Distance Traveled: 206 km (Trip Total: 1206 km)
Today I backtrack a bit along almost the same route I took to get to Te Anau. Queenstown is my new destination. Before I get into today, I want to share one picture I took last night to show you just how bright the sky tends to stay out here.
I’ve never seen a white sky before. It’s crazy.
In any case. Day 4. I check out of my hotel in Te Anau and hit the road, filling up on gas on my way out. It costs me $12 to fill up half the tank. Not bad considering the price is something around $7.50 a gallon out here.
I’m feeling in a japanese-y mood, this morning. The Vocaloid Luka song “Double Lariat” has been looping through my head since I woke up. No point fighting it, so I fire up my helmet intercom, connect it to my phone with bluetooth, and set one of my Vocaloid albums to play as I ride. Most of the songs are energetic and poppy and help fire me up for the morning ride. After a few straight days in the saddle, I feel comfortable and confident bringing Olga through every corner, especially now that the day is sunny and the roads are perfectly dry. Maybe I work Olga a little too hard, because starting from a stop after taking some pictures, I actually pull a wheelie in 1st gear. I’ve never done that before, not even when I had my Z1000 and triple the horsepower to command.
For those of you who have interest in whether I live or die, don’t worry. I’m alright. I don’t repeat my mistake again.
To add a little variation to my route, I leave town by way of SH95 into the little coastal town of Manapouri. I snap a shot of boats in harbor within a little inlet of the lake.
Oddly enough, on my way out, on these back roads with very few cars to speak of, I spot both an Audi R8 and some form of Lamborghini. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people with money want a vacation home in a place like this. I ride with my visor up for a while to enjoy the morning air, until a bug hits me in the face at 70 kph, missing my eye by a hair. The glancing blow causes me to rethink my strategy.
95 rejoins 94, and I’m back on my original route. I get a better view of the lake from Kingston leading up towards Queenstown since I’m now riding on the coastal side of the road.
By early afternoon, I make it all the way to Queenstown. Traffic grows thick, and all of a sudden, people are everywhere. Queenstown lies nestled on the scenic hilly coast of lake Wakatipu, and it is a popular tourist destination. I actually have to fire up my GPS after I unsucessfully find my hotel by just cruising down the main street.
Soon enough I make it into the proper place, and an energetic older kiwi named Wayne checks me in and offers me cold milk (it must be a kiwi thing). My accomodations are very pleasant: again, another apartment-style suite with kitchen and everything. Like the last hotel, there is no active air conditioning that I can find. I have the windows open, but the sunlight beaming in is fierce and winning the battle. I set off into town for some late lunch.
Multiple people, from the bike tour company, to Wayne, recommend a burger joint called “Ferg Burger”. The line is out the door and around the corner, well down the street. The sign of a good establishment. It makes pedestrian traffic a bit tricky, but once I’m in line, my hard part is over. I wait patiently while the brutal summer sun beats down on me. A hostess walks by with glasses of cold water for people in line.
Once I finally get inside, I order a wild venision burger and a beer, getting lucky enough to grab the last remaining seat at the end of the counter just as someone leaves. While I wait for my food, another hostess comes by and offers me a cookie while I wait. She says if I want another beer, just flag her down and she’ll bring one right to me. That’s customer service, my friends.
The burger is delicious and I enjoy the shade while I can. My impression of Queenstown is young, energetic, and a bit rowdy. In fact it is a rather large shock to the system, being here among crowds of people rather than alone on my bike or just one of few in a small town. Between you and me, I think I prefer the bike.
There’s a gondola that takes people to a height overlooking the city and lake, but I decide to wait a bit for the day to cool before hiking up to it. I go back to the apartment and spend a long time messing with GoPro videos on my computer. Just uploading them takes forever. In the background, a cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka plays on the TV. The sport is almost mesmerizing in its unique pace. Very different from American sports. Internet is 10 times cheaper here. I decide to download my Rosetta stone to the tablet as well.
Around 6:30, I hike through a park over to the gondola station and buy an expensive ticket to the top. The lady ushering people into the Gondola is surprised that I’m alone. She snaps a picture of me for one of those touristy “when you get off the ride, buy an overpriced picture of you and your family” things. You know what I mean. They have them at amusement parks and stuff.
After that, I begin to feel moody and unpleasant. The gondola dumps me off and the first thing you get to at the top is a big gift shop. Also just outside is a big “luge” attraction where families and throngs of kids race around on gravity-powered go-karts. I walk through the chaos to the observation deck on the far side.
I couldn’t deny that the vistas to be had were indeed amazing.
I snap a pile of pictures and walk down to the far end of the deck, away from the large clusters of people all taking shots with their friends or families. I run my hand over the cooling touch of the metal railing, and do my best to feel happy about the view, but I only partially succeed. I feel lonely, but at the same time, all I want in the world is to enjoy the view in peace, completely on my own. I want to be down on the water below on a sailboat, carried by wind through blue tranquil waters. But that’s not where I am right now. Succeeding at having neither close companionship or true solitude, I take the gondola back down to the bottom, sharing my cab with a middle aged kiwi couple from the north island. We have pleasant conversation in the more intimate and less overwhelming confines of the gondola.
We say our goodbyes and they wander off. I find a booth trying to sell me my picture that they took on the way up. I choose to keep walking.
I find myself in the mood to cook, and I head to the market. I have the tools of a stove, oven and cookware, but absolutely zero ingredients. They don’t sell olive oil in single serving travel bottles, and it’s going to cost me almost 10 dollars just for that. I do the math, and adding in everything I would need just to cook up some chicken breast is going to cost me more than I want to spend. Instead, I buy some hot, pre-packaged beef-veggie-potato thing for a couple bucks.
At the checkout counter, an old japanese lady is trying to get her daughter (I assume) to stop stalling and get in line. “Hiaku!” (Hurry!). Instead the daughter wanders down the baking isle in search for more things, losing her spot in line to me. I laugh and give the old lady a smile. She gives me an amused “figures” kind of eye roll and shuffles along in pursuit.
Now that I’m back in my apartment with food in my belly, I feel pretty happy. The sky is darker. The streets outside are quieter. I’m a little disappointed in the overall busyness of Queenstown, however. To me, it’s a brilliant and breathtakingly beautiful natural setting, with a fresh coat of paint colored “Orlando, Florida” slapped over the face of it. You want mini-golf? They got mini golf! You want jet boat rides? They got jet boat rides too! I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself tomorrow, but I have no route planned. I think I may try to get out on the water, or just grab the bike and go for a ride anyways.
Well, that about sums up Day 4. It’s great seeing all the comments from friends and family back home. Keep them coming, and I’ll do my best to keep the updates flowing as well.