First, for a fullish set of photos from today, follow this link…
So, approaching the end of the heavy riding of this New Zealand tour (just 85 miles or so to go tomorrow, bringing me in 16 days to nearly 900 miles in total since Queenstown, before joining Kat and Mela for Christmas and then some gentle biking a trois around Hawke Bay), this last Saturday before Christmas finds me…
a) not vapourised in the end of the world that didn’t happen (at least here in NZ. Did your world end by any chance? If so, please let me know as it may affect my return plans to the Northern Hemisphere…) and
b) in a lovely little place called Bulls, about half way between Wellington and my immediate destination tomorrow in Normanby, where Mela’s parents live just south of Mount Taranaki volcano.
The three days since I last posted have continued – surprise, surprise – totally fabulous.
First, on Thursday, 75 miles or so took me and all 50kg of Raven-inc-luggage (a LOT of bike) over Two Large Hills Through Beautiful Scenery But Besieged By Very Large Lorries, from Nelson to a tiny little place just short of the ferry port of Picton (aka locally as Pucton, of course) called Anakiwa.
Anakiwa is home to New Zealand’s Outward Bound Centre, but, more importantly for me, also to Lesley and Andy Pincombe, friends of Nathalie Marshall in my Cantores choir with whom they used to work at Honda in Swindon before emigrating to NZ some four years ago.
Warmest thanks to both of you, Lesley and Andy, for a wonderful welcome, a fabulous venison curry and the beers, and for Very Boring Views of Queen Charlotte Sound from your sitting room, which, I think all visitors to this blog will agree, cannot possibly compare with the beauty and majesty of Swindon.
Why on earth you decided to move to this of all countries, I fail to understand.
I mean, apart from the kayaking, the friendly community, the swimming, the scenery, the sailing, the scuba diving, the sunshine, the access to one of the most beautiful countries on earth, the need no longer to work… What is it that persuaded you to stay here?
Ah well, it takes all sorts, and for a delightful safe haven for a night, for a good shower and for my first real bed in nearly three weeks, warmest thanks.
Which prompts me to include a picture of what camping can be like if you don’t know how to erect (in NZ-speak, irict?) a tent/tint.
I’d heard these poor, young German neighbours struggling with their tent poles long after I went to sleeping bag in the comfort of my own tent on Wednesday evening near Nelson, but I did have to smile when I woke to find them having given up and, presumably to keep out the sandflies, compromised by crawling into the inner part of the collapsed tent. They were certainly fast asleep as I pedalled off.
From Anakiwa to Picton yesterday was a lovely, gentle but stunningly beautiful 20km or so of the winding, undulating Queen Charlotte Drive, surely one of the world’s most inspiring stretches of road, upon which I met a delightful fellow long-distancer Phil Malone who’s been travelling the world for three years now, including a spell earning fabulous sums to finance the rest of the trip in an Australian goldmine, and having loved above all his time in China.
Yes, China beckons me too, though not this time, yet.
The journey from Picton over the Cook Strait, routinely described as one of the world’s most beautiful ferry trips (firry trups!), was unfortunately rather cloudy and misty, but fun nonetheless, and got me into Wellington in time to catch a commuter train out of the city for about 20km to Plimmington, just to avoid a stretch of motorway which everyone says is horrendously horrible and dangerous for cyclists.
Not that the long, straight roads today on Highway One have been gentle winding country lanes, but the 75 miles today were also thoroughly enjoyable – bike singing along, tyres still not needing a pump-up from since I left England, legs and body behaving themselves and only a rather sore bum to show for the riding.
(Don’t gloat, Sue – any other saddle would be much, much worse than a Brooks B17, and besides, all the serious riders I meet have Brooks as well. I’m finding that chamois cream really helps, though I do wonder what passing drivers think as they see me applying cream at the roadside to the relevant parts..)
Sorry by the way for constantly switching between km and miles – with my bike computer set to miles (I can’t work out how to recalibrate it for km) and the NZ road signs all in km, it’s a recipe for confusion.
A couple of final thoughts before my campsite down/upload limit runs out (I’ve already maxed out on free McDonalds WiFi this evening):
Why uz ut – I mean, why is it – that New Zealand, as one of the world’s prime producers and exporters of milk products (collected from farm and trundled to factory by monster double-trucks like the one in the picture, of a kind which Mela’s Dad has been driving for decades around Taranaki and beyond), doesn’t make better quality cheese?
The dried/instant milk here is fantastic, dissolving instantly even in cold water and pretty much like the real thing in my morning muesli.
But cheese, in the supermarkets at least, is utterly grum. Grim. Great congealed lumps of processed gunk, tasting pretty much the same whether labelled Cheddar, Gouda, Emmental or Smoked. Just a frustrated point I wanted to make, without illustration…
Today’s long straight roads north have been much less bothersome than I’d expected, though they really are, in parts, very long and very straight. Thankfully the weather today has been a lot better than the TV forecast predicted, and tomorrow the wund should be behind me. Sorry, wind.
Enough. Hope you’ve enjoyed. I have.
And a reminder, if you’ve read this far (if you haven’t, you won’t need this, so please ignore…) here again is the link to a small selection, hopefully captioned if my download allowance hasn’t run out, of today’s photos.