We’ve partied in a republic, cycled in reindeer costumes and slept in million dollar beach houses. The past month conjures memories of blind tunnels, the whirring green of ferns and bushes on rail trails, creaking suspension bridges, perfectly patterned sunburn, meditating on two wheels through smooth farmland roads, exhausted afternoons with things to do and no way we could move, gigantic green lipped mussels eaten in every possible form, roaring ferries, friendly truck toots, crazy rental car drivers, kayaking in the black swell of the open ocean on our rest days. Hitchhiking in cars and caravans and even with our bikes on a fishing boat. I’ve compartmentalised my favourite pieces; the quaint green scenes from the Forgotten World Highway, the punakawas decorating the coast hugging Coromandel Peninsula and sweat blurring my vision on the exhaustingly beautiful mountains of the Bay of Islands region. On New Year’s Eve coming into Paihia we had to stop and ask a little girl to run inside and get us some food we were so energy sapped, and it turned out the best day of all. We collapsed into the ocean and followed that with a full fresh water shower on the beach and a night of gin, new friends and spectacular fireworks reflecting over the bay. We’ve ridden on ridges with great mountains, ducking in and out and weaving around like a fly on the wall of Mother Earth. We’ve ridden high like queens with the wind, strong in the belief that nothing could halt our legs. On the other parallel we’ve ridden grindingly slowly against our invisible foe the wind, with no promise of the end like the top of a mountain gifts you. The first week of weather rained on our souls and the rest of the trip threw sunshine our way. Memories of headache inducing gravel, dirt, chunky tar and our favourite smooth bitumen, single track mountain biking and even a life threatening thirty kilometres on highway one. We’ve spoken to cows and brown sheep and glowworms, picked flowers from the side of the road, run on the beach and picnicked in chairs chained to remote trees. We’ve misread maps and taken wrong turns, followed our noses and especially our gut instinct. We started this ride in Nelson and finished in Taupo Bay in the north of the island after some 1600kms of cycling, but the most prominent part of this trip was not the riding. It was the people. We have been shown a lifetime of kindness in one short month. We feel like daughters of the universe. With our one man tents and gas stoves, we had no intention of sleeping in houses, we just made a goal of staying in ten backyards so we could interact with locals. Instead, we’ve hardly slept in our tents. We’ve had numerous Christmas parties in homes and towns away from our own; gifted with fine food and drinks, the softest pillows and luxurious showers that we have been transformed into cyclo-tourist princesses.
Every day of this cycling trip has been characterised by something colorful and unique. I have been thinking about whether people generally live and learn or simply live. With this form of travel, I truly believe that we have been living and learning. Learning through the people we meet and their way of being, their stories, actions, reactions, interactions and their cultural identities. I’m learning through the way the world flows, chance encounters and meeting cross points are created. Through kindness and bitterness, quality sleep and nourishing food, love of your life and perception of your place in the world. Through my own thoughts, determination, mindset, flexibility, willingness, level of control, communication and openness. One day can be exhausting and defeating and the next can be empowering and life changing, even though they were both along the same path.
We spent two nights getting to Wellington from Nelson on the bikes and stayed in hostels to get wifi to use Skype for Mary’s job applications in America.. And THEN;
10th December; Upper Hutt with the mother of a Russian cyclist I met in Australia. She was adamant we slept in her bed and she slept in her daughters. Made incredible bliss balls.
11th; We were riding in a freezing rain and an angel named Rebecca stopped and told us to come and stay with her family for the night outside Ekatahuna. Cutest kids ever made us Christmas decorations.
12th; With Jeff and Helen and their family on a farm outside masterton. Organised through Warmshowers. Stayed in the spa drinking until late. I had a sore knee.
13th; rocked up with a broken bike in Palmerston North and called a Warmshowers number; strolled down the road to stay with Pamela and Andrew who gave us our own little flat and spoilt us rotten.
14/15th; caught a bus through the wind and weather to Lepperton near New Plymouth. Stayed two nights with the awesome Henderson Family (family of a good friend and work colleague Lou).
16th; camped in Whangamomoana at the campground for free. The owner even zoomed down the road on his electric bike 10ks to wave goodbye to us the next morn.
17th; free night in the forgotten world hotel because of the awesome people we met on the ferry.
18th; Slept on base at the Legendary Black Water Rafting company in Waitomo with friends of lou.
19th/20th; stayed with my dad’s cousins family in Hamilton and had a day trip to raglan.
21st; Stayed in Tauranga with Mitch’s 98 year old grandma!!
22nd; staying the night work a friends parents in Thames- amazing lamb roast and good chats.
23rd; With a swimming coach that one of Mary’s friends used to have while she holidayed in the coromandel peninsula.
24th; In Whangamata for Christmas Eve with a couple who we met in a cafe a week before and invited us to their bach!
25th; In our tents in someone’s backyard at Cooks Beach for Christmas night- sushi, tea and chocolate for din dins.
26th; In Bayswater, Auckland at the house of an Irish friend I met in Brazil four years ago.
27th; Stayed in Auckland central with a friend
28th; In Ohama at the bach of some friends of george, a friend Mary made travelling in NZ. Drank vodka.
29th; in Marsden Point in our tents in the backyard of some (well off) people we met at an Indian restaurant.
30th; Arrived in Helena Bay where our exhausted bodies could no longer move so we camped right on the beach.
31st; Our very first night paying for accommodation in the north island for New Year’s Eve at X Base in Paihia
January 1st; Sea kayaked out to Urepukapuka island in the bay of islands and camped on the beach
2nd; With some friends in Paihia we met on NYE
3rd; at the family house of Jordan, a fellow camper we met at Urepukapuka. We finished 65 Ks north and Jordan picked us up for a road trip around the north west.
4th; At a campsite by Cape Reinga at the top of New Zealand
5th; At Jordan’s family house in KeriKeri again after a day of site seeing, sand boarding and mud pool cleansing. Stink a bit now.
6th; at the house of Steve the vet, my Aunty in laws friends’ brother in law (who also safe kept some of my luggage for the trip)
7th; On a plane to Fiji.