New Zealand may look like a small country, but the amount of outdoor adventures one can experience is out of this world. So, when I read that one of the best day bike rides in the country was located basically out my front door, I felt like it was a necessity to try it out for myself.
When I first arrived in Dunedin, my plan was to get a bike. This would make getting around more efficient and I could explore farther than walking could get me. I was thinking a twenty dollar bike would do the trick. All I needed was for it to have tires to roll. Nothing fancy. However, I had no luck finding a cheap bike. The most inexpensive one I could find was over one hundred dollars! No thanks. Maybe if I was here for a year, but I did not think I would get enough use out it for the short time period I am here.
Luckily, the other students here that I have met have all been extremely kind and sharing. There is a wonderful community here. If you need something, instead of buying it and maybe only needing to use it once, there is a good chance that you can find someone you know who will let you borrow theirs. This comes in handy when you are a study abroad student and could not bring much with you.
I met a girl who had a mountain bike and when I told her I had wanted to bicycle around to some farther areas in Dunedin, she said I could borrow her bike for the weekend. I was SO excited and grateful!
I biked to a few different locations. I started with a bike ride to Mount Cargill. If you are thinking about doing a bike ride here, I would suggest trying a different route. First of all, the ride getting to Mount Cargill is ALL uphill. A good strong hour of biking uphill non-stop (Luckily, this does mean that the trip back is super easy and fast). Luckily, when you do reach the trail base for Mount Cargill there are some pretty views of the Otago Peninsula.
The hike itself was not all that phenomenal to me (decent, just not out of this world, like others have been). I felt like I could see the same views from the bottom of the trail as I could once I reached the top. I think my problem was I had just been to Fiordland and the mountains and scenery there are breathtaking, that it makes little Mount Cargill seem not as phenomenal. It also did not help that it was a cloudy day and I was worried about getting rained on. Sure enough, when I started my journey back home (luckily downhill this time) it started to pour and the winds picked up. I have never biked in wind that strong before! I was actually having to pedal hard to get downhill because the wind was pushing against me so severely. I thought the bike ride down was supposed to be easy and enjoyable…At one point, I am pretty sure my tires lifted up off the ground and I was floating. Only for a second, but still! So that was adventure on the bike number one.
Adventure on the bike number two was a bike ride out to Tunnel Beach. In contrast, I enjoyed this bike ride much more. I seem to have a knack for finding the hilliest roads to bike on. I guess that is not so hard to do when you are living in Dunedin. Of course, the way there is uphill. I was not even surprised. At a few points, the roads became so steep that I had to get off my bike and walk up. The views from the top, even before I made it to tunnel beach were worth it though. I had not seen Dunedin and the ocean from this view point yet. The bike ride itself was quite nice because I was biking through quaint, peaceful village towns on the way there.
Arriving at tunnel beach, I was awestruck by the beauty and artistry the ocean can make. It was also really neat because in one of my classes I have been learning about a man named John Cargill. It turns out he was the one who carved out the massive rock to form the tunnel through it. It made that piece of history come to life.
I ended up lying on the pinnacle of the massive rock, listening and watching the waves come roaring along the coastline. If you have not had a chance to check out tunnel beach, I would definitely recommend it.
Now, for adventure number 3 and the final biking adventure for the weekend. The “greatest one day bike ride in the country.” Also known as biking the Otago Peninsula. My whole day really was fantastic. I started off the morning with a bike ride to the farmer’s market. I love buying produce right from the farmers who grew their crops. In addition, the food is fresh, I get to meet the people that grew the food I am eating, preservatives do not need to be added, and it did not have to travel long distances to get to me, so it is better for the planet. Plus, the live music is always enjoyable to listen to while I am shopping.
After returning with an abundance of food from the farmer’s market, one of my friends, her flat mate, and I began our journey around 10:20am from my flat. It is so convenient that you do not even have to drive anywhere to start your adventures. They literally start from your doorstep! Right when we first made it to the actual peninsula, we were already seeing interesting wildlife. There were multiple different duck species, black swans, and even multiple loons! I did not know that loons lived here. At some points during the ride, there is a bike trail you can use that has a physical separation between the bikes and the cars. That made the ride more enjoyable because I could focus less on being hit by a car and more on the scenery around me. However, for most of the ride, you just have to ride on the road and hope the cars will be careful. This was definitely daunting at first, but as the ride continued, the amount of cars decreased drastically, as well as I got used to sharing the road.
Most of the ride was enjoyably flat. To reach our final destination of the Royal Albatross center at the tip of the peninsula, we did have to climb some pretty steep hills, but most of them did not last too long. Finally, around 1pm we arrived! Hooray! A break for my bottom. I had a picnic lunch with amazing views.
Unfortunately, my friend and I did not see any royal albatross. However, we had another animal encounter that may have been even cooler, and was definitely unexpected. We walked down to a beach and found multiple seals basking in the beautiful sunshine. Although they are still wild animals and this was not a zoo, they let us get incredibly close to them. I guess they could not be deterred from taking a nap. I wanted to pet one so badly because it did not seem to mind me being close. I figured that would be overstepping the boundary though and that cute little seal could turn into an angry and frightened seal – not something I was interested in seeing. While some of the seals were enjoying rest in the sun, others were swimming around playfully in the water. One seal put on a show for us! It was doing flips out of the water! I have never seen something like that before in the wild.
On the way back from the tip of the peninsula my friend and I decided to take Highcliff road back. Once we made it back to the city of Dunedin over three hours later, we were happy we took the road. However, during the ride back it seemed like maybe it was one of the worst ideas ever. This is because in the direction that we were taking the road, it is ALL uphill. Like my trip out to Mount Cargill, but worse. However, it was worth it in the end. The otago peninsula road is all down right next to the water, while the highcliff road sends you on a journey on top of the mountains. The views from the top were marvelous. It is a breath of fresh air to see rolling green hills in every direction, with no sign of human development. My friend and I also found a friendly horse who let us pet him. We also passed by some Asian ladies, who had stopped to take a picture of the scenery. We were of course still riding up hill, so they cheered us on as we past and excitingly yelled that we could do it. The encouragement was nice.
We ended up riding over 60 kilometers, which I believe is my longest bike ride to date. I sure do have a much better appreciation for those that do the tour-de-France, or any other long bike rides. We finally arrived back in Dunedin around 5:30pm. It had been a long, but enjoyable day.
I rode all the way from the left side of this map to the right side and then back again through the mountains