Zen On Dirt

Dog Days of Summer in Wanaka

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What a fun couple of days its been here in Wanaka. We’ve done nothing exercise-wise besides the 45 minute commute from our campsite to town each day, but boredom has never even approached.


When we woke up from our camp in the Mt Aspiring car park, the wind was blowing gale force. Down the valley. That meant a tailwind. And while it was raining, it was raining horizontally, and not very hard. We made short work of packing up camp and eating breakfast and got on the bikes earlier than we have in many moons.

The tail wind was amazing. One of those where you’re flying along at 15+ mph, and a gust comes along and accelerates you.


Not only were the tailwinds awesome, but the impending storm that it was blowing towards us produced some amazing rainbows.


They faded in and out as we went along.


And at one point in time Scott told me to not waste all of my pictures on rainbows (my memory card was running dangerously low).

Bah. What does he know. Rainbows should always be celebrated.

The storm did hit us eventually, soaking us thoroughly. But the bad weather kept the campervan drivers holed up waiting out the weather, so we had the roads to ourselves.

The rain really started coming down when we got to Glenhu Bay, a campsite that hosts 2,500 people at its peak. It only had 2,000 when we stopped for a cup of coffee, but they told us that they were sold out for New Years. This is definitely the time to be camping here.

The sun started to come out as we got to Wanaka, and we headed straight to Urban Grind for our third cup of coffee of the day. We were just finishing up breakfast when a couple approached us, ‘Are those your touring bikes out there?’

‘Yes indeed.’

‘Where have you been?’

We told them a rough outline of the past nearly two months. ‘Can we buy you a coffee?’ the guy asked. ‘It sounds like you guys have some good stories.’

We weren’t about to turn down coffee #4, and we spent an hour talking bike touring, New Zealand, and the bikepacking scene here. They were from the Dunedin area and have done several of the underground race series bikepacking races here. We encouraged them to come do Tour Divide.

By the time we were done, the sun was out and we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the beach in the sun before pedaling the 45 minutes back to camp.

Waking up exhausted, we slowly made our way into town the next morning. Quality internet is hard to find here, so watching movies on Netflix was out. Instead, we went to a local cafe/movie theater that was showing Star Wars and bought tickets and cookies and popcorn. We hadn’t been on a movie date since Star Wars last Christmas.

Now, I did very little research on this new Star Wars and automatically assumed that it was going to be Episode VIII, so I was confused as shit when a) none of the old characters appeared from Episode VII, b) Darth Vader appears and c) everyone was talking about this new weapon called the Death Star.

If you’re at all less dense than I am, you’ll figure out what’s going on. Scott did. I didn’t have enough faith in my remembrance of the other movies to put it all together. I is dumb sometimes.

Anyhow, going to the movies was awesome, and then we went to the beach and watched the gulls play.


Finally this morning, we were starting to feel better, as in, waking up wasn’t followed by a bunch of groans and moans.

We headed to the library, bought some internet ($5 NZD, $4USD) will buy a gig to share between 5 devices. It was well worth it as we both got a good bit of internet-y stuff done, including the first actual work I’ve done since leaving Manapouri a month ago.

Charging station at the library

After lunch at an amazing Indian food cart (where we met an American who was doing a night-per-town air bnb rushed tour of NZ and complaining that there weren’t any more secret places (duh, you’ve got to take your time to look for the secret places, or they wouldn’t be a secret!)), we headed up to the bike shop that had been recommended to us by the hut ranger at Mid Caples, many moons ago. They had a focus on bikepacking, and we wanted to pick the guy’s brain on routes from here.

We were mid conversation when a woman walked in with a mountain bike. Matt, the owner had a Revelate seat bag that she wanted to buy, and we got to talking about various things.

‘Is that a Sarah Uhl hat?’ she asked me.

‘No, but I know Sarah Uhl.’

Sarah is a badass artist who I used to ride bikes with a lot and still try to get together with in Colorado to adventure with when time and schedules allow.

We kept on finding more and more mutual friends.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

When I told her, she replied, ‘THE Eszter?’

Oh geez.

‘We raced against each other in college. I went to CSU!’

As it turned out, we had raced together (back when I was fast and motivated) and ran in a pretty similar social circle. Which was hilarious. The Eszter. Anyhow, she’s been living in New Zealand working as a vet for seven years and offered up showers and anything else we needed at her place.

I’m constantly amazed at how small the world actually is, and how certain types of people always end up in the same places.


Afterwards, we went down to the beach with our nightly danishes, watched the gulls, and eventually rode back to our campsite to watch the sun set over the mountains.

Wanaka is rad.


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