New Zealand 2014/15

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Monday December 28

Wellington. Now we need a schedule. In order to make our return flight we need to plan the ferry to the South Island, the return ferry, the return to SpringCurl, with enough time for disassembly and packing. Trains run one day earlier than buses. Buses don't guarantee a bike. Ferry schedules change by the time we return. Hotels are flexible, they just require money. Etc.

Travel is getting harder than expected. The trip has become disjointed. It is still fun, but the nature of the trip has changed. "Travelling is always a matter of adjustment. At least the way we travel," says Mary.

A full morning is spent walking between the ferry terminal, the rail station, the bus station, and the hotel working out the schedule in reverse.

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Leaving Wellington

At the ferry terminal we meet Poly, an 8 week old Jack Russell mix, and his owner, Matthew. We sit with him and Rob, his father, for the ride over. New Zealanders have consistently been more than friendly. They are genuinely interested in what we are doing and our welfare. If we find ourselves in Nelson with no room in the inn, we can call Rob and Matthew and they will be happy to put us up. Friendly. Big time.

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Poly (short for "polymer")

The entrance into Picton through Queen Charlotte Sound is spectacular. The mountains march out of the ocean and touch the sky. Every cove in the sound has its own sand-washed beach.

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Queen Charlotte Sound

Supper in Picton is grilled lamb loin chops with a red wine deglaze and a Secret Ingredient. Delicious. "Secret Ingredient" turns out to be a bit of chocolate torte from the ferry. Unfortunately the sauce separated just as it hit the plate – it looks like mud (Mary's words) but tastes spectacular.

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Secret Ingredient a la mud

One of New Zealand's unexpected surprises is that every room is equipped with a hot plate, fridge and "plunger" (French press). Before we left Mary had looked forward to not cooking for a month. As it is, we (she) have cooked for ourselves every night. And loved it. We have had better food and better wine at less expense. Or it would be less expense except we buy more and better wine.

Tuesday December 30

Picton to Havelock to Blenheim

What a great ride. Queen Charlotte Drives drive leaves Picton and meanders along the coast from one bay to the next, with one moderate climb and then a nice long pull over a headland. It was very satisfying with light traffic, morning sun, bird song, and the heavy scent of summer flowers.

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Queen Charlotte Drive

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Fellow traveller

At Havelock we are waylaid by a dish of green lipped mussels (for Mary) and fish and chips (me). It is a beautiful, sunny day. We decide to stay put. It's another 75 km to Nelson, including 2 very stiff climbs. Tomorrow is going to rain and what else do we have to do in the rain except ride?

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Green vested muscles

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Green lipped mussels

It is a good afternoon to work on the gears – they have been slipping lately. I suspend Lady Como from a drain pipe, place the front rack on a coffee table, and crack open a beer. Adjust. Test. Adjust more. Test. Repeat for an hour until the beer is finished.

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Gears (minus beer)

Mary goes off to check on motel availabilities. She comes back with an email from Rob and Matthew (of yesterday's ferry), with an invitation and a picture of Nelson harbour from their front lawn.

Tomorrow we will be on the road by 6:30. We want to beat the traffic and weather for New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 31, New Year's Eve

Havelock. Not Havelock "still" but Havelock "again". We left at 7:00 in the rain with the scent of magnolia in the air. (My mother's horticultural identification has changed "jasmine" to "magnolia".)

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Magnolia, not jasmine

We start in the rain, riding into a headwind. The road is practically flat but the wind is grinding. There is no point in beating ourselves up by fighting it. Slow and steady wins the race.

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New Year's Eve 1

After thirty kilometers we are drinking soup in Rai, soaked to the skin. Our wet clothes suck the heat from our bones. Five kilometres later we are on the Rai Saddle. Gales rise up like a mountain demon and declare "You shall not pass!". Gusts grip the front panniers and shake them back and forth like a terrier with a rat. "We need to stop!" I shout. "We can't stop – it's too steep!" "I can't steer!!" We stop. This is not fun. It is not safe. We turn tail and ride back to Havelock. (We found out later that cars were aquaplaning.)

Another tandem pulled in just after our return. Kevin and Sharon starting cycling from Nelson that morning. A truck driver passed them on their first climb (a brutal one) and took pity. He stopped at the next town and waited for them. He had the back open to give them a lift when they arrived.

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Fellow travellers (Kevin and Sharon)

Kevin and Sharon had been touring the South Island exclusively, with more success than us. He has real climbing gears: 22 teeth on the front and 41 on the back. (By comparison, ours are 26 and 36.) They love New Zealand drivers, who don't try to run you off the road. (They live in Australia where, I gather, drivers are more aggressive towards cyclists.)

Every bit of clothing we wore this morning is soaked. We hang them in the bathroom under a heater and watch from our room as the rain sluices down.

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Hung out to dry

New Year's Eve is spent in our motel room watching DVDs in black and white. It is very romantic. Sort of. By late evening the wind has stopped and the sky is clear. The almost-full moon is rising behind the trees, waxing on the wrong side. Orion nods in the north, and the Southern Cross is low on the horizon. Happy New Year, my dear.

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New Year's Eve 2

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11 comments on “New Zealand 2014/15”

  1. MJ Ray wrote:

    The images aren't showing for me 🙁

  2. Kern wrote:

    Hi MJ. Thanks for the feedback. I've broken up the report into multiple pages. It should load now. Let me know.

  3. thank you so much for this lovely write up. we were in NZ but not cycling in 2001. We spent 4 wonderful days kayaking Queen Charlotte sound from Havelock. you have brought back some lovely memories.

  4. Kern wrote:

    Hi Brenda – I'm glad you enjoyed it. We have never kayaked, but I can see how Queen Charlotte sound would be spectacular to do so. It is wonderful territory.

  5. Hi There Mary and Kern
    Really enjoyed reading your trip report. We will never forget the tandem spread all over the floor in room 3. Hope we meet again in the not too distant future. 27 degrees here today.
    Love. John & Christine

  6. Patrick wrote:

    That is a great read Kern. The conclusion, unwritten, appears to be (as the man said): "You must always go a bit outside your comfort zone. If you don't, your comfort zone gets smaller." That is very true but mine has reached a point where I always need a plan. I think there's something to be said for it but perhaps it doesn't matter later when you look back. One of our sons spent six months in New Zealand and the thing he enjoyed most was the wilderness (on the South Island).

    Regarding camping on a cycle tour, I think it has to be one thing, or the other. I have sat in some pleasant accommodation and thought drat... we're camping again tomorrow night.

  7. Claire wrote:

    I read it all in one sitting! I did not expect a trip report to have so much dramatic tension, it was like reading a short story. I think you had your A-HA moment after all!! (It just didn't involve scenery... pfff over-rated).
    Also I really like the style of text interspersed with relevant photos and the "punny" photo captions.

  8. Kern wrote:

    "Dramatic tension" – holy cow, Claire, no wonder you're my favourite daughter-in-law 🙂 .

    Patrick, I'm tickled that you came to such a philosophical conclusion. Our main conclusion was a bit more prosaic: Don't plan a cycling trip between Christmas and New Years. (The North Island poses extra touring challenges, in that it is impossible to avoid heavy traffic.)

    We're with you on camping. Next time we leave the gear behind, unless we're in the Rockies.

    27 degrees. Hmmm .... well, it's almost 27 today as well (depending on which scale you use).

  9. Andrew wrote:

    Loved every moment reading of the trip, thanks Mary and Kern, especially Mary sweeping in The Shire... And Kern shaving half the lonely planet 🙂
    My favorite photo of the year is Mary sweeping we are going to frame that here!
    Impressive adventure and a lot of tough cycling undertaking. Although I'm sure that wine bottle holder for the bike came in handy though! never seen one before!?
    Congrats on another great adventure on the bike! Look forward to the next one

  10. Kern wrote:

    Andrew wrote

    ... that wine bottle holder for the bike ...

    Wine bottle holder??? Mary told me it was water!

    (Mary couldn't help herself with that broom. She just picked it up and started sweeping like it was the most natural thing in the world 🙂 .)

  11. Gerard wrote:

    Thank you. As a Kiwi, I enjoyed this. I will ride the Tour Aotearoa next February: look it up, as it's a slightly more off-road version of your trip, from top to bottom.

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