Zen On Dirt

Day Riding Underestimations: Thirst and Hunger on Grandview Peak

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We had a semi-tentative plan to leave Wanaka today. Well, at least until we checked the weather forecast before leaving for camp yesterday evening. Today was supposed to be bluebird, tomorrow, rain. All day. We didn’t want to go bikepacking in the rain if we could avoid it. And when you’re hanging out in Wanaka, you can definitely avoid it.

Instead, we hatched a plan to day-ride today, have a town day tomorrow with the possibility of a run if the weather breaks, and then leaving to a much more promising forecast (at least more promising in our ability to get to a hut in time for the next wave of rain) the day after tomorrow.

Right? Right.

We pulled a lazy morning at camp, complete with a second cup of coffee. Some morning I look over at Scott next to me and his eyes are half shut while drinking the first cup. That’s when I know it’s a two-cupper day. We had a big traverse of the Grandview Peak area planned, we needed our energy.


After a brief stop at the nearby cafe for cup of coffee #3 (we do share all of these cups of coffee, so it’s not actually as bad as it seems), a sausage roll, and a pie to go, we were on our way down the mighty blue Clutha River. There’s single track on either side of the river, and we’d taken the other side in when we’d come to town. This side was far more mountain bike-y.

This was followed by a handful of miles of highway riding, which wasn’t that bad because we were leaving Wanaka at a time when everyone was going to Wanaka.

Then official trail. We could go left and climb, or we could go right and climb. Left was mapped and on Trail Forks, right was not. We went left. After 200m of bushwacking through rose bushes, yes it was as painful as it sounds, we abandoned the mission, backtracked, and hopped a fence to get to the right track. It climbed beautifully and steeply upwards to exactly where we needed to go. There’s a lesson in here somewhere…I think.


Anyhows, up. And up and up. Eventually we gained the ridge and were treated to many kms of “rolling” terrain. Rolling might be too gentle of a term. Many of the ups were too steep to ride…or we just didn’t want to allocate that many resources to the job at hand.


But man oh man, was it beautiful! We got giant views of the Wanaka valley and Lake Wanaka to our left and the Dunst Mountains to our right.


We ate all of our food. We drank all of our water. There was not water to be found anywhere up there. We were still miles from the peak. Doh! This was maybe our first time being thirsty in New Zealand.


Eventually, after one more brutal climb that was really more hike-a-bike than pedaling, we reached the top! Grandview Peak, 1,300m.


We could see Mt Aspiring in the distance, Rob Roy Glacier, and a giant view of Lake Hawea and the town of Lake Hawea, where we knew there was a store and cafe. Given our thirst and hunger, we didn’t linger as long on the summit as we normally would.


And down on actual single track. We’d been on two tracks or no-tracks for most of the day, so some actual trail was a special treat. There were more gates on it per mile than the Arizona Trail (which is saying something) since it went through a working farm.


Eventually we found a stream that crossed the trail, complete with a patch of shade, and sat and guzzled water. Water in NZ had never tasted that good. I have to say, it made the rest of the descent far more enjoyable. Keeping the body happy is key #1 to happy riding.


We made a bee-line to the cafe in town, which was also the grocery store, and wi-fi hot spot, and gift shop, and ordered up some food, milkshakes, and an L&P, which is some sort of lemmony drink that they market as ‘World famous in New Zealand’. It’s our favorite post-ride drink when it’s hot.

Lake Hawea is to Wanaka as Wanaka is to Queenstown. Smaller, quieter, and potentially even more beautiful.

We stopped for a quick dip in Lake Hawea, because it’s finally summer here and warm enough to go swimming, even at 8pm.


And then a six mile bike trail ride brought us back to camp. A 45 mile pure loop from camp. It doesn’t get much better than that!


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