Despite only travelling 255km today, we hopped from cold and windy misty mountains in the Lord of the Rings Fiorland to hot Utah-style landscapes in Central Otago.
That’s the beauty of New Zealand. It is a compact land of contrasts.
The eighth day of our Hobbit Odyssey tour of New Zealand on a Harley Road King starts on the beautiful lake shores of Manapouri with howling winds and misty mountains. We ride back toward Queenstown through freezing rain to Mossburn, known for its strong winds.
Today is not about distance, but about savouring this land and its fruits, so we stop at the Bracken Hall Cafe where the breakfast is homemade and delicious.
The rain lifts its bleak veil as we near Kingston on the bottom end of Lake Wakatipu, so we turn in to take a look at the Kingston Flyer steam train. It’s closed and run down now and on the market for $2m.
At Queenstown we turn right and resist the temptation for a quick dash up the switchbacks of the Crown Range Road and amble down the flowing Gibbston Highway that runs beside the Karawau River cut deep into the rocky valley. It reminds us of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Here you can be tempted by quad biking, gold mining attractions and the famed AJ Hackett bungy ju
mp – where it all began. But we are tempted by another attraction – the fruit of the many vines of the Gibbston Valley.
We pass on the Cheesery bursting with tourist buses and try the Kinross Winery which only opened just before Christmas. Mrs MBW samples a pinot noir and, as designated rider, I have a coke with our calabrese sausage, bread, double-cream brie and tomato lunch.
The lunchtime air has a clean chill to it and we still have our icebreakers on under our leather jackets.
Just 15 minutes later we are shedding our layers and unzipping all the vents on my Hartley triple vent jacket as the mercury hits about 30 at Cromwell.
This thriving modern town has only been here since they built the Dunstan Dam on the Clutha River in the early 1990s. And now it’s home to the Cromwell Motorsport Park, a multi-million-dollar racing circuit tourist attraction built by VIP Petfoods owner Tony Quinn.
The multi-talented racer who has succeeded in such disparate motorsport discipliners as Porsche racing and the Australasian Safari, has poured his heart and purse into the facility. It’s an adrenalin-charged tourist attraction where you can take a 200km/h taxi ride around the circuit, race go-karts, go on a “wine adventure” or see the racing cars and bikes in the museum.
Good to see someone putting their money back into the sport they love.
Here we head south along the dammed river, through brutal chasms reminiscent of the Grand Canyon down to the dam wall that sits just above the historic township of Clyde with its stone walls and charming cottages.
Tonight we’re spoiling ourselves with a stay at the Hartley Homestead B&B run by artist Melanie and graphic artist Rex Eade. They publish a classy tourist guide for the region which is well worth checking out for hints on what to do.
Rex rides a 2000 model Ducati ST4 and gives some great hints on must-ride roads for the next part of our journey as he shares a pinot noir made from grapes grown in their backyard.
After an amazing dinner in the Post Office Cafe, I sit down to write the day’s travels with the Eades’ border collie, Molly, by my side, and I can’t stop thinking of old Footrot Flats cartoons.
If we can have this many contrasts in one short day of riding, what is in store for us over the remaining week here?