper's canyon. Well, sort of. 5 of the group go on bikes - the Austrian peg-scraping guys, Jurgen, Jim and Ulrich. The rest of us go in the van. Christian has described this as one of his favorite places. Also, as a one-lane dirt road, over sheer cliff drops, with side bays so you can back up when you meet a bus. Holgar, Renee, Silke, Chris and myself are driven in the van by Christian. Altogether an awe-inspiring vista. (I mean this literally.  I would be frozen in fear trying to drive this road). We are driven out to the Pipeline (17 km in an hour), a 103m bungee jump. Silke, Holger, Jim, Chris and Christian do the jump. Chris and Jim get t-shirts that say "If you aren't living on the edge, you're taking up too much space".

John drops his bike on the dirt road. He says he was just turning around, but he manages to scrape the windshield, break both left side turn signals, and the left side saddlebag mount. Luckily, he is unhurt. After her jump, Silke has a bad reaction.

We pile back in the van, and head another, even worse, 3-6km upstream. There, we visit a restored schoolhouse, from the original settlement of Skipper's. Silke is even paler then normal, and hyperventilating. We head back to the bikes, at the Shotover Boat landing. It's a long and tense trip. We are back at 3:08 p.m., about 3 hours behind schedule. On the way back, Jim drops his bike when confronted by a Range Rover around a blind curve. He misses his footing in the dirt, and rolls off the bike - luckily into the wall, instead of over the cliff. No one is harmed or damaged.

Chris is suffering from motion sickness from the boat and van combo, so she and Jim head for Wanaka on the regular highway. Christian, Holger and I head up Crown Range road. Silke goes with David in the van. The Austrians have already left - the rest will follow.

The Crown Range road is the highest highway in NZ, but 18km are gravel, and forbidden to rental cars. Holger and I go through at about 40-50kph. Christian drops into his motocross crouch as the surface changes to gravel, and disappears around the next curve. The road moves through a valley, beside a sparkling stream. I gain confidence with each kilometer, but I don't want to do this every day. At least I have the right bike for the job.

We pull over at the Caradona Hotel, in Caradona (go figure), where the asphalt reappears. A lovely little place. Christian and the Austrians are already there. I have a raspberry fizzy, and everybody else has a coffee. Jurgen, Renee and Unger arrive. Shortly, we head off. All is going well, it's a smooth and excellently curved road, when the surface changes back to dirt. It's about to be resurfaced, so it's gravel and sand. "No problem", I think, with my new-found hubris. The others have run away from Holger and myself, but I see ahead a cloud of dust and a cluster of bikes. I slow down and pull over, right into the soft, soft sand. Red Scare stops. Dead. I was about to stop, I just didn't have my feet down, so over we go. (Oh, yeah. The only name suggestion I got was "Red Scare", which I am using. Thanks, Annalisa.) Since it is soft, neither of us are damaged, beyond our pride. Turns out Renee did the same thing, only at 40km. She and her bike are unhurt, though. Whew.

We arrive at the resort in Wanaka a few minutes later. It's very nice. It even has a hose, so all the bikes get rinsed off. Although it was the shortest driving day, because of the canyon trip, we are still too late to see any of the things I wanted to see here, like the warplane museum. I am somewhat disappointed. Silke and David are there already, and she's in much better shape.

I also have to confront a sad fact. I am, by far, the slowest driver in the group. The Germans and Austrians have no problems going deep into blind corners. Today's drive shows that I'm happy, about 5km slower then most of the rest, so I will be lagging behind from now on. I'll be happier. And they'll be just as happy. Any tour that can allow for this is O.K. by me.

And, I left my Leatherman Wave behind in the last hotel.  I called then, and if they find it, they'll send it to me in Wellington.