Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 4 : True Blue Pukaki & Puzzling Wanaka

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Cycling New Zealand Day 4: True Blue Pukaki & Puzzling Wanaka
Tekapo, Wanaka & Queenstown, New Zealand : 18th November 2014
Small Group Ride - Road Trip Tekapo>Wanaka>Queenstown with detour cycling at Lake Pukaki
Today was one of the more memorable days of our trip.
We hit Lake Pukaki, for me it's one of the most beautiful spots on earth!
Later we were caught in a bit of a puzzle at Wanaka. How did that happened? We will see...


We took advantage of Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers kitchen and fried some meehoon (vermicelli) to pack away for lunch later.
For lack of a wok, it was not easy frying this vermicelli. Even with their largest and deeper pan, we had to fry two rounds for enough food for just the four of us. When will these Westerners know the versatility of the wok? Even frying an egg is easier using the wok!


8:00am - Leaving the B&B we drove down to the Tekapo lakeside for a view before leaving town.
The skies were still moody with dark clouds; is this to be our fate while down in NZ, facing bad weather? Even in this weather, switching my camera to Drama mode, I managed to capture this shot of the lake dramatically.


As we left the town, the weather seems to get better. It'll be a good day to drive the 275 km. to Lake Pukaki our next destination. Yong Sin was driving and I was getting ready to snooze so that I will be fresh for my driving turn.
As I dozed off, I heard Yong Sin pointing to a sign and exclaiming, "Huh? Pukaki 20km?" Looks like we got the GPS coordinates wrong or a decimal point at the wrong position. Perhaps it's only 27.5km from Tekapo to Lake Pukaki. Well, let's just follow the road...


... and it led us to one of the most beautiful spots on earth - the Lake Pukaki lakeside. It's one of rocky shores, bright blue waters with snowy mountains afar, all below a blue sky.


The place was just too tempting. "Let's get our bikes down, we MUST cycle here!" chirped Yong Sin. As expected there was a gravel trail running along the lakeside and happily we were soon cycling on it.


This is the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail that runs from Mount Cook in the Southern Alps down to Oamarua at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. At 301 km., it is NZ's longest cycling trail that runs through lakesides, limestone & clay cliffs, Maori art, etc. Unfortunately we did not have the time to cycle the whole trail, having to be contented to ride just along the this lakeside.
With our 16"-wheel Bromptons, cycling on these loose gravel trails were not easy, especially when going downhill and round bends. A couple of times I nearly skidded and fell as my tires "ate" into the loose gravel. After a while we got the hang of it and also it was good training for our later riding on the Central Otago Rail Trail which is of similar construction.


11:00 am - Further on, we made another stop at the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre where we had lunch of our packed fried meehoon near this statue of a Himalayan Tahr mountain goat.
These goats, native to the Himalayas adapted quick to the Southern Alps and were soon overgrowing the native species. Their numbers is now "managed" by controlled hunting to limit their population to 10,000 within their range of 50,000 sq. km. of the Alps.
At the Information Centre is also the Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon Shop which sells fresh and smoked salmon harvested from the lakes.
Underneath the watchful eyes of this Tahr, we had our brunch of the packed meehoon. The wind did make our eating harder as it kept blowing our packets awry; the wind in NZ can get pretty strong as we were to find out much later.


Continuing our road trip towards Wanaka, as we left the alps, the scenery slowly gave way from jagged snowy mountains to that of rounded rolling hills with green pastures.


2:00 pm - We arrive at our next destination, the Wanaka Puzzling World. Although it did not involve any cycling, this odd looking place turned out to be one of the fascinating places that we visited.

We were quite taken in, befuddled, bemused, bewildered by the inter-active exhibits here; exhibits that such as:
A leaning clock tower that seems impossibly perched on one corner!


The Tilting House where we defied gravity by standing atilt without any aid.


Became giants and dwarves in the Ames Room.


Got stumped by illusionary paintings.


And sat staring at painting MC Escher that juggled our minds....


... and did crazy crapping stunts at a painting that blended with real life items.
(Click here to read more of the Puzzling World).


4:15 pm - Leaving Wanaka, instead of using the State Highway 6 running through Cromwell, we decided to drive via the Cardrona road to get over to Queenstown. This Cardrona road led us through green pastures of grazing sheep and cattle, through farmland and even vineyards as we got closer to Queenstown.


And then it led us up some hilly roads of the Crown Range! Hilly roads with lots of sharp bends.
To make matters worse it started raining... and then the rain turned to hail!
It was my turn to drive then. Being unfamiliar with driving in haily conditions; I drove more cautiously and said a couple of Hail Mary, praying that the big Hail will counter the icy hail.


5:45 pm - Queenstown, we have arrived!
We had made reservations at a hillside apartment but it was not ready. Instead we were put into another apartment, the Mantra Marina, which turned out to be even much better than the one we booked. The Mantra Marina was a superb 4-star apartment, finely and cosily furnished with three large bedrooms just for the four of us!


It sits on the lakeside of Lake Wakatipu, with a nice peek view of the lake. Aren't we lucky?
Anyway, our stay here will be for just one night, too short for us to fully enjoy the comforts of this luxurious dwelling. It was as important night though as it provided a restful break on our journey to Te Anau. But we will be back again to Queenstown soon and hopefully back to this apartment too.
We cooked and ate our dinner, retired to our respective rooms early, and whiled the evening away chatting on the net with our friends and loved ones back home.

TILL TOMORROW THEN,
GOOD NIGHT!


Our route: Lake Tekapo>Lake Pukaki>Wanaka Puzzling World>Queenstown




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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling NZ 2014 / Day 4 : True Blue Pukaki & Puzzling Wanaka     | Jump to Day 1 / 2 / 3 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 /15 / 16
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 3 : Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling NZ 2014 / Day 3 : Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides     | Jump to Day 1 / 24 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 /15 / 16
                                                   AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                                
Cycling New Zealand Day 3: Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides
Tekapo, New Zealand : 17th November 2014
Small Group Ride - Chopper & Bike Rides At Tekapo
Woooo..... Hooooo! Today we are going for a chopper ride!
But it's not just going to be a mundane ride on a chopper bicycle. No, we are going for something more exciting, we are going for a helicopter ride up to the Southern Alps.


Today we are having a couple of firsts. Our first cooking while in New Zealand, and a first real cycling ride around a lake with a scenic view of the famed snow-capped mountains.
Cooking Chinese dishes in Westerns countries is not easy, most Western kitchens lack one important utensil - a wok! Nevertheless we made do and turned out respectable dishes, they were not that fantastically tasty but at least they were edible *grins*.


The previous evening we had arrived late and it was dark; eager to see the place during daytime, right after breakfast we drove down to Lake Tekapo with our bicycles in tow. The weather was a bit moody too, with dark rain clouds dampening what would otherwise be a perfect day.


Nevertheless, it was still a good day to ride; a bit chilly but still nice.
Oops! Did I forget my bicycle? No, the three of us will not be cycling; not just yet.
We dropped Siew Yung at the lakeside, and in a flash she was off heading off into the wilderness on the cycling trails. At the top right hand corner of this photo is the Mt. John Observatory, the one where we will be viewing the skies from tonight.
Bye, Siew Yung we will be seeing you later. With that the three of us drove off to the Tekapo Helicopter's office in town.


Yes, we will be taking a chopper ride while Siew Yung was having her biking adventure!
This will be another first for me, I have never rode on a helicopter before - hopefully I don't crap in my pants!
But first, a safety briefing. I would advised those taking helicopter rides to listen closely to what the pilot have to say during these; one would not want to be caught on the wrong side of the helicopter's swirling blades.
We had wanted to take a flight and land on the Franz Josef Glazier; but the weather at the west coast was a bummer. Winds were too strong for helicopters to fly safely there. So we had to be contented to fly up to the mountains only for the Mount Cook tour.


From their office we took a short drive over to the Mackenzie Heliport, this is where the helicopters will take off.
Inside the helicopter, my heart beat in rhythm to the helicopter's putting engine. Although smiling, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped everything will be alright.
The helicopter seats four passengers and the pilot is quiet fair; on the flight out two passengers will sit upfront with him and the other two at the back. During the flight back, we swapped positions - everyone will get a chance for that best view from the cockpit.


As we flew on the enrapturing view of the mountains ...


... and the serene valleys with their lakes abated my fears.
Hey! I could get use to this!


The putt-putt sound of the helicopter seems to be a distant away as I look all round to take in the fantastic view. This is the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.


On a nearby flat small, snowy plateau, I espied a helicopter sitting on the snow on the Liebig Dome. 
The pilot informed through our headphones that we will be landing there too.
Wow! ... this get's better and better; we are going to have some fun frolicking in the snow! Another first for a tropical bumpkin like me, who had not touched snow before.


Literally having that "I Am On Top Of The World" feeling.


... and a bit of happy dancing.


The return flight was via a different route; we flew over the large valleys in between the mountains. Green farmland dot the scenery; a comforting change from the cold, blue mountain scene.
As we landed, I thought to myself, "Well, taking a helicopter is not so bad after all". I did not have to kiss terra firma.
(Click here to view a YouTube video of part of our helicopter ride).


Back in town, we popped into the Earth & Sky office to confirm our booking for our visit to the Mt. John Observatory. The skies seems moody & cloudy but in our hearts we quietly prayed that it will improve; we did not want to miss the greatest show of the heavens on earth. *Fingers crossed, fingers crossed*

TIME TO RIDE!!!!
After all, this is what we came to New Zealand for, to cycle!
From the town we rode down to the Lake Tekapo lakeside.


My bike "Goofy" treading the crystal clear waters of Lake Tekapo.
If I am having fun here, so should Goofy!


At a bridge over looking the nearby lake; the river water is blueish!
Yeah! The sun is coming our a bit. *fingers crossed* *fingers crossed".


When in Lake Tekapo, the Church of The Good Shepherd should not be missed.
This quaint little stonework church built in 1935 was the first church to be built in the Mackenzie Basin. This small Anglican church which can hold a congregation of at most fifty is opened daily from 9am to 5pm (weather permitting). Services are held on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month at 11:30am.
At night the grounds of the church, which is not lighted and out of the town's glare, is also a good place to view the starry heavens. Very appropriate isn't it, at a place of God to view the heavens.


With all the excitement we forgot about our stomachs which were growling but luckily we were still in town and popped into the Doughboy Bakery for lunch of some pies and coffee.
Energy boosted up, we were ready for more serious cycling and rode out of town, along the lakeside trail. This trail was made of lightly compacted gravel. Yes, this will be a good practice for our later cycling along the Otago Central Rail Trail which is suppose to be of similar construction.


Half way out, we caught sight of Siew Yung.
She had rode out "lost" - meaning riding without any particular destination in mind, letting the road lead her to wherever it goes. On her return, she caught out with some horse riders who was doing the Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking.

Seriously, is she going to follow those horses on her own iron-horse?
We called out to her, and she rode to join us, leaving those horses to proceed along.


3:30pm - We headed back for "home", this time cycling along concrete-paved tracks running next to the main road as we wanted to be back for a quick nap to rest ourselves in preparation of tonight's star-gazing.


With that short rest, we were up and preparing dinner. A simple one of mixed vegetable curry (cooked with the curry paste we brought over), stir-fried broccoli with thin slices of pork belly, white rice, and...


... and these lovely red strawberries. They were HUGE but still very sweet.


Mt. John Observatory
(
Capture of video by Maki Yanagimachi)
9:50pm - Promptly we are at the Earth & Sky office, presenting ourselves for the ride up to the Mt. John Observatory to view the stars.
Haiz! Jumping Jupiter! (I hope that's an appropriate exclamation as it allude to a planet). We were informed that the sky is only 10% clear and is not at it's best for viewing.
Well, the weather was a bummer - no helicopter ride to the Franz Josef Glacier and now now starry skies. Dang!


Starry sky view.
(Capture of video by Maki Yanagimachi)
To make up for missing the show, I could only view the video presentation on a TV screen at their office. Man..... we did miss a lot!
For a good video presentation, click here to view the one by Fraser Gunn,

We drove off looking for a pub to drink and "drown our sorrows", sadly that did not work out too as places here close by 9:00pm there..... Haiz!
It's back to sleep then, dream about the stars and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.



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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling NZ 2014 / Day 3 : Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides     | Jump to Day 1 / 2 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 /15 / 16
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
(comments most welcomed below. if you like this pls share via facebook or twitter)