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The joys of insanity and plums and riding a bicycle for several hundred kilometres

February 11, 2012

So, after about a week of intrepid adventuring, I’m now in wellington! Theodore’s speedometer reads something like 645 km. It feels quite a long way to go, but I think really, in the grand scheme of time the universe and everything, a week is actually not very much at all.

I thought I might put up some of my journal entries along the way, because I know how absolutely crucial my private ramblings whilst on an obscure cycle trip are to the public interest of the world. Haha, well, if nothing else my mum and dad might like to hear.  

Day One: Thursday 26th January. I successfully passed my restricted drivers license this morning! Am now lying in what is really around 10 metres in from a road side ditch on state highway one somewhere after the Waitaki Bridge, with a bicycle and a howling southerly, underneath a piece of tent material and a lot of rain and on top of lumpy grass. Whenever a truck comes past it feels like an earthquake. I started biking from Waikouaiti at about 10.30, into what soon appeared to be a norwesterly( bad) not a southerly as I had been promised. Pretty slow going, about 10-15 km an hour. On the way out of Palmerston, a guy with a Ute type thing and a trailer full of deer meat asked me if I wanted a lift. I ummed and ahhed, because it did feel like cheating a little bit, but then I decided it didn’t matter and hopped in. Theodore got a prime spot on the very top of the trailer and wobbled along in the wind. I did worry about her , and I have never worried whilst transporting anything on a trailer before. This is a sure sign of maturity. The guy was very nice and we had a very deep conversation, so deep that I lost track of where we were and didn’t end up getting off till Maheno. Then I took a side route out to Kakanui. A herd of cows chased me as I was riding along, which was a bit weird. It’s really lovely riding the country roads – so much nicer than SH1. The coast road is especially wonderful. The ocean is so big. SO big.  

On the way through Oamaru I saw an incredibly gnarly, dodgey looking mobile tattoo parlour. I fully contemplated going in and getting a small bicycle somewhere. But then I figured that would be silly and so I didn’t. Kept on till the Waitaki bridge, where I set up camp and made a pot of wild plum, lentils, quinoa and couscous, as well as fresh mussels from the guy who’d given me a lift. All in all it was kind of gross. And then about 7 o’clock the southerly set in and my campsite suddenly looked awful and so I thought I would harness the power of the southerly and so biked for another hour , until the rain finally caught up with me    

Day 2: Friday 27th 4.30 pm 100ishh km, Rangitata.  After stomaching as much of the leftover quinoa-plum-lentil mush as I could without vomiting, I hit the road at about 7.30, miraculously not that wet. Had coffee and fresh raspberries at Butlers Berry farm at around 9, and some lunch at St Andrews looking out to the sea. Was very wild and smelled gloriously like fish. At Timaru, I got my ukelele restrung and bumped into Jake and the Green peace team who offered to take me to Christchurch. I think I shall go through to Ashburton with them and stay with the Reids tonight, so I’ve biked through to Rangitata and am waiting here for them, on the grass, in the sun. It’s nice.  

Day 3: Saturday 28th Christchurch, Jess’s flat 87 km. Rather long and boring today, the last stretch from Rolleston into Christchurch was awful. The outskirts of Christchurch are a horrible place. Kind of like suburban America, so industrial and spread out and dead and ugh. Going over the bridges on SH1 is very scary, as they don’t have any shoulders, and cars don’t really slow down much. Halfway over the Selwyn bridge I lost my drink bottle over the side whilst dodging a truck. I was a hot day and underneath the bridge was a long way away, so I was just going to leave it, but then I remembered that plastic bottles take like a kazillion years to break down and kill fish, and besides that, I would have no water without a bottle, so I went all the way back to look for it. Wierdly enough , the Selwyn river wasn’t there ( I don’t know if this is a usual occurrence, but it was completely dry, just lots of thigh deep grass and weeds that would hide dead bodies spectacularly well) I didn’t find the bottle either.  

Day 4: Sunday 29th – in the school bike shed at Waikari- about 80? kms north of Chch.  Schools are quite good places to camp out in. I feel like I have my own little camping ground, and also a little bit like a homeless person, which I guess I am technically I feel like I’ve been on the road for years. Time goes incredibly slowly when you’re by yourself. There is a suprisingly large number of hours you’re actually awake for, and it is fully kind of hard to relax when you’re camped illegally at a school. I think I understand why sheep freak out so much when their fellow sheep move away. Being alone is a wee bit stressful. My knees are sore. Also I wish it would rain and get all these lumpy clouds over with while I’m sleeping.  

Day 5: Monday 30th 2pm, Maruia Springs.   Have just spent the few hours soaking in the hot springs at Maruia. This place is amazing, apart from the sandflies. It’s really quiet, and much more natural and unchlorinated than Hamner Springs. And swimming togs are optional in the bath houses! I love not wearing togs! Currently sitting under a huge treee amongst massive mountains in the middle of nowhere, and my bottom feels wonderful, as do my knees. I was heading up the inland kaikoura route and got offered a ride with a truck driver. I was just going to go up the hill and get off before he turned to go off to lewis pass, but somehow I didn’t, and so I got off here instead and now my trip is going to include Murchison, the west coast , and the down ward slope of Lewis pass. I don’t think it makes it any shorter , but that’s okay.   8.30pm, 20 km from Springs Junction, camped behind a forest of boysenberry bushes If only I were here in a couple of weeks time, I should be sitting in a huge pile of desert. They’re all just not quite ripe yet. (At least it is plum season, this is something). The ride down from Maruia was fantastic, Hardly any cars on the road, and straight through sections of glorious national park forest – thick old growth, and open valleys with huge crystal rivers thundering through. Hurrah! Like tramping almost, except I was flying through the forest at about 30 kmh. Blue skies, no clouds at all, not even a single one, and I was singing at the top of my lungs. I stopped for a break and while I was eating my muesli bar I was so happy I had a conversation with a beech tree. It went something like this: “ you know tree, I am not that patriotic at all really, I dislike nationalism and its various forms on principle, but sometimes I am just so ridiculously glad that I live in New Zealand” The tree didn’t say anything, just kind of rustled companionably. Has been one of those just real good days.

Day 6: Tuesday 31st, evening, DOC campsite at Kawatiri Junction *Expletive* SANDFLIES. Have my head and arms enclosed in my mesh sleeping bag holder, like some sort of alien bubble head. Thank goodness I brought it with me. They are swarming, really swarming, so much that they are making pitterpatter comforting noises like rain against my fly, except they are not rain, THEY ARE SANDFLIEs. Reminds me of the Matukiuki trip when Dylan nearlyy cut his entire little toe off and had to get airlifted out, and we were waiting in the tent, and they never stopped whining and making their pretend rain noise the entire night long, even when the helicopter had flown in and out.   Woke up soaked with dew, it the road about 8.30 and then a short climb to the Shenandoah conservation area, and then glorious, glorious but cold, ride all the way down, and mostly flat till murchison. At one of the waterfalls I met a couple of tourists going of waterfalls in kayaks. Crazy . I took a photo her mid jump, as she was vertical down the side of the waterfall for them. Lunch in Murchison, then uphill to here. About 80 km  

Day 7: Wednesday, 01 February Jack’s Backpackers, Blenheim. 130 km today! I had a bit of a head wind and lots of downhill which helped. Oh, I was speeding, speeding so fast. It rained all morning, just fine mist really, but I was soaked to the skin. As I got down out of the valley though, it cleared up, and by the time I got into Blenheim it was hot and dry. Bought yet another punnet of raspberries. I have , quite literally , spent more money on raspberries than on accommodation this trip. This backpackers is a wonderful place – officially only $15 a night – and the manager , who has tattoos and lives in a caravan, only charged me $10, plus let me use his internet for free, as well as offering me freshly caught blue cod. One of those sorts of people who could be god in disguise. They don’t occur very often, but when they do they are wonderful. I passed a naturist resort/camp in the Wairau valley, with it’s sign up casually beside the local tavern and an adorable petrol station that looked like it had been forgotten in the 60s. I couldn’t resist going in to look around. No naked elderly hedonists that I could see, but the manager did try her best to get me to stay. As I was just biking out of town I realised my bike shorts were gone (they’d been hanging on the back of my panniers) and for a terrifying yet hilarious moment, I thought I might have to bike back to the nudist camp and ask the woman if she’d seen my pants. Luckily however, they had just fallen on the side of the road, about 200 metres back.

And then the next day I biked to Picton and caught the 2.00 ferry over to Wellington, and it was good.


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  1. What an awesome adventure you have had, I am incredibly impressed with ability to sit on a bike for soooooooo long! I must admit I find sitting on it for 12km of flat riding longer than I would have cared for!! Have a fabulous time in Welli, it’s a great wee capital with lots to see and do!! And keep up these blogs and poems, they’re fantastic!!!

  2. Catherine van Dorp permalink

    I love your posts!

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