Monthly Archives: January 2013

I’m now officially a New Zealand cycling statistic. For the wrong reasons.

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I continued my cycle south to Levin, after a quick stop in Palmerston North to buy food and a better sleeping bag. Thinking I should avoid the busy highway 1, I took highway 57. I have no idea what highway 1 was like, but 57 was a NIGHTMARE. I got run off the road into a ditch by a large truck (didn’t fall off or hurt myself, for those that worry), then a Subaru passed me at what must have been 120km/h with about 50cm between us – and there was me thinking Subaru drivers were nice poeple… Finally I was hit, yes you read correctly, HIT by a mini-van (also didn’t fall off, or get hurt for those that are still, probably slightly more worried). I should really have just taken a photo of the police report I filled out this morning to save me writing it again, but basically…

I was cruising along at about 20km/h in the lane with the traffic (there is often a hard shoulder which lets me reduce the danger). There was oncoming traffic, which, if you are a cyclist you will understand this bit – made me look behind for traffic approaching getting ready to cut me up. I saw a mini-van slow down to my speed behind me, then barge through, clipping the edge of my pannier. Much fist shaking and shouting followed on my part, as the driver sped off into the distance. A passenger in the van looked somewhat alarmed, so he must have known his mate had done something wrong. Little did I know, a driver behind the mini-van saw the whole thing unfold and set off in hot pursuit to get his number plate details – apparently he had to do 130km/h to catch him (speed limit being 100). He very kindly parked up and patiently waited for me to slowly roll down the road and pass the details onto me. This morning, I spent 20 minutes at the local police station filling out a ‘driver complaint form’, which though I don’t expect to get a conviction out of (I didn’t tick that box, I only selected the ‘call the offender up and give him/her a slap on the wrist’ box), will hopefully make the driver engage his/her brain the next time they pass a cyclist.

I think I mentioned this before, I can honestly say that cycling on a main highway in New Zealand is much more dangerous than any of the roads in Asia I cycled on. As a result, I have decided to stop and come home. Only kidding, I’ve decided to catch a train to Wellington. I’ve been told the roads are much quieter on the south island and the drivers better too, so fingers crossed.

On the plus side, as the next train isn’t until 6.53 am tomorrow (and the only one tomorrow), I am taking a lazy day at the very clean and tidy Leven camp site. Easily the cleanest campsite I’ve ever stayed at. There are lots of mountain bikers turning up at the site with downhill bikes, as there is a national series downhill race here this weekend – it makes me want to swap my touring bike for my mountain bike!! Everyone seems to be mad for bikes at this place too, like Ashhurst. This morning, I had a middle aged English gentleman come bounding over all excited to look at my bike. It was 7am. I mean really – I was still half asleep and a guy wants to get his geek on about bikes!! It’s strange, I can’t seem to get excited about touring bikes in a way I can about mountain bikes for some reason.

So, tomorrow, I’ll get the commuter train to Wellington to see Asela and his family, which will be the first people I’ve seen the whole trip that I’ve known beforehand (almost, the exception being Amy, a cruise ship friend from a few years ago). I’m looking forward to it.

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Hilly back roads.

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Sunset at Rangiwahia

Sunset at Rangiwahia

I felt like I was back in northern Thailand!!

I felt like I was back in northern Thailand!!

I don't know why either...

I don’t know why either…

Picture postcard views everywhere

Picture postcard views everywhere

Not a great photo, but you get the idea - planes were taking off every few minutes or so...

Not a great photo, but you get the idea – planes were taking off every few minutes or so…

I managed to get off highway 1 at Mangaweka, a place easily remembered for it’s aeroplane cafe (an actual plane) which sits right next to the road. From here I went east along deserted roads taking me to Rangiwahia, a place with about 3 houses, a school a village hall (which doubles as a campsite) and a volunteer fire station. It was a glorious hot day, with not a cloud in the sky, so I had a wee siesta before cooking dinner. Thankfully I managed to not set fire to the place with my slightly problematic petrol stove, even though it would have been interesting to see the response time of the firemen. It’s so dry just now, I dare say the entire valley would go up in flames… I’ve actually started being really careful with it, making sure I am nowhere near grass or anything else flammable for that matter, following a rather close call last week!!

Today I made it Ashhurst via Apiti, along a road that never failed to surprise. There were a series of ravines that the road disappeared into and had me sweating profusely to get out of, back up onto the flat plain. There was also a section of dirt road which was a bit like cycling on snow, so loose was the gravel. Interesting with a fully loaded bike I can tell you. It was easily the remotest road I have cycled on this trip, including everything in Asia. I can’t have met more than 5 vehicles all day, and as a result was the best day’s riding I’ve had in New Zealand to date. In fact, I think I saw more planes than I did cars (they are used for fertilising crops here).

Ashhurst has just hosted an international week of cycle racing according to the bloke I got chatting to in the local chippy. It was made obvious they are cycling mad round here when I went to the local small grocery store and noticed they had seven different cycling magazines in stock. I can’t mention the chippy without saying how cheap it was… (I am Scottish after all) I think it’s the first time I have bought anything where it was cheaper than it would be for the equivalent back in the UK. NZ$7.70 for a HUGE burger & chips. I’ve mainly been cooking for myself since coming to N.Z. but as I didn’t have any petrol for cooking (I used all of that trying to set fire to Rangiwahia), I didn’t have much of a choice. Oh, petrol, that’s cheaper too. Hardly a surprise that though….

I think I need to see a doctor – I’m starting to enjoy long hills…

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Treaty of Waitangi campsite

Treaty of Waitangi campsite

Another camper making use of the electricity at Waitangi campsite

Another camper making use of the electricity at Waitangi campsite

Some of you might know I have a thing for doors....

Some of you might know I have a thing for doors….

Lake Taupo sunset

Lake Taupo sunset

At about 1000m with no water... Ooops!!

At about 1000m with no water… Ooops!!

It was a LONG stretch of road...

It was a LONG stretch of road…

And there was me thinking it was in Cambodia...

And there was me thinking it was in Cambodia…

OK, sorry for the lack of posts, it’s not as easy as it normally is. So since my last real major post I camped on the grounds that the treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 – a significant part of New Zealand history. It was a fantastic campsite due to the fact that it had warm showers, free electricity right next to the tent, and nobody about to take my money… It appeared to be on Maori land which they had turned into a cheap low key campsite – so cheap they forgot to staff it… I returned to Auckland by bus and visited Amy, someone I used to work with on cruise ships. It was great to catch up – once again, thanks for putting me up for the night 🙂 From there, I caught another bus down to Taupo. I chose this because it’s about a weeks cycling to Wellington, and that would make it next weekend, which is a good time to catch up with another friend many of you will know – Asela.

Last night, I found an unofficial campsite right on the shore of Lake Taupo which was pretty damn spectacular, as you can see in the picture – amazing sunset. I chatted to a couple of French guys who work in Pamerston North and had the weekend off – they were also camping – Terry and… sorry, I forget your name!

Today, I set off on highway 1 from Taupo, partly on the advice of Terry. It’s not nearly as bad a road down this way compared to Auckland. Much quieter and a wide hard shoulder most of the time. Normally I don’t really plan my day, but given I was cycling through the “Desert Road” perhaps I should have. It climbed up to over 1000m from about 300m which took some doing I can tell you. I ran out of water twice, though thankfully I soon came across the only stream I would see all day. The second time, was after over 100km of cycling (mostly uphill) and I only had another 5 to the next town, Waiouru. I stuffed myself with an ice-cream and a small bottle of Coke to get the boost I needed to try and find somewhere to camp. A further 10km and I finally resorted to climbing a locked gate which lead me up what looks like an old road and a deserted field. A quick solar shower in the corner of the field (those things are the way forward), some food, pitch the tent and it’s dark! Good timing I say. Time for some much needed sleep!!!