Sat 24th September: Haast to Wanaka – 141 km
The journey from Haast to Wanaka began with freezing cold rain that just got heavier and heavier as the morning progressed. This rain fed the giant waterfalls that pounded down the steep mountains on both sides of the road. It was sensational. Despite the loss of feelings in my fingers and being soaked through I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Before lunch we had to climb the steepest ascent to date. On our way up Haast Pass through ‘Hell’s Gate’ we were flagged by sheer drops to the amazing blue mountain pools. It was a real test of endurance to the snow-capped top and I don’t know would I have been able to keep in the saddle if it wasn’t for the musings of Tommy Tiernan in my earphones. On the other side of the mountain we had a quick rest for a cup of tea at a roaring fire. The weather had dramatically improved, but with a severe headwind promised, we were in a race to get to Wanaka.
New Zealand has an unrivaled landscape and this route epitomised its magnificence. No sooner were we leaving the rugged terrain of the Southern Alps when we were greeted with rolling valleys with meandering rivers and deep blue lakes.
The last time I took the trip from Haast to Wanaka it took me only a few relaxing hours in a warm automatic car. This time, after a very long day on the bike I arrived at the lakeshore town, dizzy with exhaustion. Wanaka was every bit as beautiful as I remembered from my previous visit. After posing for a few photos for the local press a few of us enjoyed a beer in our motel’s outdoor hot tub. That night we were treated to an amazing BBQ, full of carbs and protein. A brilliant finish to the greatest day of cycling in my life.