Zen On Dirt

Approaches to bike travel + a day in Queenstown

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We met a bike tourist back in Hanmer Springs, what, three weeks ago now? An Australian, she’s doing a version of my dream type of a trip: Ride bikes places, go backpacking and hiking. But she’s doing it with a lot of weight and sticking to roads, so I’d change that.

Either way, we ran into her in Queenstown yesterday, she’d just arrived after bussing in, having to abandon the road after some broken spokes. We talked a bit about our travels, where we’d been, what we’d seen, the advantages and disadvantages of using bikepacking bags versus traditional touring panniers, and route planning.

We came to NZ with very little plan of where we wanted to go or what we wanted to see. Maybe I like being surprised, maybe I like seeing what the Universe presents me with.

Andrea said that she always planned out her entire route before arriving because she hated the uncertainty of not knowing what was coming up.

I love learning about different peoples’ approaches to the game. Old Ghost Road via huts, ultra lightweight bikepacking, road touring with four panniers and a BOB trailer, riding and hiking – I love seeing what creative energies people put into travel by bike.

Anyhow, because we don’t travel with a plan, we end up having to take Town Days where we figure out our next steps. We were waiting on doing this to see what the prognosis on Kait’s knee was, but it’s looking like there’s not going to be a lot of bike riding in the immediate future, so it was time to move onto option Q, or maybe W by now.


So the morning was spent at our new favorite coffee shop researching some tramping routes, followed by the first real load of laundry we’ve done since the hostel in Nelson. While handwashing is awesome…there’s something special about machine laundered clothing, and putting on clothes warm from the dryer while changing out of the Laundry Uniforms of rain gear. Then a visit to the Spark store to try to get Scott’s phone working (failed again, Verizon, in this single case, sucks), then a visit to the Department of Conservation to look at maps and buy a 6-month pass for their hut system. It’ll take six hut visits to pay it off, and we’ve already used one of those.

We started the pedal back up the hill shortly after 5 towards Andras’ secret campsite. Luckily, he picked us up halfway because soon after, the skies unleashed torrential rain. We all had a cozy dinner in the van and watched the rain come down. At some point of time, even closed doors and music couldn’t drown out the drumming of droplets.


We took a well-timed break in the rain to crawl into tents and listened to the steady drizzle throughout the night. We awoke to the surrounding peaks coated in snow, snowline just a few hundred feet above us in the distant peaks.

It is spring, after all. And man oh man, it’s beautiful out this morning.


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