The end of a great trip

The end of a great trip

This morning I took my bicycle to a bike shop. I bent my derailer and apparently have been causing the slow demise to my shifters myself. Somehow I hadn’t caught on that my bottle cage and front gears were competing for the same space. The shifters were in the lead to begin with but the bottle cage won the long game. Overall pretty easy fixes. The problem was that I am out of time. I could possibly have put myself into super gear and powered to Christchurch. But it felt right to stop. And truly the cosmos was backing that decision. As if on cue, heavy rains started in Dunedin shortly after finishing up at the bike shop. I booked another night at On Top Backpackers, stowed my things in the storage closet, and spent the day on foot seeing the city.

It was a relaxing day. I walked around the Dunedin Chinese Garden. I seriously want a traditional Chinese garden inspired space someday. Then I wandered around the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, which is completely free and well worth the look around. It ranged from the early indigenous cultures through the arrival of European peoples, and then New Zealand modern history through the 1900’s with a special exhibit on the famous Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, or Dunedin Longitudinal Study, where 1037 people born in 1972-73 were studied at certain age intervals. The study continues. These people are brought back to Dunedin periodically to be assessed in a number of categories from health, lifestyles, behaviours, and attitudes. Really neat to see.

I wandered around the city and relaxed the rest of the day. After loitering too long at a pizza pub for supper (to use their free internet!), I went to the movies! I can’t remember when I went to the movies last. I saw La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. So good! I already love musicals, they are not a dying pleasure in my life, but I think even the non-musical addict can enjoy this film. It definitely brings me back to my childhood dream of being a triple threat: singer, dancer, actress. Back at the hostel I was ready for an early night in to catch my early bus the next morning. While enjoying a tea before bed, I had the great fortune to chat with Peter Gazzard. He is from South Africa and is currently a couple years into cycling around the world! Check him out on Facebook (Gazzie on Tour) and if you are feeling generous, consider donating to his cause ( He is cycling to support the Qhubeka initiative in raising money to provide bicycles for the needy children in South Africa. A very interesting and kind man.

Early the next morning I went to the Taieri Gorge Railway. This is where I caught the bus to Oamaru. The rains hadn’t let up yet. In fact they continued all the way to Oamaru. My plan had been to spend the day venturing around Oamaru before catching an evening bus the rest of the way to Christchurch. Due to the heavy rain, I did not wander around too much.

The bus that evening took me into Christchurch. I stayed with an AirBnb and had a really nice sleep. It was a hard sleep, just a good sleep, and long. I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept that well in a long time. The day was rainy but I spent most of it inside catching up on posts and emails. I retrieved my baggage from the CDC, took apart my bike, and packed up for the long flights back.

This trip is finally over. Glad I had the opportunity to explore a place so different as Antarctica. And I am thankful I was able to spend time riding my bike around New Zealand.

Kaka Point to Dunedin – 75 miles

Kaka Point to Dunedin

Happy New Zealand New Year! I feel like I am in the future because all my loved ones are up to a whole day behind me.

My first and only sight for the day was Nugget Point. It was supposed to also include spotting yellow-eyed penguins from the Roaring Bay hide shack, but no penguins. There were a bunch of fur seals to the far side of the bay, which likely contribute to the lack of daytime penguin sightings since they should be nesting babies this time of year. It was a nice hike up to the lighthouse looking over the “nuggets” or all the tiny rock islands poking up from the point. The best part was that I left most of my bike load at the campground. It was a fast 12 miles without all the weight I normally have.

I then rode to Balclutha. 26 miles I should have accomplished yesterday. I likely would have seen penguins if I had gone last night. As I was turning up the road north I remembered that this stretch heading south was some of the worst head winds. No surprise then that I again had some of the worst head winds. It’s like the puppet master pulling the weather strings sees a cyclist and says, “yeah, let’s ruin that person’s day!” I am literally traveling on the same road but in the opposite direction as my ride south, I am supposed to have tail winds! I stopped at the Captain’s Cafe and Bar for lunch. Really nice lunch special of some local brand of fish. Trying to get in my fish options before leaving the country. I then found everything closed, but New World Market was open and they had an iPhone cable, since mine broke last night. Unfortunately no allergy medicine though. My eyes itch with an annoying fierceness and my nose has taken to running.

Onward to Dunedin. I forgot how sore my bottom was from riding long distances without all the stopping for fun side trips. I made it to Dunedin just in time to catch the last spot on the last tour of the day at the Cadbury World chocolate factory. So much chocolate! They literally give you a whole bag of chocolates. As well as a cup to drink as much liquid chocolate as you want while on the tour. And it ends with a ridiculous giant chocolate fountain pouring down the center of an old silo. It was a pretty cool tour altogether. I wish I had caught the Speights Brewery tour after that but no luck.

I am staying at the On Top Backpackers. Apparently everything is closed in Dunedin today too. No pharmacy was open, the camp ground I wanted was closed, and the first hostel up a big hill was booked out. There also weren’t any bike shops open, which I will have to stop at tomorrow. My low gears have decided to stop being functional. Which really makes hills a disappointment when I down-shift and the chain catches causing the pedals to lock up (second gear) or nothing happens at all except an annoying clicking sound (first gear). I am dying of this hay fever business too. It is seriously making breathing a challenge. Bitter sweet thoughts about this vacation ending.

I had a really nice and very filling feast for supper on Indian food. I may need to designate a new food group just for naan. Nice quiet eatery though. The hostel is relatively busy and I am not in a socializing mood. Boo to my allergy-induced poor mood!

The hostel is relatively nice to be in. It has free wifi, a large common area with comfy couches, and breakfast in the AM. My room is hot though, not sure how that will go with my wheezing…

McLean Falls to Kaka Point – 52 miles

McLean Falls to Kaka Point – 52 miles

What a jam packed day! I had a slow start to the day because I ran out of allergy medicine and forgot to look for some in Invercargill. I was up all night with a clogged sinus and crusty eyes. It was the first time I have camped with a full campground too. I wasn’t prepared for the constant rustling of human activity late into the night. Regardless, a slow start. I did catch a bit of luck in the Whistling Frog Cafe, I stopped in for a coffee and one of the waitresses had a homeopathic hay fever serum. I don’t really know if it helped, but I felt better today than I did at any moment last night.

My first stop was Cathedral Caves, of the largest beach sea caves on Earth at 199 meters of total passage length. As I am in the same general area as yesterday, it makes sense that the beds dipping inland here are of a similar Jurassic sandstone as the petrified forest in Curio Bay. Though obviously the cave has formed over the last tens to hundreds of thousand years from the mechanical erosion and collapse of the rock. Sub-vertical joint sets orthogonal to the bedding enable the waves to create large, blocky passage cross-sections. My timing was perfect, I arrived right at the lowest tide, so I was able to walk all the way into the back of the cave and out its second entrance. The passage profiles are quite large. The first entrance is about 10 meters across and 20 meters tall, while the second entrance is 15×15 meters. They were once two separate caves that eventually connected. The waves continue to erode a single back passage.

Then I rode to Lake Wilkie, a rare memory from the last ice age some 13,000 years ago left behind as a lake. It was mostly just a nice nature walk. But there was a simple yet effective series of informative boards showing how the mature podocarp forest is slowly reclaiming the lake.

Then I stopped at Tautuka Beach. It has a spectacular bay backed by forest. And is clearly a popular spot for surfing and beach driving. I almost wanted a vehicle so I too could go racing down the beach. I note this beach only because immediately after standing at sea level I rode up the beefy Florence Hill overlooking that bay. Beautiful views and literally breathtaking. I was sweating profusely by the top.

I then rode on to Papatowai Settlement and stumbled upon the Lost Gypsy Gizmo Gallery. Incredible little place! They even had a small coffee stand. The owner of this place makes mechanical trinkets, like hundreds, if not a thousand of them. They fill a small boxcar and have continued into the gardens around the place. There is even a back area with larger mechanical wonders. All interactive too. I loved it! I rode down to the Papatowai Picnic Point Forest because they have public toilets, and found a one day only children’s carnival. It was so cute. I didn’t stay.

I continued up another beefy climb to Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Nothing special, but I like waterfalls. It did lead me to opt to head to Purakaunui Falls, which required gravel road travel. But you know what, that gravel road was beautifully level and not covered in deep shifting gravel. Though I probably liked it most because I really only saw a handful of vehicles on the whole stretch. Purakaunui Falls were also fantastic! Very iconic wide, tiered falls.

I then continued the gravel travel out to Jack’s Blowhole. Named after the Maori chief Tuhawaiki, or Bloody Jack, this is basically a sea cave like I saw this morning except the ceiling has completely collapsed. The result is that 200 meters inland, there is this giant blowhole. The sign says it is a 68 meter wide opening that is 55 meters deep. Tide was still relatively low while I was there and I could see sunlight shining through its 144 meters of tunnel to the sea. It was well worth the extra 14 miles of gravel!

I wandered into the town of Owaka next. Unfortunately it was evening by then, because they would have had a pharmacy. Hopefully Balclutha can provide the saving elixir for hay fever! Anyway, I missed out on a lot of cool sounding stuff because everything was closed. I at least had a really nice meal from Lumberjack Bar and Restaurant. The whole place basically reserved for supper parties, but they set me up at the main bar. Pan fried Blue Cod, cheesy scalloped potatoes, and seasonal veggies. I really wanted dessert but knew it would make the ride out too difficult. It was delicious and the staff were extremely friendly.

I probably should have set off for Balclutha, but instead rode to Kaka Point. A small sea side village overlooking Molyneaux Bay. It is a beautiful and scenic route to take up to Balclutha. The reason I set off to add even more miles is because I really want to see Roaring Bay and Nugget Point at the southernmost edge from Kaka Point. There are so many fantastic sights to see along the coast here, but the road isn’t actually along the coast because the bluffs are tall and not continuous. So every place I want to visit requires a lengthy side route out to the coast, then back to the scenic highway, up a short way, and back out to the coast. It has made a long day, but a day worth every mile. And I refuse to skip these last views just because it means a longer day tomorrow.

Back to topic, I am staying at the Kaka Point Camping Ground. When I rode in they had just made the call that no one else could fit, but they saw me on my bicycle and made an exception. Much to my great relief! If they hadn’t taken me, and I couldn’t find a hotel in Kaka Point, I would have been forced to ride an additional 14 miles to Balclutha. And after I already mentioned that I wasn’t skipping Nugget Point, I would have needed to go there first, meaning an additional 12 miles, for 26 miles total. It would have been really dark and raining (as it is raining right now, and I suspect I wouldn’t have made it yet). All the little side trips take up a bunch of time, I hardly made any distance today.

Happy New Year’s Eve! It is about 22:30 and I am heading to sleep. My mom gave me new year advice from her mother, and it is to not do anything for New Years that you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the year doing. I feel pretty good about getting some good sleep and adventuring about. 2017 should be a good year for me!

Invercargill to McLean Falls – 76 miles

Invercargill to McLean Falls – 76 miles

After a good night’s rest I woke ready for the rest of this bike adventure. I took a shower, ate breaky, watched a cartoon, and headed off. I stopped at a random mine that was closed but advertised a cafe. It was also closed but a really nice English couple pulled up at the same time. They were super interested in my trip and how light my bike was packed. If the cafe had been open, I suspect they would have chatted a long while. Nice people. My first checkpoint was the town of Fortrose. It marks the first restaurant into the Catlins. I stopped for a coffee and picked up a Catlins tourist map. To my great fortune, the map included road types letting me prepared for gravel versus paved routes. My route was set, but it was nice to know that every vista was accessed via gravel road and that this leg of the tourist route also contained a 14 km gravel road.

My first stop was Waipapa Point Lighthouse. It was recommended because usually there are heaps of sea lions and fur seals. I only saw one sea lion way off from the lookout. But it was beautiful. I really like lighthouses. New Zealand’s lighthouses are no longer occupied by people, so now they are tourist stops.

The gravel road was just over 6 miles round trip. And it really got me thinking about vehicles on the road with cyclists. I am on a tourist road. There is the scenic highway and then there is this road, which links all the extra sights. Locals are easy to spot, they drive really slow when they see me, tend to nod my way, and usually are in a farming vehicle. They are very familiar with this winding road that is all gravel for the majority of its length. Then there are the tourists. They are usually driving fast, hardly slowing down while approaching me unless they become ostuck behind me as two vehicles try to pass. They don’t always nod, and in fact I feel like some are actually grimacing my way. It took me riding down the lighthouse road to realize this distinction. My presence on the road apparently causes too much delay in the busy agendas of the tourists around me.

That thought really sticks with me. I am among these tourists, and I have my deadlines too, but seriously they are in vehicles. The one minute of delay that I may cause them (if it is even a whole minute) can easily be made up or lost without significantly affecting the speed at which the drivers are moving along this road. My progress, however, is significantly impeded because I cannot risk riding fast for the worry that the next vehicle will speed wide around a bend and force my path off the narrow tire tread. In the whole 14 miles or so of gravel travel, I held my own well enough to only slide out once. No injury or harm done, but it kept me on edge. As difficult enough as it is to ride slick tires on gravel, I also had a fair amount of topography to the road, and the impatient tourists as described above. Since I have panniers, the back half of my bike is imbalanced and any loss of control could result in a slide. I didn’t even fall over, I haven’t fallen over yet from not clipping out fast enough [**knock** on wood]. But the bike still pulled itself down the slope as the slope of the road and depth of gravel reached the limit of my bicycle traction. Anyway, this long saga is to say that if all the tourists, cyclists should be the most reasonably impatient since any delay truly equals a delay. There isn’t really a great way to make up time while cycling except to stop less, which is not a very touristy thing to do.

I did ultimately decide to skip Slope Point, the southernmost Point on South Island. I decided the additional 8 miles of gravel with a big hill weren’t necessary. I have already been to Stewart Island, so I have been way further south in New Zealand than Slope Point. It was supposed to have nice views though.

Curio Bay I made sure not to miss. And it was a lovely break. There is a 180 million year old (Jurassic time frame) fossil forest preserved from ash fall. The wave cut beach rock reveals the fossilized wood. And it now provides stunning wave-crashing bluffs to take photos from. I took a long break lying on the beach in Curio Bay. At long last I finally am on the beach in my bikini enjoying the sun! I only gave myself an hour of sun time, though. Besides my left shoulder and knees being really tan, made all the more absurd by the stark lines from my jersey and shorts, the rest of my body looks questionably of albinism. I didn’t want to turn into a lobster. I am just beginning to peel from my very first day on this bike trip, so soon I will be fully pale again.

From Curio Bay I was back on pavement and as I headed toward Waikawa, I saw a lone penguin standing up on a rock in the water, arms spread, obviously dreaming about what it would be like to fly. I could understand the desire.

I next stopped in the tint settlement of Niagara for two reasons. The first being the Niagara Falls Cafe, and it did not disappoint. It was the exact quiet and lovely place I wanted to be. I sat in a warm sunny spot by the window overlooking a thriving garden. The cafe used to be the Niagara Falls schoolhouse, built in 1893, before it shut down in 1972 when the mill shut down. Niagara Falls is named in jest after the North American Niagara Falls, for the tiny waterfall at the river where settlers would take their wool to send down river to Wiakawa where it was shipped off. The sign advertises for the world’s smallest waterfall. I love the humor.

From Niagara I continued all the way to Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park where I am camped out tonight. It is the only camping point since I left Waikawa, so you can imagine that the whole place is booked out. But they let people put tents wherever they find a spot, so I was ok. The reason I wanted to stop here was to have supper at the Whistling Frog Cafe and Bar and to catch an evening view of the McLean Falls, New Zealand’s tallest falls at 22 meters. I have been searching for a milkshake and the cafe had them! I cannot describe how delighted I was to finally have a milkshake. In that food venture, I forgot about the 3km walk just to get to the falls car park on top of the 40 min round trip walk. I arrived at the falls after sunset, too dark to snap twilight lighting. It was still a neat sight. No glowworms came out though. I hoped I might at least see then on the walk back. It was probably slightly too light out for them yet. The worst of both ends of the stick. A nice part was that some German guys who were also still down there gave me a ride back to the campground.

Noisy campground, but off the bed!

Leaving Stewart Island

Leaving Stewart Island

I slept well! I woke up feeling happy. I finished gathering my things and packed them onto my bike, ready for my departure whenever necessary. I went to the South Sea restaurant for breaky and sat around a long while staring out the window. The weather is finally calm today. Though there were occasional rain showers. I have a hotel in Invercargill booked for tonight, my ferry ticket paid for, and a shuttle to return my bike and me to the city. I even have the bus from Oamaru to Christchurch settled and my route back tallied. The remaining days are few.

For my last adventure on Stewart Island I decided to take a scenic boat ride across the Paterson Inlet and up Fresh River. I left from Golden Bay and got to see more of the island interior along the fresh water river. My skipper, Chris, took me around the little islands and pointed out the various bays as we rode over. He told me about the town and some of the island history. It was nice to have a conversation with a local. He pointed out a lot of birds to me, and I saw a little Blue Penguin. It was heaps of fun on the narrow river, too. The water is often less than a meter deep, so they have to drive the boat relatively fast and make sharper turns. This caused the boat to turn significantly to the side the boat was turning on. I almost felt like I could reach out and touch the water. It was a pleasant out and back. I was the only passenger, but we picked up a full boat of people at the Freshwater Hut. Normally they don’t let passengers leave the boat, but Chris let me walk about while he loaded the others. There is a neat bridge walkway that I crossed over to the hut. I realized that I never took any photos of Bungaree Hut, so this was a nice opportunity. Plus the walkway was fun. Simple wirelines holding up a thin plank walkway, swaying quite lively as I walked across.

I was on the afternoon ferry back, so I had just enough time to grab a snack before waiting around the wharf. It was a full boat back. The weather was great though, no crazy rocking this time.

I am staying at the Kelvin Hotel again. I liked them so much the first round. Plus the hostel was booked out. I had a quiet birthday in the hotel. A nice supper at the restaurant and big dessert. I watched a movie from the quiet of my room. And I relaxed in preparation for the next several days jammed full of big miles and new adventures.

Happy 28th birthday to me.

Invercargill to Stewart Island – 17 miles

Invercargill to Oban, Stewart Island – 17 miles and a ferry ride

Last night I booked my ferry ticket for this evening, so I knew I could sleep in and relax this morning. I showered again just because, and watched an Avengers cartoon while repacking. I ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, waffles with fried bananas and bacon. I ran out of internet, but the hotel staff were very happy to look it up for. They checked the Invercargill to Bluff weather (still miserable) and Stewart Island (looking like a day or two of continued shattered showers). I was told that Stewart Island is lovely even in bad weather, ha!

Across the way from the hotel is a bike shop, Wensley’s Cycles. I bought replacement cleats for my bike shoes, and they changed them out for me. What a Christmas present! In better spirits I set out for the last jaunt down to Bluff to the ferry harbor.

I only had 17 miles to ride. The same woman who looked up weather yesterday told me it was for the best that I wouldn’t get to Bluff last night because it is always super windy there. She was too right. The weather report claimed 47 km per hour winds. I can easily agree. I had to grip my handlebars just to maintain control. The wind was at my right, trying to push me off the road at all times. They must have a lot of rain here, too, as all the ditches were dug at high angles down from the road for drainage channeling. A fall would have been brutal. Worse was when trucks would pass me. The ones driving towards me would create a wind vortex, temporarily sucking me backwards. The trucks passing me from behind would simultaneously pull me forward and push me sideways. Scarier but preferable. I was in no hurry, so slowly I made it to Bluff. Once I hit town, at the furthest bottom of South Island, the hill the town is situated beside caused the wind to turn around it, giving me a slight tail wind for the cruise along the wharf! Magnificent!

The ferry to Stewart Island is run by Stewart Island Experience. They have a very nice terminal in Bluff. I was able to secure a space for my bicycle on the voyage over, so no scrambling around to find a place in Bluff! I changed into warm clothes and headed to the Anchorage Cafe where I feasted like a ravenous pig, eating blue cod with a fresh veggie salad and fries, a pint of Speights beer, a lot of water, pavlova and ice cream covered in strawberries and cream, and hot tea. The rains picked up again, but I was snugly inside the cafe with wifi and comfort knowing I was not going back out into the weather.

There was a large crowd for the 5PM boat. I was surprised to see so many people. Especially knowing that the 11AM boat sold out. The winds were still blowing hard which many passengers did not appreciate. It was a tumultuous sea for the ride over. So many seasick people. I was in a mesmerized stupor the whole time, and inappropriately found the suffering people comical. The waves would turn up the boat and I would lose sight of the water on one side and lose the sky on the other. I have always had a special relationship with water. And like I was sitting at the alter of a water goddess, I felt so calm and happy that I almost cried. I was exhausted and didn’t feel it until being propelled across ocean waters with zero physical exertion required on my part whatsoever. I don’t know if I could have been happier at that moment.

Since arriving to Invercargill, the people have been real. I went into the grocery after arriving in Bluff, desperately needing allergy medicine. They had nothing at all. But a sweet woman shared her personal supply with me. Don’t worry, they are the individually wrapped foil pack kind with name and dosage printed on the back. Though honestly, I probably would have taken them anyways. A costumer had already asked if I was crying. My eyes were itching fiercely. Made worse by the debris blown in during the pedal over. Then at the boat building, I was adjusting my bicycle so the luggage man could more easily lift it down the stairs. He was waiting for luggage bins to fill up so they could be crane-lifted onto the boat. When he realized that I hadn’t made reservations yet he quickly grabbed one of the office phones and dialed the hostel for me so I could ask about a bed. He said it would be terrible to arrive with nowhere to go, even if I had a tent. The woman I talked to on the phone, Carol, was so understanding and friendly. She put me in a shared room that didn’t have any other guests for tonight. And they made a space in the shed to store my bike. They are even nice enough to let me keep it there for my hike and to store the gear I won’t take with me. What a friendly family!

Milton to Invercargill – 102 miles

Milton to Invercargill – 102 miles

My host recommended that I take a detour to the next town. He said the highway was very hilly and not so nice. He thought timing would come out the same because the route was flatter and emptier. I had every intention of taking his advice, but then I reached the detour junction and realized that the town was maybe half the distance as his detour. Hill or no hills, that seemed like an easy choice. I took the highway and had some really lovely downhill cruisers, the ups not that strenuous. The selling point, though, is that clouds rolled in right as I reached Balclutha, 17 miles from the hostel, and I was inside drinking hot tea as a brief rain shower hit.

Today is slow moving. Constant rolling hills, which could be really nice except for the strong headwinds resisting all uphill motion and eliminating the joy of the downhill as I am instead fighting to stay upright from the slight angle of the wind. I fought for 19 more miles then stopped at a cafe in Clinton. I met a nice Canadian couple stopping in for lunch. They are doing a motorbike tour around South Island. Very friendly.

I got back on the road and barely kept up morale on the 26 miles to Gore, where I stopped for lunch at Table Talk Cafe. Let me tell you how low my spirits were. Leaving Clinton, the wind became stronger, the hills continued, the clouds continued to loom overhead, and I made a choice based on advice from the cafe that I should stay on Highway 1. I have no way to know whether I made a good decision. The road turned up, changing the direction I was battered on to my side, but still sufficiently from the front that it didn’t relax any of the resistance. I was pedaling on the downhills just to keep up momentum. On a big uphill, I clipped out a couple times in quick succession. Further investigation revealed that I had all but lost the whole ridge on my left cleat, the right cleat looking not far behind. Not the end of the world, but losing the ability to use quad power to pull the pedal up sucked.

The road turned slightly into several small and closely packed hills, temporarily diminishing the wind. On the far side was a straightaway. I thought maybe finally I would get a break! By then I had been riding quite awhile, feeling like based on time, I should have been passed half way. Then the trifecta… Just as I hit the straight, where the road turned bumpy and shitty, the winds slammed into my face, literally almost pausing my forward motion. I saw a sign for Gore revealing that I was barely half the distance. Then it started to rain. In an anguished scream at the weather gods, a sound only possibly from a person at the lowest point of desperation, I was ready to give up. Fortunately, or unfortunately, one cannot really just stop riding on a trip like this. It is not like I was going to stand around in the cold rain instead of ride through it. What would that have accomplished beyond extending my misery?

At the cafe I sat staring out the window for a long time like a crazed person. If the cafe had not closed, I likely would have sat longer. I knew I would keep going, no matter how bad things were while riding. I think that is why I have a high capacity for activities people find unappealing: hike all day every day for 2660 miles; run samples for two weeks straight, barely getting an hour of sleep each day; bike 100 miles through miserable weather. My answer continues to be “Yeah, sure.” It might suck while you do it, but are there repercussions? Usually not. Are there rewards? I think so. So as quickly as I stop doing that activity, things are immediately improved. Zero incentive to stop myself from doing it again.

I rode an additional 40 miles to Invercargill. What a stupid day. Clearly New Zealand did not get the memo that I am on holiday. The weather is supposed to be perfect. Or at least moderately pleasant. In Gore, at the Golden Age Tavern, a waitress checked the weather for me and it said 33 km per hour winds. I made it into the city at a snail’s pace, barely before dark. Both shoes coming unclipped at an annoyingly frequent rate, usually just on the steeper climbs. Pure misery. With the wind blowing, I had zero interest in setting up my tent, so I headed to a hostel. At 9:30PM on a Friday night, the hostel was locked up with a sign to call for late arrivals. In no mood to find a way to call someone and sit around waiting to then share a dorm, I went to the first hotel I saw. Kevin Hotel. And what a genuinely grand experience.

They were so friendly and accommodating. No one batted an eye at my filthy legs. They talked pleasantly of a hot shower and getting a good night’s rest. I was able to put my bike in a downstairs office to not bother taking it up to my room. The price was well under the cap I made in my head when I decided the convenience of a hotel was worth the money. I had a clean, private, and plush room all to myself up on the fifth floor, overlooking the city. I showered with soap, shampoo, and a rag to finally scrub off the layered-on sunscreen. I sat surrounded by pillows on the giant fluffy bed in my pajamas with my hair wrapped up in a terry cloth towel watching Zoolander 2 while eating snicker bars, banana chips, and free milk from the dairy fridge. I dumped out all my meager possessions just because I could, and so they could air out after two days of rain. I even had wifi! I could not have asked for a better setup. The only damper on the moment was the discovery that my pelvic bones are more than bruised, there is a new development of chaffing from riding in wet shorts for two days. Great timing to be done riding for a bit.

Herbert to Milton – 94 miles

Herbert to Milton – 94 miles

I slept so well last night! Not a hard sleep, just rejuvenating. It looked like clouds were stirring this morning so I didn’t waste time hitting the road. I rode 31 miles to Waikouaiti where I stopped for coffee and a scone. My bum appreciates the breaks I have been taking every two hours, especially when it involves a soft padded chair. It also helps break up the day. Let’s me aim for shorter 20-30 mile segments instead of thinking about the whole day’s distance. The highway is easy to follow so I only pull out the map during breaks to make sure I am not dallying too slowly. Waikouaiti was my goal for last night. Had I made more miles the first day, I think I definitely would have made it.

What a brutal day so far. That big climb turned out to be a series of increasing climbs, 25 miles of them. Then, at the top of the last climb, when I was just handful of miles away, I saw a sign depicting that the road was closed to bicycles. I just rode up a beastly climb (not Gibraltar Road beastly but arduous all the same) and then was directed to a side road for the descent. Any cyclist will tell you that pedaling your ass off to get to the top of a hill is worth it because of the victorious downhill on the other side, where you just need to hold on for dear life and let gravity bring you down. Instead, I was siphoned off on a 3 mile downhill gravel road. Joy. It was very pleasant once I finally hit the pavement. Very few cars overall. Though I cannot help thinking about this climb for my return trip. What a dreadful day that will be.

Despite my bickering about topography, today has hands down been the most beautiful. All morning had the cool calmness that rain clouds have a way of causing. I rode up on a sleepy lake with black swans and a single white swan. So lovely. Then I immediately encountered the coast and actually rode along the wave crashing bluffs for awhile. Following my morning break is when the hills started up, but the views were stunning. So much green! Maybe I am easily impressed right now, I mean I did just return from the desolate Antarctic mountains, but the rolling hills and trees swaying in the wind. I have loved every view today. And the sheep have been particularly entertaining. They don’t even look up for a noisy semi truck, but my riding by has the power to send them running. I have been amusing myself With whistling and singing out once I am close to a flock of sheep on alert. They do not find it funny. My new goal is to get a whole mob of sheep running for their lives.

I spoke too soon about Dunedin. Officially my least favorite place so far. On top of a long rain delay, the highway turns into a motorway heading south out of town. Instead of 8 miles along the motorway, I had to turn back into the city and take a ridiculous path that involved a winding 12 miles with three unnecessary big climbs in the pouring rain on roads with minimal shoulders. I should have grabbed fast food and hit the road right away. After about two hours in the rain, I stubbornly just kept moving.

I did see an incredible sight this afternoon, a herd of one hundred or more deer! No exaggeration . I have never seen so many deer in one place. They were just helping themselves to the grassy grove in a field of grain. It was crazy. I also have a new success on the startling of farm animals. I coerced a tiny horse to run along with me for the whole duration of its field, maybe 300 meters long. I was so delighted!

In total I rode another 38 miles to Milton. I was pretty over cycling when I arrived there. My feet had been cold and wet for hours, the air felt cold because my bike shorts were still mostly wet, and then the sun finally decided to come out again just in time to start setting. I needed a morale booster and supper was the ticket. I ate a huge meal of pork belly, mash potatoes, roasted vegetables, red cabbage salad, and chocolate cake with cream and ice cream at the Fork n the Road restaurant. Yes, that brought me back to happiness. I am 16 miles short of my intended mileage, but it was late and I was ready to stop moving. I am staying at the Happy Inn Backpackers. It is a quiet hostel with a cheap, warm bed and shower. Somewhere dry to hang my clothes. It is just what I needed. And the owner is a friendly German-Swiss man who taught me to juggle. Seriously, I had three bean bags up to 8 or 9 turn-overs before losing a bag. I feel like I need to expand this skill. I am now on the lookout for a set of six bean bags. A career at the carnival may be in my future yet!

Ashburton to Herbert – 115 miles

Ashburton to Herbert – 115 miles

Today felt long. I am glad to be snuggled down for bed right now. I had a better start time today, though I am thinking maybe I should hit the road earlier to avoid late afternoon. The is the side of me that’s burned and the heat really feels brutal without shade.

To keep my panniers as light as possible, I am not really carrying any food. I have a bunch of snicker bars and banana chips for snacking. I have been buying breakfast from the grocery the night before. Then lunch and supper are eating out. I feel like this is the optimal way to make sure I am appropriately fed as measured by quality and healthiness over quantity.

I rode a solid 42 miles before stopping to lunch at Bernie’s Bakery HQ in Timaru. Late afternoon I stopped at the lone cafe marking the turn onto SH82 off from SH1 leading to Waimate. Unfortunately their water tank has just broken, so I settled on a cold ginger beer then set back out.

The views been quite pleasant today. I saw the ocean a few hundred meters from the road. The was the closest the road came, but I caught views off and on all day. Beautiful. And peaceful. I had light head winds all day, so I am blaming that for moving so slowly today. Though I am also fighting through some major saddle soreness. I could see the mountains all day! This was a great thing, but briefly around Temuka and continuously passed Oamaru those beautiful mountains turned into a lot of ups and downs. The owner from last night’s campground told me the way was flat until just before Dunedin, so I am definitely not looking forward to hills for tomorrow.

Sights also included lots of farms, sheep, tiny horses, cows, llamas, and, strangely, an abundance of broken bungee cords on the side of the road. Very little roadside litter, but I consistently see broken bungee cables in addition to dead birds and squished (quilled rodent). I saw a sign for wallabies, but I am not I will see any.

After my cold drink break, I rode 31 miles to Oamaru, the steampunk capital in New Zealand, and supped at Cucina Restaurant & Bar. Very high class. I picked the place because I could watch my bike through the window. Fortunately 6pm is somewhat early for the supper crowd so they didn’t scoff at my sunblock glistening legs covered in spattered bugs. I had a lovely meal, but it felt a bit dainty, so I stopped by the grocery and scarfed down a pint of Tip Top’s brand “Saucy Caramel.” Just what my sweet tooth wanted!

I contemplated staying in Oamaru, but my map app led me to think if I got those last 16 miles in, I would be perfectly set up for a 90 mile day tomorrow. Having looked at the numbers in actuality, I am 151 miles from the desired stop. Instead I am going to stop sooner. There is supposed to be a gnarly climb tomorrow! Anyway, I rode 16 miles more to Herbert Forest Camping Ground in the tiny town of Herbert. $12.50 NZD provided me a completely empty upper campground (I missed the main camp somehow), a hot shower (though brilliantly I left my shampoo in the shower last night), and a kitchen. I even plugged my phone in for a charge. New Zealand is incredibly camp friendly!

Christchurch to Ashburton – 58 miles

Christchurch to Ashburton – 58 miles

Yesterday we arrived safely at Christchurch in the LC130. Demian and I collected our bags and headed for the hotel. They booked us at the Sudima Hotel, across the street from the CDC. Perfect distance! I think I literally slept most of the 8 hour flight back to New Zealand. LC130’s are loud and our flight was full. So piled in like sardines, shoulder-to-shoulder and knees-across-knees, I tried my best curl up on my mesh space and slept hard. Despite that nap, I was feeling pretty worn out still. At the hotel, I emptied my bags on the floor, changed into a dress, and watched movies while I attempted to pack and sort out my bike trip items. When I could no longer hold off hunger, I went and found Demian. We walked over to Little India for supper. I stopped at the grocery to buy razors, a pint of ice cream, and snacks for my trip. My legs haven’t seen daylight or a shave for over two months now. It was time. Anyways, this morning I had ambitions for an early start on my cycling trip. Instead I arrived at the CDC to drop off my bags and received the message that travel needed to see me. They needed to push my flights a day later and then actually book them. I sat waiting until just after 1PM. So much for a strong first day. I road straight through all afternoon until stopping for supper at Robbie’s Bar & Bistro in Ashburton. I looked at my distances and decided to stop for the day at Tinwald Camping Ground in Ashburton. It is a lovely place, and the owner is quite friendly and encouraging about my trip. For $16 NZD I have a camp site, shower, outlets, and TV room. After a quick shower I retired to the TV room where I am watching National Treasure with Nicholas Cage and charging my battery. My goal is to sleep early and hit the road early tomorrow. Day one done. My pelvis feels bruised, my quads are tight, my hands are still numb, and in my typical style, I am sunburned. About 300 miles to go!