Day 27: The Crown Range Summit
"I guess we can camp," I say, glancing at my tourmates with a defeated look. We are sitting at McDonald's assessing our accommodation options for tonight and tomorrow. Everything is booked or way out of our price range. Conrad, in a falsely optimistic voice responds, "Yeah...it could be...fun...to camp. It's been a while." Jess looks at us both and laughs at her glamping queens. She probably could have camped in a ditch every night without complaint.
To be fair, I like camping. It's the wet tent pack-up in the cold early light I don't like. Luckily it's been sunny and it's our last two nights of the tour...so I'm going to try to see this as charmingly poetic.
Today we completed the biggest climb on the tour route: The Crown Range Summit.
We stopped and had some snackaroos at this historic hotel before completing the climb. The fireplace was magic. So warm. I went like a moth to the flame.
It felt SO good to be at the top of the hill and to know that I climbed this beast! For months before the trip started, I would skim the guidebooks and blanch at the elevation graphs. And promptly close the books in well-honed avoidance and denial. But I've completed all of the ones that scared me.
After the climb, treating ourselves to McDonalds, and resigning ourselves to camping, we set off on our remaining 40km towards camp. We were 10km in when Conrad's tire blew. And I mean it blew. Beyond repair. Tubeless tire goo everywhere. I found a bike shop in Queenstown that had his tire size in stock. It would be unlikely for three bikers to hitch to Q so Conrad told us to go ahead and he would catch up. It felt horrible leaving him behind but he is super fast so we had no doubts he could catch up tonight or tomorrow.
A merciful pick-up by a Kiwi couple who went out of their way (literally the opposite way) to take him all the way to the bike shop and $160 later, he hauled butt and met us at the Kingston Holiday Park. The family is reunited!
We are safely tucked in our tents. I'm feeling excited to have a break from the relentless pace we've been keeping and the rigid schedule (I haven't slept in for 27 days--not even on our one rest day because of the ferry). My legs need a rest day so bad! But I'm starting to feel really sad about this trip ending. I hate goodbyes.