So now I’m 33. Lots has happened this year. I’ve got married, left my job and happy home and I find myself here on the road. Today it is cold, wet and windy – it is the North Island, New Zealand and we have just had the shortest day of the year. My last birthday seems so long ago – the prospect that we will still be cycling somewhere in the world on my next birthday boggles the mind – who knows it may even be somewhere warm! While it has its challenges, a life on the tandem with Kat, with the world beneath our pedals, is a privilege indeed.
Wellington was certainly a good city to celebrate a birthday and it was super to spend a day with Kat, not on the bike and not thinking too much about how much money we were spending – and of course eating lots!
Thanks for all the birthday messages of support and good will – made us both feel motivated to push on.
Hooch had a few problems with a faulty rim when we arrived in Wellington. This ended up being a bit of a bigger problem than I first
expected hoped. We ended up staying 2 nights with an old South Park colleague of mine, Steph, while we got the bike sorted out. She kindly picked us up by the roadside to drive us the last 2 kms to her house after our 6th puncture of the day – Thanks!
I wouldn’t dream of boring any readers of this blog with the detail of the rim issue and subsequent re-building of the wheel and other logistics and headaches. However, we have become acutely aware that the bike is essential to our round the world tour. This seems obvious, but psychologically a broken wheel on the bike can feel like having a broken leg. It is quicker to fix of course, but on parts of our trip this could put us in some real trouble. It is a bit weird putting so much faith in a thing and the way you develop a human like relationship with it. Kat calls me the bike whisperer – on account of the fact that I can feel or hear the slightest change in the bike. Unfortunately, while I can detect a problem, I am still lacking all the skills I need to fix all of them… but I guess that is part of the challenge. When I get frustrated with the bike I am really just frustrated at my inability to fix it or perhaps my unrealistic expections of what it can cope with. We do put Hooch through a lot with a fair amount of luggage heaped on him.
Once up and running and away from the busy roads around Wellington, we were eager to get back into it. Following an old rail trail to avoid the main road through the Rimutaka mountains seemed like a great plan. It didn’t disappoint. While we made slow progress – we had to fully unload and reload the bike 4 times for gates, rivers and a broken tyre – it was a great day out on a track without another soul in sight, with a sprinkling of tunnels and waterfalls too.
When we finally arrived at Featherston on day 53, and we were greeted by Colin who let us stay in his cosy backpackers for a cheap, homely stay, we were over the moon – back in the adventure.
Day 54 took us on a detour as we had an invitation to stay in close-by Greytown with a couple who had found out about us through a newpaper article. As luck would have it the wine-making region of Martinborough was only an hour or two away. I would say an afternoon spent wine tasting is an afternoon well spent. We visited the Alana Estate and met Sue who we spent a good hour chatting to and sipping wine – some which gets sent to Fortnum & Mason. We didn’t drink that much but we had a very giggly ride to John and Ann’s house with a lovely sunset as we rode the hills looking out over the vineyards carpeted in a peachy low-lying cloud.
Greytown was a sweet little place and John and Ann great hosts, cooking roast lamb from their smallholding on their woodfired range cooker. We shared our experiences of tandeming around New Zealand and they showed us a slideshow from their latest tour in America – did we mention they ride the same tandem as us? I hope we are still riding together when we are their age.
High winds made progress a little hard to our next stop – Eketahuna. Apparently the little town is a running joke in New Zealand as it is famous for having nothing worth visiting there. Well, it was one of the best places we have stayed so far.
Reasons to visit Eketahuna
1st – the campsite is surrounded by a river and the cabin we stayed in was the cheapest and biggest we have had plus it had a warm carpet.
2nd – there is giant Kiwi in town – Kat wouldn’t take a picture of me being pecked to death by it (but there is a great photo opportunity here if you have the time.)
3rd – The lady at the local supermarket sold me 2 boxes of out-of-date cheap wine for $15 (That’s about £7.50 for 6L of wine!)
Sue from the Alana Estate would have been proud of our careful tasting as we discussed the subtleties of the wine against our newly developed palate. We even considered spitting the wine into a bucket like professionals do but this urge was a response to our gag reflex more than anything. John’s advice from the night before on travelling light was obviously now straight out the window as we cycled off the next morning with 5 litres of wine sloshing around in our trailer.
Despite dragging a paddling pool of white wine, the unusually nice weather allowed us to make quick work of the Pahiatua Track, the road that climbs over the end of the Tararua mountain range to the city of Palmerston North. Here we stayed with Phil and Linda and had a super relaxed Sunday afternoon and dinner. We had a great time – like hanging out with old friends.