Cycling NZs South Island #1

Life is so good and free. I’ve been pondering how the word ‘free’ is interlinked with freedom. We are living under a system, but by no means are we trapped in the puzzle if we open our eyes to it. 

I started this South Island cycling tour at the ANZAC Day dawn service in Nelson yesterday morning, shielding my identity when the kiwis scoffed at the Australian national anthem being played before theirs. Many Maori words were spoken, but the process was generally the same, and I rode off into the fresh morning air feeling somber. I chucked off my helmet because the rail trail was so quiet, and got a legitimate warning from a policeman for not wearing it. Good start. The wind hit me in the face, my white pill stopped and no shops were open to buy gas. I laughed at the universe and tried to turn it all into something positive, pushing my way through gravelly vineyards while listening to the audiobook for Brokeback Mountain on the Tasman Taste Cycling trail. I scourged food from the vege stalls on the side of the road; figs, feijoas, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, leek, garlic and someone even chucked me a fluff covered quince for free. The sun shone strong and the small towns were filled with uniformed military and medal-donning relatives surrounding the RSL. I pushed on, finding a newly opened forestry track that led to a 1.3km pitch black tunnel. New Zealanders love their bikes so lots of people were out for the day with their kids, dogs, wheelchairs and high vis vests. I left the crowds behind on highway 6, fighting a mental battle against that invisible force which crushes souls and pushes you backwards on downhills; the wind. The scenery is divine, I promise I will elaborate after it after this whinge. I was given a muffin by a nice man at a rest stop and collapsed in the sun for an eternity, then tackled Hope Saddle. At the top of this roller coaster of turns, a little white car came sliding and screeching around the corners, followed in close pursuit by an undercover police car with a solid Maori female officer. I rode down the mountain below brewing grey clouds and my cheeks just teemed with tears of general emotion- mainly the craziness that is life. It had been a mighty big day. I pushed my bike up the steep gravel track to the bike packers hostel where I thought I would camp and it was well and truly closed. I continued on toward the nonexistent town of Glenhope and pulled in to a blue and white farmhouse on the side of the road to request a camp spot in the paddock. I got lunged at by Fatso the Rottweiler before Shelley answered the door and told me not to be silly and come inside and you can sleep on this couch and here’s a towel for the shower and how do you like your crumbed chops and this is no trouble at all and take this Shiraz darling, you’ve clearly had a tough day. I was part of the family of three for the night, and they left early in the morning, giving me free reign of the hundred year old wooden house. Oh how the universe works in mysterious ways. 

Today was absolutely divine, cycling 110 kms threading through picture perfect mountain ranges, against a quarter of the south westerlies, lunching with international cyclists, gazing at eagles silhouetted against the sun and getting high on this Southern Hemisphere version of Switzerland. The roads were narrow in some places, and I got warmed up by the engines of trucks on a few occasions, but the lack of tar gives the impression of being deep in nature. Some valleys are constantly wet and moss edged, while open plains have rotting fences dotted with wild flowers. All flavours of sheep fill the paddocks, and even deer are farmed. The girls were on one side of the road and the boys on the other. Typical. It’s pretty damn remote, fuelling a bit of fear in a lone little human mind. Apparently there’s no snakes though. Just have to watch out for cows. 

Now I am stretching on the floor of a camping backpackers wedged between mountains inland from the north west coast of New Zealand. Tattooed french girls are scanning Instagram and a Zambian couple are having a life chat with a German girl. I am beginning to understand why this country is such a sought after travelling destination. West coast tomorrow woo!! 


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