Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cycling New Zealand - How it began

I'm officially a long-distance cyclist! And I finally got the time to write about it!

My cycling adventure started on an early October morning in Nelson, the northernmost city of the South Island. but not before recovering from an exquisitely unpleasant hangover. Never go to a pirate party dressed as a software pirate.

The pedalling, however, started in Havelock, 70km from Nelson. There are two big hills between the towns and the only way to get through is a steep, windy road with no shoulder and always full of trucks. There was no way I was going to start my journey with suicide, so I took a bus.

If you're wondering why I decided to cycle around NZ, it's because I wanted to do something different than most travellers. No mainstream car/van solution for me.

Queen Charlotte Sound.
Day 1 - Friday 7 Oct 2011
Distance ridden: 50 km; Route: Havelock - Anakiwa - Queen Charlotte Track section 1 (Anakiwa - Mistletoe Bay and back); Weather: cloudy, warm.

My first destination was Anakiwa, a little village marking the start of the Queen Charlotte Track, about 20km from Havelock. As the first drops of sweat started trickling down my face and my muscles started screaming in agony, I realized this cycling thing wasn't going to be a walk in the park. And that was just the beginning.

My plan was to spend four days on the Queen Charlotte track (140 km both ways), but plans are designed to fail... Queen Charlotte is a bloody hard one and it was very naive to think I could tackle it on a loaded bike, with slick tyres and a questionable amount of fitness. Not to mention the mud.

Queen Charlotte Sound. With horses.
Despite the difficulties, I really enjoyed the first section (Anakiwa - Mistletoe Bay, 12,5 km), but as soon as I hit Mistletoe, things got complicated. First I took a wrong turn and lost an hour (and lots of energy) by cycling from one dead end to the next. When I finally hit the right way, it was too late to make it to the next campsite before dark, and it had started to rain, making the path awfully slippery (I had a few really close calls on the cliffs). Of the two options - push on or stay in Mistletoe, I didn't like either, so I took a third one. When I found out that the first section of the track was the easiest, I simply turned back. There was a warm bed waiting for me in Anakiwa. I didn't chicken out, I just weighted out the pros and cons and made a wise decision.

I ended up staying in Anakiwa for four days, helping the lovely English couple owning the hostel do some upgrade works (lots of digging and concrete making, good honest hard work).

Picton ferry.
Day 2 - Tuesday 11 Oct 2011
Distance ridden: 50km; Route: Anakiwa - Picton - Blenheim; Weather: rain in the morning, then sunny.

The highlight of the day was my first (and hopefully last) crash. Riding a bike loaded with 25 kilos on the rear wheel is not the same as riding a usual one. Riding a bike with 25 kilos down a wet, steep and windy road is another story altogether. Riding a loaded bike and not being used to it can end very badly. One turn was sharper than I expected and even though I wasn't going that fast, the rear wheel started skidding and I went flying, with the bags and everything. Luckily for me there were no cars at that moment, or I might have never had the chance to write these words...

Except from a few scratches I was unharmed, but I couldn't say the same for the bike. The rear wheel got 8-shaped and the last 8 km to Picton were quite interesting. Since there's no bike shop, the following 28 kilometres to Blenheim were interesting, too. To finish the story on a brighter note, the repair took half an hour and cost me 32 dollars (a new rim would cost 200).

1 comment:

  1. holy! that is really fucking big ferry!!!


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