Rumour has it that the route from Haast to Wanaka is one of the best. Forested hills, mountains, valleys, running waterfalls, rivers, rainforests and a quiet road appear to be painted on to a postcard stage of the ride.
The riders lined up at dawn, waiting for the sun to appear. With it may come some warmth. We are sore from four days in the saddle but confidence is high, always brought on by the promise of fantastic weather and majestic scenery.
Until we crossed the river plain west from Haast, for the protection of the trees to shelter us from the blustery wind blowing spray off the river and cold air into our faces, it was an uncomfortable 15 minutes. From there we rode upriver, across culverts endlessly named (many of them had a Scottish theme, since Douglas appeared on many of the signs, along with Chink Creek) until we stopped for a drinks break at Pleasant Flats. Pleasant may be the name but for warm-blooded Queenslanders, Shivering Flats may have been apt. In the distance, Mount Aspiring stands tall and shiny at the head of the valley. It was a splendid sight seeing snow on the mountain.
Free play was called, and the outriders left the resting place to battle their way up and through the Haas pass, 460m of vertical and some very steep pinches. Comradeship remains high as the faster riders turn around at the top to head back down to pace the slower riders up to the top. Following a beautiful descent, we are greeted by clearing clouds and the cheery warming sun as we head into the Makarora Valley with stunning mountain vistas on either side.
Reaching Wanaka required a few more short and sharp rolling hills, but the bunch paired up for the last few kilometres as rumours of a pool and an esky of welcome local ales starts to make its way through the peloton. A blessed reward after another hard day on the road for the kids.