A kindred spirit in New Zealand

New Zealand End-to-End

I always travel solo on my major expeditions. Many people fail to understand why. As a solo rider, one of the major pleasures of such touring is the interface with people from all walks of life. When you are on your own, it is much easier to reach out and meet people, stop and chat to them, share a meal with them, even accept a bed for the night. All this is not quite so straightforward when riding with others.

But that does not mean that I eschew the company of other cyclists. On long trips, a highlight is to meet another rider who is going in the same direction and share a few miles, hours or even days with them, but without the commitment to stay with them for the duration. On my Canterbury to Rome trip in 2010, I met Filipe from Portugal in Lucca, northern Italy. We stayed together off and on until Rome, but the arrangement was perfect. As two independent travellers, we stayed together only as necessary, and met up in places to stay the night and reminisce over a meal.

Steve WessonI am sure this is going to happen in New Zealand (and later in Australia). In fact I have already ‘buddied’ up with someone in the UK who is doing exactly the same journey, albeit with different dates. His name is Steve Wesson, a business partner in Bike Adventures, a cycling holiday company that offers fully guided and supported adventure rides in various parts of the world. I am sure that this ride is doubling up as a ‘recce’ for his business, as well as being a ride of personal achievement and curiosity.

There is no chance we will meet en route (if we do, something will have gone badly wrong!), but we might see each other the day I fly out of Invecargill, which also happens to be the day he arrives. He will be on a very tight schedule that will burn fat and produce ‘litres’ of lactic acid in his legs, not necessarily because of the speed (as he says), but more because of the very long days in the saddle. My schedule is more relaxed, and will allow me to take diversions and longer meandering routes, if the conditions are right. I have done plenty of 80-100 miles a day stuff in the past. Though I get a lot of pleasure from high daily mileages, I have decided to reduce my expectations in New Zealand to 60-70 miles a day, and create latitude for appreciating some of the places I will pass through. (And one of those places will be the ‘sister-village’ of my own village here in the UK: Kimbolton. The histories of both places are connected…..but more of that in another post).

Steve and I met over the internet, so we are hardly even classed as acquaintances yet, but we have already collaborated extensively over route planning and map sharing, and compared notes on bike weight, luggage capacity, whether to take a tent or not, and a myriad other things. And I am sure it will continue till the day of departure. But if we both keep our respective blogs updated, and post the odd item to Facebook and Twitter, we can be following each other on the road as well.

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 31, 2012, in New Zealand End-to-End 3000kms and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Sometimes the thrill is the personal adventure. I’m with you on that, although I do enjoy a little bit of company on rides. New Zealand sounds amazing. I look forward to reading about it.

    • I hope to maintain the blog en route, Aaron, but much will depend on the 3G reception in the remoter parts, and getting the use of a full keyboard at internet points. Skimping on the luggage weight only allows me a smartphone as my communication tool. But it’s my choice…………..

  2. All true about touring solo. Looking forward to reading your blog updates from New Zealand and best of luck with all those high mountains!

    • The climbing involved, especially on South Island, means I am using even the kitchen scales to weigh everything, and to shave grammes wherever I can (eg. changing pumps to a Lezyne saved 150 grms, leaving the pedal spanner behind another 100 grms). I’m hoping to keep my luggage (including camping equipment) to about 8 kilos.

      • Wow, that’s travelling lightweight! I would be interested in seeing your kit list once you’ve got everything ready. Don’t forget to trim half of your toothbrush off!

      • Ha ha…….there is a niche group in the world of adventure cyclists who cut their toothbrushes in half. In fact they seem to identify each other by this little quirky bit of behaviour. Since I have a folding toothbrush, I don’t…………..nevertheless, I do share the same mentality. Very sad isn’t it?

  3. Looking forward to see your pics and hear about your NZ adventures! Can’t believe I didn’t do a cycle tour there while living in Australia – it was so close!

    • So close, Anita, that I can’t go back to the UK without ‘doing’ a bit of Australia…….. so I’ll be tagging on Sydney to Melbourne at the end. Should be a nice contrast: the previous day I will have been on Stewart Island (closest bit of NZ to the Antarctica), the next day in Sydney.

  4. as always looking forward to sharing your journey both the highs and lows! if you have the time and interest read the attached about Jez Bragg who is running NZ end2end!!

  5. Frank,
    I do like your opening statement about touring solo. It is also my modus operendi (my latin is poor so hope this not too far off) and while I enjoy traveling with others there is a special feel to the solo travel mode. Often I am asked if it is safe and if I go “armed”. Once following my cross North America jaunt I was telling my tale to a local senior lady here in my village. Her first question: Do you carry a gun on your journey? I answered by asking her if she was armed to come to the Post Office from her home. She responded, no. I told her it was just one long ride to the Post Office and that I felt no need for weapons.

    • Joe, being an Englishman (perhaps) it would never occur to me to carry a firearm. On the other hand, I might carry something to protect me from wild dogs, mosquitoes, sandflies and diving magpies………You see, I live a dangerous life!

  6. I’m married to a Kiwi so have managed to squeeze in some riding in the South Island. You will love it. To be honest though the climbing is not as hard as Europe, gradients are pretty forgiving so don’t leave all your comforts behind!

    Best tour was Arthur’s Pass to Wanaka by the West Coast with my son when he was 14. A special trip for both of us, so one not to be alone. We took the time to stop en route and it was well worth it.

    Sandflies nasty, but the scariest thing down south were sadly the logging trucks – its always the humans in the end that spoil things.

    • That is most reassuring Kevin. I haven’t done an ‘elevation rating’ of the route yet, but anyone who has cycled in the Alps, Pyrenees, or even in Cornwall and Devon shouldn’t be intimidated by the Kiwi gradients. I have, in fact, just altered by route to take me over Arthur’s Pass, so I’m glad you gave it a high rating.
      I’ve heard all about the logging and cattle trucks, initially through Josie Dew’s book, so I’ve take the unprecedented step of taking a rear-view mirror with me…..so I can look them in the eyes before they try to mow me down!

      • You’ll hear them far back. Stunning silence for hours and then roaring engine or air horn from way back. However the long periods of beautiful quiet riding more than compensate.

        Do go to Invercargill via Manapouri and Riverton route if you have time, you’ll not regret it.

      • Thanks Kevin. You’re right, the audible warnings are far more effective. And my route is already scheduled to go through Manapouri and Riverton….but thanks for corroborating the choice.

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