Saturday, 8 February 2014

Would you ignore this sign?

One of my greatest failings as a world traveller is a serious and persistent law-abiding streak.

This is our fourth trip to Queenstown. On each occasion we have driven out to the remote Kinloch Lodge, past Glenorchy at the far end of Lake Wakatipu. This is serious Lord of the Rings Country - empty, isolated and with beautiful scenery. The tarmac turns to gravel just after Glenorchy.  At Kinloch there is a sign and the sign says -







Would you ignore this sign? I wouldn't - at least not in a two wheel drive rental car! D, on the other hand, would drive past without even noticing. Despite my protestations we have twice ventured beyond the sign. D has been curious for years to discover what lies at the end of the road. Past the sign, the road crosses a watercourse, then another and another - all of them without benefit of a bridge.  These are fast flowing, deep, perilous mountain streams littered with hidden potholes and jagged rocks. We once made it across the first but I have never plucked up the courage to let D to cross the second.  The mystery road has, until now, remained a mystery. This year we have a solution - bicycles.  We can park the car at the sign and cycle to the end of the road.

The map shows a route running from Kinloch to a spot marked simply as Greenstone. It is a return trip of about 24 km. We expect an easy, flat cycle along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. We are wrong. After a hundred metres or so we leave the lake shore and begin to climb the heavily wooded slope of the hillside next to the lake. The scenery is lovely but the road alternates between steep climbs and steep descents.  This is going to be much more difficult than we imagined. Maybe we should have brought the car.

We come to the first crossing. There is a perilous looking pothole mid-stream. A car arrives and the driver stops to inspect the way through. She is not driving a 4WD. She asks if we think it is safe. D says he's not sure. I say she must make her own decision.  Our shoes get wet wading across with the bikes. I console myself that not bringing the car was the right decision.  A hundred metres down the road the woman we met at the crossing sails past us and waives.

It is mid-summer, the temperature is climbing, we have failed to bring enough water and the relentless undulations of the road continue. We are not yet half-way to Greenstone. We stop for lunch and discuss turning around. We hate turning around and decide to push on - for a few more hills at least - you never know which one will be the last.  A second car sails past, then another and another. None of them are 4WDs. For a road beyond a 'not to be ignored' sign there is an amazing amount of traffic. We are acutely conscious of the fact that we have not yet reached the end and still have the return journey to face.

A few long downhill sections after lunch and the road finally flattens out. The last four three or four kilometres are a breeze.

We arrive at Greenstone. There is nothing there - except a car-park full of cars, most of them two wheel drives. There is even a camper. We should have brought the car!

We cycle past Dunharrow (Lord of the Rings sights). I can imagine the Riders of Rohan  (What are The Riders of Rohan?),  preparing for battle not far away. There are walking tracks leading into the wilderness and we follow one for a few hundred metres until it gets too rough for the bikes. Just before the end there is an ancient bridge - it could almost be a movie prop left behind.

We stay for a while congratulating ourselves on having made it to the end. Then we turn and head for home.



Where we had lunch by the lake.

Beautiful scenery near Greenstone.

An old movie prop or what?
Just in case you didn't appreciate the seriousness of 'The Sign' the first time.

One of the stream crossings - see what I mean!

Useful links:

 http://www.glenorchy-nz.com/

Note: For any of my Nth American readers who haven't heard the term 4WD it is short for 'four wheel drive' and is what Australians call SUVs.



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