Tandem Turners earn their Crown

Having reached Invercargill we checked into a mixed dorm in a youth hostel. However, having battled the weather in the Catlins, I had come out the other side with a bad cold and cough. Anybody who has ever had the misfortune to share a room with me at any time will know that this causes me to snore like a warthog. In order to prevent annoying the other people in the dorm, I asked Steve, who was in the bunk bed above me, to wake me up if I started snoring. This resulted in an entire night of Steve having to kick the bed every single time I drifted off. Not exactly a great night’s sleep for either of us. However, the next morning we headed to the outskirts of Invercargill to have our first experience of staying with somebody from the warmshowers website (a bit like couch surfing but for touring cyclists). I am so glad that we did as we stayed with a lovely couple, Liz and Allan, who immediately made us feel at home. They fed us, let us catch up with our laundry, took us for a day trip to Bluff (the very tip of the island), shared photography tips with Steve and chatted with us as if we were long-time friends. Having arrived at their home feeling very under the weather, we left with a spring in our pedal and a song in our heart.

Home from Home with Liz and Allan

'Look Kat, not far now...'

That day we stopped to have our lunch (normally a loaf of bread with some soft cheese followed by an orange) in a very rural, very small town. We found a nice patch of grass and as the sun was finally shining we settled down for a pleasant picnic. However, the pleasantness did not last long as two very hungry looking cats started approaching us, meowing desperately. Our wafting hands did little to deter them and when Steve chucked a bread crust to placate them, they viciously fought over it. They kept getting closer and closer with manic eyes and were totally giving me the creeps. To put this in context, a couple of weeks prior to this, we had seen what we thought were two very sweet looking cats until it dawned on us that they had blood round their mouths from where they were feasting on a dead wallaby! Cats back at home, which includes our Colin, are wimps with their mice catching. However, with this is mind we decided to end our lunch early and get back on the bike as quick as we could lest we become their lunch. As we did so, a couple more scary looking cats came out of the bushes and began fighting viciously with the other two over any food scraps they could find. I’m glad we left when we did.

That night we made it safely to Charlie and Caroline’s home. Charlie is a childhood friend of a boyfriend of one of Steve’s good friends from work and despite this being yet another tenuous link, we were still warmly welcomed into their home, offered a bed, fed good food and had a thoroughly pleasant evening.  They are currently setting up their own dairy farm and the next morning after Charlie cooked us eggs and bacon from a wild pig he had shot, he took us out in his ute to take a look round. We went up this incredibly steep hill which slightly terrified me but the ute handled it and the views from the top were beautiful.

A slap up meal at the farm

Looking over the views from the farm

Charlie was a very laid back guy and let Steve drive his ute back down the steep hill, whilst he was perched on the back, giving Steve instructions. This was now even more terrifying but Steve handled it and of course, when we get home he now wants his own ute!

I'm gettin' myself a ute!

Kat at home on the farm

As a leaving gift, Charlie gave us a huge hunk of venison from a deer he had shot and which was now taking up his freezer. That night we had the greatest dinner on the road and that venison was truly the best I have ever tasted.

Dusk at Lake Te Anau

A couple of days later we made it to the home of Stef and Ad in Te Anau. Ad is the nephew of a teacher that Steve worked with and despite them not really knowing who we were or what we were doing, incredibly said that we were welcome to stay at their home whilst they went away on holiday. We shared a lovely couple of days just chilling out and enjoying the amazing view of the mountains from their living room. As our tandem seems to draw attention everywhere we go and therefore results in lots of conversations, it was a joy just to be quiet.

A warm Kiwi welcome

Kat just chilling out

The day we left Stef and Ad’s was the day that we FINALLY had a tailwind, even if it was only a slight one, and after all those uphills and all those battles through roaring headwinds, we were flying as our strong legs pumped like pistons. I couldn’t believe how fast we were going, even though for some time we were cycling through sleet. Eventually we had to take shelter in a swede hut to let the worst of it blow over.

But a couple of hours later, the sun came out and we were motoring again. As we were climbing up a not particularly steep but very long hill, a young couple in a car who we had waved to earlier, drove up alongside us and handed us a Mars bar. Although we don’t know who they are and they don’t know who we are, that kindness from strangers spurred us on even more. Usually we have to bring our final destination forwards due to being over ambitious with the distance we can cover but that day we pushed on even further than we had planned resulting in our first 100 km day; well, 107 km in fact!

We spent the night at an empty campsite so we had the run of the kitchen and lounge area. To our delight there was even a log fire which was most exciting as when the sun goes down, it gets really cold. However, when Steve moved the grate, a manic flapping sound made us realise that there was a bird trapped in the flue. We managed to get it out as it fell into the burner section (unlit thankfully) but we then spent a happy hour or so trying to get it to fly out of the many doors and windows we opened, letting all the freezy air in!

Possum Country...

Eventually it got the idea and we cosied up in front of the fire. However, we didn’t have a great night’s sleep as what we can only hope were possums, were making unearthly noises in the wilderness surrounding us. Neither of us had heard anything like it before and it sounded like it was getting closer and closer to the tent. We didn’t mention it to each other at the time in case it meant we had to go out to investigate but Steve said he knew I heard it as I had stopped breathing!

Pictures just cannot do it justice!

The next day, the sun was shining and we had an amazing cycle round Lake Wakatipu. When I was at work, Steve had emailed me a photo of the road winding its way around this beautiful lake and whenever I was feeling down, I would look at it and dream of our adventures. All I can say is that we were not disappointed and that photo could not do it justice!

Lunch on our own private beach - Lake Wakatipu

We arrived in Queenstown, the adrenaline junkie’s paradise, where at every corner there is bungee jumping, sky diving and other death-defying activities on offer. I’m going to say that it was because of budget constraints that I did not partake in any of these activities rather than being a wuss! We took a day off there so that we could give the bike a once-over before we tackled the Crown Range. The Crown Range is the highest road in New Zealand and I had been absolutely dreading it after our experience up Porter’s Pass right at the beginning of our trip. The Crown Range is just as steep and even longer!

The road starts off zig-zagging which is tiring in itself but once to the top of that, you are lulled into believing you have made it to the top, only to get round the corner to be faced with sheer mountain to get over.

The Zig-Zags - the warm-up to the crown range

Steve takes a rest on a hair-pin

Zig-Zags, done.

We rode for three hours up and up and up. It was hard going but it certainly made me realise how much stronger and fitter we were than from the beginning of our trip. We didn’t have to push the bike at any point and we only had a handful of quick rests before we pushed on. As we climbed the last stretch we could see two caravans and a car at the summit, watching our tiring ascent as we battled the steep gradient for about half an hour. We got to the top absolutely elated about our achievement and we were feeling literally on top of the world. The only thing that spoilt it was that nobody in those caravans or car even acknowledged us or what we had conquered. But we felt a bit sorry for them as I don’t think you can truly enjoy such a view without knowing how hard it is to get up there by your own engine rather than that of a vehicle. And now, I knew I could call myself a bona fide touring cyclist. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. x

Looking back down the Crown Range

Made it!

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8 Responses to Tandem Turners earn their Crown

  1. brother/brother-in-law says:

    Awesome post guys! You’ve both lost so much weight – I guess I’ll stop calling you the Tandem all you can eat buffet, plus dessert, easy on the vegetables and fruit, but a helping of double whipped cream on top of mama’s pizza Turners.

    The scenery is as amazing as your adventure. I’m very jealous but very proud to call you both family, more so you Kat, Steve still jars me with his constant positivity.

    Speak soon I hope.


  2. veronica nickels says:

    oh so good to see your pics and your news, for some reason couldnt see it at work this morning so am looking at it on toms page. you are doing so well and are looking good, pleased you are meeting up with some lovely people. keep up the good work and i hope you pick up my messages is send you on facebook lots of love Mum xxxx

  3. Looks amazing guys. You’re doing so well on the huge hills (mountains really!). Sounds like you landed on your feet using Warmshowers. It’s exactly the same for me – everyone in the community seems to be a wonderful person. Thank you to Liz and Allan for taking care of the Tandem Turners (on behalf of another touring cyclist who knows exactly how nice it is to receive kindness from a stranger when they’re so far away from home).

  4. veronica nickels says:

    working with Sandra and we are looking at your blog, what beaufiful scenery, you are doing so well, that climb up the Crown Range looked amazing, well done, you are looking so good and i am pleased you are meeting up with some lovely people that are making you very welcome. i waited in this morning thinking you may call me at the same time you called last week which was 9.30am i stayed in until 10. and blow me you called at 11.20 and again before you went to bed i am sorry i missed you. Your post card came this morning and it was very nice but i did have a little cry. Jubilee weekend was good but awful weather, nothing like the rain and sleet you are having. Sandra has just downed a trifle and wishes she was the 3rd one on your tandem. Had a tidy up in the shed today and went to Ikea and bought some plants and popped into see Darren in the garden centre, he is just the same!!!! take care you precious couple all the love in the world and keep pedalling, Your Mum xxxxxxx

  5. Robin Turner says:

    Nice to see how you are getting on ,you certainly have stamina. uncle Robin

  6. Betty-Ann Hurrelle says:

    Hi Steve and Kat,
    Enjoyed looking at your photos and it was nice to see the one with my nephew, Ad and Stef. Glad you could have a rest. You are so brave.
    Anyway, keep going and thinking of you.

  7. veronica nickels says:

    it was so good to chat again yesterday and to hear you are doing well all except for your painful knee, how is it today after your rest day? I had the pleasure of having Debs and Katy for brunch today it was good to see them both and looking so well, Debs was off on a camping evening to Folkestone later in the day and thankfully the weather has been better today. Katy took the bunting away for her sisters wedding which is in a couple of weeks time. I went to the V & A yesterday to see the Ball Gown exhibition the gowns were truly beautiful, not like the ones the stars nearly wear nowadays. hopefully the weather with you improves for you to carry on your epic journey, as i have said before, i am so proud of what you have achieved, keep up the good work, all the love in the world Your Mum xxxx

  8. debbie stott says:

    Looking good, Tandem Turners, looking good !!!

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