A touch ambitious. And my ass paid for it. That pretty much sums up my mountain biking experience here in Wanaka.
A little background. Wanaka has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails, many within walking distance of my hostel. I picked up a map from the DOC (kind of like the national park service) and choose a fairly flat out and back trail. This specific trail was 20km each direction, for a total of 40km (about 25 miles). It goes around Lake Wanaka for the first 5k, then follows the Hawea river for the next 15km, until it meets Lake Hawea. The river flow is the opposite direction- from Lake Hawea, down the Hawea River and into Lake Wanaka.
The day I chose to do this was luckily very cloudy but not rainy (otherwise it would have been in full sun and hot hot hot), though it was incredibly windy. I rented a bike from the hostel for $19 for the whole day. I packed lots of water, lunch, an extra shirt, my phone and a map.
The first 5k was lovely, right along the lake but set into the forest as well. The first part of the trail along the river was also beautiful. I got slightly lost/ turned around when the trail followed the road over a bridge and through a campground, but after about 10 minutes I found the trail again.
At the 10k mark is where things started to get…not as enjoyable. Firstly, suspension bridge!
Actually that was kind of cool. It bounced up and down when you walked across it and had warning signs that no more than 10 people should be on the bridge at one time.
Note- the river was flowing fast. Incredibly fast. I was shocked. If you somehow got into it, you’d probably drown, unless you’re a good swimmer, which I am not.
After that, it was uphill for a bit, then flat flat flat across a plain where the wind was awful. Constant 15mph head wind with gusts up to 25mph. The view was stunning though.
The last 5k was larger ups and downs and still windy. The trail ends at Lake Hawea, which has a tiny town right on the southern shore. Near the end of the trail, there was a sign directing you to the road. But the trail seemed to continue past the sign through the woods. I chose to ignore the sign and stay on the trail.
Mistake. But an awesome mistake. A couple hundred feet ahead was an apple tree. You best believe I snagged one of those. A few minutes after that was a dam outlet that sounded like a waterfall.
Please note there are no fences where I am standing. From where I was, there was no discernable way out either. The whole thing felt unsafe. Up above was the road, but there was fence all along it. So I followed the trail right around the outlet. And that’s where I saw all the danger/ keep out/ rushing water/ water level can rise rapidly at any time this is a seriously dangerous place do not enter signs. They REALLY should have had these where I was supposed to turn off the trail. Had I known, I obviously wouldn’t have entered.
I did find a windy path up to road. As I came around the final part of the path I came face to face with a sheep. And then I saw the fence. Yeah, they really did not want people there. I tossed my bike over the fence then climbed over myself. Luckily, no one said anything to me. People definitely saw me though.
From there, I biked into the town center. “Town center” consisted of a post office, a general store and a cafe attached to the store. The wind was insane there. I was biking on the sidewalk and it was hard to stay on it. Thank goodness there was barely any traffic.
At the cafe I got a huge caramel fudge ice cream cone. I asked for just a single scoop but that lady piled it high, perhaps because I looked quite windswept and tired. I was thankful. Total Cost: $3. Totally worth it.
I took the same route back. Because I had a giant headwind for the last 10k, I got a lovely tailwind for the first 10k. What. A. Difference. It was so much more enjoyable and I covered that 10k super fast. After the suspension bridge I started to get tired. And my ass was so sore. So. so. sore.
The final 5k I was really ready to be done. I was crazy tired, hot, sweaty, smelly and hungry. Never a good combination. Eventually I made it back and in one piece.
Then I showered. Ate. And napped.
A few hours later I really wanted a beer- a feeling which I have never had in my entire life. So I put on a dress and went to a bar. It was lovely. The bar overlooked the lake and they had the Olympics on. Bonus!- I wasn’t carded.
A refreshing ending to a lovely day.