Long Cloud Ride by Josie Dew
Being a long-distance cyclist myself, and one who intends to do some riding down-under, I was logically drawn to this book. Josie Dew is well known amongst the cycle-touring community, and her exploits are rapidly becoming legendary. However, being a long distance cyclist myself, I naturally brought to my reading of this book more than three decades of touring experience, so my expectations were sharpened as I quickly leafed through the pages sifting information and experiences.
Without a doubt, Josie is an inspiration with her can-do attitude, though some will find her unbreakable bonds both with her bike and with her tent highly idiosyncratic. Having spent 56 days at sea on a former Russian ice-breaker, she disembarks to be greeted (at Christmas time) by some of the worst Kiwi weather on record. She battles through storms and high winds, keeps body and soul together despite the logging trucks and ‘hoons’ on the Death Highways, and the details of her observations are impressively catalogued.
But therein lie some of the weaknesses. Some of the details may be too impressively catalogued for some readers, who may (as I did on several occasions) skip forwards looking for further progress on the journey and some of the ‘measurable contours’ that come with riding a bike for 6000 miles over 9 months.
I am an A to B, end-to-end type of cycle-tourist. I love cycling across countries and continents, from one extreme to another. Such journeys (and stories) have a beginning and an end. The beginning usually betrays all the hopes and expectations of the traveller, and as the journey progresses, the eye is kept on the final destination, and everything is measured in terms of progress towards that destination. Josie’s story, unfortunately, had no clearly defined destination, other than to criss-cross both islands twice, adapting the latter part of her travels to accommodate her partner, Gary, who was not as keen to ride his bike as Josie was. For me, the storyline was much weakened by the amorphous nature of her wanderings, that seemed to fit a time-span that was not determined by the usual parameters of human life: family, job, home commitments, and so on.
However, for a first-hand view of New Zealand from the vantage point of a cycle saddle, this is, indeed, a perspective not to be missed.