Thursday, October 22, 2009

Riding Day 1 & 2 in New Zealand! (NZ part 2)

(NZ part 1 here)

It has been quite a long time since we set out from Christchurch on our adventure, but I can still remember the excitement I was filled with riding away from our hosts' house that first day. To me, being self-sufficient to that level is the ultimate thrill. Being far away from civilization is great, but traveling pared down for a long period of time, even if you are not in the wilderness, is invigorating in it's own way. (Of course, I quickly would realize that I could have pared down even more!)

As we started to pedal, we faced our first decision, "so Dan, what do you think - left, or right?" We felt like taking a left, so that was the decision that set in motion the next 3 months of our lives - pedaling our bikes counter-clockwise around the South Island of New Zealand.

We had picked up a set of AA maps (like AAA in the US), so using these we took our left and headed north toward the town of Kaiapoi on Route 1. This is the main north/south road in the area, and as a result was pretty busy. In general, the South Island did not seem particularly busy, but on heavily loaded bikes and with little to no extra roadway for bikes, we quickly tired of Route 1. We settled for just getting ourselves out of the main hub of Christchurch, and found a nice, quiet place to camp on the beach in Waikuku, looking out over Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean. All the traveling had tired me out, but there was such an adventure ahead, I found it hard to sleep that first night. (total distance - maybe 25km?)

(Our trip route is highlighted on these maps, and if you click for the larger view you may be able to see a small X where we found camping each night.)

By the next day we had decided that we should get ourselves off of Route 1 as quickly as possible, and start to explore the back country of this amazing place. We had planned on heading up the east coast, staying close to the ocean and trying to take in some of the wildlife. We scrapped our plans to make Kaikora (I really wanted to try the swimming with wild dolphins there) when we came across a reference to a high country station (some types of farms are called stations in NZ) that had a jeep road through it. (Being from Vermont, we have a hard time passing up on anything that sounds kind of rugged and off the beaten path.)

We rode further up Route 1, almost to the town of Waipara, where we were able to turn left towards the interior mountains on Route 7. (I'm sure there were jokes about Rut-vegas thrown around at that point.) With the reduction in traffic, I started to relax and take in the rolling rural landscape, quite dry in this part of the island. The brown undulating hills created a quiet, sensuous atmosphere that slowly slipped past as I pedaled. The bike felt heavy and slow, and I felt challenged to keep up a decent pace. It was certainly amplified by the fact that my riding partner Dan is truly a top notch athlete. This is a guy who was practically raised on X-C skis and won numerous Junior Olympics when we were in high school. So even if I had been in good riding shape, Dan would have been riding faster than me. But I wasn't. So I enjoyed the scenery as Dan pulled further and further away from me.

Toward the end of a long real day of riding (actually trying to make some distance) we set our sights on Balmoral Forest, where we thought we might be able to set up camp. At the crest of a hill, I found Dan waiting for me to catch up. We out over the Huruni River valley and quickly decided this would be the spot to camp. Day two of real riding complete. (distance ~50km)

(camp on the Huruni - Photo Dan Cantrell)

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