April 24th to April 28th…….Back Home!

1.30pm Wetherspoons pub, Yeovil, England

Well, I’m back home and coming to terms with the completion of my physical journey to the other side of the world. As I sit here in this oh so English pub (having a latte because no one here has heard of a flat white) it seems like a world away.

I’ve been a tad neglectful with the blog and will combine the remaining days of my trip in one “triple bill” bonus posting!

April 24th

The Inter city bus from Christchurch did not include a running commentary from the driver which was a bit if a shame. Still, it was a lovely sunny trip and there is a lot to see on the way. None more so than the spectacular section along the Kaikoura coastline where the road hugs the coast and offers some amazing views out over the Pacific. I don’t think I could ever tire of seeing this coast and the snow capped Kaikoura mountains. We had a stop in Kaikoura itself which offered not only a much needed leg stretch (and in my case an overdue flat white) but a chance to breathe in the views of the ocean, beach and mountains. I texted Marie to tell her that I wish she was here with me rather than me having to come home. Reassuring myself that we will be back in NZ in the not too distant future I felt as happy and relaxed as I have ever been.

Kaikoura's mountains always beautiful

Kaikoura’s mountains always beautiful

James, a kiwi lad from Wellington, sat next to me on the trip up to Blenheim. He was an assured and likeable young man still at school in Wellington College. He’d been hunting on a relatives farm near Kaikoura during the past week, the target being deer. They hadn’t had any luck and the weather had been so wet that they had ended up having to curtail the hunt (wading through waist high torrents where stream beds were normally dry). He was going to hopefully go to Uni in Wellington but as yet had not decided on the course.

The bus from Blenheim to Nelson offered a very diverse mix of conversations and characters. I became a link between three lovely older ladies from Albany, New York state and two spaced out kiwi lads from Christchurch (not sure what they were spaced out on but their eyes were well glazed over). The American ladies were visiting one of their daughters who was studying at Wellington uni for a semester (the course was cultural studies which essentially is a bit of a doss from what I could tell). They had enjoyed their stay immensely and done a few exciting things like 4 wheel drive on the back roads of the Wairarapa and were heading for Nelson to visit a beach, although weren’t sure which one! The kiwi lads were “Hammer Heads” which appears to be the term for unskilled labour in the rebuild of Christchurch. One was visiting family and the other was going on “holiday” which entailed drinking and smoking a lot (and I don’t think he just meant tobacco).

Rex and I arrived intact and I cycled back to Lionels place even coping with the 45 degree final climb. We walked back into town to pick up Mike’s valeted car (to be sold now Mike has left for Aussie) and had a good catch up on everything en route. Michelle cooked up a delicious veggie curry for tea with a bottle of red and delicious blackberry and apple flan for pud. Chewed the fat over (not sure what the veggie equivalent saying is) before tiring each other out and so to bed.

April 25th

Lovely lie in this morning in a comfy bed. Anzac Day here in NZ and we watched a bit of TV coverage of the many Dawn Parades across the country. NZ was very much affected by the wars and over 10% of the population actively served in the first world war (100,000 servicemen when the total population of the country was only a million),58% of the servicemen were either killed or injured, quite an amazing figure. the Anzac Day rememberence is a big thing over here and it is quite humbling to see the strong turnouts not only in the big cities but across the whole country for the fallen heroes of all those years ago.

I busied myself with washing and packing for the trip home and then went on a cycle ride into Nelson on Rex. You will be interested to know that I may have a continuing relationship with my trusty steed. I asked if Rex would be useful to Michelle or Lionel and if so whether they wanted to keep him “on loan”. the answer was affirmative and I have yet another friend I am looking forward to seeing again when I return (If Marie is willing she can have the pleasure of Rex and vice versa). If however L&M find Rex no longer of use then he will be offered to the next intrepid NZ explorer.

Not a lot open in town when I got there (Anzac day means lots of shops close until the afternoon) so I updated the blog at a central backpacker place. I met Tuhoe Bruno Isaac, an ex leader of the Mongrel mob gang. I have been hearing a bit about the gang culture here in NZ and was intrigued enough to buy his book, he was also pretty scary looking which was an added incentive!

Invited L&M out for lunch and we went to Café Affaire near the Cathedral steps. Very nice to be dining al fresco in the sunshine and to treat them after all the help and advice they have given me.

you can tell I've been talking Lionel to death by his closed eyes!

you can tell I’ve been talking Lionel to death by his closed eyes!

Couldn't put it better myself

Couldn’t put it better myself

Time was ticking on and after an aborted last minute gift search for taking back home Rex and I hurried back to get my stuff. Hopefully L&M will be in England next spring so it was a pleasant case of saying see you soon rather than a tearful farewell (Lionel just managed to hold himself together! he was probably missing his second helping of flan).

As soon as the plane reached it cruising altitude it then started its descent into Wellington, I think it was only about 25 minutes in total!

Quick turnaround in Wellington and just had chance to photo the LOTR figures, a huge Gollum and an impressive Gandalf riding on an eagle.
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For once I didn’t chat with my fellow passengers other than civilities of hello and goodbye. I think I was in a more contemplative mood and thinking about the fairly impersonal IBIS hotel and long drag home. At least I got a good walk with the rucksack as it was a couple of km from the domestic terminal to the hotel (or it was the long way I went). I had a beer in the adjoining bar and succumbed to a not very nice Carls Junior burger before retiring for the night. Pretty soulless place.

April 26th… D-Day

The day of departure from these beautiful islands and friendly people finally dawned. I invested in some under arm deodorant and minty mouth fresheners for the plane journey and stocked up with Whittakers and Cadbury chocolate bars (hopefully not for the plane journey!). I was due to meet Mike and Sonia at 9.30ish so headed for the terminal and checked my rucksack in. Mike rang to say they were at the hotel! We met up in the terminal and you’ll never guess what we had to drink…..aww, you guessed it, flat whites all round.

It was a fitting finale to meet with Mike and Sonia. They have been the epitome of Kiwi openness and unassuming friendship ever since we met them back in 1997. Without them and their family’s support my family and I would not have been able to make our 3 yearly pilgrimage to NZ and we owe them so much. I wish the circumstances were different for why they will now be able to come and stay with us in England but am so pleased that this is finally looking like a definite for them in the next year or so. Trent has also now booked his ticket to travel and work in UK/Europe so we are looking forward to seeing him here and his staying with us as long as he likes. It’s a challenging time for the family but they will undoubtedly take it all in their stride.
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After saying goodbye I went through to the departure lounge and noticed some rather large chaps in blue polo shirts who turned out to be the Warratahs rugby team travelling back to Sydney after their match with the Auckland blues. None other than Curtly Beale, the implausibly brilliant back for the Wallabies just happened to line up behind me at the security check.

Me: Hello, Are you Curtly?
Curtly: Yes
ME: I just want to say that I think you are a really great player.
Curtly: Thanks very much
ME: How did you get on?
Curtly: Not good, we lost to the blues which is never easy
ME: sorry about that, but it is really nice to meet you
Curtly: Nice to meet you too
Handshake ensued

I kept seeing the Warratah boys all round the departure lounge and was pleased to note that I was at least as tall as 3 of them although I felt dwarfed by some of the forwards and imagined even my calf muscles would not stack up against any of theirs!

The flight to Sydney was almost pleasant. I Had a window seat and relished looking over Auckland and the coastline as we headed over the Tasman. I got a few glimpses of Sydney through the low cloud as we landed. I cant even remember who I sat next to other than they had the entertainment on from the start with their headphones on so we didn’t really talk. It was a quick turnaround in Sydney and then the long 14 hour slog to Dubai. Here are the notes I made.
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9.45am in NZ, 10.45pm London, 1.45am here in Dubai

Everyone around me here in the “holding bay” looks tired. I’m with Don who I’ve been sat next to for the last 14 hours from Sydney. Don is in his early 70’s and originally from Newcastle, he still has a strong Geordie accent. He has lived in Aussie for over 30 years. Unfortunately his reason for travelling is to get back to see his brother before he passes away because he has incurable bladder cancer.

,..,…,…Now on plane

I’m now less than 3 hours from London and somewhere over Romania (seems a great place to be over for anyone who is addicted to travel!).

Not long before I reach home soil and i am embraced into the embracing bosom of my family after nearly four months of non-embracement. I’m a little bit nervous as I want our reunion to be a special moment and for my readjustment to home life to be positive for all of us over the coming hours,days, weeks, months and years.

I’m trying to envisage the scene as I emerge from the arrivals door at Heathrow. I’m thinking Marie will be standing smiling but not wanting to do the “running towards each other with our arms outstretched ready for a passionate hug” type thing for fear of drawing attention. Alice will definitely not be doing a Jenny Agutter “my daddy, my daddy”..with joyful tears as she accelerates towards me through the crowds. I will get an acceptably short hug and comment about my beard being patchy and/or disgusting. Amie will be acting cool and I will get a “bonjour” with a cheeky brief smile. Then I’m wondering will Amie and Alice actually be there, or are they waiting back in Reading because it was too early to get up. Maybe Marion will come instead with Marie and we may have a friendly word!

To counter having ” air flight breath” I will apply some fresh breath minty strips which melt on your tongue, and I have had a change of top in Dubai plus a deodorant “Italian shower” so hopefully won’t be too niffy.

The flight has been long and I’ve not have more than an hours total sleep.

My other fellow passenger was 25 year old Simon, from Bournemouth. He too had a sad tale behind his flight back to the UK. After a 5 year relationship with his Aussie girlfriend they had decided to make a full go of it and for Simon to move over to Sydney permanently. With the expense of a de facto partner visa, resigning from his uk job, selling up most of his possessions, and reconciling his family around his likely permanent migration. His girlfriend had just told him it was not going to work after just 3 weeks after his arrival! 4 days after this bombshell he has resigned from a job he was due to start on Monday and is on the plane back to his parents in Bournemouth! He was surprisingly undeterred by the earth shattering events and I had to admire him trying to look at it positively. He felt now that it was better to have happened sooner and realises that they had become different people to when they had first met. He had a strong circle of friends and his family to support him back home so he was going to be in the best place to move on. We stuck together at Heathrow up to the passport control and I just hope I did not send Don in the wrong direction for his connecting flight to Newcastle.

I emerged in the arrivals area fairly quickly and found the girls spread out at intervals. First Amie, hanging over the rails, and we had a lovely hug, then Alice who was moving slowly towards me and I had another lovely hug, and finally the smiling Marie for a wonderful hug and a kiss. The warmth of my welcome home was in direct contrast to the wet coolness of the London rain and lack of consideration by the drivers in the car park.

Back in Reading even John, Marie’s Dad, looked pleased to see me and we stayed for a couple of rounds of tea before heading home via the bros house. Chris was on his laptop renewing his car tax and looked a million miles away from his Gandalf like status on the volcanic Tongariro plateaus, Wanganui river Wilderness and the trepidatious Tararua mountains of New Zealand. We didn’t have much time together other than a quick look around the garden and he’d kindly grown me some veggie seeds for planting back home.

We got home about 2.30pm and I attempted to stay awake at least until 6pm by keeping busy unpacking, admiring Marie’s handiwork on the wall papering, ringing mum, having a shower etc but once I sat down to read Bill Bryson’s latest book which Alice had bought me for my birthday the lids of my eyes became like heavy weights attracted together by an irresistible magnetic force which I could not keep apart. I’d managed to get to 6.30pm so was pleased with that.

I’m reserving judgement on what it really feels like to be home and no longer on my adventures, lots of different feelings on this to try and capture, so maybe I’ll come back on this in a future blog. I do know that Dad would have been proud of me.

Thanks for reading my blog dear reader. It’s been an amazing journey for me and I hope it has changed me for the better and for the long term. What stands out most for me is the number of lovely people I met and how we shared a part of our lives together, a quote provided by one such friend sums this up nicely;

“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles”

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April 23rd ………3 days to go

Towards Mt Cook "Aoraki"

Towards Mt Cook “Aoraki”

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Brodie, Zen and Kerry

Brodie, Zen and Kerry

Rex and I reach Christchurch.

Rex and I reach Christchurch.

Cathederal

Cathederal

6.45am 24th April – inter city bus Christchurch

This travelling on a bus malarkey isn’t that bad at all. I actually quite enjoyed the effortless speed in relative comfort, with even a running commentary from drivers Paul (to Lake Tekapo) and George (to Christchurch). I imagined that Rex was also quite content too, tucked away in his own compartment and not having to work hard.

The added touch of a guided commentary is a great gesture (is this just Newman’s coaches?), I think the drivers like it too (fresh captive audience for their personality and it breaks the monotony of just driving). I learnt quite a bit more about the places we travelled through. The “wooing tree” vineyard in Cromwell which has a big tree in the middle and under which reputedly half the towns population were conceived , the legend of Shrek the Merino sheep who had avoided being sheared for 6 years, provided over 50lbs of wool when he was but was then so cold they had to knit him a woolly jacket. He became a superstar in NZ, met the prime minister and raised over 200 thousand dollars for charity. Lots of other stuff was offered and it really helped pass the time. I must admit to dozing off for a while as it was so relaxing (and I was struggling with Eckhart Tolle’s book).

I Woke up when my ears popped near the top of Lindis pass. I had wanted to see what the cycling would have been like if I’d come this way but all I can say is the subsequent downhill bit to Omarama looked a dream ride. We passed through Twizel but did not stop other than to pick up, it looked the the same although I did see a new log cabin on the way out and wondered if it could be Mark and Clare’s.

You know how everyone looks for an empty set of seats when they get on a bus as no one wants to sit next to anyone else unless they have to? Well, I found myself in the predicament of there being no remaining empty sets left when we swapped buses at Lake Tekapo. In such a situation you are then faced with trying to assess the “nuttiness factor” of the occupants purely from visual observation in split seconds and in as discrete a way as possible. At the same time being acutely aware that these occupants are willing you to sit anywhere but next to them!

Well I opted for the safest bet of joining a friendly looking lady with 2 boys who were on the long back row of 5 seats. These turned out to be Kerry, Zen (9) and Brodie (13) from Akaroa. A great selection as it turned out (what impeccable judgement I must have!), and a really nice family.Kerry is a community coordinator and counsellor in Akaroa. They had been to Queenstown to see the oldest son, Flynn, who is working as a greenkeeper at the golf course but may go to Aussie. Kerry is going to go travelling to India this September and touchingly said that it was a trip she had delayed for 19 years whilst her children grew up and Flynn was helping her to pay for the trip. We chatted a lot and the hours passed quickly (poor George the drivers anecdotal commentary becoming background). Zen was a nice lad and loved a recent trip to Aussie with his uncle where they’d gone kayaking 16km in the bush. It was quite sad saying goodbyes when we got in to Christchurch.

There was just enough daylight to have a quick look at Cathedral Square, it was really hard to recognise the place with so many buildings gone. The cathedral looked like a ruin. All quite sorrowful at this time but hopefully from the ashes a better city can eventually emerge. It strikes me that the whole earthquake legacy has caused a lot of issues about how the city should be rebuilt and at what cost.

At least David has got himself a job out of it! He is in a small team of about 5 working for a contractor on demolition. He’s sorted accommodation in a shared house with loads of people but at least has enough drawers for his 12 shirts!. We met at my motel (Admiral on Bealey St) around 7.30 and went up the road to a Speights Ale house recommended by Rick at the Motel. Apart from a very brusque young waitress it was a nice and we both opted for a steak burger (probably because our conversation had ailigned to Fergburgers!). We had a good catch up, I went a bit philosophical but at our parting we ended up telling each other jokes

Before David came round I had a nice phone conversation with Christine, I suppose a ” farewell for now ” chat. Its been really an honour to have gained her friendship and receive some sound advice from at key almost “psychically predicted” times.

I received an e-mail from the Bro. Chris included some quotes about travel and how journeys change you.

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” Anthony Bourdain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett

“It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.” – Selma Lagerl

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’ – Gandalf the Grey

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.’ – Thorin Oakenshield

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’ – Samwise Gamgee

Not all those who wander are lost.’ – J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ – Bilbo Baggins

The one which resonates most for me is Terry Pratchetts.

April 22nd……4 days to go

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Caffeine high

Caffeine high

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Good news for Gleonorchy

Good news for Gleonorchy


End of the trail?

End of the trail?


8pm Queenstown Holiday Park.

Well, I got to Glenorchy, my final and ultimate destination objective before I start travelling home. Admittedly it was not under my own steam but having witnessed the way the bus driver drove and the narrow, windy (and let’s be honest…. steep) road this may not have been such a bad thing.

The weather was not looking good, rain overnight and even a dusting of snow on those mountains I could see through the cloud. But then, as so often happens here, it began to lift and the clouds were melted away by the sun leaving only a few stragglers sheltering around the higher summits.

The driver was a bit of a comedian. I liked his “there are two types of possum introduced in New Zealand, the ring tailed possum and the one you see flattened on the roads….the squashum!” First time I’d heard it but its probably been round NZ for years.

Beautiful Glenorchy is very much the same as last time I came here with the family three years ago, I can remember Amie, Alice and I having a sword fight pretending to be LOTR characters ( I was Boromir and the girls were Merry and Pippin). I also remembered Alice and I having a swim off the wharf in the freezing glacial water! Not today!

Today was all about a different “chilling out” and that meant coffee. Lots of coffee in fact! I can conclude after extensive research that the best coffee is not the hotel (this was one of worst I’ve had), not the lodge ( not bad coffee and their cooked breakfast was absolutely splendid), it was the one whose name I can’t remember, the one on the right before the Glenorchy cafe (which I did not try for fear of bouncing off the walls)
Oh yes…Got it , The Trading Post

After 6 double shots I was on a bit of a caffeine high so thought I’d better go for a walk. My knee swelling had gone down overnight with some anti inflams so I thought I’d do the newly extended Glenorchy Walkway which was nice and flat and took about 90 mins going steady. That was enough for the old knee to object by swelling again so I went to the wharf and provided a photography service to anyone wanting a photo taken together.

Before the caffeine bells began to clang wildy I’d started to get into Eckhark Tolle’s “The power of now” book and several things in there began to strike a chord ( Skip the next 2 paragraphs now if you want to as I’m about to get all reflective and philosophical)

Firstly I understand now that I have always felt that there is something more than just using and depending totally on the mind to think, figure and sort out everything. Eckhart explains a higher level of consciousness, above what the mind thinks and does, of having an awareness of what your mind is up to which then allows you to free yourself from it. Yes, I know this is a bit deep but bear with me. Only when your mind’s stream of thoughts is stopped can you experience a deeper peace and fuller emotions like joy and love. Eckhart’s premise is around the mind being a useful but limiting tool which tries to dominate your whole being with judgements and order based on your upbringing, culture and norms…. and it usually succeeds.

I believe now that sometimes, particularly on this journey, I have found that higher level of consciousness and experienced some moments of absolute peace and joy with my surroundings and had a sense of my being completely in the present. I don’t know how I did this at those times so can’t yet turn it on and off (I’m only on page 25!). It tends to happen with certain triggers such as going through a tough physical test, or in a beautiful setting which just stops your usual stream of thoughts in its tracks and allows you to take the moment in fully, or from an emotional feeling with people which rises to the fore and then becomes a more powerful deeper emotion of joy, empathy, even love.

OK, that’s probably enough of that hippy stuff for one blog but I’m on to something that I’d like to develop further.I think women have already cracked it, in the main, but us blokes struggle.

I texted Christine and exchanged a few chats, Christine certainly “gets it” and probably much more than I do.

Great to read about an American philanthropic couple who have property in Glenorchy are supporting the community there. They have now bought the holiday park too and are working to develop it for everyone’s benefit.

Karla also got in touch to wish me well. We certainly shared some moments “in the now” together, the most powerful one for me was the pure shared joy of riding in the truck with the dogs to Puhoi after a really hard slog and time being against us.

I’ve arranged to meet up with David in Christchurch tomorrow, sounds like he has sorted a job and has a place to live which is really great. We’ll have a final meal together and its sounding Mexican!

So, my homeward journey begins tomorrow.

April 21st…….5 days to go

The weakest link.my right knee (wasn't that a film?)

The weakest link.my right knee (wasn’t that a film?)

Autumn colours Arrowtown

Autumn colours Arrowtown

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Fergburger queues

Fergburger queues

The hugely entertaining "Mullet Man"

The hugely entertaining “Mullet Man”

Pacific Island harmony

Pacific Island harmony


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C'est la vie, as they say...in toilets in Queenstown.

C’est la vie, as they say…in toilets in Queenstown.

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2pm Queenstown

Bugger, bugger, bugger and bugger. Looks like my cycling may have come to a premature end here in Queenstown. My right knee has flared up again and is pleading mercy from my relentless requirement for it to perform. I’m not sure what’s happened to it. It was fine all day yesterday and when I got to Arrowtown. It felt a bit sore last night but I thought that was down to my sitting with it bent for hours while I did blog etc. It was very sore this morning, l couldn’t put weight on it so hobbled about for a bit delaying things before deciding to at least give it a try to Queenstown.

Good advice in a text from Christine to take it easy and its not a sprint so I’ve gone and booked a return bus ticket to Glenorchy for tommorow (I would have gone today and stayed overnight but there are no more buses). The temptation to just get back on Rex is burning away as I write this, its a lovely day, Queenstown is Queenstown, I could probably do it even with sore knee etc etc so I’m struggling and hoping the fact I’ve now paid for a bus tomorrow will win the day. Its really sad to think that it may end like this for Rex and I but maybe, just maybe, he’s seen Glenorchy before. I’m getting ridiculously sentimental and even thinking of a short lakeside pedal for us to finish our “on and off” relationship on a high note!

I arrived here about 12.30 and even for a Fergburger the queue was just too long so I am delaying my indulgence until later. I have had a good hobble around and enjoyed the street entertainers, “the mullet” man and his unicycle was really funny and he was great at engaging the audience so he got a healthy tip from me and others. Then there were some islanders (Fiji?) playing some unusual instruments and singing beautifully in harmony, I welled up when they sang “sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home” as it seemed to hit a nerve, so they got a good tip too.

6.15 Internet cafe Queenstown

All the ducks are lined up, intercity buses booked for Wednesday and Thursday back to Nelson. 15 hours on cramped coaches and i can hardly bend my knee! it doesn’t bear thinking about. The knee seems to have stiffened up even more but eases when I am not sitting down so I’ve kept moving slowly most of the afternoon. I finally got my Chief Wiggum Fergburger about 5pm after an hours wait (i had time to book into campsite, put up tent, change and get back for it). It was really pleasant sat eating on the wall overlooking the lake and watching mullet man’s repeat performance, he is very good!

Queenstown is busy with representatives from the whole world’s ethnic mix seemingly here, and is certainly living up to its reputation as the adventure capital of the world. But its funny how busier places with lots of visitors make it harder to meet people. Give me a Wanganui river,non touristy small nz town, tramping track, back country hut or remote cycle roadside any day. Mind you, you just have to make the most of any situation and you certainly don’t get Patagonia Chocolate cafes in these other places…. so when in Rome as they say!

20th April …… 6 days to go

Clyde Dam

Clyde Dam

Nice fishing spot

Nice fishing spot

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Cromwell ahead

Cromwell ahead

That one on right looks how my arse feels!

That one on right looks how my arse feels!

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Shame I cant get one of these in my pannier. only 7 bucks

Shame I cant get one of these in my pannier. only 7 bucks

Entering the Gibbertson Valley

Entering the Gibbertson Valley

One for a return sampling visit

One for a return sampling visit

A brave but poorer jumper plummets.

A brave but poorer jumper plummets.


Kawarau bridge bungy, good spectator sport.

Kawarau bridge bungy, good spectator sport.

7pm Arrowtown Camp site

Bit of Deja vu! Back in Arrowtown after taking the wrong turn at Cromwell!

I may have cocked up a bit. I was thinking about getting to Glenorchy and then to Twizel by the 23rd which is when Mark and Clare will be home. If I’d gone straight on at Cromwell I’d have been getting ahead of myself and been at Twizel on 22nd. Now I’m here in Arrowtown I think I’ll not be able to make it! Mmmmmm …. What to do? I was keen on seeing Glenorchy as its one of my favourite places when its sunny and the weather forecast is looking good for the next few days (it was poor when I came through nearly 2 weeks ago.)

I’ve also just realised that I can’t get a bus to Nelson in one day so I would not be able to meet Mark and Clare on 23rd anyway.

I could still get to Glenorchy tomorrow, 21st, back to Queenstown 22nd, catch bus at 8.05am to Christchurch 23rd, catch bus at 7am from C’church to Nelson on 24th and then fly to Auckland from Nelson at 5pm on 25th. Phew! Lot of travelling and I’ll still have 2 days in a confined plane to get home. Its going to drive me mad but has to be done! I’ve booked flight and as I get in late to Auckland opted for Ibis budget hotel right on the doorstep. Will leave booking buses until tomorrow just in case something else turns up!

Beautiful sunny morning in Clyde. I took it a bit leisurely, had a long shower, made brekkie ( a little ginger haired boy about three who loved sport wanted to sit with me), gave Rex some much deserved TLC include a good lube on all his joints ( I think in bike years he must be as old as me) and he is purring slickly now, just like me. I Went to town with the intention of going to the wine and food festival. Sat outside supermarket writing a couple of postcards being “good morninged, hows it goinged” and “good morninging ,good thanks” just about everyone who passed by.

Turned out the festival had an entry fee of 15 bucks and I only wanted to thank Lisa again so the Yorkshire tightness in me overruled and I headed off for Cromwell up a very steep road to the dam and rejoined the highway.

The scenery was remarkable along this man made lake but I was always conscious of cars roaring past and some sections were narrow so I could not fully relax. Bit of headwind made it slower to get to Cromwell and partly the wind, and partly the fact you have to turn off the Twizel road to get to Cromwell made the decision to head for Glenorchy easier.

Cromwell was very nice to look over from afar but in the town itself it was very “mall like” with not as much character as I’d hoped. I think I saw the largest contingent of overweight kiwis here which probably didn’t help. So after I’d stuffed my face too I headed off.

Arrowtown was something like 50km away along the Kawarau river valley which is spectacular scenery but again the road was a bit tight in places and I needed to be aware of traffic. It seemed to take ages and it was tiring with a few hills and bit of a headwind to boot. Cromwell is renowned for its fruit as it has hot summers and cold winters in which they thrive, fruit stalls appear at regular intervals on the way out of Cromwell. The Gibbston Valley after Nevis Bluff also looked nice with all its wineries (plus a cheesery…cheesy or what!).

I stopped at the Kawarau bungy centre and was entertained with a couple of jumps, music was pumping out and it was all very glitzy. One poor lad was petrified at the edge and pulled out, felt sorry for him ( and his parents who had paid!). Time was pressing so I did final section to here in Arrowtown getting in just before got dark. I’m in kitchen area which is filling up and some strange mixes of cooking smells are pervading the atmosphere.

19th April…..7 days to go

Info on Rail Trail

Info on Rail Trail

Old Post Office Backpackers, Ranfurly

Old Post Office Backpackers, Ranfurly

Friendly bowlers at the Ranfurly Hotel

Friendly bowlers at the Ranfurly Hotel

Enjoying the log fire before heading off

Enjoying the log fire before heading off

Wedderburn Station

Wedderburn Station

I looked down and saw Sir Chris Hoy's thighs!!!

I looked down and saw Sir Chris Hoy’s thighs!!!

foreign currency exchange on the trail

foreign currency exchange on the trail

DSCF4743DSCF4745DSCF4746
Cheers from Chatto Creek!

Cheers from Chatto Creek!

Autumnal river ride to Clyde from Alexandra

Autumnal river ride to Clyde from Alexandra

That's a big one!

That’s a big one!

Clyde Holiday Park in tent 9.45pm

Back in my cosy tent after 3 nights backpacking, feels good, no nasty weather to contend with as my guardian angel has returned and its been a great day here in Central Otago.

The cycling has been fantastic, almost too good. After the final gentle climb from Ranfurly the trail reaches its highest point and then is mostly downhill for the remaining 80km or so. I even had the wind behind me on this. I say almost too good because I felt a bit guilty when I saw loads and loads of cyclists coming the other way. Their bodies angled forward in exertion against the gradient and headwind and their red faces only smiling a friendly gesture of recognition for a fragment of a second as I careered past them with effortless speed.

There were loads of people on the trail today, all shapes and sizes, all ages, people on their own like me, families, to big groups travelling together. Most were cycling but there were walkers too and some horse riders. A super advert for how creating “an experience in which to exercise” can work so well. The information on the history, the station passport stamps, the way the towns on the route have aligned themselves to serving the trail users all adds to a win win ….and I like that! I understand 20,000 cyclists come through each year and numbers are increasing. I could also see why it had been dubbed “the ale trail” when I saw how many people had stopped at the taverns along the way!

I must admit I found it hard to slow down, stop and take it all in once I’d set off from Ranfurly. I guess I was just enjoying the thrill of riding along and testing myself. I did of course stop for a flat white ( at Oturehua nice coffee and free WiFi), some things are sacrosanct! I also stopped at Chatto Creek tavern because everyone else seemed to be there. It was heaving, I had a strawberry ice cream waffle cornet which was divine and lashings of ginger beer.

Chatted to a few people and helped three girls who were having problems reattaching the rear wheel. Sorted it and also adjusted the rubbing brakes, I just hope I didn’t make it a death trap.

I arrived in Alexandra by surprise about 4pm (I must have missed a station called Galloway, Alexandra looked a nice town, Margys backpackers was full when I enquired at isite but I was informed that Clyde had a holiday park plus there is a food and wine festival here tomorrow, so that settled it. I took the recommended river route which was a bit longer and not as well formed but a glorious ride through golden autumnal woods flanked by the strong flowing blue of the river.

I’ve set up camp at this fairly busy site which is shared with the sports club. Kitchen however was deserted when i went to make my meal (i was starving at this point as i hadn’t really had a lunch). Wolfed down a pasta/bacon/cheese concoction I rustled up. A nice lady offered me a truly hot Hot cross bun straight out of the oven.

I then met Lisa who sells socks! She is a stall holder at the festival and is camping here (She actually owns her own business of sourcing the manufacturing of her own styles of socks unique in NZ). Originally from Brighton she now lives in Lyttleton, near Christchurch. We had an amazing chat about our experiences of walking , she had walked the south island before the Te Araroa trail existed. She said how this had transformed her thinking and how her life had become far more simpler and rewarding as a result. I was able to share a lot of my similar thoughts around recognising that the way we seem to live our lives around the workplace is almost alien to the way we are geared up to be fulfilled as humans. It was an ideal opportunity for me to be frank with someone, a stranger, but one who had similar views and seemed to understand my feelings on how my journey was making me reassess. Lisa was a good listener and it turned out she is trained in psychoanalysis. I almost cried when she came back later to give me a pair of socks to wear when I am back home to help symbolise the new me, and help recollect how my NZ journey of self-discovery has made me feel differently and more positively. (NB- just re-read this and apologies if seems a bit deep..it was how I felt though)

Random notes

Before setting off this morning I’d had a leisurely look round Ranfurly, given Rex a bit of a rub down, said goodbye to Chak and Aaron giving them my blog address. Bill at the post office backpackers was really nice again and we chatted before shaking hands, I complimented him on the backpackers being such a nice homely place

I must have done 96km today in total but who’s counting

The scenery around the rail train must have been used in the LOTR and Hobbit. It looks like where Aragorn appeared to be lost when he fell off a cliff, it looks like where the three hunters (Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli) meet Eodred and the riders of Rohan, it looks like the place in the hobbit where they jump in the gap in the rock while being chased and then discover Rivendell.

18th April …8 days to go

Another rainy day outside the griffindor common room

Another rainy day outside the griffindor common room

Hogwartz Express? No ...the Teieri Gorge railway

Hogwartz Express? No …the Teieri Gorge railway

Cathy and the Easter Bunny in in the "staff quarters" I was priviledged to be seated

Cathy and the Easter Bunny in in the “staff quarters” I was priviledged to be seated

Tony, the worlds best narrator? plus EB

Tony, the worlds best narrator? plus EB

proceeding carefully up the Taieri gorge

proceeding carefully up the Taieri gorge

Plenty of water and flooding

Plenty of water and flooding

Must be a bit of sun somewhere!

Must be a bit of sun somewhere!

Only adult entry in the Easter bunny drawing competition

Only adult entry in the Easter bunny drawing competition

The winner! amazing effort!

The winner! amazing effort!

The serious stuff begins, Rex at the start of a damp rail trail.

The serious stuff begins, Rex at the start of a damp rail trail.

Roads getting flooded, luckily rail trail is a lot higher.

Roads getting flooded, luckily rail trail is a lot higher.

Hard to keep nature tamed in NZ

Hard to keep nature tamed in NZ

Ranfurly Station, my stop!

Ranfurly Station, my stop!

list of all road closures at Ranfurly isite

list of all road closures at Ranfurly isite

I was in safe hands, with doctors Aaron and Chak at the Ranfurly Hotel

I was in safe hands, with doctors Aaron and Chak at the Ranfurly Hotel

11.20pm the old post office backpackers, Ranfurly

I’m sat near a glowing log burner with a cup of tea, sampling Whittaker’s
dark orange chocolate and feeling warm and dry. Bliss!

Feeling dry is quite a contrast to most of today when I’ve been soggy and wet! Wet but happy to be on Rex again as we continue our south island adventure.

Looking out of my Griffindor common room window this morning at the driving rain I quickly dismissed the fleeting notion of postponing my journey yet another day. I was itching to get on even if it meant a drenching. I certainly did get a drenching getting to the station. It was raining so heavily there were torrents of rainwater cascading down all the steep streets of Dunedin. I was allocated a seat in the buffet carriage Q where I was the only passenger but this was where all the staff were based so it was great to meet Tony, Allan, and Cathy who were regulars on the train crew plus two girls who were working for the summer season. One was the Easter bunny!They all made me feel at home and I got to hear all the internal radio messages, shared some banter and learnt the gossip!

Tony was the most relaxed and easy to listen to announcer ever as he narrated the journey at regular intervals throughout pointing out the amazing natural features, informing about the history of the railway commentating on the area in a chirpy knowledgeable tome. In between we chatted about England and he loved all the restorations of “classic” British engineering be that trains, cars, radios, kitchen appliances and he was a subscribing member to a UK based restoration magazine. He’d traced his ancestry back to partly Devon , some Irish and a spell in Aussie before his kin arrived in NZ. He loved his job and had been working for the trust since it was set up in 1991 (the public railway closed in 1990).

I was allowed to enter the Easter Bunny drawing competition as the only adult. I didn’t win the overall prize (an 8 year olds was better) but I was more than happy to receive my certificate and adult category Easter eggs.

An Aussie couple who come to NZ regularly gave me a “rail trail” passport to get a stamp at each station. We nearly didn’t get to Middlemarch. The rain had swollen the streams and the Taieri river and excessive run off had caused a few landslips. A gang of workers had gone ahead to check and clear the line so we had to wait until they had removed mud and debris before proceeding gingerly on. The gorge was amazing, more so with it being in flood. The dark brown river was breaking its banks, waterfalls had sprung up and travelling over the viaducts and bridges was even more exciting.

We arrived about half an hour later than usual and disembarked at Middlemarch, the end of the line. Allan thought I may make it to Hyde about 30km away but I was thinking more like the 60km to Ranfurly. Most people headed for the only cafe open in town which then became heaving, so after a lamb and mint burger from the BBQ at the station (which was raising money for a new play centre) I hit the Otago Rail Trail forgetting to get my Middlemarch station stamp in my enthusiasm!

At least the rain had eased to a shower or two, there was rainbow which must have meant the sun had poked out its face somewhere. The trail is easy going with nothing steeper than one in 50 gradient, it is well signposted and has lots of info boards. I enjoyed collecting the stamps in the passport. Great concept and well done to all those non doubters who made it happen.

I got to Hyde after couple of hours and went into the Hyde hotel/cafe. Only one other customer and at least 6 staff! I spoke to the manager guy who said he’d taken on extra staff because of the anticipated Easter rush but no one had turned up because of the shite weather. I’d only seen about 5 cyclists in total on the route. He offered me a couple of pies which were going to get thrown out which I gratefully accepted.

Ploughed on in the drizzle and saw how high the river was getting where it had flooded the fields and road below, fortunately the railway was built higher up! I arrived in Ranfurly about 5.30, wet, coated in gritty mud, poor Rex was crunchy around his gears too.

Found this really nice backpackers , the old post office (its brill how former buildings, and rail trails, can be recycled…pardon the pun) and met Bill who was very considerate and sorted out a hose down for Rex and a drier for my wet clothes by this heavenly fire. I looked to be the only guest but Chak and Aaron turned up a little later. They are both doctors from England (Chak was born in Sri Lanka but moved when he was 3) and are working in Invercargill hospital. Apparently not many kiwi doctors want to work in Invercargill so half the doctors there are British. We all went to the pub together and bought a round each while watching the Hurricanes beat the Blues in what was a really good atmosphere at the hotel with loads of people eating and enjoying themselves.

Random notes
I’d done something stupid and not slowed down at a crossing point. The impact on a big hole broke my rear pannier’s securing toggle in Rex’s wheel so I had to do some make shift replacement using bungy cord. I apologised profusely to Rex as I know today had been particularly tough for him.

Bill has suggested Margys backpackers in Alexandra tomorrow

According to a local we met at the pub the Cromwell area is the record holder in NZ for the following
Hottest temperature
Coldest temperature
Being furthest away from the sea
Having the lowest rainfall (until last couple days that is!)