One full moon ago I set out on an adventure that I could barely fathom. I didn’t know how I could ever begin, let alone end. Tonight I watch that bulbous, pregnant mass of light form whole once again, and all I want to do is savour this time. It’s the last night on this two-wheeled rendezvous of south New Zealand. My three red bags, sturdy bike and unfailing body have been on a wild cycle; pushed and pulled by gale force winds, guided by helping hands and soothed by pristine wilderness.
I have everything to be completely self-sufficient on the road. I should be sleeping in the wild rather than campsites like these, yet I’ve hardly touched my gas. It’s because I love people. They are my energy; so much more important than saving a few dollars. What they give me in inspiration and warmth is priceless.
It’s been a few precious days since last writing. I remember cycling toward Christchurch across farm flats to stay with my cousins roommate I met in Scotland a few years ago. He is a stonemason who greeted me with homemade beef jerky. Earthquakes threaten the city daily, and this quote by Marty Rubin personifies the undying determination and adaptability of this unfortunately located city; ‘Human nature is water, not stone’.
I stood amongst the makeshift container mall in Christchurch, a space of beauty and atmosphere in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake.
Owen dropped me north of the city and I rode toward Hamner Springs though lonely sheep farms while I swore my lungs out at the hammering wind. I hit some kind of wall, and almost turned around to fly somewhere easy with a bus to get me out of this self-inflicted pain zone. My eyes welled with tears and I hardly had a thought in my mind. I kept on though, for forty ks. When the grey nomads Merve and Margaret approached my wind swept state of being and said ‘what a day- we saw you back down the road there darl, do you want a lift with us to Kaikoura?’, you can guess what I replied. With a new route decided by the eighty-something Kiwi couple, I rode up the east coast. The sun shone happily and there was barely any traffic. Along the way you stumble over wooden beach huts stacked with local seafood. Some Aussie tourists handed me a few juicy green lipped mussels for breakfast and I continued on in this dazzled-flat-coast-stupor. A sign labelled ‘seals next 4km’ had me perplexed until I came across a baby seal on the road. It flopped it’s tail and bounced around and I had to tie my hands behind my back to stop myself cuddling it. Just past this were a whole colony of seals frolicking on the rocks below. I didn’t think it could get any better, until I came across the baby seal filled waterfall stream. Just a few minutes walk into the forest you can find them. I arrived at the mossy waterfall and literally put my hand to my heart and laughed with so much joy in a moment out of time. The black pearl eyes and waterlogged sleek fur, personifying whiskers and blubber bodies were everywhere! Back flipping and kissing, hugging and preening. The pups grow up here in the protected stream, and there was clearly no adult on duty today to keep them at bay!
I came across a perfect little beach shack camping ground and decided to stay the rest of the day, sleeping in the sun and reading the instructor manual for my new job. Some lovely French caravaners shone a light on my tent in the evening and invited me over for dinner. Even though my tent-home is cosy and warm, I wasn’t going to give up the glitz and glamour of spending an evening in theirs!
Well north of Kaikoura the coastline is very untouched. Rippled dunes and churning silted ocean, the thundering of the train as it rumbles the line of the coast. I felt alone but rode with the diaries of Anne Frank. By the end of the day I found myself all the way up in Picton, booking into a hostel for the free apple crumble.
One thing I am learning is that we cannot be constrained by the opinion of others. Not even the weather forecast! All that matters is that if you need to be somewhere, or you want to do something, just go for it! Should you bother to worry yourself with the vertical exaggeration, the wind direction and the weather forecast? Or to relate it to a wider perspective, the issues of conventionality or expectations? Or should you dive in unknowing because it eliminates sensibility and constraining logic?! It is one of the biggest lessons of all time! For months now I’ve been without an odometer. I was watching my kilometres and speed too much, and it had a hold on my emotions. I bought a brandy shiny new one for this trip and it’s remained inside my bag. It’s been about 1,700km cycling plus some hitching for this journey. In the grand perspective, the land space is only one sixtieth the size of Australia, so really it’s just a drop in a pond. All I care is that it has been a huge and wonderful experience.
I stayed in a hostel last night to escape the predicted storms. Then of course it hardly stormed. Then when it was predicted to clear it absolutely poured. Then the sun came out and I had the most glorious ride on the scarily narrow but truly spectacular Queen Charlotte Road to Havelock. The forest was dripping with magic and fairy dust, lighting the road silver and gold and opening up to the mystery of the Sounds every few hundred metres. I ate a bag of feijoas on a mountain top and relished the good weather. More than a few people said something along the lines of ‘what horrible weather for riding’. I just smiled and said it was beautiful. Because it truly was! It takes consciousness to look past what others say and just believe in what you see and feel.
It’s time to fall asleep by the flowing river in my cosy blue home for the last time in a while.
Tomorrow morning the road will climb and wind into Nelson, and I will lay down my bicycle for a few months in order to meet my colleagues and start work as a travel guide for Pacific Discovery.
Ten year old Jess with her perfect tight plaits travelling New Zealand with the family knew the universe was good, but she had no idea what was in store for her 😉