In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Motor's Trying to Gobble my Money!


I’ve been talking to those nice Vietnamese fellaesses at the embassy on the phone today. They explained to me that the reason that I haven’t got my passport and Visa decision back is simply because it is Chinese New Year (and one must assume Vietnam New year) and they have been too busy wine-ing, dining and making merriment to process it. I certainly can’t argue with the logic of that. So when I get to Wellington on Wednesday I will just drop in to see how they’re going and to reassure them that I am of fine character and will be of great amusement to their citizens when I finally turn up in August.

The Chinese Embassy should be open for business by then too I hope. Talking of going to Wellington, Adi told me off for suggesting that I would go on the Vespa. She said she was very disappointed in my attitude and that if I didn’t watch it I could morph into one of those lazy good for nothing motorists that I hate so much. It just goes to show you how an addiction like that can slowly creep up on you. I simply used the Vespa for a couple of jobs last week when my Mercian was out of action and already I was planning to take it on an extended trip! She had every right to be disappointed in me. In addition to the lazy arse attitude, taking a Vespa on the ferry is considerably more expensive than a bicycle. Not to mention petrol. I bet you’ll be knocked over backwards when I tell you that it costs $14 NZ to fill up that hungry little fella! If that wasn’t enough to make you see red the fact that $7 of that is tax would surely send you over the edge.

So I’ve cancelled my big ride to Golden Bay and on Wednesday I’ll cycle to the ferry and catch the evening sailing to the big smoke. And in doing so I’ll leave the motorists to pay all that tax to the Government. Thank you Adi for showing me the error of my ways.  The two low rider bags on the front and a big saddlebag at the back should be enough for that trip. I won’t need to camp on this trip and I don’t need to dress up to visit my mother in hospital because she has dementia and ten minutes after I’m gone she has forgotten she has seen me. In fact while I’m there she won’t recognise me as her son. She’ll just think I’m a strangely dressed orderly or come in to fluff the pillows.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Car Culture

I’m sitting here on the couch thinking about little else except my global cycle. For periods of each day I’m functioning like a normal human being going about my business of socialising, fixing things, eating and doing other tasks but always there’s this constant pressure in my head regarding getting things done for the trip. The biggest problem for me is that I can’t seem to get traction in anything important.

I can’t help but think of Lance Armstrong’s book ‘It’s Not About the Bike’. This is as true for me as I struggle to get to grips with issues regarding the trip that don’t involve cycling at all. I’m off on a day ride tomorrow that I mentioned in my previous posting. I thought it was about 200km but Adi informs me that it is closer to 300km. But really it doesn’t matter as I feel fit enough to do any amount of cycle touring. It’s the other stuff…

While I’m out riding tomorrow I’m going to have to ring the Vietnam Embassy because I have heard nothing from them since the constant hassle  from them while I was away cycle touring. Now I have given them all the info they requested they have decided to forget about me while hanging onto my passport!

Well, have I got news for them.

I need to apply for my Chinese Visa.  Since the fees are cheaper if I do it with my UK passport I thought I’d use that if I ever get it back from the Vietnamese fellas. But now having looked at the Chinese Visa application site, I see that dual citizens can only apply using the passport of the country that they are residing in! So I will have to apply with my NZ passport. So now I have an opportunity to lose both of my passports.

Luckily for me, but sadly for my mother and the Vietnamese fellas, my mother feel ill in Wellington last week and I have decided to go to Wellington to see her …….. And to sort those Vietnamese out!

So if they haven’t got something constructive to say on the phone I’ll be in their office on Thursday demanding my British passport back with a stamp in it! And then I’ll go around the corner to see what the Chinese have to say. And since they have just bought 10’s of thousands of acres of NZ farm land they had better be obliging neighbours I say.

So on Wednesday after I have been to the dentist to have the rest of my teeth out( Which is probably why you don’t smile on passport photos), I will jump on the Vespa and ride to that bloody ferry again to head over to Wellington.(Knowing my luck there will be a Southerly gale blowing)

Why don’t I get on my Mercian and cycle to Wellington with full camping kit you ask? The answer, if you can’t guess is because I’m still not over the last little expedition.

Looking at the Kazakhstan Visa blurb seems to indicate to me that I can get a 3day transit visa at the airport when I arrive. And if I cycle fast that will be enough time to get to China. That’s good enough a reason for me not to worry about any other visas.

A couple of days ago Adi and I did the ‘recreational Cyclist’ thing.  I.e. we got on our bikes and decided to ride the cycle trails along the beach, through the forest and via the new cycle trail and bike ferry up the coast for an ice cream before returning the same way. Just piddling about basically.

Now this trail is also supposed to be part of the regions cycling network and not just for day trippers.

My question is;

When is New Zealand going to take cycling seriously as a means to get around? And not simply believe that the bicycle is just for playing around on in the weekends and for racing the odd mtb circuit, or around the block on a Tuesday night?

There will always be people who want to play on their bikes. But some of us want to use them for every day transport as an alternative to the blessed car.

Now back to our ride.

Having negotiated the city cycle way that had a sign on it advising cyclists to go somewhere else because the main cycle way through town was too narrow due to road works, we cycled all the way along the coastal cycleway to find out that the ferry only goes across the estuary every 2 hrs. and not after 4pm! How honestly could anyone ever use this track for commuting by bike???
Not too Dissimilar to this.

Once I get back from riding around the world the Council will still be trying to figure out why people refuse to ride to work and back.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Fixing this and That.

Not much cycling was done in the last week. I didn’t feel that I needed any kind of fitness training after the last two weeks. I therefore took the opportunity to do the final maintenance on the Mercian before she heads out overseas for the ride of her life. In addition to the maintenance work I had to go and see Andy (the bicycle engineer of Nelson), to see if he could repair the damaged thread in my rear dropout. He gave me the welcome advice that he could fix it. So I threw the bike on the back of the Vespa and delivered it.
Bike Repair...

While Andy was performing his magic on my $2000 dollar English frameset I went off to the make an appointment with the Travel Doctor for all the vaccinations I will need. I’m thinking I’m going to need everything from Rabies shots to Jap Encephalitis and Yellow fever. Throw in some Hepatitis, Cholera, Typhoid, Malaria pills and why not have a tetanus booster while I’m at it. Luckily for me I’m not squeamish when it comes to needles. Although I definitely can’t watch while they do it. It won’t be cheap.

 But having said that. It’s not in the same cost league as my next call, which was to the dentist for a check-up. I thought it best not to go overseas without having a check-up because I hadn’t been to the dentist for a wee while. It’s never good news of course. I could either have all my teeth out or get a small loan to have 3 cavities fixed and a clean. I might impose austerity measures on myself and just get the fillings done and shelve the clean. Doc said he’d give me a prescription for some antibiotics too in case I have problems while I’m away.
And Teeth.

Back home again I replaced a few final bits that were worn on the’ Mercian Urban Machine’;

-New bearings in Wheels

-New chain and Cluster

-New tyres and tubes

-New headset

-New crank set

-New pedals

-New SH rear derailleur

-New brake and gear cables

-Two additional drink bottle cages on handlebars

I think that was the sum of it for now. All these bits I had stockpiled for years in some cases for just this moment. And when I get back some of the old stuff will go back on my M.U.M because there’s still life in it. But I don’t want to invite breakdown on the road by using old stuff for the trip.

There will still be the odd last minute tweak like new brake blocks.

Then for the rest of last week it was back to being a home handyman as I set about removing a bit more rotten timber about ‘Potters-End’. ‘Potters-End’ has received the same low rate of attention in the last ten years as my teeth so there’s more rot to get onto next week.

I’ve still got to see Di my Travel Agent this week if I can, and I’m hoping the nice Vietnamese people might send my passport back with a stamp in it.

Since I haven’t done any cycling to speak of, I thought I might cycle the 200km return journey to Golden Bay on Sunday to check out the latest whale stranding. Despite being warned on numerous occasions they are still landing without authorisation, and making camp on the beach. The reason for this illegal camping seems as mystifying as that of the ‘Occupy Movement ‘ in our main centres. The tossers cause might be more understandable if we could begin to decipher what’s going through these waste of spacer heads.

I continue to live in hope that out there somewhere among the people I know there might be someone who would like to accompany me on the cycle trip of a lifetime. In fact if I wasn’t already on this expedition I’d have to be part of it. Where’s the adventure in people these days? I suppose it’s all for the best. A companion would just keep me awake with their snoring or demand that we only drink herbal teas. Worse still, with others, I might have to spend precious drinking time searching for vegetarian restaurants or bottled water.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Thanks for the Comments.

Until I figure out how to reply to the comments in the proper way I'll just reply here.

Thanks to the positive comments. I'll take you up on the offer of that shower Jack. I  take it that you and Lauren didn't make it to NZ this summer. Hope to see you in Melbourne.

How you guys going Fixiepixie. Great Divide cycle idea is a good one. so good in fact that not last year but the year before I cycled portions of it with the BOB trailer and Adi took the road options. It was great country and for a kiwi not used to angry animals it was a real eye opener as to the dangers in the wilderness. We were freedom camping on the Divide trail when A few people in Yellowstone National Park were attacked and one killed by a hungry bear with cubs. It scared the shits out of us.

Yes and I'd read that the Around the World record was down to 96days. But I'd never lower myself to do vehicle assisted cycling.(Real cyclists don't need vehicle assistance). If I woke up tomorrow and there were no vehicles in the world it would make me so happy that I might even go out and kiss a baby and that's saying something!

I agree Ian. I have found for me that huge kms on the bike each day although physically possible is just a recipe for mental zombieness so I will tweak the schedule so that if I choose I can still do big kms but it will put me ahead of schedule instead of trying to always chase the carrot and just missing it. If I'm ahead of schedule I can then either Bring my next flight forward or chill out in some neat place sipping cool beverages and chatting to the locals. (While the Round the world racers ride the state highways and eat at truck stops in an attempt to beat the record).

Touring Training Done & Dusted.

It was cold in the tent overnight so I didn’t sleep much. Sure enough when I got up in the morning the weather had changed to the South and it was clear and cold. But more importantly there was no wind to speak of. It was going to be a big day and I was determined to get as close to home in nelson as possible.
Backroads of New Zealand.

I was on the bike by 7am. Time saved by not bothering to have breakfast before leaving. I’d already confirmed that the takeaway shop in the village opened at 7am. So my first stop was to stock up on food. There would be no food available along the alpine route and then when I finished that, the town of St Arnaud was 8kms off route. So I didn’t want to stop there unless I had to camp for the night. With this in mind I bought at the Village store, 3packs of sandwiches, a meat pie, drink and a few chocolate bars.
The Long road Ahead.

Then it was onto the 4x4 route across the pass. Things didn’t start well with the gradient on the gravel being too steep for my gearing with the bike loaded for touring. The problems compounded by the fact that I had road shoes on. So pushing the bike up the hill was pretty hard mentally. But having ridden this route on the local moutain bike event a couple of times I knew that once you got up the pass the gradient got easier.

I reached the top and the temperature was only 5 degrees C. I ate my meat pie for breakfast quickly ever conscious of getting on. 100kms of gravel I knew would take a bit of time on the touring bike. I was stopped at the 25km mark by a Conservation Officer doing a survey of road users. When he asked me of my destination for the day and I said Nelson, still 150kms away, he just laughed.

I got back on the bike and I just kept it going forward up a long valley with predominately a cross wind. At the 50km mark I had to push my bike up and over another saddle once again punishing my road shoes in the gravel. But at the top I was now optimistic of achieving the first goal of completing the gravel alpine road because now the gradient was downwards and the wind was not hindering me. The temperature had warmed up to 15 degrees C. I was going to have lunch at the 50km mark but I didn’t bother and just pushed on, focused on the bigger goal of getting off the gravel and then starting the 75km sealed stage to Nelson.

Beech trees & Rushing Blue Waters.

After 105kms I was out of the gravel and in a good positive mood. I stopped long enough to have one sandwich, some drink and to be attacked by vicious san flies. By 5pm I was starting the 70kms of sealed road home. I was tired but confident that I could do it even if I had to grovel and use my lights for the final kilometres. Two hills separated me from my bed at home. I paced myself and munched on my last two sandwich packs.

I rolled into my driveway at 9pm, just on dusk, without needing my lights after completing 175kms. Fourteen hours on the bike. I felt better and better in the last 40kms probably as a result of eating more regularly. Obviously mentally I was in a pretty good place as well having successfully completed such a hard ride .It was good way to finish the circuit of the South Island.

After Adi had feed me and propped me up on the sofa she said “Well are you cancelling the Around the World ride?”

“No, I said” I’m still ready to have a go at it, but it better not be any harder than the last two weeks. Let’s just have another wee look at those mileages you had planned for me in South America”.
I wake up this morning none the worse for wear but happy to be home after 15 days of pretty full on cycling. I'll have to add up my total mileage for the first two weeks of the year. it should look pretty healthy.
When I can face it, and only after I've mown lawns etc, I'll have to sort my trusty Mercian out.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

I'm Over It.

I’m still here at Hamner Springs Village waiting for the weather to change. The trip has certainly taken a turn for the worse.  It’s quite surprising that things can change so much in the last push for home. And in an area that I really considered almost local terrain.
My Face Says it All. Stuck in a Bad Spot.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe mentally I was prepared for an easy trip over Lewis Pass and then getting home as planned. Or perhaps the last 12 days were too full on? Maybe I’m suffering from a bit of heat stroke? But for whatever reason I woke up at 5am this morning feeling like I’d just had enough of the whole thing and just wanted to get home and forget about the whole around the world thing.

The weather here has been continuous gale force head winds and scattered rain. I was going to cycle the alpine route today but Adi phoned and said conditions looked bad on the weather forecast. When I checked on the computer she was right. Gale head winds and showers including hail. Not conditions that I want to ride a touring bike over the gravel alpine road. Especially with my negative attitude. So today I sat it out again. Hamner Springs is an ok place to be stranded. It has hot pools (which I didn’t use to save money), food and the motor camp has all the amenities. This didn’t improve my spirits throughout the day because I miss Adi and a bit of company. And obviously I’m constantly asking myself whether I want months of this in the world trip.

Physically the two days off has given my blistered lips a chance to heal a bit. I always get cracked and blistered lips cycle touring for more than a week. I try to put lip balm on but it makes little difference. I’m lucky that this is really the only physical discomfort that I suffer. Maybe I should try a Buff over my mouth when I cycle in future.
That's Where I Want to Go. Doesn't Look Flash.

The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be good. If I’m lucky I may even get a light tail wind. A Southerly change was forecast on the TV weather and confirmed by the National Parks weather on the computer. The temperature outside has also fallen so it may be a nippy night in the tent. Anyway it’s going to be an early start and then I’ll see how far I get towards Nelson.

Tomorrow I leave regardless. But when I get home I have to ask myself whether I can endure the lonely life of the solo cycle tourist.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

I Turn Tail and Run.

I was well and truly beaten by the weather today. I fare welled Adi on the Vespa at about 10am and prepared for the ride across Lewis Pass to a spot of freedom camping at about the 130km mark. I thought that would give me a comfortable 170km to cover to get home the next day. At the back of my mind I thought that if conditions were not too bad I might even get to Murchison and that would give me an easy 100km ride on my last day.

However all those dreams were dashed as I approached the bottom of the Pass and experienced stronger and stronger head winds. Within 10kms of the base of the Pass winds were at gale force, I was in ultra-low gears climbing the rises and having trouble keeping the bike on the road. Thankfully traffic was low but still unpredictable. I also failed to mention the rain. Best described as driving and painful on my sun blistered lips.

I’ve cycle raced and toured this road a lot over the years and know that when conditions are like this on the East side of the Pass it means that you have heavy rain on the other side (usually with less wind). I’ve even cycled this Pass at 3am in the morning during long distance races and the same extreme wind just blows all night. I saw no let up today and a miserable afternoon awaiting if I managed to get over it against this wind. So I made the decision to turn tail and retreat. I turned around and rode back to a place called Hamner Springs at the foot of the Pass but further East retracing my steps by about 25kms. The tail wind was now so strong that I was travelling at 50km /hr without pedalling!

So here I am at Hamner Springs contemplating how to get over this range and back to Nelson.
Plan B. 4 Wheel Drive Road Home. Heading for the Sausage.

I’ve decided upon thinking hard on the issue to take the Rainbow 4 Wheel Drive alpine road tomorrow. This gravel road cuts directly towards Nelson and is basically 112kms of gravel with the occasional stream crossing. Once I come out the other end I’ll have just 80kms of mainly downhill riding to get home. Whether I can do all this tomorrow with a loaded touring bike is questionable but it is a shortcut be it a rough one. One thing for sure though is that I won’t have to put up with any trucks, campervans or other annoying petrol heads.

I hope that Adi got home safely on her Vespa. Conditions would have been extreme and I really feel sorry for her. Gale force wind and rain with leaky wet weather gear and being pushed off the road by selfish drivers would be both scary and really unpleasant. I’m hoping to get a text from her to say all is ok and she made it. She had to get home tonight to get to work tomorrow.

Off now to fry up my steak and throw down my premade pasta salad.
Abandoned Nursing Home at Hamner Springs. Might Grab A Room.

I recall that when I was 13yrs old my friends and I got caught out the same way having to freedom camp at the base of the pass and having scary lightning and thunder all night. I do recall that we made it the next day but it was certainly a night I will always remember. Adi and I also had lightning, thunder and rain last night. I hope tonight is calm and tomorrow calmer again.

Always Pick the Top Bunk.

O’ Here we go again. If I sound a little tired it’s because I am. Physically my body is running well. I have no sore bits on the bike. No sore bum, feet or muscles to speak of. After my first days ride I was physically tired and the next day I had sore muscles. But now I feel just mentally over it.

Today I got up. Couldn’t be bothered with breakfast so just got on my bike and rode the 55kms to Adi’s mothers place and then had coffee and scones which was nice. But all the way there I was just thinking; OK I’m up to speed again physically and can ride the bike for as long as I need as long as I just keep putting the fuel in. But I’m stale with it mentally and I think Adi and I should stay an extra day in Christchurch to see the earthquake damage and then rent a van, throw Vespa and bike in the back and drive home.
More of the Same. Pedal , Pedal, Pedal.

The thing is I won’t be able to do that when I’m overseas I’ll just have to get on with it. I think the problem is that I didn’t get enough sleep last night. By the time I’d blogged and I’d checked emails etc. it was midnight.

And then I did a stupid thing. There were two beds in the little cabin as bunks i.e.  top or bottom. and because I’d already put all my stuff on the top , I chose the bottom to sleep on. Bad move. The bottom bunk is where all the fat people sleep because they can’t get into the top bed. So I jumped in and the springs and mattress was so saggy that I almost rolled out. But I didn’t have the energy to shift everything and get into the top bunk so didn’t get a great night’s sleep.

I chatted to the relatives at Adi’s Mum’s place and tried to think positively about cycling the world. But at the moment it’s difficult.

Then on the bike again to complete a 165km day of average scenery to a place called Culverden  in North Canterbury. Culverden has no official motor camp so they charged us $10 each and gave us the key to the cricket clubrooms. No one else there so we had the place to ourselves. Adi made dinner and I lay around all over the place. (Thinking, stuff this).
I'm Just Over it Tonight.

Adi takes off on the motorbike home tomorrow and leaves me to finish the 300kms home on my own. The weather is supposed to pack in tomorrow over Lewis pass so I think I’ll do 130km tomorrow and sleep in the tent, probably in the rain , in the Pass somewhere. Then the next day I’ll complete the mission with a 170km.

No blog sending tomorrow night I think. As I will be pegged out under dripping beech trees, cowering from hungry sand flies. And there will be no internet coverage.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Is There Anything of Interest Out There.

Yesterday wasn’t boring it was just truck infested. Today was mind blowingly boring. Even cycling across Australia you had the chance of seeing a dingo , camel, or kangaroo. Today was 188kms of flat sun drenched cow country. If you find Pine trees and wheat fields interesting then this is your stretch of road. If you don’t mind battling for 10hours into whatever wind is served up then this is your ticket. Chatting to roadside farm animals is ok but since I’ve got to do the kilometres one cannot get to truly know them.

O’ and let’s not forget the trucks.  There is no God .I know this because if there was all truck drivers would have had one to many beers last night and exploded. The truckies were back playing with their rigs. They weren’t so much a problem from a safety point of view because once again there was a shoulder on the road. It was the constant noise of them going by. Last night I had truck rumble in my ears for an hour after I went to bed. I know this would be like a symphony to a trucker’s wife brought up on a diet of diesel engines and line dancing but I just wanted to get that noise out of my head. There were road trains in Aussie that rumbled past but only every 15minutes or so. Not one on the bumper of another.

Back to the boringness. I did find things to focus on. I could focus on the cycle computer ticking over. And I could focus on what kind of ice cream I’d get at my next stop. And now and again if you were lucky you’d see a sign in the distance and you’d look forward to what it would say and low and behold it would say something interesting like ‘Stock Effluent Disposal Area’

The high point of the day was catching up with Adi’s brother Simon and having a good chin wag about cycling and travelling. Then Adi said “Niel, on your bike, you’ve still got 100kms to do”

Once I was back on my bike Adi zoomed off and left me. I’m just too slow for her. I got a bit behind schedule with my repairs a few days ago so Adi took off to see her Mum in Christchurch and I’ve got to catch up tomorrow.
Check Out the Helmet and Glove Tan.

Tonight I’m in a little hut on the Rakaia River. It sure is quiet here but I’ve been here 3hrs now and I’m sure I can hear road noise in my head. Maybe if I do my prayers tonight God will grant my wish.

Trucks Trucks Everywhere.

The day dawned in Balclutha cloudy but calm. Thank Goodness for that. My goal was to ride the 90kms to Dunedin, have lunch and then finish the 100 odd kilometres in the afternoon. That would take me to Oamaru a reasonably large town on the East Coast.

I have to say at this point that not many cycle tourists ride the East coast of the South Island. This is for two reasons. Firstly, because the central road through Lake Tekapo is much more scenic, and secondly because the volume of traffic on the East Coast is heavy. State highway 1 is the main route between all the main centres on the East Coast and carries a lot of traffic. Adi and I lived in Dunedin for 10yrs and we also noticed that the further South you went the worse the drivers got.
A Cup of Tea in the Botanics.My Bike Patiently Waits.

All I can say on this particular day South of Dunedin was TRUCKS and lots of them. The road was just thundering with them. Luckily there was a bit of a shoulder or I would have been road kill within 20kms. The hills around Dunedin are pretty big as well. But I got to Dunedin as planned and met Adi in the Botanical gardens for lunch. Botanical gardens are always full of happy mothers pushing their babies and kids throwing things at the ducks. It’s all such homely bliss. Mums checking out whether their friend’s baby is as cute as they know their baby is. In the café Mums were foraging through the toy box looking for the toy that junior liked yesterday. But watching them having fun and reminiscing about how I hated the Botanical gardens as a kid wasn’t getting me up the coast.

So I left and attacked yet steeper hills North of Dunedin. Taking a Breather at the top of one of these buggers and with trucks still thundering past I got a call from the Vietnam embassy asking me questions about my Visa application. But between the noise of trucks shitting themselves up intense gradients and the accent of the Vietnam girl I couldn’t understand anything.
Truckers. I Fart in Your General Direction.

By 7.30pm the road was quietening. Truckers must be drinking or watching V8 car racing on TV or something. Without noise parts of the coast were rather scenic. If only NZ had a decent rail system and the truckies were busy loading freight wagons instead.

By 8pm I was in Oamaru (196kms travelled) and the washing, eating dinner, and arranging the tent was under way.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Otago; Wind, Gravel, and Hills.

As mentioned yesterday I expected to cover another 210kms today. But things quite often don't go to plan even when your in your own country and not only speak the lingo but are also semi familiar with the terrain.
Southern Cycling.

I lived in Otago for 10years and Adi and I bought our first house down here. I had only cycled North West Southland and Southern Otago a few times however and you can forget a few of the more relevant things. The first thing I forgot was the steepness of the hills. The other thing I forgot was the severity of the coastal winds. Those two things alone would probably have broken me today. The wind in the Catlins was so strong I could only just make headway in the middle chain ring. This really annoys me because I like pushing big gears (old school) and when I have to use what I consider hill climbing gears on the flat I need to control my frustration. Luckily as I have got older and particularly since my cycle trip across Australia I have learnt to control my frustrations when a few years ago I would have been swearing at everything that moved.

Anyway when I approached a hill of which there were many I had to chop down into the small ring on my triple chainwheel. These gears I usually hold in reserve for alpine passes pulling a BOB trailer.

I was not a happy camper. Especially as I had left early and I could see the days objective slowly becoming a fantasy.

But I wasn't totally beaten until the third hurdle hit me. Gravel. This was not really a mistake as I was on a route that I hadn't cycled before and had two maps neither of which gave any indication that it was comng. It transpired that on top of the hills and wind I had 40kms of loose gravel. The bike was equiped for it with 26 x 1.75 touring tyres but even then the camber on many of the corners was unrideable and I had Sidi road shoes on so walking wasn't a favoured option either.
Gravels Great When You're Not in a Hurry.

It all just costs time. Adi struggled a bit also with the Vespa in the gravel and in the wind. But today was one day I'd rather be on the motorbike.

I decided to cut my loses and stay at a place called Balclutha and only covered 125kms. But at least I got here early-ish and tomorrow is another day.

I certainly can't complain about the amount of sun I'm getting though. Since the wet day on the West Coast it has been beating down relentlessly.

Thanks for the comment regarding horses Jane. I thought you were the horse rider and karyn more the cyclist. Horses I'm sure dont mind gravel or wind. But certainly karyn needs to skill up on 'simple and cheap ways to keep your horse running smoothly' if she's going to work them over too hard. Either that or get her a cheap one she can thrash  and keep the good one for the weekends.

Sunny Southland.

Back on the bike at 8.30am for a leisurely 160km ride into Southland and Eastwards more than previously planned to try to make up for the time spent fixing my bike in Frankton. Adi and I had a quick look at the map the previous night and chose a motor camp at a place called Wyndham.
Just Time fir a Quick One.

I started out carefully expecting to hear a crunch any moment from my repair job. But by the 80km mark I had worked out that things were pretty good in the old transmission area with the only glitch being a jump in one gear. Obviously that was the gear that I used the most so the new chain was having trouble meshing with the worn teeth. I hope that as I go on this may get better. Either way I’ll just live with it until I get home because the chain, cluster, changer and chain wheel will all be changed for my global ride.

Adi zoomed off on the Vespa at this stage so she could get to the motor camp and get her bicycle off for her own ride while I plugged on enjoying the lovely fine weather and scenery in Southland. While riding I came to the conclusion that I had never actually cycled this route before. I’ve cycled most of NZ over the years so this is surprising.
They Really Know How to Build Shelter Belts in the South.

I had planned to cycle this route from the Southern Lakes to Invercargill some years ago with Adi but another woman got in the way. Now that I have your attention the story went like this;

Adi and I started the planned tour up North and then met an Alaskan women also heading down the West Coast towards Invercargill. This women was typical of a lot of cycle tourists in that she had a bike that she knew nothing about, the size of the bike was all wrong for her (it being far too big) and she  had dubious fitness.

It quickly became obvious when she got a puncture shortly after meeting us and not having a clue how to fix it, the problem also compounded by the fact that she didn’t have a pump that would fit the two different types of valves on her bike, that unless we cycled with her the whole way she would never make it. I thought it amazing that she was still alive if she rides her bike that ill equipped in Alaska.

Anyway to cut a long story short Adi and her got on like the best of friends so when in 7 days’ time  it became apparent that she had pulled her Achilles tendon from riding with the seat up too high the two of them decided to cut the bike tour short and rent a car to finish the trip. You can imagine how that went down with me. (Like a lead balloon, no disrespect to the 11 people just killed here hot air ballooning)

Women aye, however gorgeous they may think they are, real cyclists know that the bike always comes first. So that’s why I haven’t cycled this route today before.

Anyway at this stage I was rudely brought back to reality by a text from Adi who informed me that she had got a motel in Wyndham because we had added up the kms incorrectly and the days total was actually 210km!!
First Class Camping.

Needless to say I didn’t arrive to motel until 9pm. But first class camping it certainly is. Thank the Bike God that Adi is paying for it. One thing you can count on when you travel with the other sex, the accommodation is usually top notch. No empty culverts or hay barns for them.

Adi tells me it’s another 210km tomorrow if we are to stay on schedule. Joy.
ps. And thanks for the coments to the previous posting guys. Keep them coming. If I'd had problems with a Rohloff the other day, it would have all been over Ian, as I cant afford to fly in a German technician.

Friday, 6 January 2012


I hope all the World Cycle Race entrants are proficient at not only riding the big distances on the bike but also in making all repairs needed to the bike on the road.  The reason I say this is because both these disciplines will be needed in the event I’m sure.

I should have foreseen that today would not go totally to plan when I lost my sunglasses at the 60km mark. This is really no big deal because they were cheapy ones that I often use touring as it’s easy to misplace things. I leave my Rudy Projects at home for day rides. Still I’m usually really careful with my stuff so it was a sign of more to come today. I planned on an easy day of 130km taking me over New Zealand’s highest sealed road. (The Crown Range)
Also Nice

Lunch in Wanaka at the lake, not a problem, I even won another free caffeine drink. Then just up the valley to the Pass and over to Frankton (70kms). A light tail wind and maybe even a stop at the historic pub? Highest sealed road, I laugh at you I thought.

It was at about this time, as I changed a gear lower that I heard the not unfamiliar sound of a rear gear mechanism about to shit itself! Before I could bring the Mercian to full stop she had totally ripped the campag rear changer out of the frame into the spokes and severely bent my mudguard stays!

Now mudguard stays can be straightened even a mechanical simpleton could do that bit. The rear wheel could be re-trued something that was easily within my capabilities. I also thought that the frame hanger straightening was within my abilities on the road with what I had. But one look at the rear gear changer and mangled chain was enough to make a young roadie weep. I took the Campag changer off and left it on a fence post as there was not one piece worth salvaging. As there was no cell phone coverage in this remote area, and as I am not one of these modern sponsored adventurers who would have the parts, a mechanic, film crew complete with McDonalds burgers flown in (to be munched in the support vehicle while the bike was fixed) I decided that I would have to fix it or sleep under a bush in the pass that night.

I single speeded the bike with the little decent chain that I had and knowing that the climb up the pass was a hooer I single speeded it in the lowest gear that I had enough chain for. Then I was away gingerly.

The grunt up the Pass wasn’t actually the hard part as the bike held together. The problem was the 30kms to Frankton on the other side as a large proportion of it was on the flat. In my low gear I could only travel at a top speed of 13km/hr!

It took forever. But at least I made it.
All I Need is a White Camper to Wipe My Hands On.

I had a restless night’s sleep wondering how much damage I’d done to the thread in the dropout and whether I could get another gear changer to screw in. Sleep wasn’t helped by a party in a tent a bit over the way and a group of teenagers just grown out of their skate boards turning up at 3am to put their tent up. One of the girls was of the especially obnoxious sort that has to be heard over everyone else. What’s particularly upsetting for her now is that her whole purpose in life has been fulfilled. Her parents having I’m sure brought her up just to make my night in Frankton on the 5th Jan 2012 unpleasant. I suppose now she’ll just have to go off and have kids so that more cyclists in the future can lose sleep to this genetically challenged clan.

It’s the next day now and I have got the parts I need from the local bike shop. They let me use their tools when they realised I was in the trade and I’ve straightened stuff. Now I’m off to test ride and hope she holds together.

Average no. of kilometres expected to be covered today. Zero.

One of the more idiot World Race contenders actually thought he could average 0ver 200MILES a day! Ive listened to some crap in my time but that’s really up there. I’m looking forward to following how he goes during the event.

They reckon getting to the start line is the hard part. I’d have to disagree with that. I think riding this event could be the hardest part.

Free Drinks All Around.

Day 4.

Here I sit on the bed in a nice little chalet at Makarora . My eyes feel like they have sand in them as I had 90kms of consistent rain this afternoon after the 110km that I completed before lunch in the dry. Once again the West Coast scenery was superb and the rain although pretty thick and wettesh wasn’t a problem as long as I kept moving. That way I didn’t get cold.

I lost Adi at the half way point but since it was lunch time and my stomach was grumbling I just found the closest café and ordered three toasted sandwiches and a large Coke. I’d cycled up over the Haast Pass on previous occasions and had it figured out as a three toasted sandwiches sort of a climb without stops. I didn’t want to stop for three reasons; firstly because in the rain I just like to hunker down and just go until I get there, secondly because lack of time is always an issue with 200km days and finally the sand flies are ravenous in these parts.

Coming down off the pass I was thank full for my full mudguards as there were little streams of water all over the road and I could just let rip and not worry about being water blasted . Not only do the guards keep my cycle clothes cleaner they also keep the whole bike quite a bit cleaner.

I’m feeling stronger on the bike each day and now even take a few moments to chat to the cycle tourists I catch up with without fear that I’m wasting good recovery time at my next food stop. I’ve even cut back a bit on the caffeinated energy drinks. I can’t totally cut these out because they have a promotion where 1 in 5 is free and I like wining the free ones. This reminds me that I have one to redeem tomorrow.
Long Range Action Shot.

Time almost out again. Its 11.30pm and I’ve still got to throw down a couple of punnets of jelly and fruit before braving the outside toilet before hitting bed. Of course if I could find an empty coke bottle I wouldn’t need to brave the toilet.

Adi’s going to get on her bicycle in the morning and do a couple of hours so I think I will sleep in. I have 130kms over the Crown Range to Queenstown to deal to. That doesn’t sound too bad after today’s effort. I’m thinking the Crown Range could be a knarly little gravel road though. Nothing cycle touring is ever quite as expected I find. One thing I learnt as a kid ‘no matter how bad things on the bike are they can always get worse’.

Jelly time. .. It’s a tough life.
It Might be Raining But the Scenery was 10/10.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Getting Stronger.

Day 3

It was a great days cycling down the coast. My body I think is remembering what cycle touring is all about. And apart from some sore muscles we zoomed down the coast overtaking other cycle tourists like they were standing still.
Last Day on the Coast.

Adi met me at Hari Hari for lunch and informed me that there were quite a few cyclists behind me that I hadn’t seen. They must have sprung out of bushes after I had gone by. No doubt camping rough along the rivers.  The terrain can best be described as flat to rolling with the occasional gut buster of a climb. These nasty climbs are generally around Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. They are the result of debris that has over the years been deposited by the retreating glaciers.
It Just Looks so Idealic......

I overtook a couple of cycle tourists that were carrying so much stuff I had to force myself not to say anything. I’m sure they’re really comfortable when they stop but peddling all that stuff up some of the sharp climbs must rip your legs off. Further on I caught up with a French couple on their bikes and just as I was approaching the women got off her bike and just let it drop to the ground. Not a happy camper I think. I could have made a comment such as ‘doesn’t that model come with a stand?’ But felt that the time was not right.
Until You See the Size of the Mozzies.

Nothing else of note to report today. Fine weather, great scenery and the local sand-flies couldn’t fly fast enough to get me.  I’ve decided to try to get to a place called Makarora tomorrow. It will be a 200km day in the rain over Haast Pass but will be worth it for two reasons; firstly because the West coast of the South Island is not a nice place in the rain and secondly, it’s the only motor camp around. I don’t fancy freedom camping on the coast in the rain smeared in mosquito ointment.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Lovely Day on the Coast.

Day 2.

Once again I couldn’t get myself organised and left camp at 9am. It didn’t matter much this time because conditions were in my favour with a light tail wind and reasonable temperatures. I also knew that the shops down the coast would all be open so I shouldn’t be going hungry.

Adi met me at the 50km mark and we decided to make for a town called Ross. This would be a day’s total of 170kms. Achievable I thought because of the tail wind and legs that seemed to have recovered from yesterday’s punishment. The west coast scenery was as lovely as always and the motorists seemed pretty well behaved. A lot of the traffic this time of the year is tourist traffic. These out of town people generally know how to drive safely. But during the off season the local hillbillies can really amaze you with their antics. The West Coasters of the South Island are definately a breed apart. Enough said.

Sea Spray Filled the Air.

Adi and I sat and had lunch while I once again watched bored tourists try to entertain themselves on the walk between their cars and the café. I finally got sick of watching tractor seat bottoms and jumped on my bike to do another 50km stint. The coast is further beautified at the moment by the many Southern Ratas in flower.

There were quite a few cycle tourists on the road today but being on a mission I didn’t stop to talk much to any of them and nobody caught me up to chat except a local West Coast road racy that recognised me.
Watch out for Unicyclists.

At the 100km mark while I was busy working my way through two caffeinated energy drinks (probably the whole days recommended limit) Adi text me to say that we were staying at Hokitika instead of Ross and that I know only had 40kms to cover. I certainly didn’t argue. But what I should have done was have an ice-cream. Instead I got my netbook out and started blogging. And I blogged and I blogged. I blogged until I was all blogged out. Then I jumped on my bike to ride the last 40kms.

You’d think that I would have learnt from yesterday. After 30kms I’d hit the wall and the last 10kms was once again a bit of a grovel (nothing like yesterday though). I just got cocky because it was just a 140km day.

Lesson that I must learn- Eat my ice-creams!

I Died a Hundred Deaths Today.

Day 1.

Well I left home an hour late at 9am. Really I should have left at 7am. This proved to be the only big mistake of the day as it meant that I didn’t get to Murchison until 3pm. The weather was clear and sunny but I had a head wind and it was hot! Adi caught me up on the Vespa and we sat drinking glass after glass of coke. Well actually I drank glass after glass.

Just like in the Lord Of The Rings Movie Adi had given me foil wrapped food to take in the morning and I finished the rest of this at lunchtime. That was really my second mistake because I should have had something more substantial.
Another Hill and My Tummy is Empty.

I assumed that the shop at the 150km mark would be open and it would have been had I left at 7am. But of course when I cruised in at 6pm it had closed. And having not eaten properly at lunch time led to the last 50kms being a real grovel. Luckily I had some chocolate bars and water but I was counting on a big ice-cream and a caffeinated energy drink.

The last hour of the ride would have been a dream with an ice-cream in my tummy because the head wind died down and the temperature dropped to a nice 18C. But with no food I grovelled right up to the end pulling into the motor camp at 8.30pm!

Adi looked after me with a steak meal and plenty of drink. After a hot shower I almost felt human. Another hour or so later I even had the energy to arrange my side of the tent and give Adi a lesson on how men can pee into an old drink can to save walking to the toilet block. I can’t say I had a great night’s sleep in the tent with the local wekas keeping me awake and too much caffeinated drink not helping either. For that matter my pillow wasn’t exactly soft and the loud German van packers next door kept sliding their van doors open and closed at regular intervals. I don’t know what’s more annoying the sound of the German accent or sliding car doors.

I don’t know how I’ll go tomorrow after a hard 200km day today and little sleep?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Tour of South Island NZ

I'm Off Again.

Happy New Year.

I spent the day getting my bike ready for my final training block which will take me around the South Island of New Zealand for 14 days. I hope to achieve daily mileages of about 160- 200kms. Once again the racks and bags had to go on my trusty Mercian. But each time I do this I make subtle changes that should make the bike easier to handle or easier to pack. The only major differences this time are the addition of a Brooks saddle bag at the rear to hold things that normally a handlebar bag would hold such as camera, wallet and coat. The other major change made, since my trip to the Taupo race, are the fitting of my actual ‘Around the World’ wheels. These of course are not race wheels but very reliable and strong ‘old school’ touring wheels.
Both Bikes Ready to Go.

Once again I’ll be fully self-sufficient carrying everything I need, except a tent. The reason I don’t need a tent on this trip is because Adi is accompanying me on her Vespa. And since we will need a bigger tent with the two of us and since the ‘two gay girls’ are all packed for the ‘Around the World ‘ trip Adi can carry the big tent on her Vespa.

That’s not all she plans to take on her Vespa. Since she won’t be getting any exercise Vespa’ing  along she asked me to set up her racing bike on the back so she can motor on ahead to our destination for the day and then she will cycle back to meet me. That’s how it is supposed to work in principle anyway. We will see. I think her space on the motorbike is even more limited than my space on my bike. I have the enviable situation of having plenty of bags and a list of stuff that I have slowly leaned off after each practice trip. She has really only a spot behind her on the seat and her front rack.
Nelson to Westport. (About 210km)

Tomorrow I set off at 8am and she will do last minute things around the house and then follow me at about lunch time.  I’ve seen the weather forecast and it’s looking good.

I cleaned her motorbike and swopped tyres around amongst our two Vespa’s to give her the best rubber all around. Adi assures me that she can change the wheels of her bike if she gets a puncture but once again we will see.

I have to say that Xmas and New Years have been pretty uneventful for me with no grogging to speak of and no cycling to speak of either. The weather has been pretty wet here and I take my hat off to some of my friends who have been competing in the local road racing. By tomorrow night I should have blown away a few cobwebs though.

Now for the hard part. I have to finish off all the lemon meringue that is in the refrigerator and anything else that might go off. I wonder if cream liquors go off.

 It would be a shame to waste it all.