The only reason we left Wanaka and New Zealand was the planned family reunion on February 17th on the Big Island in Hawaii. We had planned this in August last year already! 2 weeks of vacation with Isa’s sister and her family as the only fixed point during our year around the world. It took us 3 days to get the from the South of New Zealand. No need to mention that M. & Z. were quite disoriented, confused and cranky for the first few days.
The Big Island is something like Lanzarote at first sight, just bigger. But after a while one discovers that it has multiple climate zone and that it encapsulates all climate and geographies of an entire continent. Deep waters, high mountains, green pasture with huge ranches, lava fields, lush sub-tropical forest, lush English rainy regions, etc…
The best for me was of course to be on THE triathlon Island, the place where the Ironman World championship takes place every year. Not necessary to mention that I assembled my TT-bike on the first day to hit the mythical Queen K. already on the second day! What a feeling to ride on this highway where all the best triathletes in the world have sweated their guts out. I feel very motivated, all the more that I will be competing in the Lavaman Triathlon on March 28th on the very same road. It will be my first race since May 2009.
Apart from Training and Sightseeing, we spend most of the time at the pools of the vacation resort. It is the best family friendly pools I have seen, with small beaches for kids, 4 different water slides for kids and adults, hot pools, pools with Dolphins, protect natural lagoon, etc, etc… amazing. Perfect to spend 2 weeks with the family with 4 young children. The other great thing at the resort is the BBQ place. We have already used it a couple of times to sear delicious american steaks and others treats. Will I lose any weight during this period? I think I have trained 12 hours this week and increased my belly buoy by an inch!
Anyway, that’s part of family meets. You talk, you eat you drink and you start all over again….and you celebrate birthdays! That’s right we took advantage of this reunion to anticipate Zoé’s 3rd birthday…but that is a different story.
Last August, while still walking with a brace on my left knee and 2 crutches, I decided that I would not replace my “feu” hybrid Canyon bike (hybrid = road bike fitted with a tri-bar and 2-3 other accessories to do triathlon) with a new hybrid bike but to indulge in luxury and to buy 2 specific bikes. Reasons are multiple. Change regularly position to keep the body far away from the injury zone. Take the bike that is most adapted to the course. Get an aero position that is a true aero position with a seat post at 75 degrees at least, different cranks, be able to race different race types without having to modify the bike every time, etc, etc..
I wrote in my 19th August 2009 post “Cannondale Hi-Mod Synapse 2010 ordered” that I would wait to be in the US in 2010 to get a cool, small, local US time trial brands. Well, I think I found a cool, small, local time trial brand but not from the US but from New Zealand. I saw this Avanti Chrono 2.0 model 2009 in a shop in Wanaka and eyed it for 2 weeks. The third week I dared to enter the shop to look at the price tag. Upsy Daisy, a bit steep! I start talking to Scott the guy in charge of the Outside Sports cycling shop, he tells me to be ready to get the price down as he want to sell this 2009 model. To make a long story short, I take it for 4 test rides and after changing the length of the stem and made zillions of small adjustments I decide to actually acquire this silent, slippery black stallion together with a slick Grammo Bike Case and a few accessories like a double Profile Design Bottle cage for the seat post.
Why did I buy it? Well, first the size and the geometry is good for me. Second, the components are first class (apart from the 53 Ultegra Crank, which I will change over time). The other components are great, the full carbon Oval aero bar with Dura Ace shifter. The incredible ADT front fork, the Quartz Tektro brake BEHIND the front fork, the all internal cables, the ZERO wheels manufactured by Zipp, the Dura Ace Derailleur. The first time I saw an Avanti bike was in Noosa but I thought it was an Italian brand until I got to New Zealand. I have now done 250km with this racing machine on the Queen K. Highway of the Big Island in Hawaii and I have never been so fast. It must be the bike.
Half a million tourist cruise the Milford Sound every year. That must be basically the quasi totality of tourists visiting the South of the South Island of New Zealand. So, I asked myself whether this place is a tourist trap or is it really just drop-dead gorgeous? I thought it better had, because the prospect of driving 300Km from Wanaka on windy roads did not exactly appeal to me. And I thought about it for days, until I finally suggested to Isa, whether we should not let the kids with friends and get a small plane to fly over there. In case of disappointment we would still have had a great flight over the Southern Alps and spared us a half a dozen of nervous breakdown while driving down with 2 loudspeakers turned on to full blast (understand M & Z).
Isa was quite enthusiastic about spending the day in the air just the 2 of us. We organised everything but the weather forecast forced us to postpone our flight by one day. But on the second day, we were on the airstrip in time, ready to get into the small 4 seater Cessna.
We did not know that the coming hour would become the most scenic flight we had ever done (we never flew a small plane before 🙂 ). The main highlights: Mount Aspiring National Park and the Mount itself – call the Matterhorn of the Southern Hemisphere – , the 200km clear visibility that allowed us to see Mount Cook, the approach and the landing on the airstip of Milford sound, the flight back over some Lord of the Rings locations.
Regarding the Milford sound, it is all at the same time. A tourist magnet, an incredible lush place (it rains 7000mm per year vs 680mm 50 miles away in Wanaka!!!), a Fiord that can only be compared to the most beautiful Norwegian ones. It is before very, very far away from anything. And we could see those tired faced of people who had a 7 hour bus ride behind them.. AND ahead of them just to see the famous Milford Sound. Taking a plane to get there was the best decision we made and in my view the only way to fully enjoy this secluded wilderness.
As it was rather difficult to gather a big party to celebrate my anniversary, my wish was to go to a place so uncommon I would remember it for the rest of my life. So we packed our 7 things and left Wanaka for Glenorchy (50km from Queenstown), but not after having had a little birthday ceremony that included a wicked chocolate cake, a birthday salad 🙂 and the unwrapping of lovely gifts (including a beautiful butterfly kite that I of course lost in the trees some days later). The beauty of the trip was exactly the opposite to the horrible mood our 2 adored terrorists displayed in the car. I cannot remember taking a more scenic road.
Once arrived to Glenorchy, we bought some bubbly drink, found some peach nectar and had a few Bellini’s together with Heidi, the tenant of a souvenir shop. We discussed with her the art of surviving parenthood as well as the best place to spend the night in the area. Kinloch Lodge, at the tip of Lake Wakatipu. That’s where we should spend the night. 40min of dirt road later, we arrive to this 19th century lodge. Friendly staff helps us pre-order dinner and we are just in time to drink another glass of Red Wine with the sun setting on the opposite side of the Lake. The meal is very, very good. More than anything we expected.
The next day, we cross the lake back to Glenorchy and had a 2 hours beautiful walk before heading home via Queenstown, where we stop for a while to enjoy the trendy beach and cold clear water of the Lake Wakapitu.
I used to be sceptical as to whether there is a paradise or not. Assuming there is one, how do I get my entrance ticket, where is it and how do I get there. Well, now I know. There is a paradise. It is in New Zealand, it is a dead-end (nothing new here) and there is no exit (nothing new here either). But I also know how to get there. You need a 4WD and it is about 40K after Glenorchy, just passed Isengard (yes, from the Lord of the Rings). I felt we should have a peak, but then we turned right. Next time…maybe!