Category Archives: New Zealand

What I ate today.

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4 portions of porrage with NZ honey
1 apple
2 cerial bars
1 slice of bacon & egg flan
1 coffee
1 steak & mushroom pie
2 more cerial bars
Numerous handfulls of nuts
1 ham salad roll
1 large bowl of ice cream
1 electrolyte drink
1 packet of salted crisps
3 bowls of pasta consisting of:
    250g (dry) pasta
    1 onion
    4 large mushrooms
    sun dried tomatoes
    1 tomato
Another large bowl of ice cream
1 glass of red wine

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Warning. Rant…

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While sitting in a coffee shop minding my own business, I have just been acused of breakibg the law by not wearing a high vis jacket while cycling. Obviously a bloody great road sign with an arrow on it isn’t enough. I told the guy I had quite strong views on the subject and didn’t want to enter into a discussion (after already having been run off the road here by traffic that most certainly knew I was there).  ‘It’s your life’ was all he had to say. I didn’t mention that the NZ policy on mandatory helmet use is not actually reducing deaths, it’s only reducing the number of cyclists (half the number of cyclists since the rule was brought in). There are people trying to make high vis jackets the law. Stay calm johnny… stay calm….

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Kiwi sandfly or Scottish midge? Which is worse?

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I feel this topic deserved a post of it’s own. Sandflies are much like their Scottish cousins. They don’t like strong sun, wind or heavy rain, they can drive even the hardened camper to the brink of insanity and they can make you cover up every exposed bit of skin in the sweltering afternoon heat as sweating buckets under all those clothes is preferable to getting bitten. OK, so that last bit does not happen in Scotland, but it would if the weather was good enough. They even make you swear out loud when there are young children less than 20 feet away playing outside their parents camper van. I was fully expecting the father to come out and have a word with me, though that would involve having to face the little buggers himself.

They don’t seem to be as numerous as the Scottish midge (yet), but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in their bite. Most of the bites end up much more itchy than the midge bite, and often bleed. Being slightly larger than the midge, when they attack, you can actually see your enemy, which is a bit of an advantage I guess. I have heard they are much worse (larger? more numerous? sharper teeth?) the further south you travel, so I will save the verdict on weather they are worse than the midge or not.

What do you do if you run out of cash? Give your card and pin away to a total stranger of course!!

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Feet up, cracking view.

Feet up, cracking view.

Breakfast @ Shambahla

Breakfast @ Shambahla

Great system in place for narrow stretches of road for cyclists to press a button and a hazard warning light tells drivers a cyclist is on the road (because we are all but invisible to most drivers)

Great system in place for narrow stretches of road for cyclists to press a button and a hazard warning light tells drivers a cyclist is on the road (because we are all but invisible to most drivers)

Steering wheel of the German girl's car (used to driving on the right in Germany) I gave my bank card to.... Hmm was this a good idea???

Steering wheel of the German girl (used to driving on the right in Germany) I gave my bank card to…. Hmm was this a good idea???

After the drenching I got heading to Nelson, I set off the next day along the coast towards Motueka. New Zealand has put a lot of money recently into cycle trails, which shows in certain places, this being one of them. I am starting to see several cycle tourists a day now, with supermarkets being a common meeting place (most cyclists stop there at least once a day). After a food and ice-cream top-up at Motueka, I continued on as I was feeling good, and reached the small village of Kaiteriteri which has a ‘holiday camp’ (overpriced campsite) and a fantastic beach.

Being the tight Scotsman I am, I grabbed a $2 holiday camp shower and cooked some dinner on the beach as the sun went down. Once it was starting to get dark, I managed to find somewhere to camp – at the bottom of Kaiteriteri Mountain bike park. I got chatting to a guy who was out with his 2 young girls on mountain bikes. He suggested I should test out the pump track on my bike, which I obviously couldn’t resist, even though it was fully laden with 4 panniers, a bar bag and tent. The father timed me, and his 9 year old daughter took great pleasure in beating my time by 3 seconds. It wasn’t the 3 seconds I was worried about though – I managed to break one of my front pannier racks what with the rough track bouncing the bags about. So now I need to find someone who can weld aluminium before it totally falls to bits….

The next morning I set off up my first big hill of New Zealand – 800m above sea level (where I was camping). Close to the bottom, I met Jim, a rock climber laden down with all his ropes and whatnot in a rucksack, riding a bike. It can’t have been easy, as he had run out of gears, and therefore standing up stamping on the pedals for most of the 15km climb with his rucksack swinging side to side. He was good company though, and the climb breezed by. It was a fantastic 10km freewheel (slightly worrisome though due to my half broken rack and a tyre on the verge of exploding, held together with a Singapore $2 note) down the other side towards Takaka which is a bit of a hippy town, especially just now, due to the ‘Luminate festival’. Still feeling good, and after the obligatory ice-cream stop, I carried on to a backpacker hostel just south of Collingwood, which has an apparently fantastic pub which brews it’s own ales, and has live music quite often. I’ll be staying here 2 nights then. I also stayed here because it’s a fantastic view of the sea (there was apparently a mini-tsunami here today, but I missed it), and I wanted to head right up to the north of the island, Farewell Spit. I’ve made a conscious decision to stay in more hostels, many of which allow you to pitch tents, as it’s much more social, not to mention the fact that a sofa is much more comfy than a lumpy patch of grass!

Yesterday, I made it up to Farewell Split and back to the hostel, riding the bike for the first time without panniers (much faster, with twitchy steering). The public can’t get to the end of Farewell Split without buying a seat on a tour bus costing over $100 which is a shame, though the area is apparently a twichers dream. As I had run out of cash, and was heading north for the day where there are no banks at all, I made the (brave? stupid?) decision to entrust my bank card and pin with Liv, a German backpacker I had only just met hours before at the hostel. She and another couple of girls were heading south for the day past a bank so could help me out. It was all a bit strange later on that night in the pub receiving $100 cash from someone I hardly knew – I felt like I was a drug dealer or something!! Anyhow, now with cash in my pocket, a good night was had with a bunch from the hostel watching live music, drinking local beers.

This morning was a cracking clear morning, giving clear views all the way up to Farewell Spit from the decking at the front of the hostal (Shambhala, 10km south of Collingwood). I had booked a place on a bus however, so had to move on, and caught up with Liv and Blanca, a Spanish girl at Motueka for a bite to eat and much needed coffee. Though it’s great meeting all these wonderful new people, I often find it hard saying goodbye to the people I get on with, only having met them a day or so earlier in most cases. It’s all part of being on the backpacker circuit I guess.

I’m now a few km out of Mokueka at a genuinely free campsite, which even has drinking water from a tap, a toilet, and get this – free electricity! Fantastic. I’ll be heading south west tomorrow, towards the west coast, which I understand is much more remote.

Buy welding my bike rack back together.

Buy welding my bike rack back together.

Two random acts of kindness in the space of an hour. I think I like the south Island…

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The bus belonging to the group of Canadians who very kindly gave me a lift to Nelson on a very wet day...

The bus belonging to the group of Canadians who very kindly gave me a lift to Nelson on a very wet day…

A glorious day to cross to the south island. There were awesome views most of the way.

A glorious day to cross to the south island. There were awesome views most of the way.

I found the sign in the ditch - I think it actually makes drivers give me more room...

I found the sign in the ditch – I think it actually makes drivers give me more room…

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Outside Asela and Sanji's house, Wellington - you guys spoiled me rotten - thanks again!!!

Outside Asela and Sanji’s house, Wellington – you guys spoiled me rotten – thanks again!!!

I think the people at 1702 are a bit boring...

I think the people at 1702 are a bit boring…

Fancy dress at the Wellington sevens.  I see 'mice'

Fancy dress at the Wellington sevens. I see ‘mice’

Kids jumping into the sea at Wellington

Kids jumping into the sea at Wellington

I managed to get to Wellington by train, and stopped for breakfast at a busy cafe at 8.30am. These people weren’t drinking coffee – this was the weekend of the Rugby Sevens at Wellington, so people had come far and wide for the event – they were drinking beer of course! Thinking I was clever searching for Asela’s house (a friend from home who has just moved here for a year for those who don’t know him), I put his address into Google maps and selected the walking route, as cycling on roads in lethal, especially in Wellington. I managed to find a VERY steep hill (pushed the bike for the first time in several weeks) and a flight of never ending steps, which I managed to circumnavigate by pushing by bike up through a back path entrance to an architects office, which was well off the beaten track. In the end, I actually had to push my bike literally through the building to get to a connecting road. The architects offered me a cup of tea (they didn’t get people passing very often, let along on bicycle), though I had to decline as I was trying to reach Asela’s house, only a few streets away. A few very steep hills later and I found myself at his and Sanji’s (not forgetting little Senuri) house, which they moved into a couple of weeks ago.
It was great to catch up with them, and not surprisingly they are loving the temporary new life in NZ (if it was me I’d be chomping at the bit to stay for good!).
We went into the city a couple of times, to see the spectacle that is the rugby sevens, though we only saw a couple of games on a TV, the fancy dress was as, if not more entertaining than the rugby. Everyone was so friendly too. If this was the UK, there would be people causing trouble, falling about, fighting. Here, everyone was having fun enjoying themselves, chatting to total strangers, even in the busy city center. Sanji & Asela spoilt me rotten and it was fantastic seeing them and how their little Senuri is getting on.
From there, I caught the ferry to Picton on the South Island and headed off west along Queen Charlotte Drive – a very windy hilly road following the coastal bays.
This morning I found myself cycling in rain for the first time since I left home 3 months ago, which for the first couple of hours I actually enjoyed, then just as I got on the main highway 6, I met a bunch of Canadians who were cycling with a support bus. I’m really bad at remembering names folks, so sorry for the lack of roll call – nicknames help, one lady’s being ‘cricket’. Apparently she rubs her feet together like a cricket before getting into bed (and no I can’t vouch for it before anyone asks). They offered me a lift to Nelson, where I was heading anyway – I initially refused, but the rain started to hammer down really hard, so I changed my mind… I was then approached by a Kiwi guy I had been chatting to while eating breakfast at the campsite this morning, who thrust a packed lunch in my hand – a second totally unexpected act of kindness in the space of an hour. Half an hour later I was bouncing along in a mini-bus with my bike on the roof of their trailer eating the lunch that the Kiwi guy had given me. I certainly couldn’t have predicted any of this would have happened when I got up this morning!!! In the evening, despite protest, the Canadians also insisted on feeding me.
Quite the unexpcted day I have to say. The rubbing the feet together thing before getting into bed – it’s to get the sand off her feet apparently…

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….