Thursday, 22 November 2012

Back in New Zealand. Big update!

You might be wondering where I've gone and what's up with the blog. I haven't abandoned it, I just switched to writing in Czech for a while. So what's been going on since my return from the Pyrenees? I spent a week in the Slovenian Alps, as if I hadn't had enough mountaineering, rafting, canyoning and the sort sort. Then I tried to earn some cash picking grapes in France, which wasn't much of a success - I can still feel the knee and back pain from bending down for ten hours a day, trying to pick grapes that grow practically on the ground, and not earning more than a few lousy euros.

Last, but not least, I visited London in October and it was really nice seeing all my friends and colleagues and knowing that I only have to put up with the big city for a week. I really enjoyed moving around a place I'm so familiar with, as if I had only been gone on a long holiday. Despite my reluctance to live in London, it was, after all, my home for five years. Between all these trips I spent quite some time in Prague, sending many many liters of Czech beer down my throat and grinding the videogames I was waiting to play for a whole year.

So, all in all, it was quite an eventful summer, finished by a nice 24h flight to Christchurch. That's right, I'm back in New Zealand! As I write these words, the Picton-Wellington ferry is lolling its way across the Cook Strait and soon we'll be disembarking in the North Island. With my pushbike, all ready for the next big trip - 3000km from Wellington to Cape Reinga.

I'm really glad I managed to stick with the plan I had in mind long before leaving NZ in May. After the comeback, I wanted to do a quick "rememberance trip" down south, which I did with my sister and we had a really good time. For me it was real remembrance, revisiting the places I enjoyed last year, and seeing some new things as well (for instance Mt Cook from the West Coast, we got really lucky with the weather). The best moment was biting into a Fergburger, the sole and only reason why I wanted to go to Queenstown. The trip ended in Nelson, where we got together with some friends, enjoyed a bit of culture (Nelson really is the South Island's cultural capital) and to finish it off in great style, I went for a two-day hike in Nelson Lakes - crossing a snow-covered ridge to Angelus Hut.

Unfortunately, Nelson wasn't the real "ending in great style". It did make quite a large hole in my budget, since it's virtually impossible to spend a week in that city without enjoying the local pub scene, which is why I lingered in Blenheim for a while, earning some of the well spent dollars back.

And now, after a month on the South Island, I'm finally heading North. Hopefully my cycling endeavors will be more successful than the two rides I tried last week. First I rode from St Arnaud to Blenheim, and it was a disaster. For the third time on the same road, and for the third time with a bloody strong headwind that turned an enjoyable ride into a nightmare. After 20km I decided I don't need this and stopped a car that gave me a lift the rest of the way. It's either me or the Wairau Valley, but one of us is definitely cursed.

Something similar happened today on my way from Blenheim to Picton. It's only 30km, a nice and very simple ride, but I managed to make it a race against time, turning a simple ferry catching into an adrenaline sport. As usual. I left too late to reach the ferry terminal in time, but I still tried very hard to get there. Pedalling like crazy against a northerly headwind that wasn't making things easier, yet I almost made it. However, some ten kilometres before Picton I decided not to risk it and stopped another car asking for a lift. It turned out to be a good decision. I would have probably got to the ferry in time even with the bike, but it would have been really close. It saved me 61 dollars worth of ferry ticket, for the humble price of forgetting my 50-dollar helmet in the car...

But here I am, starting my big 3000km journey from Wellington to Cape Reinga. I've got a pretty nice itinerary that involves some hiking as well - Mt Egmund and Tongariro National Park. However, the hiking is a big question mark. Up until a few days ago I kept praying for good weather, but now the odds against me have rocketed sky-high with the latest news of pressure building up in the volcanic pipelines, threatening with an imminent eruption. Isn't that just nice? The volcano decides to blow itself up after a hundred years, just when I include it in my travelling plans... Anyway, I'll be focusing my traveling efforts on the cycling part as much as possible - not only to keep up with the tight schedule, but also to enjoy the many cyclepaths that have been recently developed around the country. It's a long way to Cape Reinga!

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