Conquering Hills

Current Location:Takaka, Aotearoa

I think one of my biggest problems when it comes to cycling is thinking about things too much, that might actually be a problem I have in general. I finally got around to getting over Takaka hill the other day and it was a very nice ride. In my mind though it had been built up to the point where I thought it was the size of Everest. In reality it’s a meager 800m (2400ft, the elevation of home in Maui) and my theory of going 10m per minute vertically held up quite well, so all in all it took me just under 1 hour 20 minutes to climb the hill. The downhill was quite worth it because I didn’t have to touch my peddles for 20 minutes of freewheeling, awesome. The lesson here is to just get the hills over with instead of dwelling on them for weeks on end, hopefully I can put it to practice.

Takaka ends up being what it’s been built up to be by Max, Jane, and Alex. It’s a very chill place to hang out for a weekend. I even managed to make it up to Farewell Spit up on the north end of the south island. I went looking for a beached whale that was in the paper but couldn’t find it and the locals in the area had no clue where it was but the ride up to the spit was excellent if not a little long. Another ‘problem’ I’m having in the area is they keep putting mico-breweries on the side of the road. I stopped by the Mussel Inn on the way back from the Spit yesterday and helped myself to more than a few beers and had fun trying to peddle back the remaining 15k with fading light.

I finished my second great walk in New Zealand and it was completely different than the Milford Track. The Abel-Tasman Track is relatively easy if it’s timed right. Had I tried to do it a few days later it would have taken me extra days since you have to cross estuaries which rely on the tide. As it turned out I timed it about perfectly since I only had to wait 1hour for the tide to go out and wade through hip deep water. The hut I chose to stay in (Bark Bay) was about halfway through the hike and I figured it was as good as any. It turned out that it was the one hut inhabited by mice so that made things a little noisy at night, fortunately I don’t leave without my earplugs so they came in great use that night. The walk itself it really easy and pretty scenic but at the same time it’s all about the beaches, with freezing water. I hear in the summer it’s quite nice to go swimming in but not at this time of year.

I’ll post pictures when I get a chance.

Adventures in Horticulture

I managed to find a backpack for $4 at the second hand store the other day so I’m finally prepared to attempt the abel-tasman track. Only problem with it is it doesn’t have a waist belt on it so all the weight will rest firmly on my shoulders, should be an interesting 2 day walk for my shoulders at the very least. I’ll leave for that tomorrow and be back out of the woods on Monday evening if all goes according to plan. Tomorrows hike is gonna be at full blast as the ferry pulls into shore at 11:30 and the sun sets at 5:30ish.

I got an email from the Belgian cyclist, Matthew, I toured with that long day into Greymouth the other day. He has pushed on into the north island through some nasty weather. He told me that the weather has been absolutely foul for the past week and couldn’t camp because everything was soaking wet. He got to the point of asking random people to sleep in sheds and other covered spaces. I know i’d be whining about it as well had I been in the rain that much. Fortunately for me I still reside in the sunshine capital of New Zealand and it’s holding up to it’s name quite nicely. Out of the last 2.5 weeks that I’ve been here we’ve seen just about 3 days of rain.

The wwoofing here, as always, has turned out to be a neat experience. I’ve been learning a lot about trees this time, mostly the fruiting type and how to take care of them, aka pruning and transplanting. I’ve also done my part in planting native bush in a Queen Elizabeth II reserve area. I also got wrangled into being a house painter for Ann and Bob as well which usually means I end the day a lot more red than when I started.

The days continue to get shorter by 2 minutes every day which amounts to 14 minutes a week less daylight I have for cycling which makes me think when I get to Wellington it might be best to find another wwoofing gig and wait for the shortest day to pass me by and start gaining daylight once again (June 21 is the shortest day I believe.) I’ve also got the gang I met on the Milford track in Wellington who I’ll get to hang out with for a few days and hopefully get in a long walk over on that side.

Feijoas & Figs

Current Location:Mapua, Aotearoa

While riding with Matthew that one day into Greymouth I asked him after a particularly long stretch of hill how did he feel? His response was something I’ll not forget for a while, it was simply “alive.” It struck me at first as perhaps the language was getting in the way of what he wanted to say but on further thought it was the best answer to give. I have expressed here for a while that I feel particuarly free while riding and the sentiment of alive while riding simplifies it even further, I like it even more.

I like leaving wwoofing gigs up to fate as much as I can. I typically leave a post on the wwoof message board when I’ll be in an area about a week before I think I’ll make it there and let the hosts contact me if they have stuff for me to do. So far this has been a winning recipefor me. I’m currently staying with Ann and Bob Phillips, a couple of wood turners (they make bowls and plates and circular things out of wood) who have a few acres of trees and garden type things that need a little care now that the peak season is past. Figs and Feijoas are in season at the moment and I have my fair share of those every day. Feijoas remind me of guavas from home (the skin especially) and figs are something I’ve never really had except for in Fig Newtons. We also get to have peaches and pears for pudding every night which they had already canned for the year (I really like the pears jar’ed with lemon peels in them.) I am not sure why British people get tagged as eating bland food (at least that’s the stereotype I learned from somewhere) but that really hasn’t been the case with the Brits I’ve stayed with. This couple has brought with them the Pakistani influence that has come to Britain and like their food spicy as did Max and Jane which is delightful for me as it sure beats pb&j every day.

Last stop for me on the south island is Takaka in the Golden Bay region. Alex told me it wasn’t to be missed and Max and Jane also built up the area so I’ll make the trek out there after I’ve finished wwoofing and the Abel-Tasman walk sometime in the next week or so. That tramp will be a lot easier and should b able to manage it in 2 days of walking and 1 night camping in the area. The lady at the info center says that buses aren’t running to the end of the track any more as the season is over so my other option is to get a water taxi to the end of the track and walk my way back to the beginning which is probably how I’ll manage it.

It’s funny how I manage to find the tiny breweries around when wwoofing. It turns out there’sa brewery about 15 minutes walk from where I am staying now, called Golden Bear Brewerie, and even stranger still the guy who started it is from California. It’s a good beer again and even better is he brought with him a California menu, filled with burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. Even managed to run into another Doug from Minnesota while I was drinking there one afternoon. So if anyone needs to find me, i’ll be at the bar enjoying a black boy peach brew.

The Longest Ride

Current Location: Motueka, Aotearoa

I left Franz Joseph under blue skies, a portent that it was time to move on. The previous day I got to walk on the glacier as part of a tour, a good idea to go with a tour since they outfit you with everything you need, the most important thing being crampons. The plan for me leaving Franz Joseph was to make it to Hokitika which would have made it something like a 130km ride which is my sweet spot for riding distances plus with the much shorter days I need to leave earlier to hit further distances. As it happens I met another cyclist on Mt. Hercules, don’t let the name fool you as it was more of a hill, and he was going the same way as I was. We got to talking after we finished the hill and it turns out my flag recognition isn’t the greatest as I greeted him with a gutentag and he’s from Belgium, Matthew is his name, (in my defense I just looked at the two flags and they are very similar.) So after I got over that gaffe I asked him where he was heading sure that he was going to Hokitika as well but it turns out he was shooting for Greymouth which is another 40km past Hokitika. I thought if he was going that far there was no reason I couldn’t go that far as well so we rode together for the remainder of the day taking turns pulling each other the last 50km into Greymouth. We arrived just as the last vestige of light dissapeared in the sky, total distance for the day for me was 176km which works out to 110miles.

Homer and I used to bemoan the amount of food we could eat decreased as time marched on for both of us. But I think I’ve found the solution to that problem. After the 110 mile ride I was famished as all I had that day was a bowl of porridge and a pb&j sandwich. Upon getting into Greymouth I found a pizza joint and sat down ordering a large pizza and a loaf of garlic bread, Matthew had a pint of beer and had to leave shortly after I ordered. I managed to inhale that food with no problems, I think it was somewhere around 15 minutes to finish it all but I felt miles better after that. The following day I found an all you can eat bbq of sausage, toast, and potato salad all for 6$. I found a table with some other kiwi’s on vacation from the north island. They were aghast as I went up for fourths of everything but I got to telling them the previous days journey and they kinda understood. On the upside they offered to put me up when I get up past Auckland again which is super cool.

The pancake rocks were a nice enough distraction for the day and the rest of the west coast was as amazing as it was built up to be. The traffic was relatively light with me going entire km without seeing cars at times and at other times having to jostle around with logging trucks once again. I was warned about the logging trucks in the peddlers paradise so I was ready for them.

I’ve started looking for some wwoofing in this area as this is the sunshine capital of New Zealand. I passed tons of apple and kiwi orchards on the way into town today, strangely enough they don’t make cider from what I can tell. I’m only one day from the end of the south island if I were to head to Picton at this moment but the plan is still to spend some time down here enjoying the south island a bit more.
Updated the pictures
Windy as