Cycling in a skirt

One life, some bicycles. A million possibilities, zero clue!



Before arriving in New Zealand my biggest concern was that they wouldn’t let us in. Not due to any nefarious character traits but the dirt particles on our bikes. Therefore our last days in America were spent with a toothbrush and bleach, scrubbing every minute speck from every scrap of equipment we owned.
As it turned out, getting in to the country wasn’t the problem. A quick inspection of the tent by customs bio-security officers pronounced it ‘looking like new’. This made me absurdly proud and relieved that I’d spent ages washing and re-waterproofing (more of which later). Our still-boxed bikes were waved through with a 6 month visa. Even the sun shone on us as we rode out of the airport some 2 hours later, after a stress-free assembly of bikes, and rode the 15 miles into Auckland, 99% of which was on delightful designated bike paths. The New Zealand gods must love us……

Less than 48 hours later Mike has managed to (separately) lose his passport, $100 in cash and test positive for covid. The only consolation as he settles in for his 7 day quarantine is that it has been raining non-stop since we unpacked.
Fortunately we are in an air b&b apartment, not a tent, and even more fortunately the landlady was incredibly kind and helpful about us staying on. By some quirk of fate I continued to test negative so was left free to explore. This turned out to be mostly in the running errands capacity fetching tests, shopping and latterly the errant passport which was found at the airport and retrieved in a 5 hour bus marathon. I can vouch first hand however for the excellent public transport system around all corners of the city.

With quarantine complete and health, passport and sense of humour (just about) recovered it was exciting to finally be setting off on the bikes again. Even the persistent drizzle couldn’t spoil things as we rolled into action. First stop was the station where Auckland’s trains are some of the best I’ve encountered. Painted areas on the platform tell you where to stand for the accessible carriages. Wheelchair users, buggies and bikes can all easily push on board via automatically deployed ramps in these carriages. Banks of seats fold away so bikes can be fully accommodated and strapped in place, even with panniers. On arrival, large platform lifts then convey both bikes seamlessly to ground level.
We could of course have cycled out of the city but we’d covered those same miles riding in from the airport and we’re also trying to ease back in gently after a few weeks off/of illness.

Disembarking, the urban roads wound through large industrial estates, then busy commuter belt territory before finally morphing into quieter country lanes. The scenery was  very…..English, lush green fields and rolling hills. We even  came across a ‘pick your own’ strawberry farm, reminding me of many childhood summers stuffing baskets (and mouths) amongst the endless rows of sweet berries. Also reminding me of English summers was the fact that it had started to rain again. Heavily.

Fast forward 10 days and this has been a recurring theme. After 5 smug months of almost entirely no rainfall, New Zealand is making up for it in abundance. Nearly every day has contained at least one deluge, but mostly more. There have been several eye-stinging thunderstorms too. Curled up in the tent at 4am with the wind howling, branches falling and the rain coming down horizontally it’s surprisingly cozy (thank goodness I re-waterproofed the tent) but in the day time however it’s less fun. Riding busy roads soaked in spray with cars whizzing past a narrow shoulder, visibility reduced to a misty curtain.
It’s never gentle rain either, it’s sudden and unrelenting going from blue skies to black clouds in a blink, soaking you comprehensively in minutes. Wearing waterproofs is of little help as the warm spring temperatures have you sweating out as much water as the clouds.

There are positives to all the precipitation however. Firstly the landscape, swathed in the most wonderful shades of green. As we head south, English lawns give way to marsh lands and then giant ferns and palms which feel more like riding through a tropical rain forest.
The landscape, plant and birds life varies so much I never tire of looking at the spectacular surroundings,  weird rock formations and crenallated hills. We spend much of one day looking out for escaped Orcs and Hobbits after passing Hobbiton, the permanently sited set for the Lord of the Rings films. I’m not fan enough to pay the $90 entry fee but ‘potential hobbit house-spotting’ becomes an amusing passtime.

The other joy of New Zealand is it’s abundant thermal waters. Nearly every place we’ve camped in has, or is near, a natural thermal pool. There is nothing better than, at the end of a long ride, sinking into a naturally heated bath water tucked away amidst foliage and rocky glades. Pool temperatures are regulated by volume and by the distance away from source. Where a spring bubbles up from the earth it is usually around 36-40 degrees celsius, a bath temperature I could wallow in all day. Whilst here I’m planning on immersing myself in as many of these phenomenon as possible.

The riding has included some terrific, purpose built bike ways utilising old rail routes such as the spectacular  Huraki rail trail running for nearly 200km  out of Auckland. We rode much of its length, over wooden suspension bridges, through forests and fields, through thriving towns such as Thames and down towards Rotorua.  When the trails run out though the highways come as a rude shock, with some narrow shoulders and large, very close-passing trucks.

So, the first few weeks in New Zealand have been a baptism of water rather than fire. We have gotten soaked, willingly and not and have spent more time drying out than ever before. Water is the constant of this country as is the ubiquitous smell of sulphur from the hot pools and privet and honeysuckle in the countryside. Also constant has been the genuine kindness and open-heartenedness of the people we have met so far from b&b owners who let us wash and dry clothes, help us fix things and go above and beyond and to random strangers we have met who have bestowed gifts of food, including fresh venison and pastries. We feel truly welcomed, if a little damp.

Huge thank yous go to Robyn for making life easier, Mal and Kris, Jeff and Mike at Okiroire, the Farmhouse Deli staff in Clevedon and the wonderful Noi.


If you enjoy reading about adventure, travel, cycling or all 3 why not check out my book: How To Cycle Canada the Wrong Way.


It’s the story of a forty-something woman with no clue in life and no cycle touring experience. What she does have is a sense of adventure, a second hand bicycle and a skirt and the idea of riding across Canada….the wrong way.

Available on Amazon in e-reader and paperback formats.

Author: cycling in a skirt

A forty-something, journeying through life on two wheels. Possessor of limited common sense and practical ability, but full of a passion for adventure, life and bicycles. Writing about the highs and lows of cycling, cycle touring, skirts, silliness and the daily struggle not to grow up and be responsible.

4 thoughts on “Waterworld

  1. Wow, I am super jealous that you were even near hobbiton!! Spotted your first and likely mistake.. Orcs! Still can’t believe the adventures you’re having!!


  2. Hah good spot from a true hobbit fan. I will update, thanks. I must have been thinking of ,’Auck’ – land 😂
    Lovely to hear from you as always, hope all is good with you.


  3. It must have rained very little in February 1995 as I can’t remember any rain looking back on this bike ride except for one day in Wellington. I hate rain on the bicycle – there is no escape from gettig soaked.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like you were there later in summer which was a good idea. It’s still spring right now so a bit damp but we have a few more months yet. Time for my stuff to dry out at least 😄


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