Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

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RonK
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Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby RonK » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:53 pm

Next week I'll be heading back to New Zealand for a bikepacking tour around the southern highlands. I was considering the North Island Tour Aoteraroa route, but ultimately decided to return to the south. I have unfinished business there and it is the reason for me building a Salsa Fargo. So I'll tackle the north another time.

I have ridden some of this route before. It's partly (mostly) on the Great Southern Brevet course, but it was not easy on a heavily-loaded touring bike with skinny tires, so I had to cut some of the more rugged parts out. And I was a bit concerned by the weather at times with snow falling on the high country, but I've had a bit more experience with snow now and won't let a little put me off. I swore to return and complete the ride, and have built a bike to do it. I'll just have to hope there will be no blizzards. :)

The itinerary is planned but flexible, so I can easily cut a day or two if for any reason I don't make the expected progress.

I like to ease into a tour gently and build my trail fitness during the first week. I'm taking the Taieri Gorge Railway out of Dunedin because the exit up Stuart Street is a very steep climb right from where I'm staying in the city centre, seemingly only a little less steep than the infamous Baldwin Street, and much longer. I don't want to risk fatigue or a pulled muscle on the very first day. There will be plenty more climbing to do in the days that follow. Besides, the gorge is spectacular so the train ride is well worthwhile.

Pukerangi is the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail - or really Middlemarch, about 20kms away is the official start. But it's as far as the train goes on week days.

From there I'll ride the first half of the rail trail to Ranfurly, turn north and cross the Kakanui Mountains via Dansey's Pass to Duntroon and Kurow. Then continue north up the Hakataramea Valley and across the Grampian Mountains via Hakataramea Pass to Tekapo, which will be the northernmost point of my ride.

From Tekapo I'll ride part of the Alps2Ocean trail to Lake Ohau and on to Omarama, where I'll cross the Ewe Range via the Omarama Pass. This will take me through the Oteake Conservation Park back into Central Otago to rejoin the rail trail briefly, before crossing back over the Dunstan Range via Thomsons Gorge Road and on to Wanaka.

From Wanaka I'll take the Crown Range Road up through Cardrona to Arrowtown and on to Queenstown, where I'll take a ferry across the lake to Walter Peak Station or Mt Nicholas Station and ride the Von Road to Mavora Lakes, the location of Nen Hithoel in the Lord of the Rings movies, then follow part of the still to be completed Around the Mountains trail to Garston.

From Garston I'll ride up the Nevis Valley across Duffers Saddle to Bannockburn, then rejoin the rail trail again briefly to Alexandra, from there take the Roxburgh Gorge and the Clutha Gold trails to Lawrence, then back to Dunedin via Milton.

So, there will be lot of mountains and many passes to cross, with a mix of pavement, gravel roads and bike trails. It will be hard work, no doubt with a bit of hike-a-bike. The weather will be cool and I'll be surprised if there isn't a least some snowfall. But it will be rewarded with spectacular landscapes.
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RonK
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Re: Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby RonK » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:43 am

I've been in New Zealand for a week and have reached Omarama where I having a lay day.

It's too much hassle to post photos on BNA while I'm on the road, but you can see them on my journal.

Great Southern Highlands Circuit
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rangersac
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Re: Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby rangersac » Thu Apr 13, 2017 9:22 am

Enjoy the rain on the rest day thanks to the cyclone!
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RonK
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Re: Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby RonK » Thu Apr 13, 2017 2:23 pm

Rained all night again last night, and I rode half the day in it today.

Trouble is there has been so much rain all the streams are in spate. It's looking unlikely I'll be able to take the high country route I've planned because it's uncertain that I'll be able to cross the fords. And of course the back roads are now a mud bath.
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rifraf
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Re: Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby rifraf » Wed May 17, 2017 11:10 pm

Great blog :!: Great pics :!:

I hope the flu is behind you and your on the mend.

So more a baptism by rainwater as opposed to fire.

I think you made the right choice (South Island).
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RonK
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Re: Bikepacking New Zealand's Great Southern Highlands

Postby RonK » Thu May 18, 2017 8:54 am

Funny thing is, both cyclones caused severe flooding in the North Island and quite heavy rain where I was. But as I discovered a few days later, there was virtually no rain only 100 kms further south. Ah well - the weather is the the weather, it's what you get.

Still getting over the 'flu, in fact I think it worsened when I got back home. But cough is clearing up now so should be good soon.

Despite the weather and illness it was still a great adventure, great riding and a very immersive holiday.

Still need another post in the blog to wrap it up. I might virtualise some of the more interesting days in Doarama too.
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