New Zealand 2014/15

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Saturday January 3

New Zealand 1622

A new dawn

A day in the city. We ride through town to Sumner, a suburb, so we can at least see the ocean. Para-surfers on the bay lean back into the wind and let themselves be pulled by the big gusts in huge arcs above the water.

New Zealand 1651


We had forgotten about the earthquake that hit Christchurch four years ago. The city was originally built on reclaimed swampland and, when the earthquake struck, the ground under the buildings turned liquid. The city literally had the stuffing knocked out of it. Its reputation was one of galleries, museums, and architectural delights. These are all gone.

New Zealand 1645

The wake of the quake

Today buildings are still cordoned off with fronts of twisted metal and crumbling brick. Downtown is gap-toothed – everywhere a building collapsed there is a parking lot. Shipping containers are stacked in front of those facades that are still standing to hold them in place.

New Zealand 1671

Containing the damage

At a shopping mall on Oxford Street they retrofitted shipping containers into storefronts, fitting them with doors and windows. It gives the whole area the funky look of an outdoor pedestrian mall.

New Zealand 1634

Oxford street

Immediately after the quake, the city fathers had to prioritize the rebuilding effort. They decided it was necessary to revitalize the city centre, the area hardest hit, to bring people back and build city spirit. So their first priority was to rebuild the rugby stadium, at great cost. As a result, some people lived for years on streets with portable toilets while a world class stadium was being built.

Government grants and insurance claims are still being processed according to priority. One woman we met continues to make mortgage payments on a house she can't live in; because she is self-employed bankruptcy is not an alternative.

Will Christchurch regain its old form? It puts on a brave face, but the reality will be hard.

When writing a postcard that night the thought struck. It was a beautiful postcard with a smashing photo – the kind that makes you catch your breath and say to yourself "I wish I was there". These are the moments you strive for on a tour, when all the hours of grinding pay off with a spectacular vista or unique setting. That is what has been missing the past few days. Riding across the Canterbury plain was pleasant, but there was never an "A-Ha" moment.

Sunday January 4

We take the train back to Blenheim. We are now under time constraints.

New Zealand 1736

Salt flats

The afternoon is spent riding through wine country. It is easy riding, depending on how many tastings one has had. At Wither Hills, two pinot noires from vineyards 600 meters apart are like night and day, or as the sommelier put it, feminine and masculine. They serve a delicious lunch of lamb shank croquette with a mint hollandaise.

New Zealand 1786A

Wither Hills panorama

New Zealand 1794

Alternate transportation

In the late evening we return to Blenheim on quiet side roads. It is not quite a hard day's ride, but very pleasant.

New Zealand 1818

Belle of Blenheim

Our motel hostess books us a spot at Cafe Raupo, and it is excellent. There is no distinction between indoors and outdoors Рwindows are open, breezes blow through, casual shoes and sandals cross thresholds with no transition. Caf̩ Raupo, Whither Hill, and the Hot Waves caf̩ show us that we may have cooked a lot of good food, but we may have missed a lot of good restaurants.

Monday January 5

Mary checks temperatures at home this morning – just to see. They range from plus 1 with freezing rain to minus 29 with severe cold warnings. Enjoy these last few days of sun, let the heat soak into the bones ...

The ride from Blenheim to Picton is straight out on Highway 1, with no deviation left or right. The shoulder is good all the way (except when it isn't). Traffic is fast but not too heavy. The road surface is pebbly and slows us down, but not as much as the wind. About 5 km outside Picton there is a nine percent hill – not too long but enough to remind the legs that there is a difference between wind and hills.

New Zealand 1857

The road to Picton

We meet a Dutch gentleman on the ferry who has lived in New Zealand for 45 years. He cycled Sri Lanka 5 years ago when he was 75 (not good for three reasons: humidity, potholes, diesel soot). You must always go a bit outside your comfort zone, he says. If you don't, your comfort zone gets smaller. He does not think NZ is suitable for touring cycling. The distances are too long and the scenery too similar.

New Zealand 1865

Negotiating the hotel elevator

Our hotel in downtown Wellington has cooking facilities, except there are no pots or pans (despite the sign in the room). The front desk rustles up some pans from the kitchen. While Mary cooks steak and mushrooms I flap a towel over the smoke detectors so the fire alarm won't go off and empty the hotel.

New Zealand 1873


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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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