Cycling in a skirt

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

Personal Baggage


Even at 3,000 feet above sea level, the ambient temperature, which reached over 37 degrees centigrade yesterday, is set to top that today and is rising rapidly. Much more rapidly than me as it turns out.
The computer says I have exactly 182 feet of climbing left to do to reach the Lindis Pass saddle, the high point, but with the road touching gradients of 16% it may as well be miles not feet.
I am cycling in roughly 2 minute bursts before I have to pause, breathe, let my sky-rocketing heart rate slow, to sweat and to whimper quietly.
I’m also trying not to drink. Why on earth you might think?Because last night, after a long hot day in the saddle on dusty, syrupy gravel tracks, the only source of water (at the remote camping spot) was from a dubiously muddy river alongside a busy road. Even boiling and adding chemicals doesn’t do anything to dilute the muddy, gritty taste, or the gnawing suspicion this might not be the best thing to imbibe. Having little alternative however, and given the intense heat, we sip away and try not to think about the multiple warnings of giardiasis, parasites, e-coli etc.
As we finally, finally, haul the bikes over the last few painful feet, we collapse into a thimble-full of shade at the summit lookout. My vision is a bit blurry, my legs are shaking and I wonder, on the top of that mountain, if I have finally reached my highest low-point.
Exhausted, dehydrated, fighting off an ongoing cold, I sit and stare at the ground, not sure I can (or want to) move another pedal stroke.
What I have learned however, is that the only way to go from feeling so bad, is up. Quickly as it turns out.
A car pulls in to the lookout and M bravely goes to see if they have any spare water. They do, a huge, perfectly frozen, 2 litre bottle of ice cold trickly wonderfulness which these lovely occupants donate without a second thought. Just as they are pulling away, the passenger jumps out and gives us another spare half litre which we gratefully drain in seconds.
It is nectar, it revives both body and hopes. That and the fact that we only have just 20 more feet of elevation to gain in the next 20 miles. It is literally all downhill!

What do I learn from this experience, apart from to carry more water everywhere? That people are amazingly generous, that a day can go from awful to do-able in the passing of a bottle, but mostly that I am one of the lucky minority on the planet who (usually) has constant access to reliably clean drinking water, something that I take for granted given the luck and geography of my birth. Not a situation for an estimated 2/3 of the planet’s population who suffer daily from water scarity or contamination.
4 billion people.
4 billion.

I pull my metaphorical socks up and count my blessings.

We cover those 20 miles in little over an hour, arriving in Omarama just as the midday sun is getting unbearable. Pulling over at a smoothie stand this guy sits down next to us in the shade. Cue the usual ‘where are you headed conversation’. Within 3 minutes this perfect stranger has offered us the use of his holiday home (converted bus) and told us where to find the keys. He pulls away with a cheery wave as we sit, flabbergasted, amazed at the kindness and trust of strangers.

Apart from shade, smoothies and free holidays homes, the great thing about arriving in this little town is that we get to shed some pounds at least in terms of luggage. For the eminently reasonable sum of $36 (£19) we can have half of our baggage transported ahead, to meet us in a few days time at the end of our next trail, the popular Alps to Ocean.

The Alps to Ocean (or A2O) is New Zealand’s original, and longest Great Ride, a big brother to some of the other Great Rides we’ve already tackled including the Paparoa and West Coast Wliderness Trails.
The ultimate starting point is at Mount Cook, but, as this involves a helicopter transfer, we are merely joining half way en route from our sojourn in Wanaka.
At 91 miles (3280 feet of elevation) though it’s still a good length and, whilst mainly grade 2 (easy) gravel, some rougher, exposed areas merit a grade 3. Not so much fun with a full load hence the bag transfer.

It is an absolute delight to hand over more than 12kg of luggage, to the lovely man at Trail Adventures. At this point I literally don’t care if I see it again either. In return, we get a receipt, a promise to be reunited with it in 3 days and a free can of beer each (we must have looked desperate).
The day finishes with a soak in the famous outdoor hot tubs. Private wood-heated baths of bliss where you can soak in your birthday suit in your own private pool, cold drink in hand, gazing at the mountains which, just hours earlier, almost broke me. What a difference just now few hours make.

After being ready to quit, the next 3 days are an absolute delight, the bikes fly along the very well signposted A2O route.

Day 1 is navigating some fun and sometimes tricky, rocky singletrack around the tranquil Lake Benmore before a windy, exposed dam crossing on Lake Aviemore and camping in a packed campground, unwittingly in he middle of a public holiday, with another ‘boil water’ notice before drinking.

Day 2 is quiet, delightful, well -tended gravel trails, helped along by tail winds, the highlights being a terrific cafe stop at the town of Kurow (cheese scones as big as your face), some Maori rock art paintings and the wonderful little town of Duntroon which boasts an old fashioned blacksmiths shop, village stocks and an incredibly friendly local pub. The quiet, leafy community campsite is also superb and, for $20 (£10) a night, provides hot showers, a very comfy lounge and drinking water in abundance.

Day 3 starts with a long, leisurely breakfast at the Flying Pig cafe before talking the final hills and trails along which the tail-wind still kindly pushes us. A stop at the standing stones known as Elephant Rocks, winding through a valley used in the film production of The Chronicles of Narnia, a railway tunnel, and an historic hotel all feature before we roll happily to the end point at the thriving seaside town of Oamaru.

It’s almost sad to reach the finish at Oamaru, not least as, when we coast into our campsite, our excess baggage is waiting. The traffic free trails, the lightweight rig, the tailwind have been a delightful counterpoint to that hot and hilly slog just a few short days ago. My highest, mountain-top low point.

So what next? We have a few days off now to rest and recover. Tourist time too.
There will also be a ruthless sorting of bags to try and lose a little weight and a taking stock of what next. A reflection, a time to rearrange all that personal baggage both in the head and in the panniers.
In the last week there have been some real lows but also some magical cycle journeying moments, but that is what happens much of the time.
The aim, is for that fine balance of  enjoyment gained against effort expended, tricky when a day, or even an hour can see a things swing from bad to good and back again.
For now though, at this moment in time, the enjoyment of cycling is still winning out and at least the sun is shining!


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.

2 thoughts on “Personal Baggage

  1. Great to read of your struggles and overcoming adversity, the friendliness of strangers and the sheer joy. So many Scottish place names as well, but fe Māori?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very Scottish at the moment as off to Dunedin which is meant to be very similar to Edinburgh. One of the first settlers was Thomas Burns (nephew to Robbie). We shall see, lots of scenery too which wouldn’t be out of place in the north of Scotland. Very beautiful indeed.


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