Break On Through To The Other Side

Hello from the other side of Haast Pass! Sarah and I safely and successfully crossed the Southern Alps today and we are now in a new region of the country: Otago. This region is known as one of the most beautiful areas of New Zealand with majestic mountains and glacially carved lakes and during our short time here it has lived up to its reputation!

Weather and sightseeing slowed us down a bit last week, so at the end of the week, we cycled like lunatics to get to Haast and in doing so we did our first metric century and bested our previous longest day by 50%! On Saturday the 3rd we cycled 126.08km in 6 hours, 55 minutes, and 45 seconds. It was definitely a grueling day and we were wiped out afterwards so we spent Sunday the 4th resting in Haast. After the ride, we were discussing whether or not cycling 100km on these loaded touring bikes is as difficult as riding 100 miles on a racing bike. We think it is.

The epic ride started inland as we left the glaciers. Here is Sarah cycling through some dense rainforest.

As we neared the coast, things started to open up a bit with nice rivers, plains, and hills.

As we were nearing the end of the ride, we touched the coast and had to climb and descend three 200 meter hills in a row. It was painful, but the views from the top were worth it.

We spent the next day relaxing in Haast and cycled about 5km down to the beach. Sarah did a little beachcombing, hoping she would find an ancient mere, but she didn’t have any luck. We did spot a couple of dolphins in the surf though.

Today we were feeling pretty well recovered so we decided to tackle Haast Pass. Here I am getting my daily upper body workout by using our handpump to inflate our tires to 95psi.

The ride started out pretty flat; we cycled along a plain for about 50km with views of the mountains we were trying to get across.

Check out all the waterfalls coming down this one.

Sarah’s shadow was so clear in the morning sun, it looked like she was riding on top of a mirror.

We stopped for a lunch break at Pleasant Flat and were thankful we didn’t have to cross the glacier covered peaks we could see in the distance.

As we approached the Gates of Haast, the road became steep and our pace slowed to 5km/hr. We knew the pass was about 10km, so we got a little worried wondering if it was really going to take us two hours to get across?! When we arrived at the Gates of Haast, we really started to panic. We could see the road became even steeper ahead and we didn’t know whether or not we could make it. Was it really that steep all the way up? Sarah was feeling very tired, so we decided to take some action. We took her dry bag and put it on my bike, creating our first double-decker load.

We then started up; the falls at the Gates were beautiful.

As we started climbing, we realized this wasn’t a road we were on, it was a paved wall! I was out of the saddle, grinding my way up the hill. I could feel the burn of the midday sun on my back and I was instantly so drenched in sweat I could barely keep a grip on my handlebars. I looked back, worried about Sarah but she was already out of site. So I decided to leave her. If she was really this weak, I didn’t bloody want her anyway.

Just kidding people! I knew if I stopped I would never be able to start up again, so I continued on to scout out how long the steepness lasted. Luckily, the gradients eased after about two kilometers and I was able to pull off the road to catch my breath. After a few minutes, Sarah rounded a bend and wove her way up the road toward our resting spot.

When she arrived, she told me she had to climb so slowly that she wasn’t able to keep her bike upright and she fell off. When she started again, she learned that at speeds below 3.8km per hour her speedometer gives up and tells her she’s not moving anymore!

Thankfully, that hellish stretch was the worst of the pass and the remainder was actually very gradual. Haast Pass is actually the lowest of the passes in New Zealand at only 564 meters.

We spent the afternoon descending gradually and admiring the new dry landscape.

You may have heard some military types bragging about the in-air refueling of their fighter jets? Well, they’ve got nothing on us. We’ve also perfected in-flight refueling with our Hydrapaks. Here is Sarah hydrating in style.

On our way down, we stopped to visit the Blue Pools. It was a short trail off the road including a swinging bridge crossing and the water was amazingly clear and beautiful.

At the end of the day, we set up camp at a DoC site right on the shore of Lake Wanaka. We gaze out the front door of our tent and pretend we are in our million dollar lake home. Tomorrow we head toward Wanaka and Queenstown.

Stats from Week 5 (1.29.2007 – 2.04.2007):
Greymouth -> Haast
5 days cycling, 2 days resting

347.78km (69.56km / cycling day)
20 hours, 27 minutes, 42 seconds in the saddle

NZ$265.09 (NZ$37.87 / day)

2 Responses to “Break On Through To The Other Side”

  1. John Erck Says:

    The blue pools are spectacular!

  2. Dad Says:

    First of all I’d like to congratulate you on the title of this post. This is a fitting tribute to the late and great American poet, Jim Morrison and your incredible feats! Breaking on through to the other side of Haast Pass AND your first metric century day! Congratualtions!
    Rain forests and glaciers, I hope to see sights like that someday soon.
    Too bad Sarah didn’t find her ancient mere. I like the things we are learning from your website. Do you guys wear your helmets all the time? Jamie thanks for helping Sarah up the pass by doing “double duty”. Your legs will bet “Lance like” in half the time. “Love the burn!” You guys are the greatest. I love the in-flight refueling picture. The Blue Pools are fantastic pictures. The subject would make a very impressive POST CARD!

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