While on assignment for 360queenstown-wanaka, I had the pleasure of exploring the Welcome Rock and Roaring Lion cycle trail. Described by the Kennett Brothers as “New Zealand’s finest water-race”, I was in for a treat.
With clear blue skies ahead of me I drove from Wanaka to the Nevis road, which took a little over two hours.
Ski hut is the first of three huts, which offer accommodation high up in the hills of the Central Otago high-country. After parking there, I wrote my intentions in the guest book and started riding anti-clockwise around one of the best Central Otago rides today. There were enough supplies for two days with plenty of chocolate and curiosity.
The first part of the trail is a gentle up hill toward Welcome Rock. Smooth berms and corners lined with local schist stone made for fun riding, as I made my way up to the historic meeting point. Welcome Rock was an iconic place of trade over 100 years ago when Chinese miners lived there in search of a fortune. As the story goes, a bottle of whiskey was stashed among the mossy rocks for an emergency drink… After a few minutes of searching, none was to be found!
The food coma started to set in… Only 10km from Pienza. We crawled into the small yet lively town. As our bikes bounced over the cobblestone streets, the atmosphere was lively. It was Saturday afternoon and the bustling markets were still thriving. The smorgasbord of Italian delights had overwhelmed us from our lunch stop. We preceded to find a shady spot under some trees and passed out next to our bikes.
After seeing some of Croatia 4 years ago, cycle touring through her neighbor Italy, has been a dream for some time. Every tour is a chance to experience and meet the locals and landscape while enjoying the food grown from their land. That extra meal and snack can always be justified when clocking up the kilometers each day! Hollie and I rode around 500km from near Bologna to the outskirts of Rome.
What we didn’t have when starting out each day we picked up from local shops and markets. Food tastes better when it’s bought from the grower and the owners of shops – especially when asked for in another language. Yes, we mastered a few phrases! An instant level of rapport and connection was made when we used Italian to get what we wanted. Of course using your hands added to the experience!
An unexpected and favorite place we stopped for lunch one day was Grieve. Seriously the best Gnocchi and Ravioli ever tasted! A beautiful balance of flavor and texture washed down with some vino. Responsible amounts of wine, of course were essential so that balance wasn’t compromised. An Italian breakfast consisted of an espresso and cometto (Italian croissant). A fairly rich start to the day but a delicious one at that. “Keep right!” sounded strange at first but important nonetheless as we pulled out onto the roads after lunch with full bellies.
We continued along some incredibly beautiful countryside enjoying the smaller things that often made the difference. I remember clearly these moments, for example a smile and wave from a farmers tending their crops or a curious group of kids checking out the bikes and we had a few interesting looks! The chance of them meeting two Kiwi’s on tour was probably small, plus Hollie did look pretty good in Lycra. Sometimes it probably looked like an Icebreaker commercial as we peddled our way South. We decided to ride as far as Orte and catch the speedy train into the heart of Rome.
Rome was huge. It was not even peak season, however we got a good taste of the city as a whole including seeing the museums, art galleries, exhibitions, the Pope and local relics. Sometimes good old fashion people-watching was all the entertainment we needed as we ate lunch on the Spanish Steps. The shopping was pretty good! I resisted the urge to buy a leather fanny-pack and opted for the leather jacket and Italian suit instead. In the back of our minds we visualised how much space we had left in our luggage and how realistic it was wearing it all on the plane to save space!
We had the fortune of acquiring a crevice between a wall and an elevator at the base of an apartment building. It was perfect for stashing out boxed bikes while Hollie and I escaped the city for a few days and checked out the Almalfi coast. Air B&B was useful to find affordable accommodation in just the right location. Once we arrived on the coast we settled into a B&B and hired a scooter which was AWESOME! We clocked up over 100km exploring the narrow roads which lined the stunning coast. Colorful houses checkered the cliffs above small beaches
Incredible canvas near the Sistine Chapel
A fisherman working his nets
Leaving Pienza… a favourite.
Sampling Bologna’s finest with Matteo
Testing the bikes out
Maori, Almalfi coast
A spot for lunch
It’s incredible what two passionate adventurers can pull off! I challenge you, the reader to choose a bike for part of their trip next time instead of the bus or car. You might surprise yourself how much more full-filling your holiday experience could be. Stay tuned for the video… If you have any questions on cycling and touring, just ask. If you’d like to sponsor our next one, then that’s great too!