By Charlie Evans
An invitation from my 13 year old nephew to fly to Queenstown and accompany him on the annual Wanaka Motorbike Trail Ride was a little hard to justify. Add in the Contact Epic 95k MTB event encircling Lake Hawea the weekend before coupled with walking the Milford Track to fill the gap between the two weekends and suddenly….. the best ten days of the year!
Armed with a rented 29” mountain bike kindly organised by my brother in Wanaka and a pack full of chocolate bars, gels and Powerade, the 7am start saw 600 odd competitors leave from assorted locations depending on the distance chosen. Lots of rugged and undulating terrain including a couple of decent climbs and descents took us to the turnaround at the top of Lake Hawea which presented a long river crossing to return via the other side of the lake.
After 4 hours the course arrived at the old Dingleburn Station where the station staff turned on coffee and fresh scones (highlight of the ride) to raise money for the local school. From there a ‘no room for error’ track high above the lake descended down to a couple of road k’s to finish in the Hawea township where we were rewarded with sausages and beer – yep, true Southerners!
With a day to get the legs back to normal it was then off to Queenstown to join the team at Ultimate Hikes to begin the bus trip to Te Anau to commence the 56k Milford Track trek. After a ferry ride to the north end of the lake our group of 50 local and foreign hikers finished the day with a short walk to the first hut (motel/restaurant would be a more realistic description).
We were ushered to our respective accommodation by the 4 guides and after a hot shower joined up in the lounge where many new friendships were established. The 5 day adventure took us on a variety of terrain and breathtaking views to finish up at the Milford Sounds Resort. A luxury cruise out to the coast through the sounds didn’t disappoint – the weather had turned activating the many stunning waterfalls.
The following day it was off to a venue just out of Wanaka to attend the promised trail bike event – my only goal was to avoid a repeat of my last motorbike ride that saw several bones in my foot broken! This was achieved and I returned to Hamilton the next day to prepare for last weekend’s 33k Waitomo Trail Run. What a week!