Hiding in the Library

Current Location: Stratford, Aotearoa

I’ve been holed up for a few days here in Stratford due to several reasons.  One is that the ride from Hawera to here, merely a 30km ride, my right knee went through what I can only describe as excruciating pain every churn of the crank.  I ended up stopping every 5 to 10k in hopes that time would take the edge off the pain which didn’t help at all but instead only made the pain more sharp each time I started again.  I’m not sure what to chalk up this pain to yet, but several theory include; I’ve jumped into cycling far too vigorously after basically taking 3 months off, I injured my knee somewhere on the farm in Pongaroa, or lastly the clips on my shoe need to be adjusted.  I’m honestly not sure which one has done me in.  The other reason for the stop here is that it’s the jumping off point for the Forgotten World Highway and there is some nasty weather coming through and I was hoping to do the highway in at least halfway decent weather. I’ve decided even if I have to do the remainder of the ride in 30km increments then so be it, I just hope the weather clears up a little bit to help me.

Not much goes on in Stratford, it’s more of a passing point between New Plymouth and Wanganui or Mt. Tarakani.  Though it does have the one and only Glockenspiel in New Zealand.  Side note, I thought a Glockenspiel was a musical instrument but it turns out it means musical clock (at least that’s what the sign of the base of the tower says.)

Cycling next to Mt. Taranaki, aka. Mt. Edgemont, aka. Mt. Fuji of the South was nice.  Snow capped it really could have been Mt. Fuji erupting out of nowhere and gently sloping down towards the center of the island.

Gotta Ride

Current Location: Palmerston North, Aotearoa

It’s time to put this ride to rest I think.  I had Max drop me off in Palmerston this morning due to some broken spokes on the rear wheel.  I’ve had a rash of them ever since getting into Wellington.  I think I’ve replaced 6 spokes since then, fortunately for me I’ve found a decent bike shop that is willing to re-spoke the wheel.  That in itself is strange because every other bike shop I’ve run into immediately wants me to put on a new wheel (takes more time to re-spoke) so it’s nice to have them want to fix it properly.  I’m going to start donating some of the things I’ve been carrying around to lessen the weight (I think I’m up to about 7 books.)

My rationalization of getting Max to drop me off is that I cycled by Palmerston on the way to Pongaroa so this is sorta a warp back to a previous save spot.  I think the cycling will be interesting the first 3 or 4 days as I really haven’t cycled continuously since riding into Mapua a little over 3 months ago.  I’ve done fairly well hiding out the winter indoors wwoofing.  Last week working on the fencing there were a few days that felt like summer, it was great. But the farmers around town were saying when I got there the last two weeks of August everything turns to custard. What do you know when the 16th of August rolls around and it pours cats and dogs for days.  It was nice while it lasted.

We finished up the fencing project we were working on and had some deer steaks ‘hacked off the carcass’ as Max put it.  Quite good eats paired with my favorite purple potatoes and cheap (good) Aussie wine.  As usual the conversations with Max & Jane are excellent and many movies were watched as there is little else to do around Pongaroa.

Motto for the next few weeks, ‘Cape Reinga or bust’.

Couple pictures added, just the hunting ones.

steak, it's whats for dinner

No. 8 Wire

I’m still in Pongaroa at the moment, probably the last week I’ll be here as I’ve started to get a little restless here.  Fortunately for me I’ve moved on from digging holes to fixing fences which I think I enjoy a little bit more.  One of the things I had heard about New Zealand before coming here was the idea of #8 wire.  As far as I can tell it goes a little something like

“You can fix anything with a little bit of #8 wire and some ingenuity”

The philosophy stems from the farms in New Zealand but extends from there to just about every facet of New Zealand culture.  I’d be surprised to meet a kiwi who didn’t know the #8 philosophy.  I’ve seen it used most when it comes to fixing fences around the farm from fixing broken fence posts to attaching battens to the posts.  The fences do look a lot better, from afar, than they did when we got there. Up close I like to say the wire work looks like a work of art. Because farms tend to be far apart in New Zealand farmers couldn’t rely on anyone or anything they didn’t have at their disposal to get the job done which would be the birth of the philosophy.  A good example of this is “The Worlds Fastest Indian” Burt Munroewho put together quite a fast machine in his garage, by himself.  Another one that I’ve seen is a homemade bike trailer made out of an old shopping cart, lawnmower handle, and an old bike wheel.  A little welding later and ta-da new bike trailer.  I really like this idea of relying on oneself and what is on hand, now if I could just figure out how to use #8 to fix broken spokes I’ll be good as gold.

A couple of hunters came today to refill the freezer with some fallow deer meat, I’ve got a few pictures but they aren’t for the faint of heart, I’ll post them next time I’ve got some pictures to go up.

The days have started getting noticeably longer again, thankfully.  I think it’s about as much daylight as I had the last time I was here in Pongaroa.  I think I’ve changed the route up north just a bit and instead of hugging the coast road around Mt. Taranaki I’ll cut up the east side of it and take the Lost Highway up to the center of the island after a suggestion made to me by another cyclist met in Otaki.  I’m certainly not looking forward to going through Auckland again, having not seen a city with 1 million people in it for close to a year it’s going to be a little overwhelming I’m sure.

Back on the Farm

Time seems to keep passing along as I came, once again, to the realization that my time in New Zealand gets shorter and shorter.  By my reckoning I have a little less than 3 months to finish up everything I’ve got to do in New Zealand.  I’m not really worried about the ride anymore because by my calculations it’s only 2 weeks of riding give or take a few days so as long as the bike holds together for a bit longer then that part of the adventure is just about sealed up.

Being back in Pongaroa has been as relaxing as it was the first time I was here.  I get to read a lot of books and watch heaps of movies (99% of which are non-fiction, as Max says ‘truth is often stranger than fiction.’)  We’ve taken to a lot of fencing projects, some of which Alex and I started the last time we were here along with planting native plants around the farm.  While I’ve been in town there has been a rally race that used Pongaroa as the hub (the most excitement I’ve seen in town square since I’ve been here,) and not a whole lot else to draw much attention to this corner of the world.  The food continues to be excellent and the wine keeps me warm at night.

Speaking of native plants it’s nice to see people who make a conscious effort to promote and ensure that the native flora which to some extent promotes the native fauna.  This is the second place I’ve wwoofed at where promoting native plants takes a priority rather than planting the exotics.  I’m somewhat ashamed to say my knowledge of Hawaiian native plants is somewhat lacking, besides the kukui nut tree and some flowers used for making leis nothing else really comes to my mind which is somewhat embarrassing.

A somewhat funny story popped up in the news about a week ago that boggled me, here it is.

I added a few pictures from Otaki on to Pongaroa.

Beer house

Dug Dig

Current Location:Pongaroa, Aotearoa

I’ve been here a little over a week now, thanks to Max for letting me take over the computer for a while to put back the pieces of humpty-dumpty here.  I cycled over the Puketoi ranges this time making it one big loop to get back here.  I also got to cycle through a few gorges which are always nice to ride through since I know it’s easier to ride through them then over a mountain range.  The only downside to it was that the Manuwatu gorge is the major link between Palmerston North and Woodville which meant quite a bit of traffic.

It’s been a while since I’ve really written anything meaningful here since the site kept going up and down so bear with me as this might go back a while.

The two crazy kids in Wellington insist I only referred to them as the two crazy kids.  So I figure I have to rectify this sooner or later.  Sharon and Ellen (and Wayne who is now in the UK)  I met while doing the Milford Track down on the South island.  Sharon was nice enough to host me whenever I showed up in Wellington.  It sort of got to be like the boy who cried wolf as I kept saying it would be the last time I show up in Wellington but then every weekend rolled around and I’d pop back down to Wellington for the weekend.  So thanks to Sharon and Ellen for the wacky hijinks, the marathon watching, and the coffee drinking it was a lot of fun in Wellington.

As I mentioned in the Apples post I spent a few weeks pruning apple trees in the Totranui Orchard which was kinda neat.  The best part was the apple juice and cider though.  The ad for the place in the wwoof book says the apple juice tastes like it’s from heaven and thats something I’d have to agree with, it was a nice treat to start the morning with a nice glass of homemade apple juice and end the day with 4litres of hard cider (between 2 of us.)  It was good fun there, listeing to the radio news and a movie most nights sitting next to the fire, good stuff. 

It’s nice to be back in Pongaroa, a neat little spot in New Zealand.  The work is hard but that’s a good thing.  Directly after I arrived here Max and Jane told me the plans for me while i’m here.  The main job is putting an extension on the house for which I was responsible for digging the holes where cement is to be poured.  I think I dug around 3 cubic meters of dirt out of the ground for the first 4 days or so.  The plan now is to pour the cement into those holes tomorrow along with the piles that the extension will sit on.  I’ve also been fixing fences and digging around in the garden.

I’m not sure exactly what the plan is from here, I’m thinking I’ll get out of here around the end of the month and just finish up most of the ride, perhaps stay up in northland for a while and wwoof up there.  There is finally enough daylight now to get in a decent ride without having to worry too much about running out of time.


Current Location: Otaki, Aotearoa

I left Levin a few days ago after saying farewell to Ken and Lorraine having spent a good few weeks there. I’m sort-of proud to say I’ve converted them to wwoofing hosts after having a good experience with me there. Sharon came up to hang out with us over the weekend as well which was fun. We went to a Simon & Garfunkel party hosted by some friends of Ken and Lorainne. The party was preceded by my first All Blacks game, it’s actually the first rugby game I’ve watched from beginning to end and I think I’m in danger of having that become one of my favorite games to watch. It’s a lot more visceral than anything in America. A lot of guys get cut pretty bad and all they do is wipe the blood from their eyes and look on, it’s amazing what they are capable of. All Blacks won, which was good since they lost last week.

I’m glad to say that the Winter (Summer?) Solstice has finally passed me by which means the days start getting longer again! As my aunt let me know it will be a while until I actually see some difference in the amount of daylight, but mentally it’s nice to know that i’m getting more time and not less to cycle. It’s also new years for the Maori (Matariki)

I’m at an apple orchard at the moment, probably for a few weeks as i’ll be making one more trip into Wellington this weekend to cheer on Ellen as she runs a 10k. A fun fact for people out there, if you eat a lot of apples, drink a lot of apple juice and drink a lot of hard cider your pee smells like apples. It’s mundane work as we’re pruning 909 apple trees that haven’t been pruned in 7 years but the time goes by quickly enough. They also raise pigs in the apple orchard and we’ve had some great pork since I got here. I’m trying to get him to smoke some pork using the apple wood we’ve cut down, that would be amazingly tasty.

On the agenda is Max & Janes again, they invited me back to Pongaroa and I had kinda half intended to go back there anyway so when they sent the invite I couldn’t resist. Which ultimately means that it’ll be at least mid July before I really start cycling again. I think once I leave Pongaroa I’ll cycle the remainder of the trip to get some good miles in before setting down to wwoof again.

Living Levin

Current Location: Levin, Aotearoa

Waiting for the shortest day of the year to pass me by has given me a chance to hang out in and around Wellington a lot more than I had expected, which is turning out to be a good thing. I’m liking Wellington as a city, not as much as I liked Christchurch, as it does have a lot to offer. It’s museum has a colossal squid on display which I got to check out, Shaun would have been impressed.

I got to go tramping this weekend with Sharon, Ellen, Bryan, and Cedric. A motley menagerie traipsing through the mountains of the Rimutaka. This being the hill I skipped by catching a ride with Alex back in January. We hiked in 4 liters of wine along with some other food and a deck of cards and had a grand time in the hut. We had a lot of fun playing and drinking in the middle of the woods, and the hiking was fun too. A little wet but not as bad as the Milford track although the track was a little more vertical than the Milford. I think I won the prize for most slips, clay when wet gets pretty slippery.

I’m also sort of wwoofing in Levin with a co-worker of Sharons who mentioned to her that they had some work around the house that needed doing and did they know of anyone. As it turns out I’m left to my own devices and come up with my own chores around the house which is a lot different than usuall. Most of the time the people I’m working with have a specific list of things needing to get done. I probably wouldn’t have stopped in Levin had it not been for Ken and Lorainne, it’s a town thats major feature that I can figure out is it’s in the middle of everywhere. It has a bustling feel to it but not a whole lot going for it.

As Branden commented on my use of strange words theres actually a little more that I’ve picked up in my time here. Although I blame the use of the word posh on hanging out with a bunch of pom’s, it’s not normally in the vocabulary. A kiwi-ism that I’ve been heard using is “sweet as…” I’m sure you can imagine what I thought people were saying the first few times I heard that which caused me a little consternation. But since then I’ve found it used in a lot of different ways such as “Heavy as, Cold as.” So it basically translates to “Cold as [can be], Sweet as [can be]” The other saying I’ve picked up is saying “cheers” instead of “thanks.” I’m not sure how I feel about that one but it feels more sincere than a simple thanks.

As a side note some cousins of mine have set off on a coast to coast ride, good luck to Reuben & Teresa.

I’ve finally got around to sorting through a months worth of pictures, something I hope to not have to put off again as it takes so long to sort through that many pictures. This lot of pictures goes all the way back to doing the Abel-Tasman on through to getting back to Wellington.

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.