Tickets were booked in January and dates were fixed. Mary steadily lost ounces all summer in preparation for the trip; I gallantly made up for her losses.
New tires installed in October scraped against one side of the rear mud guard. A rotary tool was used to trim back the edge.
The route was undecided. A map in the living room was covered with sticky notes of possible alternatives. I contacted cycletour.org.nz and asked about routes. Their advice (very friendly): we should be on the South Island. Our plan is to ride the North Island. Indecision, self-doubt, panic. North Island or South? We flip the map from North Island to South Island. Two days later, we flip it back. Their other advice: “Beware of maniacal drivers – not me, everyone else.”
Two weekends are spent packing up Lady CoMo. She is padded, wrapped, fitted, cushioned and cradled in her suitcases. Assembly and disassembly steps are listed in detail.
Cushioned, cradled and coddled
We do a practice packup of clothes and camping gear. To camp or not to camp? That is the big and weighty question.
One week before departure we check our will and draft a new one. Just in case. I shovel eight inches of snow the day we leave.
The two week NZ weather forecast can be summarized in one word: rain.
Tuesday, December 15
New Zealand. John from SpringCurl Lodge picks us up at the airport.
SprinCurl is a 40 acre farm outside Clevedon with deer, sheep, ostriches, cows, and lots of dogs and cats. John and Christine run a bed and breakfast in a house that was purpose-built four years ago. The rooms are superb. At 15 x 15 feet there is more than enough room to assemble a tandem indoors out of the rain.
Assembly at SpringCurl
Wednesday December 16
We wake to gale force winds, horizontal rain, and jet lag. We were supposed to ride today.
The rear mud guard is rubbing again, this time on the other side. I spend the morning scraping it back with a utility knife.
By midday Mary is hungry and therefore grumpy. We get dressed to ride into town. Then the rain, which was falling all morning, really starts. We wait for it to pass. Clevedon is friendly with great fish and chips. The locals promise the weather will end by New Year’s. We leave a water bottle and a helmet cover in town.
During the final packup we do our last eliminations. I cut the Lonely Planet Cycling Guide in half to save weight – we only need the North Island. The South Island will wait for another time. We take out the camp stove. We put it back in.
The two day forecast has changed to sun. Ride on!
Thursday December 18th (Clevedon to Thames)
And we are off.
In Clevedon I stop at the town’s only traffic circle to check the map. Just in case …
“Well, it’s a good thing it’s raining. Now I know why I brought these socks.” Rain clothes go on. Rain clothes come off. Repeat. Many times throughout the day.
The road is up and down with lush vegetation, hedges of hydrangea, and pohutukawa trees with fiery red blossoms. Pohutukawa is the Christmas tree of New Zealand. Blue and green parrots flit from tree to tree.
Tree and Bee
The first real climb of the trip is out of Kawakawa. “Back Breaker” is what one local called it – it is four kilometres at close to 10 percent.
We coast down for a picnic at Orere Point and then have another climb. At the top Mary asks, “Where is the camera?” Uh oh. Back down. The camera is still hanging on the school fence where I left it. That first climb was just for practice anyway.
School fence (without camera)
After Orere the road turns flat, hugging the shore along salt marshes. The Famous Fish and Chips stand in Kaiaua serves excellent … (you’ll have to guess). We chat with a policeman about traffic. Limits were just lowered with a zero tolerance policy and a wide public awareness campaign. Does he mean speed or alcohol limits?
Coast to the coast
We reach Miranda, our objective for the day. We are well past it before we realize it exists only as a name on the map and a roadside sign.
Café with a sense of hunour
So we carry on. The final 25km on Highway 2 is very busy with a shoulder and a headwind. By the time we reach Thames we are beaten up – we had not counted on 100km our first day.
Highway 2 to Thames
Lamb’s neck stew (bony)