Cycling in a skirt

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

The Small Things: New Zealand, heading South.

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You know that quote that says “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” For me, cycle touring is the classic example of that.
When you are away from home for months, or even years on end, you seldom step back and view the trip as a whole, as an epic adventure, instead, what you notice, what you remember are the multitudes of constituent parts, and in particular the things that make a difference are often the small, things.

 
Take stuff for example. When life is reduced to whatever you can cram into 4 panniers, and under assorted bungee cords, what you carry with you really becomes significant. Indeed, much thought has gone into every item that we are lugging up and down hills and across countries. This is something I dwell on a lot, especially on those steep climbs when the bike weighs the equivalent of a baby elephant which I have to then coax up a 15% incline. At least with an elephant you’d stand a chance of it walking by itself.
On shorter tours of a few days or weeks, I would have a far skinnier set up but it’s amazing how much comfort you can forgo in the short term with the promise of a soft bed/change of clothes in your future. For this trip however, whilst mindfull of weight, we have included things that will make the months of cycling and camping that little bit happier.
Since starting we have added to this too, a few items here and there, small things which make life a little better if a bit heavier.
Things for example such as our travel coffee press mugs. When you’re covering long miles and sleeping badly in a tent caffeine becomes the drug of choice for most tourers. 
Hard though it is to believe, I may not be the nicest person first thing in the morning (think rabid, snarling beast with bad hair) until nuclear-strengh coffee has entered my system. My nifty french-press mug delivers that caffeiney hit much to everyone’s relief and happiness. Definitely worth the weight.
Another new and now indispensable addition has been a mini inflatable solar light. Bought in the U.S. this ingenious device is slightly bigger than a tin of beans, it has a solar panel on top which charges anytime its exposed to light, it can be hung up in the tent, hung outside of an evening or even floated in water and gives a lovely glow all evening. It squashes down to roughly the size of a beer mat to transport and weighs less than 200 grams. It also means we can find lost items in the tent during the hours of darkness or even sit outside after sunset like proper adults, rather than huddling around a picnic bench by the light of our headtorches like wizened old miners.
 
Meanwhile, on the bike itself, it is always the small things which can really brighten or make your day. I love for example, the quirky roadside sculptures or mailboxes. Rarely now do I look at the miles covered or feet climbed and feel a massive sense of happiness, the joy is more in little details. In New Zealand, I’ve found many of the drivers here, of all types of vehicle, wave to you as they go past, give a thumbs up, toot the horn.
Many smile too, although they may well be laughing at the reindeer antlers we have strapped to our helmets, but it never fails to make me smile back and, especially if I’m struggling up a hill or into the wind, a smile makes the moment just a little bit brighter, more do-able.
 
Since setting out from Auckland some 3 weeks ago we’ve been caught up in one of the wettest, windiest, coldest springs on record (as everyone keeps telling us). After summer temperatures in Eurpoe of over 40 degrees centigrade and 5 dry months, it’s come as a shock. The weather veers from black cloud and torrential rain one minute to scorching sunshine the next. We’ve given up on raincoats finding it easier just to drip dry between downpours. Whilst the rain has eased in the last few days, the wind has certainly taken its place with gale force South westerlies, (a benign, warm wind in  the UK, which is the direct opposite here). Our worst day by far was the ride from Rotorua to Lake Taupo, a short day in terms of mileage but, as we swung into the howling wind Garmin informed us we had 28 miles, on a road that was near arrow straight.
It was a grim crawl but one in which we were pathetically grateful for any slight curve in the tarmac or stand of trees that provided shelter and respite for a few yards at a time. We counted down our route in mere feet that day, not miles.
 
As we head south now the roads become quieter and we spend days riding through lush valleys. At first glance they look like they are full of golf courses the grounds are so green, but no, just acres upon acres of pristine pastureland. Flowers too, everywhere, lupins, hollyhocks, daisies and the odd farmhouse garden that is a riot of roses and spring blooms.
Fields of young cows actively run to greet us as we ride by, whilst small knots of gargantuan, muscled bulls glare in challenge. I want to take a photograph but as yet am too afraid, given that the only thing separating me from 1000lb of angry bovine is a delicate strand of electric wire. 
 
The bird life here is prolific too, some exotically strange such as the pretty Pukeko (or swamp hen to the locals), small yellow birds like Canaries or unusual black Robins. The calls too range from an eerie human-like tuneful whistle to one that sounds distinctly like the old fashioned dial-up internet connection.
There are also the less exotic but omnipotent ducks. Waddling around everywhere from the suburban gardens of Auckland to a few of the campsites we’ve stayed in. It makes a change not to worry about being eaten by bears at night but the ducks can be quite persistent in their attentions. With no natural preditors they also don’t hide away at night, they literally just plop themselves down at night outside the tent, ready to resume their social activities at first light.
 
We’re back to camping most of the time now too and the similar to Canada, the small community campgrounds here are a joy as well as very reasonably priced. New Zealand campsites are definitely winning top marks all round for having not only toilets with loo paper and seats (small things) but also fully equipped kitchen with kettles, stoves, pans and even tables. All this makes camping a very civilised experience but also one in which you actively get to meet and socialise with other campers, especially those who are long term residents due to seasonal work. You share stories, jokes, even food as well as get local insider info (and gossip).
 
In the last 2 weeks we’ve travelled from Rotorua to Masterton via Lake Taupo. We’ve had time off in the former and latter to go mountain biking and explore the weird and wonderful geothermal offerings including sulphur lakes, mud pools and temperamental geysers. We’ve been woken by an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale and by a dawn chorus of ducks.
We’ve swum and skinny dipped in our own private thermal river pools, explored waterfalls and hit hundreds of golf balls into a lake. We’ve hopped on a bus from Taupo to Hastings to avoid riding a nasty looking highway (good decision), we’ve cycled up multiple hills, through wind, rain and thunder and past houses with gardens so big, one even included a private rollercoaster (very jealous). 
 
It’s been tough but it’s been phenomenal. I think, for me, feeling part of a country comes far more from the small things than the grand vistas, the stately homes, the miles covered. Instead it’s in the everyday, the people you meet in camp kitchens, on the buses, the birds (that crap on your tent), enjoying the lovingly tended front gardens. It’s in sampling the local cakes they serve in the bakery, the beer from the town brewery, even discussing the price of milk in the supermarket.
It’s the small things that make you feel both connected to a place and also make your life easier when you are travelling through it.
Thanks on this leg go to some fantastic Warm Showers hosts, to Emma and Debbie for loaning us their lovely apartment and to George for being a fabulous human being and a wonderful cook. To the cherry lady and to Carl for the emergency beer support and going above and beyond. To fellow travellers and bravers of big trucks Kim and Thomas, wishing you fair winds.
 
Next to come, something a bit different……
 

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

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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.

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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.

7 thoughts on “The Small Things: New Zealand, heading South.

  1. Your joy for NZ is oozing out of my phone, love it 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, the small things in life. I like this very much. I have recently been doing a lot of meditation. I’ve been reading Echart Tolle’s book: The power of NOW. He suggests that it is easier to be fully present when focusing on a tiny thing. Grand things distract us with their perceived importance or value or difficulties. A tiny thing like an autumn leaf or sunlight on dust. These things we can delight in without words and without the mind. Love your blog. xxx

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    • Wise words indeed. There’s a lot to be said for noticing and appreciating the small things, a warm shower after a cold bike ride for example. Lovely ideas, thank you 😍

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      • Warm shower after a cold bike ride is a huge thing in my world!! Perhaps I should get out more! (Then have more warm showers – hmm a plan!) Amazingly cold here in the UK at the moment – frost. Everyone seems confused about this! The heat waves made us forget about frost.
        I really love what you are saying. I love it when I go camping and the world revolves around the daily needs of life and the people we meet. Totally get it. The bigger picture sort of claims its place after the adventure.

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  3. Thank you. Another adventure destination for you maybe? 😊

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