Omarama - Wanaka: The longest day (so far)...

Sunday October 31, 2010, 115 km (72 miles) - Total so far: 465 km (289 miles)

Time: 8:00 Distance: 115.17 km Average: 14.4 Max: 54.5 Altitude Gain: 972 m

I'm at the Wanaka Lakeside holiday park. As I type, through the window of my cabin I have a million-dollar view of Roy's Bay, Lake Wanaka - and all around the peaks of the Harris Mountains. If you thought Lake Tekapo was scenic, wait until you see this view.

It was almost 7 pm when I arrived here last night, after calling the holiday park en route to make a booking, as I wasn't sure of arriving before the reception centre closed. As it transpired, reception remains open to 9 pm. And with daylight saving, it is still light even then.

Yesterday's route was a real monster - 115 km including the Lindis Pass and Cluden Hill, on what turned out to be a very hot day once the morning cloud burned off, which it did, predictably, just as I arrived at the foot of the pass proper. And the only services were at Tarras, some 80 km along the way.

Like the day before, I packed early and breakfasted at a store. When the ladies in attendance realised where I was headed, and how I was getting there, they made me huge breakfast which I struggled to eat. Then with a salad roll and fruit loaf for my lunch I set out at 8:35 am. It was cloudy and cool - the temperature was just 12C and I wore arm warmers, finger gloves and gilet to keep the cold out.

From Omarama, the climb to Lindis Pass, some 30 kms away, starts immediately, but gently, and the serious bit doesn't start until the last 10 km, with 2 km of steep climbing nearing the top. It was cool and pleasant riding until I reached the base of the main climb, then the sun came out and I stopped to strip off my cold weather gear. I reached the summit with only one stop to cool down. Despite the grade exceeding 10%, the 22 x 32 low gear I'm using now makes such climbing relatively easy, and I can find a comfortable climbing rhythm that doesn't overload my knees.

At the summit there is a space about the length of bus, then the road plunges down into the Lindis Valley. I stopped briefly for a photo and to put my warm clothing back on then rolled over the edge. It seemed incredibly steep, and I was very glad to be descending rather than ascending. I dare not let the bike build up speed, and modulated the brakes for 10 kilometres until my forearms were beginning to pump. The road levelled out a little just when I though I'd have to stop and rest my arms, and continued to follow the Lindis River, some times through narrow gorges, sometimes through broad valleys. With another 30 kms to Tarras, I stopped briefly to eat my lunch, but didn't linger long as I began to worry about getting through to Wanaka before dark.

Eventually the road pitched up again at Cluden Hill, and near the summit a man came out of a camper van parked at an outlook, called me over and his wife offered a cold drink. They came from Swansea, Tasmania, one of my favourite spots on last year's tour. It was very hot by now and it took no persuading for me to stop briefly before cresting the hill and rolling down to Tarras, where I had a cappuccino and cake, and called the holiday park to make a reservation.

The last 30 kilometres to Wanaka were torture - legs and body were willing enough, but I was getting very saddle-sore, and had to constantly shift position to ease my discomfort. But I arrived in good time, and after a hot shower, wandered stiffly into the town centre and treated myself to a three course dinner and a few pints, before stumbling back to my cabin and collapsing.

Freeloaders said they would help on the pass - but they were no help at all...

Heading for the distant pass, from the cockpit of the Sabbath Silk Route...

There is no clear view of the pass until the final climb - but that is the summit in the gap at the centre of the picture...

I passed...

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