We were rudely awoken by a siren at 06:00 so were up early and after checking the email and shopping we took our bikes across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak on the TSS Earnslaw. We learned that TSS stands for Twin Screw Steamer – built in 1912, this vessel served the small farming communities around the lake, transporting people and livestock. It’s been restored to a very high standard, with gleaming brasswork, polished wood, a pianist and a café/bar. Many passengers simply enjoy the cruise, others visit Walter Peak High Country Farm and on this occasion six cyclists were using it as public transport to gain access to the gravel road. This leads to Te Anau and necessitates an overnight stay – the only facility is the spartan Department of Conservation (DOC) camp site, which is why our tent accompanied us on holiday.
Yet again it was a beautiful cloudless day but not so hot as before. At first the wind was against us, but soon we turned a corner and for the first time it was helping us. It was a lovely ride with woodland, mountains and water, stopping to talk to some cyclists from the North Island on the way. Many of the old gravel roads have been sealed but they still exist in more remote areas. The surface varies – there wasn’t much gravel left on today’s stretch so it was quite easy and, being at the end of a long dead-end stretch, little traffic. When they come, vehicles stir up a lot of dust. There was one major hill, otherwise the road was level or gently undulating.
We turned off the road at Mavora Lakes for the short ride to the DOC camp site. The only facility was a hole in the ground toilet but we still had to pay $5 each! We pitched our tent and this area soon became bike city as more cyclists joined us for a sociable evening. We met Jakob and Ane Kathrine, a Danish couple on a three month tour of NZ before another three months cycling in China (we later heard from them by email, they’d opted for the USA rather than China!), and Ivo from Switzerland on a year’s sabbatical from his job as a graphic designer. Since they were travelling in the opposite direction to us we didn’t expect to see them again.
We cycled a little way up the road to obtain water from the river rather than the lake and cooked dinner. Yet another Swiss cyclist, the fifth we’d met, almost started a bush fire by setting up his stove in the grass rather than the barbeque area provided.
We noticed lots of tiny insects, like midges, but knew these were the dreaded sandflies, endemic to south-west New Zealand. We didn’t notice any bites but a couple of days later itchy bumps erupted and we knew we’d provided them with dinner. These healed after a week or so.