All rides on 29" hard tail with no luggage
This time our day off was in Queenstown. We had already been up the steepest cable car in the Southern hemisphere to Bob's Peak. On the way up we had seen all the downhill MTBs slung over the cable cars, with their well padded riders inside. Going up to the lookout, you could see some of the jumps - they were enormous! So we decided a trail ride would suit us both much more. There are plenty of bike shops in Queenstown hiring bikes, so we picked one and booked a 9am pick up.
The next day, the 5 degree Celsius start was very brisk for my shorts, t-shirt and sandals! The bikes were ready and 2 minutes later we were down at the lake side following the trail along the water front. The views were spectacular, with the beautiful Lake Wakatipu backed by the snow dusted Remarkables. The first section around the Garden Peninsular was reasonably busy with novice riders and morning walkers everywhere enjoying the experience, but after 3 km at Park street, numbers had dropped a lot.
The trail was well marked, with lots of map posts with "You are here" maps, distances forwards and backs. We also had a hard copy map (available from just about everywhere) of the whole area, so were never lost. The trail is usually well compacted dirt, but is steep in parts. It is sometimes on sections of the area's old roads, but often not as well.
We stopped at Frankton Marina for a quick toilet stop and we were on our way again. We had to cross a major road at Kawarau Falls Bridge, so there was a steep short climb up to the road, and the Trail led you to the pedestrian crossing, but after that we were following the Kawarau River.
The Trail then heads inland passed some site works and the sewage farm. Sewage farms don't rate highly on most visitors to do list, but apparently birds like them for their rich feeding, and this attracts bird watchers. Believe it or not!
We then crossed the Lower Shooter Bridge. This bridge was for the old road into Queenstown, and the new bridge is visible nearby. The wind sweeping up the river was strong and fresh, but the bridge was great to ride over.
We then reached the turn off for Lake Hayes estate and a dilemma. Do we turn round and head back to town, or keep going and hope to get a ride back with the bike shuttle bus? We had not booked anything, so was not sure about the bus. But we were hungry to see more so we kept going.
Soon after, I started to think I had made the wrong call. After crossing Billies Bridge, we encountered many steep hills that had us walking and really started to slow us down. The only good thing was the views down the Kawarau River were great, and we got to see a couple of jet boats and and an aeroplane going passed. But then the trail turned inland into an almost Alpine scene, with long grass blowing in the breeze on treeless plains. And soon we were following the Arrow River to a huge surprise.
The Arrow River had carved itself into a gorge 30 or 40 metres deep. Riding along next to it, we spied a suspension bridge in the distance with cyclists on it. Soon, we were at the bridge, having to make our way over. This bridge is awesome - it was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Made out of string and sticks (well it felt like that!), it swayed and wobbled as we walked over (ride - you must be joking!). The 30m drop to the raging torrent below did not help my vertigo. But it will go down as one of my all time cycling highlights.
The Barefoot Tunnel is simply an underpass under the highway. After the tunnel the Trail follows this amazing sweep up the valley, with a steep drop on one side. Soon you are at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, or Bungy Bridge as it is also know. Formerly part of the road, it is now used as a bungy jump or for zip lining. It was amazing to see people jumping off the bridge as we rode over it. There is a viewing platform nearby and it was sensational to see.
So now we called Queenstown bike tours to see if they could get us back to Queenstown. As it turns out, they were dropping a group of cyclists in thirty minutes who were doing the winery tour to Gibbston, starting at Bungy Bridge! This gave us time to grab some food and a drink at the shop as well as watch the bungy jumpers. We had to wait 15 minutes while the winery cyclists were set up and briefed. This group looked liked they were going to go hard (on the wine, not the Trail!), and we had a laugh thinking what they would be like in 3 hours at the pick up point!.
The last section between Edgar bridge, and Bungy Bridge was truly spectacular, and we were so glad we had not turned round at the half way point.
The lift back cost us $NZ30 each, which was very reasonable. So by early afternoon, we were back in Queenstown, dropping our bikes off and heading back to our accommodation after a very memorable ride.