New Zealand post 23: ENFORCED STRENGTH TRAINING
Today we are on what is affectionately known as “The Race Track Road”. This does not inspire great confidence, but at least big trucks are not allowed, as there’s a very steep pass just before Arrowtown.
We employ our usual survival mechanisms and are moving along quite nicely, but my gears are slipping and have been doing so for a few days now. Steve says the bike just needs a good cleaning, so I work with it – change 1 up, nothing happens, change again, still nothing, change again, click, it jumps up. The same going down. Then we reach the Pass. I am in my hardest gear ( #12) and attempt to gear down- nothing, try again, nothing and again, nothing. The gradient is climbing fast and soon I can’t push the pedals round at all. I glance down – still in my hardest. It’s not budging. ” Help, Steve, now my gears are completely stuck. I can’t possibly ride in this!” I stumble to a halt and push until we reach a pullover point on the right. It takes ages to cross the road, as the stream of traffic is constant from both ways. Long and short – my gear cable has snapped inside my grip shifter! When we manually move the chain up to a bigger ring, the derailleur spring just pulls it back down. But Mr McGyver has a clever plan. He pulls out some cable from the derailleur, loosens the screw on the bottom of my luggage rack and then tightens the screw against the cable, so that it holds in my 3rd gear – genius! I am now able to ride the remaining 5km to the top of the pass, albeit mainly standing.
Going down is initially ok, as I can freewheel the first steep 8km, as the gradient starts to flatten though, my legs are spinning 10 to the dozen, but the bike is going nowhere. I trundle along like a hamster on a wheel until we teach the turn-off, which takes us along a cycle route into the back of Arrowtown. We stop for a sarmie and so that Steve can move my chain into a higher gear. “I can’t do this again, so you need to decide where you want it”. He assures me it’s mainly downhill from here to Queenstown, so I opt for # 8, figuring I can always stand if I need more power on the hills, but if it’s too easy, I’m stuck…
Mainly downhill, my arse!! Steep climbs are aplenty and I am busting a gut in this gear. ” Come on, get off, I’ll walk with you”, Steve grabs the opportunity to walk, disguising it as galantry. I see right through it, but nevertheless concede, just this once.
And the climbs just keep on coming. I am amazed I don’t snap the chain with all the pressure I’m applying. I am well and truly knackered when we reach Queenstown 30km later. We head straight for the bike store for a cable and some degreaser. The bottles are all far too big for us to carry, so I reluctantly relinquish my trusty plastic wine bottle when the store attendant offers to decant some for us from their 25L workshop stock.
We then head for the campsite. As we left Wanaka this morning, it occured to us to ask if perhaps they have a sister resort in Queenstown. Sure enough, they do. We called on the free 1800 phone and nabbed the last tent site for the night. “If you don’t take it now” he assured us, ” it’ll be gone in the next hour” – R820 for 3 adults and 2 small tents! We are glad that we did, as there are hoards of people being turned away and we are too tired to go searching round town now. Also it’s such a balmy evening – a perfect night to camp!
We erect our little tent amidst a host of RVs. We are totally surrounded, but hey, at least they provide shelter. We spread our stuff all over our allotted stand and look like a bunch of squatters, next to the array of fancy fold out tables and chairs, grills, cooler boxes, etc.
Then Kati arrives. She has driven for 12 hours straight and is pretty knackered, but enthusiastic as ever and bursting with tales of the famed Ghost Road that she’s just ridden. We are thrilled to see each other. “Where’s the beer?” I put the saddle way down and jump on Steve’s bike to go buy, while she re-boxes hers for tomorrow’s flight and Steve fits the new cable to mine and soaks the chain.
We have a wonderful evening of jabber and chatter over a delicious meal at Kati’s favourite Queenstown restaurant
( but at R800 for a mediocre bottle, we forgo the wine and stick with beer at just R100 a glass!). It’s all so yum, we decide to return for breakfast.
We crawl into our tents at 23h00 and it feels like old times. “What time in the morning?” Says Kati, ” should we just say whenever?”. “Sounds perfect”, we reply and I am out like a light – that strength training whacked me good and proper!!