Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ready to Walk

Day 63

There is not much to report today. Chris is immersered in his latest book, so I will be the guest blogger tonight. Ha, ha.
We spent the day setting up the logistics for the track we want to hike. It's another "must do" on our list while we're in New Zealand. Tomorrow we set off for the Greenstone/Caples route. Our little backpacks are jammed packed - they were not built for multi-day adventures. No problem, we can forgo a little comfort for a good walk. The packs will get lighter each day as we eat all of the instant food we've stuffed inside. I did talk Chris into bringing a bottle of wine and some chocolate bars to change it up a bit. We are notoriously lame when it comes to backpacking food. As some of our friends can attest, we've been known bring minimal food on pack trips and then stare at them as they eat their good food.
It will be quite a change to go without the bikes for a few days. We haven't done that since we've arrived.
See you,

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pole, Pole

Day 62
Wanaka to Queenstown via Crown Range
Time: 5:23:53
Distance: 72.75 k
Avg Speed: 13.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling/Crown Range Summit(1074m)
Location: 45 1 43.9 S, 168 38 37.2 E

In Swahili “pole, pole” means “slow, slow”. We heard the term frequently from our Kilimanjaro guides early this year. It was the best way to climb the mountain. Today I thought of those words as I crept up to the Crown Range Summit on my bike. I wasn’t making myself go slow – I was going as fast as I could. As I turned the pedals I realized that I’ve never pedaled slower in my life. Then I remembered climbing in Africa...”pole, pole”.
Today we rode the Crown Range Road from Wanaka to Queenstown. The road has the honor of being the highest sealed road in New Zealand. First gravel and now asphalt, this route has seen plenty of history in its day. In the late 1800s the pass saw a variety of activities including livestock drives, gold seekers and tourists in horse drawn wagons. Today the road is a major tourist route which connects the communities of Wanaka and Queenstown.
We had lunch at the summit and bundled up for the winding ride down. We had awesome views of Lake Wakitipu, Queenstown and the surrounding mountains.
We’ll be in Queenstown and the surrounding area for awhile. We’re planning to go tramping (trekking) for 4-5 days. It’s one of the things we really wanted to do in New Zealand. We’ll spend tomorrow getting our huts tickets and booking a shuttle to take us to the beginning of the track (trail).Luckily, we can store our gear for the days we’re gone and travel a bit lighter.

Wanaka Rest Day 2

Day 61
Time: some
Distance: a little
Avg Speed: barely moving
Terrain: hilly and windy

We are hanging out in Wanaka resting and waiting out some low pressure systems plaguing the South Island. The weather reports called for gale force westerly winds all day. They are actually a little out of the northwest, but gale force none the less. We rode into town this morning to go for a little hike on Mt. Iron. The trail took us to the top of the mountain where, amid wind gusts we enjoyed superb views of Mt. Aspiring national park to the west and the beautiful Cadrona Valley to the east. We were brow beaten by the winds on the way up the mountain, but ended up on a wind sheltered trail coming down the other side.
The time spent here has been taken up with planning other parts of the trip. Leslie is doing the lion’s share of the work and is always so organized in doing so. She has taken turns swiping at big chunks like visas for Southeast Asia and China and toiling away on little things like train tickets around Christmas time and maps for next weeks backpack. She is really the grease that keeps this trip going and from running way off track. Her budget spread sheet would make the government bean counters green with envy. Our travel relationship is not typical like you would see in other traveling couples. I generally do the man stuff like set up the tent and work on the bikes, but I also elbow my way in the kitchen with the women to get dinner up for us. Leslie is always a good sport about what I cook for dinner. I haven’t scared her too much yet, but we are really limited on what we can carry and cook. If there is a store around I always try and get her to shop with me, because she can get me to lose my tunnel vision and cook up some new things. We had a salad for tonight and ventured into the store for something to cook with it. I was looking at some cheap steaks and she had grabbed some pre-made bacon and pineapple balls. I imagine that they will be quite good.
Talk to you later.

New Brakes

Day 60
Wanaka Rest Day #2

We’ve had our first gear casualty of the trip – Chris’ rear brakes. He was limited to his front brakes on our last ride a couple of days ago. A few times he forgot that he couldn’t use the rear and had to stop his bike and manually pull apart the brake arms. With another high pass to climb on Monday there was no choice but to replace them.
Last evening we found a real bike shop in town and made plans to return this morning. We rode into town early and Chris headed off to the bike shop while I visited the DOC (Dept of Conservation) Visitor Center. I was getting more information about our upcoming backpacking trip. I found Chris later at the bike shop where he had made himself at home in the mechanic’s area. He was installing his new brakes himself.
Apparently he wasn’t invited back there, but asked politely and then went to work. I guess you have to do what you have to do.
We spent the next half hour chatting with one of the mechanics. He was probably tired of my endless questions about life in Wanaka and all of the biking here. Luckily, he patiently answered each question. We came to find out that life in Wanaka was very similar to life in any mountain resort town. He said “most people move here and they’re focused on one sport, but after a matter of time they end up doing all kind of things, really”. We also learned that he was a dedicated racer who worked hard and trained harder. He shared that he had taken a break last year but found himself back at it. Once a racer, always a racer I guess.
One question he asked us was “after doing all the biking you have done, how do you find riding at such a slow pace?” My answer: “I’m working on finding my patience…”

Day 59 Wanaka Rest Day

Time: 0:00
Distance: 16 k (coffee and dinner run)
Avg Speed: Negligible
Terrain: Downhill

We celebrated Thanksgiving along with the rest of the U.S. today. We started off the morning by calling the families back in the states. We spoke to almost everyone and it was good to hear some voices. The phone calls from NZ to the States have been interesting to say the least. We bought a calling card here based on good rates and the ability to charge it up and use it anywhere in the world. It is called a Yabba card and always trips me out when the computer voice on the other end is a computerized male with a kiwi accent-‘Welcome to Yabba’. The rate we get is based on using a regular phone to make the calls from. We are always around pay phones and in the tiny print they deem it necessary to tack on another $0.30/minute if you are calling on one. It is always the fine print that gets you.
We spoke to half the family and then got ready to go into town. When you are staying at a campervan park you have to time you ablutions carefully. Everyone does the same thing at the same time and if you can wait or be opposite you generally never have to wait in line. We decided to shower after check out today since we figured all the other campers would be gone doing their thing. We had the bathrooms to our selves, but we just had to wait for the cleaning people to finish up. Minor compared to waiting in line for a shower. We headed over for a coffee and muffin to help squelch the hunger before we went food shopping. We always buy the craziest stuff when we are hungry, so eating before is always good (ex. Eggs, sausages, chapattis, and salad all at once for lunch???). We did our shopping and headed back to camp for another round of calls and another snack.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was at 5:00 so we killed a little time reading in the tent. The tent area was all ours except for the guy doing laps on the riding lawnmower around our tent. There is now a little island of uncut grass beneath it. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of pad thai and red curry salmon. MMM, just like mom used to make (just kidding, my mom never cooked pad thai on Thanksgiving, or any other time I am aware of). We spent the post dinner hour looking at the mountains over Lake Wanaka. It was actually the best Thanksgiving I could have. I was with family in my heart and mind. I ate yummy food. I spent it with my best friend and partner in crime.
Like I have said before…life is good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Christmas – Address for Letters and Cards

Some of our friends and family have asked if they can send us letters or cards at Christmas. We will be spending the week around Christmas at the Ocean View Chalets (Dec 22-28). We talked with the hosts and found out that we can receive mail there. If you are so inclined, you can send things to:

Ocean View Chalets
c/o Chris and Leslie Kehmeier
305 Sandy Bay Marahau Road
Motueka 7197
New Zealand

Your best bet would be to send anything by Dec 1 or sooner.

Please, please, don’t feel obligated to send anything. Just keep the emails and blog comments coming…
Happy Holidays,

Giving Thanks

Day 58
Omarama to Wanaka
Time: 7:41:37
Distance: 117.05 k
Avg Speed: 15.2 kph
Terrain: Rolling plus Lindis Pass (965m)
Location: 44 35’ 22.9” S, 169 38’ 43.2” E

Today it is Thursday which to us means Thanksgiving. To celebrate we rode our longest day yet and ate cheese, crackers and peanut butter sandwiches. Don’t worry – we’re going to eat a proper meal tomorrow.
The day was pretty much spent riding, so I’d like to take the opportunity to share what I’m thankful for.
First and most important, I am thankful for Chris. He is my solid foundation, my best friend and the love of my life. His adventurous spirit and kindness give me strength. I’m so glad we’re doing this journey together.
Next, I’m thankful for all of our family and friends. Their love and support have meant so much to us and give us inspiration everyday. We always realized how lucky we are to have special people in our lives and this trip proves it.
Finally, I’m thankful for my health and the ability to attempt this big, fat, hairy goal of riding a bike around (and through) the world.
We hope everyone has a lovely holiday!
Happy Turkey (or whatever you eat),

Ps – Happy 90th Birthday to my Grandma Ruth. I love you and miss you. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Summer Camp

Day: 58
Glentanner to Omarama
Time: 3:54
Distance: 72.25 k
Avg Speed: 18.3 kph
Terrain: flat

We got out of Glentanner with a reasonable nights sleep and our sanity with us. The schools here have a week long field trip for the 6th grade classes out into the countryside. We had been around two other groups before in Dunedin and Christchurch. The group that rolled into Glentanner was of a different breed.
The 5 or 6 vans rolled in around 6:30pm last night and the little holiday camp was besieged by 50 kids and about 8 adults. They always seem to roll in at dinner time so I decided that I had better get dinner going while I still had a chance. I ended up chatting with the male chaperons while they cooked dinner for 50 (frozen pizzas, french fries and salad) and I cooked dinner for two (instant pasta with sausage). The chaperons were all real nice and I had a good feeling that they were going to keep some sort of reigns on the kids. We made the mistake of pitching our tent next to the trampoline, which just a day earlier hadn’t seen any jumping for quite some time. To make a long story short, the trampoline was used until 10 last night and resumed at 5:30 this morning. The chaperons hadn’t gotten any sleep and it was obvious the kids hadn’t. They had quite the meeting this morning and we were even apologized to by the schools teacher. I am sure we pedaled out a little too fast this morning, but we were really glad to get on the road again.
We had our first really warm day riding since arriving here and Leslie took the plunge first with the sandals. We both ended up riding the day with our sandals on and loving every minute of it. Tomorrow is the third Thursday of the month here. I think we are going to wait until Friday here to celebrate turkey day. Hopefully there is someplace that actually serves turkey. It isn’t the most popular meat down here. We hope everyone’s turkey day is thankful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Day 56
Mt Cook – Hooker Lake Hike
Time: 4:10:00
Distance: A Long Walk
Terrain: Glacial Moraine
Location: 43 41' 21"S, 170 05' 59.3"E

“I am in these mountains, I am in these stars, I am all around you, always near, not far.”

We spent the day hiking the Hooker Valley, about 15 kilometers from the summit of New Zealand’s highest mountain. It was another clear day and we feel very lucky. Apparently, there is usually only 1 clear day in five. We’ve enjoyed four in a row.
Mt. Cook (3754m) saw its first ascent on Christmas Day in 1894 by three Kiwi climbers. The first woman, Freda de Faur, reached the summit in 1913. The mountain is part of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park which encompasses over 70,000 hectares of majestic mountains and was named after the famous English explorer James Cook. The Maori name for the mountain, Aoraki, translates to “Cloud Piercer”.
We felt at home amongst the mountains. The relief was quite dramatic and reminded us of the Andes of Peru. Mt. Sefton dominates the lower end of the valley and holds several glaciers in various stages of recession. More than once we heard ice calving off and thundering into the valley below. It’s hard not to believe in global warming after visiting a place like this. Most of the day our eyes gazed toward Mt. Cook and our minds imagined how it would be to climb to the top.
The quote above was printed on a plaque on the Alpine Memorial at the base of the valley. The monument was erected to commemorate those who have perished while exploring the mountains.
Climb safe,

Taking it all in

Day: 55
Twizel to Glentanner
Distance: 44 k
Time: 2:45
Avg Speed: 16.3kph
Terrain: Flat
Location: 43 54 56.3 S, 170 7 26.9 E

We had a pretty ride today. We always get a bit of a slow start after a rest day and this day was no exception. We knew that we just had 45 kilometers or so of riding and really weren’t setting any records. I could write on and on about the scenery today, but I decided to just add a picture or two.
We feel very fortunate to be in this valley with the weather the way it is. The views take your breath away every where you look. Enjoy the photos. They don’t do it justice.

Soaking Up the Sun

Day 54
Twizel Rest Day

Not much to report today so I’ll keep it short. Hope everyone at home is doing well.
After such a long day yesterday we decided to take a rest day. We’re working on longer distances, but we’ve decided to keep our three days on one day off routine. Really, I just enjoy a day when Chris’ alarm doesn’t go off.
The sun was out again today and I took advantage by turning my sleeping pad into a sun tanning mat. I slathered on some sunscreen, turned on the iPod and soaked up some rays for a few hours. I figured I need to cache some good vibes for the cloudy and rainy days ahead.
We’re off to see Mt. Cook tomorrow.

Boots’ Mate

Day: 53 11.17.2007
Fairlie to Twizel
Distance: 101
Time: 6:12
Avg Speed: 16.4 Kph
Terrain: Hilly to Flat
Location: 44 15 13.6 S, 170 05 58.1 E

We rolled out of Fairlie around 9:00 this morning. The sky was clear for the first time in about 5 days. The southerly wind had ended and left a nice fresh sky for us to ride under. The ride today was a two parter. The first section was 44 kilometers over Burke Pass and into the Lake Tekapo area. When we rolled into the town of Burke Pass (which is right before the actual pass) we were flagged down by a little nice lady who wanted to make sure we visited the town Catholic Church and the cemetery. The church was a small old wooden church full of Scottish tartans. Did I mention that we are in Mackenzie Country? The cemetery was up the road and is the final resting place for a lot of settlers, locals and climbers who died. We were told that the famous Kiwi climber Gary Ball had a grave marker there. Ball died while climbing in Nepal, but his friends and family erected a grave marker for him in Burke Pass. While we were looking for his grave site, an older southern man drove up in his vehicle. We heard him laughing as he approached us since he was ‘surprised to see two cyclists in a cemetery’. He was there to visit his mate Boots, who had passed away recently in a logging accident. He told us about his friend and went over all the things left on his gravesite. He was particularly proud to point out the Speight’s ale setting next to Boots’ old boots. We talked a little bit about the weather, NZ and Australia. On his departure he remarked that visiting cemeteries tended to put a person in their place and ‘strip away the BS’. Today that was too true.
We finally got over Burke Pass, the pass, and the whole skyline erupted with some of the most beautiful mountains I think I have ever seen. The Southern Alps came into full view and Leslie and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. They remained in our sights for the rest of the ride. We descended into Lake Tekapo and took a coffee and sandwich break, since we had another 55k left to Twizel. We rode along the canal from Lake Tekapo to some lower lakes for more than 30k. The road was empty, so we had plenty of opportunity to swerve about staring at the magnificent mountains.
The sight of mountains seems to have an inspiring and calming effect for both Leslie and I. We feel a lot closer to our goal and the land riding among them. We are taking a day off tomorrow and on Monday we are off to Mt. Cook village to spend some time among the mountain. Life is good.
Happy Birthday Mom!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mackenzie Country

Day 52
Geraldine to Fairlie
Distance: 45.07 k
Time: 3:05:23
Avg Speed: 14.5 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 44 05 59.2 S, 170 49 58.6 E

I’m a McKenzie myself and I had a little smile on my face when we crossed into the Mackenzie District today. You bet I’ll have a picture by a sign before we leave. Check out this cool website for more info on the area. http://www.teara.govt.nz/Places/SouthCanterbury/SouthCanterbury/11/en
Our friend Jennie sent us the link. The website is chock full of interesting New Zealand information.
Today we rode one step closer to our latest goal, Mt Cook. We want to at least make to the village even if we won’t be doing any climbing. We’re hoping to spend a few days in the area soaking up the mountain ambiance.
The ride today was a bit shorter than our last few days. Chris has a little cold and I feel one coming on. We’re taking it slow to see what develops. The weather has been cold and rainy all week and tomorrow it’s finally supposed to improve. The traffic was very busy today and definitely frustrating. We were honked at several times. So far, neither one of us is impressed with the driving style of the Kiwis. We found out as we checked into the campground that the inhabitants of Christchurch have a long holiday weekend. I guess we just got caught up in the frenzy to get out of the city.
We were lucky enough to score free wireless at our campground tonight. As I was firing up the computer to check email, I realized how far technology has come. We’re able to keep up with all of our family and friends via email, write a daily journal on-line, and watch our favorite tv shows (more CSI downloads). I figured that it wouldn’t be so important to me, but it helps me feel more connected to home and that makes me happy.

Flat and Cold

Day 51
Methven to Geraldine
Distance: 77.5 k
Time: 3:57
Avg Speed: 19.5 kph
Terrain: flat as flat can be
Location: 44 05’ 45” S, 171 14’ 39.7” E

We left the comfort of our little hostel in Methven this morning. It is always interesting hanging out at those places. One of the guests there was taking a class at the Pudding Hill Parachute School on how to become a parachute photographer. I asked how many jumps he had under his belt figuring it would be less than 50, but to my surprise he replied that he had about 320 jumps and needed to get around 500 to be a competent photographer. He added that one of the instructors, who is the premier parachute photographer in the world, had about 26,000 jumps to his credit. I don’t even think I have been in a car 26,000 separate times and this guy has jumped out of a plane that many times. I now know all I have ever wanted to know about parachute photography and video.
The road was flat as can be and except for the breeze we created by riding it was calm as can be. The weather was quite crisp the entire day and we were bundled up the entire time. I thought we were being wussies, but we ran into a Dutch cycle touring couple and they had just as many clothes on as we did. They have been in New Zealand for as long as we had and we were the first cycle tourists they had seen. They were numbers 4 and 5 for us. Not that we are keeping track though. We saw number 6 tonight while eating dinner in camp. It is a regular epidemic.
We sped across the farmlands today both as a result of the topography, but also out of a need to get out of the weather. The low last night was around 34˚ F and it didn’t get too much above that as we rode. We made it to Geraldine around 1:00 pm and while drinking hot coffee the sun came out and the whole place warmed a bit. It didn’t last long, just long enough to for the weather to thumb its nose at us. We are heading into the mountains tomorrow so our average should get out of the high teens and back down where it belongs. We shall see how saucy we are.
We are both pretty knackered tonight from the ride today. The first day back after a rest day is always the hardest. We should be raring to go tomorrow. We have sultana scones to eat on the road so we have to ride hard so we can eat those. I’ll let you know next time how the scones were if I remember.
Until next time.

Happy GIS Day

Day 50
Methven Rest Day

Today we awoke to snow…in the mountains. The snow line was very low and the cold southerly was blowing. Why move on?
On another note: Happy GIS Day! What the ? – what is GIS Day? Well, sit back, relax and I will tell you all about it.
GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. In simpler terms, GIS is computerized mapping. It combines the study of Geography and the technology of computers and software. GIS has the ability to make maps and analyze data. Before we decided to go bicycle touring I was “doing” GIS as a profession. I worked for a county government (Eagle County) in the mountains of Central Colorado. I was part of a top-notch department that mapped everything from property boundaries to mountain bike trails and analyzed things like water and transportation. To me, GIS has been a very exciting career and I hope to continue when we return. In the meantime, I’ve been incorporating GIS into our travels. Using a GPS unit and ArcMap software, I have been tracking our progress and compiling data at the end of each day. In the long run I hope to create a multi media presentation of our journey.
People celebrate GIS Day by hosting and taking part in different kinds of events. Some people go to schools and teach children about GIS, some businesses open their doors to the public to show how this technology is used in their daily routine.
So… GIS Day is a day to celebrate geography and GIS technology and its utility in the world.
ps – yes, I am a geek.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Taupo Bungy Video

Here's the Taupo Bungy video - enjoy!

Long Haul Trucking

Day 49

Ashley Gorge to Methven

Distance: 85.4 kilometers
Time: 5:35
Avg Speed: 15.4
Terrain: Flat to Gorge Like
Location: 43 38’ 09.1 S, 171 38’ 40.8” E

We are doing a tour from the book so we are trying to stay on task and do the mileage prescribed. Our book prescribed to us to ride around 85 k and warned us that if a northwesterly or a southerly was blowing that we should wait. With that said, we had both a northwesterly and a southerly today.
This morning we started out from Ashley Gorge with calm skies and sunny weather. We waved to the kids waiting for the bus and stopped in nearby Oxford for some vittles for the road. When we turned out of Oxford the northwesterly picked up. Finally, though we had a northwesterly that worked with us, rather than against us. We covered 44 kilometers in just over 2 hours. I was singing songs, Leslie was daydreaming and we both were just humming along. We rolled into Glentunnel and took a water and food break. We then changed directions and were heading with the northwesterly coming from the side. The singing stopped, the daydreaming ceased and we went from humming to grinding. We were glad that we decided to push through to Methven, because when the wind went crazy it went wild. We turned the corner again and the wind turned into a southerly. Beautiful. We rode into the wind and actually had our attention drawn to the amazing scenery and the great white rain heading our way. Luckily we swung around the rain and only encountered a few sprinkles on the way into the quite stunning Rakaia Gorge. The rain stopped in the gorge and we snapped a few pictures. The remaining 25k was pretty non-remarkable, but with 5k left the skies opened up. We decided last night that it was ok if we didn’t stay on budget. The camping area in town looked a little shady and we didn’t have to twist each other’s arms to not set the tent up in the rain. We settled at a little hostel that is very clean and way laid back, plus breakfast is included. Need I say more?
We had a bit of a pity party for ourselves last night and after a good nights sleep last night we took on today with fresh eyes, fresh attitudes and some smiles. As hard as today seemed, we trucked on through and ended more refreshed and relaxed than I can remember. Now, if it doesn’t snow like it is supposed to tonight we will be rocking.
Good Bye

Day 48: Christchurch to Ashley Gorge

Distance: 57.36 k
Time: 3:36:21
Avg Speed: 15.4 kph
Terrain: Almost Flat
Location: 43 13’ 49.8” S, 172 13’ 36.4” E

We were back on the road today with our bikes and panniers. The road was flat and the sun was out so there were smiles on our faces. We’re trying to follow some predefined tours from a Lonely Planet guide – that’s how we ended up at Ashley Gorge. It’s a very quiet and peaceful place. The park host said over 500 people would be camped here during the Christmas holiday season. I think we’re two of five people tonight.
I had a chance to talk with my sister yesterday. I haven’t had a chance to call her yet and made time before breakfast. She loves following our blog and had a good suggestion. She was hoping we could share more of “how we feel” in the daily journal. I thought it was a good idea because I’ve felt like a broken record describing all of the beautiful scenery here. Don’t worry – it won’t get too touch feely.
My sister’s biggest question was “Is it hard?” My answer is – absolutely. We had no idea what to expect before the trip started. We did our best to prepare and then we knew the rest would be learned on the road. I can’t speak for Chris, but I’ve had some ups and downs. I’ve felt a wide range of emotions from being totally scared to feeling the most peace I’ve ever felt. Most of all, everyday is a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted this challenge and I don’t regret that Chris and I have taken this opportunity to travel. It’s just that my mental map is still adjusting and I think I wanted it to be adjusted by now. I still don’t think I’ve found a groove yet and I’m really looking forward to that time.
Sharing is caring.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wonder Twin Powers…Activate!!

Christchurch Day 2

…In the form of a cycle tourist! If you don’t know where this came from you need to google and look for members of the Hall of Justice.
Leslie and I have on more than one occasion dressed exactly alike as we pedal our way around. Yesterday when we took Don and Kathy to the airport we both wore tan shorts, tennis shoes and our black fleece tops. It’s tough being a dork sometimes. I decided today, as we were riding to New Brighton Beach, that we should be the wonder twins. The biggest difference being is we aren’t purple and we are from earth.
We are on the road again tomorrow heading to the Canterbury Hinterland southwest of Christchurch. I think we are both excited to get back on our bikes after our little RV-a-thon. We sent a lot of stuff home and were figuring on having a lot of room in our panniers now. We got all of our stuff together this afternoon and I think that things grew while we weren’t cycling. I looked over at Leslie’s pile at one point and asked her how much communal stuff she was carrying. It was an innocent question on my part I assure you. I was trying to figure out if we could jockey some bags around and have Leslie only carry rear panniers. I forgot that the clothes her parents brought pretty much all remained. Her reply to my question was a sheepish, I am so cute smiley reply; “the computer.” At least she looks good on the bike and around camp. Cycling with style. Upon further review, it turns out she is carrying some spare parts, books and electronic stuff. Needless to say we did shave some weight off of our bags, but no bulk. It is hard to give up your fleeces and coats when the high is in the fifties and it is right at freezing most nights.
Tall Dork signing off.

A New Beginning

Day 45
Christchurch Airport to Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park
Distance: 8.75 k
Time: 31:02
Avg Speed: 16.9 k
Terrain: Urban

“The key to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings”.
Today we said goodbye to my parents. There was definitely sadness and tears but I’m trying not to focus so much on them leaving. I want to focus on the good time we had and the bicycle touring we have ahead of us. We’ve got to keep the positive energy flowing because it will be about a year until we return home for a visit.
My parents were definitely troopers. They adapted quite well to the campervan life; the small sleeping quarters, community bathrooms, and long distances between stops. Hopefully they were as impressed as we are with the natural beauty and welcoming people of New Zealand. We may give them a hard time about being “wiki”, but they are very fun to travel with. We looking forward to the next time they meet up with us. Oh, if anyone else is interested in meeting up with us, send us an email. We’d love for anyone to join us somewhere along the way.
We weren’t sad to return the campervan and get back to depending on our bikes. It was a functional vehicle but a little big to handle at times. My mom thinks I have a future as a truck driver. Maybe I can get a job as an Eco Transit bus driver after the trip…
Christchurch will be our homebase for the next few days. Laundry and packing are the main tasks. Tomorrow we plan to do a ride around the city to get our legs refreshed. Monday we start touring again. We’ve done some research (Lonely Planet guides are essential) and have a good route outlined for the South Island. The majority of the time will be spent south and west from Christchurch. Our only obligation is to be in the Nelson area for Christmas. The high mountains, dry plains and deep river gorges await…

New Photos

Check out new photos - http://www.flickr.com/bicyclegeography

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Day 44 Dunedin to Oamaru

Distance: 114 kilometers
Terrain: Rolling hills, sheep and sweeping coastal views

Today was a mixed bag and a good one at that. We spent the morning walking around the Octagon in Dunedin. The city has definite charm and we wished we had more time to spend there. Chris and I checked out the scenic railway we plan to take towards the end of the month. We intend to link it with the Otago Scenic Rail Trail. We’re looking forward to getting off the highway for a few days when we head back towards Queenstown.
We got on the road after lunch and only expected to be driving for a few hours. Little did we know we would find a seal colony and a lighthouse. That’s one of the fun things about traveling; the most interesting parts of the day are probably the things you didn’t plan. Needless to say, it took us four hours to get to Oamaru.
We don’t have long to visit Oamaru, but sense that this town has a lot of character. Our motor camp is adjacent to the public gardens. We enjoyed a lovely evening stroll through an oasis of mature trees and colorful flowers.
Tomorrow we’re off to Christchurch for the final few days with my parents. We’ll have a quick overview of the city and then prepare to get back on the bikes. I think the South Island is going to be a whole different ball game.

Pride of the South

Queenstown to Dunedin

We had a short day for driving today and ended up having a leisurely morning in Queenstown. Leslie was up for riding her bike this morning, albeit a cold ride, and headed out about an hour and a half before we took off. We met her at the original bungee jumping bridge about 30 kilometers outside of town. We spent a couple of minutes watching people jump off the bridge and took a few pictures. Now that Leslie and I are seasoned pros at the bungee jump game, we took delight in watching the novice jumper take their first leap. We both weren’t sure we would be any more gung ho than we were on our first and only jump.
We drove to Alexandra for lunch. It is a nice orchard area very similar in climate to western Colorado. The surrounding hills and the geography reminded both Leslie and I of the area around Meeker and Craig. The area grows pears, peaches, apricots and apples. Leslie and I are hoping to pass back through there on an abandoned rail line that they made into a path. We will keep you posted.
We rolled into the port town of Dunedin this afternoon. I was driving and Leslie was navigating. The directions to the holiday park for the campervan were from downtown Dunedin so we had to head there first. The roads through the downtown area were straight forward enough, but just to add a little spice there was enough construction to throw me off some of the streets I needed to be on. Leslie guided me through the minefield downtown and got us back on track. I think I will add at this point that Dunedin is known for it’s steep streets and in fact has the steepest street in the world. It is measured at 38.5˚ incline. I should have known that I was in trouble when Leslie guided us off of the main road onto a narrow one way street on top of the hill. We were wondering how they were going to wedge a campervan park on a hill, but didn’t worry about it until the one way ended and the street going down had a staircase for a sidewalk. We didn’t end up on the steepest street, but it was enough that I rode the brake down in first gear. Nothing like the smell of clutch to make you pucker a little.
After that drive, I was ready to take part in the reason why I wanted to come to Dunedin. The Speight’s Brewery was founded in 1876. It is still in operation today on the same site it has inhabited since that time. The brewery is a batch brewery, which means that all the beer here is brewed and bottled in batches, rather than assembly lines that produce beer all the time. It is also a gravity brewery, which means that all the raw ingredients for the beer are hauled up to the top level and processed and added using gravity and chutes, rather than hauling ingredients around. The main beers that are produced in the brewery, Gold Medal Ale, Special Dark, and Distinction Ale, are all produced in copper kettles made in the 1940’s. The specialty beers that are produced in the brewery, the Pilsner, Pale Ale, and the Porter are all open fermented in the original Kauri Gyles (big Kauri wood tubs). The tour culminated in the tour group hanging out in the tasting room, self serving ourselves and watching the 15 years of Speight’s Pride of the South commercials. It was very cool listening to the tour guide talk about how there really isn’t a word for the pride of the south, it is just a feeling, way and demeanor that the southern New Zealanders have. There is a line in the advertisement songs that the guide used to sum it up best; “We have the best women and the best beer.”
Good on ya mate!

The Milford Experience

Day 42
Milford Sound
Location: 44 35; 57.5" S, 167 48' 52" E

It’s only 120 kilometers as the crow flies from Queenstown, but it took us 310 kilometers to get there. We traveled on the BBQ Bus to the famous Milford Sound today.
Milford Sound is one of THE places to go in New Zealand. It was one of three things my parents wanted to see while they were here visiting. The fiord (it’s not really a sound in geographical terms) and its surrounding area are part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area.
The whole day was really quite spectacular. We started out driving along Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. The lake is the second largest in New Zealand and is the result of a very large glacier doing its work. The mountains were very rugged and share the distinction of being only one of two ranges that run on a north/south axis (the Rocky Mountains being the other). We made our way to the town of Te Anau, the jumping off point for many of New Zealand’s famous walking tracks. From there we entered Fiordland National Park and wound our way through the valley bottom along numerous emerald colored lakes and rivers. After a casual creekside lunch we got to the core of the day, the Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound.
The Homer Tunnel was started in the 1930’s and finished in the 1950’s. It’s pretty rustic inside and only looked wide enough for one car. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any of the giant tour buses coming the other direction. The “wow” factor was high as we exited the tunnel into Cleddau Canyon with its endlessly steep glacier carved walls.
Finally, we arrived at the boat dock and started the cruise through the fiord. I felt like I needed to pinch myself. Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re finally at a location that you’ve had on your list for a long time. The mountains and rock walls surrounding the water were much bigger and higher than I had imagined. The prominent Mitre Peak was the first thing to fill my view – it was awesome. The water was almost glassy and there were several waterfalls cascading from high and low. Vegetation can somehow grow (it rains on average 9 meters per year) on the vertical cliff faces. Not only do they have snow avalanches in Milford, they also have tree avalanches.
We toured on the water for just over an hour. Then we re-boarded the BBQ Bus and retraced our steps back to Queenstown. The views were just as good going the other way.
And yes, the BBQ was great.

Kiwi Dialect

Queenstown Rest Day

Day 41

We spent a rest day in Queenstown today. We didn’t feel like driving so we did a foot tour of town. The weather service was calling for snow flurries at 300 meters elevation and above today. We are at 300 meters in Queenstown…go figure. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in shops and cafes. Today I finally figured out what all the coffee drinks are. We have been spoiled in the land of Starbucks with the integration of coffee nomenclature. We have had to learn a whole new language here.

Flat White-Espresso topped with steamed milk
Cappuccino-Espresso topped with hot frothy milk and sprinkled with chocolate
Latte-Espresso topped with steamed milk (sounds a lot like a flat white-why confuse the issue??)
Mochaccino-Espresso mixed with chocolate and topped with hot frothy milk
Long Black-Double shot of espresso topped with hot water (my favorite-called an Americano in the good ol’ USA)
Espresso (aka Short Black)-self explanatory
Macchiato-single shot of espresso stained (hence the name) with a dash of steamed milk
Fluffy-Warm milk served with a froth and served with a marshmallow

I have been drinking tall blacks the entire time I have been here. It was just luck that I ordered one in the first café we went in to. I have stuck to it ever since. I would also like to share a couple other of my favorite Kiwi-isms:

Mink-Possum (they run wild down here in the millions-got to dress them up somehow)
P-crystal meth (for those of you that need to know)
How you going?-how you doing?
Cheers-less formal thank you

I have many more I just can’t think of them right now. We have been using our own little language in the campervan the past couple of weeks. I will share with you one of the most useful words in our language:

Wiki- n; old person-v; acting like an old person (can be used to describe anyone’s actions).

Hopefully this clears up any confusion you may have had. I will add more as I see fit.
On a side note, I did get my first haircut outside of the US today. Just thought I would share.
See you

Beyond the 45th Parallel

Day 40
Franz Josef to Queenstown
Location: 45 1’ 43.9” S, 168 38’ 37.2” E
Distance: 395 kilometers

On a map the world is divided into meridians and parallels, otherwise known as longitude and latitude. Some of these lines are pretty significant, but all of them help to define locations all across the globe. Since we started this campervan tour we have covered a lot of ground and today we crossed the 45th parallel. We’re now half way between the Equator and the South Pole. It’s hard to picture these invisible lines as you travel around. Thank goodness we have signs to point these things out. I’m hoping there’s a chance that we might make it to the most southern point of NZ…we’ll see.
I think our drive today should have been named “A Tale of Two Countries”. We started on the west “wet” coast in mist and rain. When we arrived in Queenstown it was partly cloudy and in the low 70s. We got a geography lesson about the lee and windward regions of an island firsthand.
We got into Queenstown a bit later today. The landscape here is very impressive. We are surrounded by mountains and it looks a little bit like Colorado. Tomorrow is a catch up day and we’ll probably do some laundry and shopping around town. Tuesday we will be whisked away on the “BBQ Bus” to see one of the most famous areas of New Zealand – Milford Sound.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The RV bike tour

Greymouth to Franz Josef

We had an “everything the landscape can throw at you” type of drive today. We started off on the ocean, on to river valleys, past mountain lakes and over mountain passes. All of that in the matter of 3 hours. Leslie and I have been taking turns riding in the morning and jumping on the RV/Tour Bus when it passes. I rode yesterday through flat vineyards. Leslie headed out this morning along SH 6 from Greymouth. We usually give each other about an hour and a half head start and then catch up around the two hour mark. Leslie had some nice flat roads, but some of the scariest bridge crossings yet. The about half the bridges here are one lane bridges. There are signs on either side saying which way has the right of way. Usually they are only five to ten meters across, but occasionally there are some that are a hundred meters across or more. The really long ones have a tiny passing lane on them to get out of the way if you are a slow cyclist holding up traffic. Leslie’s first bridge crossing this morning was a new one entirely. It was a one lane bridge that had a set of railroad tracks running right down the middle. That’s right; we had to share the bridge with a train. I bet you can’t guess who had the right of way? Today we were safe since no trains were in sight. Leslie made her way across them fine (that is right, there ended up being two total) and we met her in the next town of Hokitika. The best part is the sign on the second bridge of a cyclist flying over their handlebars. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.
We eventually rolled into the town of Franz Josef and got a place to camp for the night. The town is the gateway to the awesome Franz Josef Glacier. You can take a quick 45 minute hike up through the forest and onto the moraine and up to the snout of the glacier. They actually have it roped off about 250 meters away to keep people away from calving ice. The glacier is on the north side of the Southern Alps and, being in the southern hemisphere, gets a lot of sun. The glacier is in a state of growth right now, albeit slowly (about 40 cm/year). They attribute it to record snows in the 1980’s that are now reaching the bottom of the glacier. The glacier is in an overall state of decline. There is a sign about 3-4 kilometers below the glacier noting the glacial snout’s position in 1750.
See you next time.

Day 38 Blenheim to Greymouth


Today was a long drive and we’re on the west coast again, only this time on the South Island. We landed in Greymouth, a seaside town of about 14,000 people. Once again, we are gold mining country and this town has a long history.
We enjoyed a very lovely drive. Chris started out on his bike and had a bluebird sky as he rode west through all of the vineyards. We followed behind and picked him up about 30 kilometers later. It was easy to see from our perspective that there must be a huge demand for New Zealand wine. It looks like only a matter of time before everyone converts their crop fields to vineyards.
The wide valley eventually became a winding canyon road as we drove along Buller Gorge. Every once in awhile you could sneak a peak at the striking blue water flowing through the slate colored gorge. It looked like an area that might best be viewed from the water.
We finally made it to Greymouth and gave ourselves a quick tour of the town centre. My mom has decided to take up knitting, so we visited the local craft shop for supplies. She likes to have “projects” when she travels. While she was picking out some “fun” yarn, Chris picked up a paper. He read an interesting article about the nature of the weather in the last month. Apparently, it was one of the worst Octobers on record for wind and rain for New Zealand. Hmm..and we thought we were getting soft. Hopefully we’re on an upward trend with the weather and our really bad weather days are behind us. Only time will tell.

Super Truckers and Ferries

Wellington to Blenheim

We left Wellington this morning to catch the vehicle/cargo ferry to the south island. The trip from Wellington Harbor took us about 3 hours across Cook Strait before they dropped us off at the ferry terminal in Picton. The ferry we took was designed to hold 1600 passengers, 600 cars, and had 1780 lane meters for trailer and campervan transfer. We were loaded on the same decks with all of the semi trucks heading to the south island. Not a whole lot of room to move around on the parking decks, but the ferry workers know how to load a boat. The ferry was, needless to say huge. The ship measured 181 meters long, 23 meters wide and had 10 decks for vehicles, people and equipment.
I wanted to drive the RV on the ferry this morning and was a little nervous. We had to be ready to load at 7:20 am for a departure time of 8:20 am. We left the campsite around 6:45 and ate breakfast in the ferry parking line. As soon as I finished breakfast I climbed back in the driver seat to see what was going on. Not too long later the truck in front of me was heading aboard. We were all safe and snug by 7:30 and were able to get front row recliner seats to watch the ship motor along.
When we got into Picton we expected it to take an hour to unload the ferry. In actuality we were off the ferry within 10 minutes of her docking. Like I said, those ferry workers are good.
The area we are staying in tonight has over 100 wineries. They produce mainly white wines along with a Pinot Noir. The Sauvignon Blanc and the Riesling are especially good. We were able to do a couple of winery tours this afternoon and take part in some of the excellent drink. One of the wineries we visited also had a small boutique brewery where they brew a couple of different types of beers. This living on the road is pretty tough business.
See you later