Arriving in Auckland last night felt far from summer with the wind howling and gusting as we rode the short distance from the Strand station to Tracy & Paul in Grey Lynn where we were spoiled with a delicious meal out in a Russian/Kiwi fusion restaurant.
We had a last quick catch up with Candice on the North Shore, this time getting to meet little Lucas as well as seeing Emilia again, and meeting her parents who very kindly invited us for lunch.
Now we are back at Debbie’s place in Pukekohe, from whence we started way back in November! Its time to pack the bicycles away, but not before enjoying one more glass of wine until we meet again.
Thank you New Zealand, and one and all for making this a fantastic trip.
Today we hopped aboard Dora, the Northern Explorer, for one of the great train journeys of New Zealand from Wellington to Auckland. It was a day to sit back, relax and watch the world go by as the train wound its way north, stopping just occasionally to let passengers on or off.
To do this route by bicycle would have been a lot, lot longer than the 11 hours today’s trip took, especially considering the pace we keep! With the cycling complete now (bar a few kilometres this evening to Tracy’s house and tomorrow to Debbie’s house) we can reflect on what a fantastic adventure this has been.
We racked up a little more than 1,000 kilometres of cycling during the past seven weeks, averaging only around 45kms per day on the days we did ride (we were mere novices enjoying the slow pace of bicycle touring by riding one day, stopping for two days or maybe more, compared to a couple of hard core riders we met who rode everyday, and who, in our humble opinion, experienced next to nothing of a place or its people). We’ve taken buses and boats, tied the bikes on trailers and trains, gotten the occasional lift from friends, slept the odd night in beds and bunks, were flat out in the tent for 40 nights, and now we can safely say it has been, without doubt, one of the best holidays we’ve ever taken.
It has been exhilarating, and at times hard work, particularly with a heavy load on those uphill climbs when you just wish you could find another gear, but oh so rewarding. The slow pace of travel, despite the time and distance apparently passing so quickly, made us notice and appreciate everything around us and provided the perfect opportunity to stop and meet the local people. And the sense of accomplishment you feel each day as you look back and see how far you’ve come is both real and humbling. The views and vistas from the saddle, not to mention your heightened senses, are incomparable to that of speeding along in a car. From noticing every hedgerow, hearing every birdsong, smelling every rose (and roadkill!), to tasting the salt as we sweated it out on the uphill slogs, and feeling the tar seal blistering and popping like bubble wrap on the road beneath us, every aspect made us feel a new and real connection with the land around us.
We have made more special memories in this beautiful country that we will always hold dear to our hearts.
We couldn’t have wished for better Wellington weather this time around – wall to wall sunshine and barely a breath of wind. Added to that our very own local tour guides and super hosts (the Coyle family now trading as “WBWT - Wee Bobby’s Wellington Tours”!), we had the makings of a great couple of days sightseeing, singing, eating and drinking. 360 degree views from Mt Victoria, swimming at Scorcher Bay, and a dip in Days Bay just a few of the must-do’s.
We had time too for a quick catch up with Joanne, another friend from VSA volunteer days. Sadly just not enough time to catch up with more of our Kiwi friends.
With little more than a week remaining of the trip and very little riding left to do, I should think there won’t be too many more tales to tell. We’ve spent the last couple of days in and around Blenheim with more time than ever in Olive, partly due to dodging the persistent showers, and partly due to the absolute need to catch up with lost sleep.
In a remarkable 9+ weeks these couple of days have been the only consecutive dreary ones in the entire trip, ironic since Blenheim prides itself as “the city where the sun always shines”! Not wanting to dampen our spirits further by the rain and lack of sunshine, we opted for a guided wine tasting tour which for good measure included a brewery and chocolate factory. It was a win win for all on board. And a small world story on the day – turns out one of the other passengers used to swim and play sport with Dave’s cousin Ruth in Liphook!
This morning we packed up early, thankfully during a dry spell, and got picked up from the campsite by the postie and joined her on the Pelorus Mail Boat delivering mail and packages to the locals that live in the beautiful bays of Pelorus Sound, the most remote Sound in the Marlborough Region.
It was a damp, but short 28km ride this evening to Picton where we’ll spend another day before setting sail back to Wellington on Sunday morning.
It was more bleary eyed and less bushy tailed this morning with the prospect of the 105km ride to Blenheim after a very late night of shenanigans and giggling girlie craic culminating at 3am in declaring Candice the new arm wrestling champion when she took the prestigious title from a devastated Gilly who had proudly held the honour for the past five years.
Candice put her new found strength down to carrying two small tots around the farm and delivering 300 calves in a season! Gilly has vowed not to let wedding preparations get in the way of her training for the next bout - whenever, and wherever that will be remains to be seen, but I hope I can be there to adjudicate.
And so it was that we said our goodbyes to our friends and got back in the saddle again for the first time in more than a week, and for what was going to be our longest ride of the trip. How thankful I was that it was easy riding and downhill all the way!
What a week to start the New Year. It was all about catching up with old, and new, friends, and all with barely any pedal power required. Thanks to Richard & Jayne’s kind offer we had wheels for the week, this time including a steering wheel and engine!
After a couple of nights at Matt & Gilly’s house we moved out to Tahuna Beach and what was without doubt the biggest campsite we have ever camped on anywhere, and apparently it is the largest in Australasia. There were hundreds of tents, camper vans and caravans and after a deluge of rain one night the roads turned to rivers and the entire place was more like an overrun refugee camp.
In between pre-wedding bbqs and picnics on the beach we managed to catch lunch with Rob & Marion, Dave’s De Winter family, and we had dinners hosted by our old VSA friend Ian and his wife Jenny, as well as Steve & Kirsty from Arrowtown days.
Dave joined Matt and co for a stag day of deep sea fishing, slashing the tops of his fingers trying to capture drone footage, or rather capturing the drone when a rogue wave hit, while I eventually got shopping for a frock for the wedding (the cycling lycra wasn’t going to cut it), and there was time for a girls only long lunch, the last for Gilly as a Hindley.
Our whole reason for this trip was to be here in New Zealand to celebrate with Matt and Gilly on their wedding day, but as we all know there is no such thing as a wedding ‘day’ anymore! This was a three-day affair and we loved every minute of it, although after three days of 30 kids we were ready for a quiet lie down in a dark room!
Having a car meant we could help schlep some of the wedding paraphernalia from Nelson to Lake Rotoiti, and it also meant we didn’t have to ride the 90kms as Jayne & Richard had given us the loan of their bike rack too! And no need to pitch Olive either as we were staying in bunk rooms along with most of the other wedding guests.
It was all hands on deck the day before the wedding to get the room and tables set up and decorated, only to be followed by a few hours of fraught tension trying to keep the kids from touching. I had to resort to my past nanny experience and my raised voice was enough to stop the kids in their tracks and at the same time I think it petrified some of the parents!
The wedding day itself was beautiful as was the bridal party, and as ever the competitive one Gilly practically ran down the aisle to make sure she was the first to get Matt, after all she had been waiting 14 years for this day! They were married in a simple ceremony in a stunning location by Big Ali, the local Saint Arnaud mechanic and celebrant, in front of their family and friends and with love all around them.
Yes I'll marry you & I wanna grow old with you
I was both honoured and privileged to be asked by Matt & Gilly to read at the ceremony, and the fact they trusted in me to choose something was a true testament to our friendship. But choosing a piece to suit them both was a challenge. I tapped into my celebrant friend Ida’s resources and narrowed it down to two readings, one for each of them.
For Gilly I read “Yes I’ll marry you” by Pam Ayres, and for Matt it was a piece from Adam Sandler “I wanna grow old with you”.
Yes, I'll marry you
Yes, I'll marry you, my dear,
And here's the reason why;
So I can push you out of bed
When the baby starts to cry,
And if we hear a knocking
And it's creepy and it's late,
I hand you the torch you see,
And you investigate.
Yes I'll marry you, my dear,
You may not apprehend it,
But when the tumble-drier goes
It's you that has to mend it,
You have to face the neighbour
Should our labrador attack him,
And if a drunkard fondles me
It's you that has to whack him.
Yes, I'll marry you,
You're virile and you're lean,
My house is like a pigsty
You can help to keep it clean.
That sexy little dinner
Which you served by candlelight,
As I do chipolatas,
You can cook it every night!
It's you who has to work the drill
and put up curtain track,
And when I've got PMT it's you who gets the flak,
I do see great advantages,
But none of them for you,
And so before you see the light,
I do, I do, I do!
I Wanna Grow Old With You
I wanna make you smile, Whenever you're sad.
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad.
All I wanna do, Is grow old with you.
I'll get you medicine, When your tummy aches.
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks.
Oh it could be so nice, Growin' old with you.
I'll miss you, kiss you, Give you my coat when you are cold.
Need you, feed you. Even let you hold the remote control.
So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink.
Put you to bed when you've had too much to drink.
Oh I could be the man, Who grows old with you.
I wanna grow old with you.
To end the ceremony, I choose a traditional Irish blessing for them both, but delivering it almost became too much for me when I was overcome with emotion and tears of joy and happiness. I was not the only one blubbering, I saw a few others sob too – gotta love a good wedding for a good cry!!!
Traditional Irish Blessing
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.
Of course the tears did not stop there because there were still the speeches to come! All beautifully delivered including a lovely poem by Candice and a surprise recording from Ali who sadly was not able to make it over from England. And so the party started...
The post wedding day started with a tidy up followed by Dave preparing pancakes for 50, and then armed with insect repellent to take on the pesky sandflies the troops headed to the West Bay of Lake Rotoiti for a day of chilling out in what turned out to be the most perfect conditions – clear blue skies, glorious sunshine, barely a ripple on the water and just enough of a breeze to keep the sandflies away.
It was an idyllic day having fun in the sun – swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and reminiscing with all the Queenstown contingent – topped off with a massive bbq in the evening and the guys cooking up all the fish they caught on Matt’s stag trip. If only we could have more days like this…Happy, special memories.
After a night in Picton it was back in the saddle again after a week or so of not pedalling much further than around town or to a beach or a vineyard (mind you one such ride on the Napier trails on Christmas Eve was a 50km return trip).
Turning the wheels again could not have been more of a pleasure on the 35km Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock. It was stunning view after stunning view across the Marlborough Sounds in the beautiful morning sunshine, and unlike being in a car, we could pull in and stop as often as we liked to admire and soak them up. As the home of the green lipped mussel it would’ve been rude not to stop in Havelock for a bowl, and The Hairy Mussel Company was the ideal spot for lunch.
We considered riding the 70kms on through to Nelson, but with the Highway being the busiest we have been on yet, we decided to stop the night at Pelorus Bridge and hope an early morning start might mean a quieter road. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, and after being chased from the DOC campsite by a bombardment of sandflies we were on the road early, but so it seemed was every other man/woman and his/her trailer/boat/caravan/campervan.
The constant string of traffic plus the pounding rain which started just as we started the climb up Rai Saddle meant conditions were far from ideal, what a difference a day can make! The further long climb to Whangamoa Saddle was wet and miserable, with the ride down slick to say the least, but thankfully warmer, drier air was on the horizon as we approached Nelson.
All was forgotten after a hot shower and a feisty welcome from Tipsy the cat at the bride and groom to be’s house, followed by an afternoon of sunshine in Mapua with the Keys clan and tunes from Richard and his middle-aged rock covers band (his words not ours), The Sauce.
Today is the last day of what has been a difficult year with the loss of my Mum, but as ever we are grateful for all the memories and all that we have experienced, and hope that 2018 will be a happy and healthy one.
Wishing one and all a very Happy New Year from Nelson.
It was a quick stop in Wellington last night and a great chance to catch up with our hosts Camille (from our VSA days in South Africa) and Sandy. We had time too to visit Te Papa to see the superb and very moving exhibition, Gallipoli: The scale of our war. Dave managed a pre-wedding haircut, but a quick scoot around the shops proved fruitless for me on the frock buying front.
Time now to cross the Cook Strait.
Christmas has been and gone for another year and we were blessed with a couple of beautiful days in the Napier sunshine, plus on Boxing night a deluge of really heavy rain where we were confined to Olive for the evening.
Armed with food for fifty and some local liquid refreshments (Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second largest wine producing region), our camp kitchen, and a disposable barbecue we biked to the beach for Christmas lunch – prawns and venison were this year’s main course, accompanied by corn on the cob and of course potatoes. This was after a bacon and egg fry up at the campsite washed down with the traditional champagne cocktails! We finished the festivities with a steak bbq back at the campsite were sadly our little pop up wine glasses popped up for the final time – they were great while they lasted! Boxing Day was more food, this time courtesy of the Weeks family (Dave’s cousin Jo’s sister in law’s family) amidst their vines in the valley of Puketapu just outside Napier.
We have been blown away by all the kindness shown to two crazy people on bicycles. Never mind our friends who have bent over backwards to help us out with logistics, lodging and local knowledge, not to mention food and drink, but to complete strangers who take a sincere interest in what we’re up to. From people on their porches smiling and waving, and friendly farmers giving us the right of way, to the stop and go roadworks men who are up for a chat to break the monotony of their day, and everyone we meet, whether on the road, in a café or a campsite, is curious about where we’ve been and where we’re going.
This past month we have had Kevin & Beryl, the owners at the Opape Motor Camp, who gave us a couple of very welcome ice cold beers as we rode in on a scorching hot day, and in Te Kaha as we sat alone on a secluded beach a fisherman from Rotoura shared his catch of fresh gurnard with us (we froze it at the campsite and carried it the next day to cook for dinner). And a local Maori couple who were our only neighbours on the campsite introduced us to kina (a salty sea urchin) which they had collected from the rocks at low tide. Not forgetting the two strong Maori men who helped lift our bikes (one of them lifted mine single handedly) over the gates on the Motu Dunes Trail. And the kind campsite owners at Waihou Beach who gave us bread, butter & tomato when the local shop was closed.
We could go on and on with stories of such gestures which have really made this trip so memorable, but suffice to say every single one of them we appreciate wholeheartedly, and we hope we can payback the kindness to others someday.
Today we move on, but not in the saddle, we’ll sit on the Intercity bus for 5 hours from Napier to Wellington.
This 9-week trip to NZ is not all about biking. We start by dropping the bikes in Auckland, flying to Queenstown to spend a couple of weeks and to run the marathon. Fly back to AKL and ride south to Nelson via Eastland & Hawkes Bay, before returning from Wellington to AKL by train.
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