When most people are bored, they read, surf online, watch TV, or something simple and mindless. As this blog has established, I am not most people. On Wednesday, I was feeling motivated with little to do, so I gear up, and started pedaling. I was shooting for Authors Point, just a little ways down the road from me, and I was seeking out the trail head for Moonlight Track, a hiking/riding route that circumnavigates Ben Lomond. I’d been told that the initial part of the trail makes for a nice out-and-back ride, and once I got out there, I certainly agreed. The view was excellent, and the riding itself wasn’t too technical – though it was very unnerving because for the first 30 or so minutes, there was the trail, which was anywhere from 6 to 18 inches wide, and then a cliff or exceedingly steep hillside to the right. Steady riding and a looking wayyyyy ahead was the name of the game [DON’T LOOK DOWN]. The traverse across the mountain followed the course of the Shotover River for a ways, which lead up to a very large canyon swing. This is worth noting because for about 15 minutes, every couple of minutes there would be the comical fading scream as someone jumped from the platform.
|Rounding the corner onto the North side of Ben Lomond, looking out into the Southern Alps.|
As I rounded onto the back side of the mountain, another riding and I crossed paths. We had a nice chat about the day and the ride, and when I inquired as to how far I was from Moke Lake (roughly the half-way point for the length of the whole trail, also a previous center point for a previous blog post), he said it was only about an hour away. I then decided that the out-and-back was instead going to be the full traverse of the Moonlight Track, because what else was I going to do that afternoon? I had a snack, snapchatted, took some panoramic photos, and set out to continue on my way. A quick side note: the astute reader will notice a trend in these adventures of mine, where I have a vague plan, and then end up riding for half a day. Well, this is no different. The one piece of information I should have taken into account but didn’t, was the fact that I was setting out to ride in the heat of the afternoon, and would be chasing the sun the whole way, being caned unrelentingly by the rays. It was a slow ride to say the least. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally caught sight of Moke Lake, and I sighed a breath of relief.
|Moke Lake, just ahead!|
The camp ground at the lake was all I thought about for the better part of the ride until I arrived – it meant water and shade, both much-needed. I decided to ride over to the Camp Warden’s bus (yes, he lives in an old converted bus) to have a chat and inquire about water. He had a tap right out of the ground, which was exceptionally convenient (and cold, and refreshing). Now, most people think a Camp Warden would look like a Park Ranger back in the States, or something resembling an authority; this was not the case. He goes by “Bear” [“An American Sheila called me that once, and the name stuck! I wonder why…”], and he looks like one too. Six-foot-two, 350lbs, he is an imposing sight. His giant unkept, scraggly beard, and is lengthy ponytail told a tale of a man with no cares and a free spirit. A gentle giant, he and I joked about his wild youth, affinity for American Classic Rock (he’s a big fan of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Pete Seeger), motorcycles, and how “…me old lady was the one who tamed me, settled me down.” Classic. A born and bred South Island Kiwi, he joked, “I went to the North Island once, but no one knew me, so I came back here and haven’t been back since.” Whether he was spinning a yarn or not, he also told me he was cast as an extra in the third Hobbit movie, and then produced a big walking stick he found, which he claimed Gandalf’s staff is modeled after. Personally, I believe him. He looks like Hagrid from Harry Potter, and would fit right into the world of Middle Earth. Hanging out with Bear for the bit of time I did, I can say that, that alone would have been worth the ride – you don’t get to meet people like that every day; a true champion of life!
I disembarked from The Bear Cave, and made my way onto the second leg of the ride, out to Lake Dispute, into Closeburn, and then back out into Queenstown (and then home, barely). The second half of the ride was much more pleasant i.e. shaded and of a rolling grade, with some fun descents. One descent was indeed almost too much fun, as the loose rocks blasted my water bottle off the bike (I was unable to recover/find it), and I also got a flat tire. It has been probably a decade or so since the last time I got a flat tire out on a ride, not to mention that I was very much in the middle of nowhere. I am a prepared man though, and I was able to repair the problem and continue trekking towards home. The rest of the ride was uneventful, if not just shy of boring. I was gassed and struggled the last 13 miles home, but I made it (and treated myself to some bakery goods in town). All told, the ride was 32.3 miles, with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Just another casual Hump Day here in eNZed.