Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 8: Makarora to Alexander: out of the wet, into the car.

 We got an early start today (10:10 instead of 10:45 or 11:00) since we didn't have any yogurt to make.  Instead, we ate New Zealand's favorite meat pies for Drew and a something called a mouse trap and a tasty boysenberry custard tart for me. 


Accompanied of course by espressos; 3 shots for Drew and 2 for me.


The rain stayed away today, and we were thankful that we could see the progressively drier climate as we rode alongside first Lake Wanaka




(still plenty of creeks and rivers draining into the lake)


Then over a skinny strip of land called the Neck, to Lake Hawea.



They were both beautiful lakes of an amazing shade of blue.  Both lakes are glacial in origin. Lake Wanaka is 1000 feet deep but used to be 3000 feet deeper over the past million years during interglacial periods.


With the land opening up and more rocks and water visible, I think this part of the ride was my favorite scenery so far on the trip.  We stopped only briefly to take pictures And for a quick coke and a candy bar at a gas station (where the attendant was cleaning off the handles of the pumps with a spray bottle of windex or the like and a towel - not the most American thing we have seen).

But we were trying to make good time to Wanaka so we could see about catching a bus to take us to the start of the Otago Rail Trail.   We arrived in Wanaka, the town we had heard is so much fun and is compared to Moab, Utah, with only enough time to book our bus to take us to Alexandra.  Too bad, because  it would have been nice to chill out with a coffee and dip our toes into Lake Wanaka.

But our goal was to get to the start of the Otago Rail Trail, which we had also heard many great things about. So now we were on a petroleum powered vehicle.  It moved so fast!!!!  The climate is much drier over on this side of the Southern Alps.  We zoomed past so many vineyards and fields that would have been lovely to take in at 20 km/hr.

But the $70 bus ride saved us a whole day of riding on busy roads. 

Once in Alexandra, we booked sight unseen on the recommendation of Jenny at the iSite, into Marj's Backpacker and Home Stay. 

 We got the double room in one half of Marj and Murray's remodeled house.  The lodging came complete with a sauna

Jetted tub (both of which we took advantage of), and shared kitchen facilities. 

But the best part of the stay was chatting with Marj, Murray, and their long-term tenant Roy.

We ventured out into town but didn't get a chance to stop for a cool one at this place.

but enjoyed the WWI memorial.

we stopped to pick up some goodies and yogurt at the first real grocery store since Hokitika 7 days ago, and man, what a grocery store it was!  Get a load of this pet food section!

In a cooler! With refrigerated meats for your cat. 

And dog.

The cat food cost $5.09 NZD for a portion about the size of a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.  Weird thing is, we have not seen that many people with pets here.  Guess the pets that are Kiwi pets are lucky Kiwi pets.

But we didnt linger too long at the grocery store, because we had food on the mind, so we rode our bikes to Monteith's pub,

 where I had bangers and mash (had been wanting to try that since our Irish friends had told me about it) and Drew had a chicken sandwich and fries.  

It was a long time until our food came out, but that was because there was a movie being filmed near town, and all the actors and crew were eating at the same pub.  A movie? Being filmed in New Zealand? With a lot of short stocky men? And they had jackets that said "Hobbit" on them? Why, yes, it was the film crew from the prequels to the Lord of the Rings trilogy!  I am almost positive this guy is "Sam".

And we know for sure (because Drew talked to one if them while they were waiting for the bathroom) that this table is filled with body doubles and extras. Maybe even a main character? We won't know until December 13 and 14, 2012, when the two prequels are premiered.  Whatever, the case, they were nice enough to take a picture with me.

 What an unexpected bonus to an already fun day.

Today's stats: 3:15 ride time to do 63 km.  Then a pretty easy 1 hour bus ride.


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