The final couple of weeks before leaving London were quite a whirlwind with leaving parties and last minute preparations giving rise to such varying emotions. Our leaving party on the Saturday was one of the more difficult times as we were having such a great evening with everybody that we didn’t want the party to end but we knew that the reason everybody was there was to send us off on our way. The hangover the next day soon took our minds off that though!
Having said a teary goodbye to my mum, we were transported in fashion to the airport by our friend, Joe. He maintained his usual good humour when there was the very real possibility of getting stuck in the airport car park due to a difference between the height of the van and the very low ceilings of the car park. Luckily we avoided any last minute hitches.
To my surprise, my brother, Tom, came bounding round the corner when we were checking in to see us off. It was so lovely to see him but once again, it started my tears off. I soon got myself in order when the airline told us that we were 3 kilos over our luggage allowance and that they would have to charge us £135! However, after Steve explained what we were planning to do they kindly waived the fee. Phew!
Then, before we knew it, it was take off!
Christchurch, New Zealand
Some 30 hours later we arrived in Christchurch on a sunny, crisp afternoon. Over the next few days we stayed with Jonathan and Kate and their children, Sofia and Hamish. Steve worked with Jonathan a few years ago when he and Kate spent some time living in London. Their wonderful hospitality was a great way to get over our jet lag and to settle us into the the Kiwi way of life. They showed us around Christchurch and although we had heard about the earthquakes that shook the city in September 2010 and February 2011, it really was quite a shock to see the devastation first hand. Areas of the city are restricted with many of the buildings still unsafe and obviously due to the substantial loss of life, it has been a traumatic experience. However, the people of Christchurch seem a resilient lot and they have regained some sense of normality by creating a city centre out of shipping containers. We wish the city all the best as it rebuilds.
Kate and Jonathan also took us to Akaroa which made us excited about the wonderful scenery that we were set to visit but also terrified us at the sheer height of the land! However, having checked our cycling book it did say this was definitely one of the more challenging cycle rides so hopefully not all of New Zealand would be like this…but who knows?
The Big Off!
On Monday morning we woke bright and early to get our bags packed in order for the children at Jonathan’s school to give us a send off. However, unfortunately that morning Steve came down with a tummy bug that had been plaguing Jonathan that weekend and threw up 30 minutes before we were due to leave. Being made of sturdy stuff, Steve pulled himself together and we cycled to the school. As the children there got excited and prepared for the assembly about our trip, Steve vanished again. However, he managed to pull it out of the bag again by giving a little talk to the assembly about challenges whilst never letting on how rough he felt.
The children then made a guard of honour to send us on our way. Then, we were interviewed by a local news reporter AND the local TV channel. All very exciting but we must admit we felt like huge fraudsters as we hadn’t even started our trip yet!
Then we were off. The first couple of hours were pleasant with a sunny day. However, we then encountered New Zealand’s dreaded headwinds which we battled into for hours with little progress. This was on top of Steve feeling rubbish and the fact that we hadn’t realised that all the names on the map were little more than fields with sheep in. There wasn’t a petrol station, pub, cafe or shop in sight for miles and miles. Eventually we saw a sign for a campsite and a hotel at a place called Sheffield. With Steve feeling weak we thought we might cheat already and stay the night in the hotel. With images of crisp white sheets and hot showers, we pulled in to the ‘hotel’ which was basically a pub with a few bedrooms. Steve enquired within about the campsite (there wasn’t one for at least another energy zapping 10 kms) and all the rooms were booked up with workers. However, he did say we could camp wherever we could find a spot so that’s exactly what we did. We popped in to the pub but didn’t stay long as it was one of those places where conversation stopped when you walked in and where it was quite clear to me women did not go, especially when there were only toilets for men!
After such a gruelling first day when we had expected and planned for it to be relatively easy, we cycled only 10 kms today and checked into a room at a youth hostel in Springfield. Here we plan to get a good night’s rest and hope Steve’s tummy is back to normal by tomorrow. We aim to wild camp near Lake Coleridge, somewhere nestled in the these mountains that have been on the horizon for the last 2 days…
Look Mum, we’re on TV! (after 12mins 20seconds)