by Nancy Bestor
Now that both our children are away at college, I’ve been on a search for “my thing”. I need a hobby (that isn’t reading on the couch) that I can become passionate about. I’ve started playing the guitar, am trying to hike and walk more often with girlfriends, and have also increased my road bike riding. Thus when Bob suggested we rent bikes in Queenstown, New Zealand, and go for a 30+ mile ride, I was an enthusiastic yes. And when we picked up a map from the bike rental agency, and I saw that the ride we would be doing was considered “moderate,” I gave two enthusiastic thumbs up. Little did I know that New Zealand’s idea of moderate and my idea of moderate are two very different things.
Our plan of attack was to bike to Arrowtown for lunch, then roll on to the town of Gibbston, where we would finish at a winery with a glass or two of Central Otago’s finest varietals before the bike rental shuttle picked us up and drove us back into Queenstown. Actually, we had originally planned to ride out to Arrowtown and Gibbston, and then back to Queenstown, but Lisa, the incredibly kind, knowledgeable and reasonable woman at the rental agency, talked us out of that, and convinced us that our ride would be long enough if we took a shuttle back. Thanks to Lisa, Bob and I will celebrate another wedding anniversary.
In the beginning, on our mountain bikes, our ride was flat and lovely. We started out going around the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu, on an extremely well signed and well-maintained gravel bike path. Then we rode along a river, also lovely and fairly easy. We had the bike trail almost to ourselves and to begin with, it was nothing but lovely vistas of rolling hills and snow capped peaks and pedestrian/biker-only bridges that span some of the bluest rivers in the world. I began to feel like bike riding might really be “my thing”. I started picturing myself riding Cycle Oregon, and/or choosing a century ride in a beautiful location. But that’s where the easy ended and (in my humble opinion) we skipped right over the moderate category and into difficult. There were many uphill climbs and switchbacks—damn those switchbacks. I got off my bike twice because I just didn’t think I could keep pedaling fast enough to stay upright. This is when I started thinking that maybe sewing or quilting might be a better “thing” for me.
The views were still lovely, but I was concentrating pretty darn hard on keeping my legs going in a circular motion. I did indeed make it to the top of Thompson’s Hill, which was the end of the hard part. From there we had about six more miles to make it to Arrowtown, a very cute gold-rush town with many original buildings. We ate lunch there, and quaffed a beer to replenish the thousands and thousands of calories we had burned off in the three hours so far. The lunch and beers were delicious.
After lunch, we hopped back on our bikes, energy renewed for the final eight-mile ride to Gibbston. Along the way we rode over the Kawarau Bridge, “world home” of bungee jumping. Many, many brave souls were waiting their turn to bungee 43 meters to the river below. We stopped to catch our breath watch a few bungee jumps. The music was pumping, people were cheering, and one poor young woman was sobbing as she gathered the courage to jump off the bungee ledge. (The mother in me really wanted to go over to her and tell her that perhaps if she was crying so hard about this upcoming jump, she really shouldn’t do it, but I kept my mouth shut.) I can say, without a doubt, that bungee jumping will never be “my thing.”
Our bike ride ended at the Gibbston Valley Winery. We bought a flight of wines with a cheese pairing and sat our weary butts down on a hard bench and relished in our accomplishment. Soon our van driver arrived, and it just so happened to be Lisa, the same woman who convinced us to arrange a shuttle. I bowed down to her in gratitude.
So I guess my take away from this adventure was that century rides might not be my thing. And bungee jumping is definitely not my thing either. But spirited bike rides that end in wine and cheese pairings???…….now we may be getting somewhere.
- Our day-long bike rental, including the shuttle pickup, cost $127 in US dollars for both of us. I don’t know how much of that was the shuttle pickup, but in my opinion, it was priceless.
- If you’re crazy brave enough to bungee jump at the Kawarau Bridge, the cost for one jump is about $140 (US).
- Arrowtown looks like a cute town to browse in. My legs just didn’t have the energy to do so. We ate at the Fork & Tap, in a charming historic building. We also got delicious sticky buns (which came highly recommended) at Provisions.
- Our waitress at the Fork & Tap had never before heard of Root Beer.