I woke up early knowing I had a very long day ahead. From Kurow I would be riding to the gorgeous Lake Tekapo. The entire day was uphill and I would be gaining more than twice as much elevation as I would lose. The good news was that there seemed to be no adverse winds and only a few steep climbs. The first leg of the route followed the Waitaki river up to Lake Waitaki and the Aviemore Hydro Station. As a civil engineer I appreciate this kind of thing, so I stopped at the lookout and realized I could ride across it and along the far shore! I of course took this opportunity and had a blast. The day got even better when I realized that I got to ride across another dam! The Benmore dam a bit upriver. This area of the Island must rely heavily on hydro power.
Around noon or so I pulled over near Omarama to have lunch. I had made decent time, but the constant uphill was starting to wear on me. The past 3 days of tough cycling were also beginning to take their toll. As I continued on my journey the wind began to pick up, straight into my face. I battled into it for the next few hours until I reached Lake Pukaki. It was at about this point that I realized I was going to need a miracle to make it to Lake Tekapo before sunset. To add to that, I was now practically out of food and heading towards a bonk (the cyclist term for running out of energy to the point of falling over). I rode along the shores of Lake Pukaki in a state of mild desperation. This road was not suitable for night-riding, I was utterly exhausted, and there was not a campground, gas station, or for that matter any kind of reasonable cowboy camping area between me and Lake Tekapo.
I rode like hell as the sun started setting. I was out of gas, out of time, and things were not looking good at all. For the heck of it, I held out a hitch-hikers thumb as I went. To my utter shock and amazement, a couple in a van pulled over and waved to me. What followed is a story that I couldn’t make up if I wanted. A husband and wife, lets call them Jack and Jill, were on their way past Tekapo to go to their “summah holiday house.” In the front seat were three tiny dogs on Jill’s lap. Jack and Jill had pulled all the seats out of their van, because they wanted to take their Alpacas with them to their holiday house. The alpacas were safe and sound at their temporary home while Jack and Jill were out seeing the lake. Lucky me, that meant that they had room in the back for my touring bike. I sat in the back with my bike as the dogs yapped for 30 minutes at the non-alpaca intruder. As you might imagine, Jack and Jill were characters! I got to hear stories about how the alpacas travel around the South Island with them. Hey, Alpacas need a break too ya know.
They dropped me off outside of a store near my campground. I was completely shattered. I am not exaggerating when I say I was unable to hold a conversation. Several people tried to speak with me as I walked into the store, and I couldn’t process the information. I bought some kiwis, food for dinner, and a huge chocolate bar. I ate the chocolate outside on the curb and life started to flow back into me. I cruised down to the campground and set up among the extremely crowded tent-pitching area. The showers were HOT, dinner was delicious, and by the time the sun was down, I was a human being again. I had been especially excited for Lake Tekapo because it is an excellent area for star gazing. I am embarrassed to admit that I did very little of that because I fell asleep at about 9:30 pm. I at least got a good look when I had to pee in the middle of the night. It was breathtaking. The next time I am in New Zealand I will definitely be staying there longer.