“Mark – I have one more reason to be grateful for your introducing me to Brompton bikes all those years ago:As you probably know we were hit by a blizzard overnight. Read the rest of this entry
Farewell NZ – for the time being – after wine in Hawke’s Bay & awesome canoeing down the Whanganui River
Well, after five glorious cycling and canoeing weeks, the last two with Kat and Mela, it’s time to leave New Zealand, with a last blast of images (fuller set here on Google+ as usual), and some concluding thoughts about what has to have been the best cycling tour ever (though could of course have been longer!) and this extraordinary country that is now Kat’s home.
We finished our journey canoeing with a lovely bunch of Kat and Mela’s New Plymouth friends till midday yesterday (this is being posted from the Auckland Museum on Tuesday before a midnight flight home – free WiFi! which isn’t the norm in NZ) down the amazing Whanganui River, nearly 100km of almost untouched, virgin rainforest through the most stunning canyons and rapids.
Yes, Sue and Claire, I (with Mela in the prow) did fall in – we had different ideas of which side of a pretty solidly large rock to steer our Canadian canoe, so managed to strike it full on in the rapids…
But the water was warm, the barrels holding our camping and photo gear (largely) watertight, it was all in the spirit of the three days and no harm was done.
Indeed, the stretch of river with the main rapids is known for its 50:50 chance of tipping occupants out of their craft – in a country which remains (largely, again) gloriously free of our European and American Health and Safety culture. Here, they let you take sensible risks, and there’s almost no nasty financial litigation.
Amongst other things, hiking and canoeing and bungy jumping and river-boating and biking and tramping (hiking, to you and me) and jetboating and the rest that makes NZ the adventure capital of the world. And huge fun for all ages, including as I can confirm the near-geriatric. Read the rest of this entry
You might enjoy – more than I did at the final denouement, though we had a fabulous day – this video, captured by Kat, of yours truly attempting (about 20th go) a circuit of the mountain bike obstacle course at PanPac forest nr Napier in NZ.
View video, then photo….. Enjoy!
NZ biking – a final two-day solo ride along Forgotten World Highway, through spectacular rainforest, and… sheep. Oodles of.
OK, my name is Mark and I’m an internet addict.
And this is positively (probably) my last post (sounds of trumpet) from solo biking in NZ, with a map to show you where I started and where, on this last Saturday in 2012, I’ve ended up.
Which is, slap bang in the middle of the North Island ready for car collection by Kat and Mela and transport on East to Napier and the vineyards of the East Coast.
Read on beyond the map below for some concluding thoughts and some pix of an amazing two days and 160km/100 miles from Stratford (near New Plymouth and, yes, complete with a mock Tudor clock tower that plays, supposedly, lays from Romeo and Juliet) to Taumarunui. And as ever, a fuller set of pictures on Google+ here.
Which started in Queenstown three weeks ago today ( Saturday Dec 29th) via the South Island West Coast, and up via three days Christmas rest in New Plymouth with daughter Kat and partner Mela to where I am now.
Read the rest of this entry
As always, fuller set of photos here.
I said I probably wouldn’t blog again very soon, but rounding a corner yesterday on the final stretch into Kat’s home province of Taranaki, seeing the local volcano looming above the clouds just stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn’t resist sharing a couple of views.
So, a final day of 90 miles/146km saw me spinning up the south coast of Taranaki with a fabulous tailwind in burning sunshine, a bit up and down, but allowing self and Raven to complete the first part of this amazing journey in speed and in style.
Kat and partner Mela, with Mela’s Mum Laura, had prepared a fabulous, and thanks to a couple of Tui beers also a cooling and liquid welcome at Mela’s childhood home in Normanby, just off the main highway out of Hawera north towards New Plymouth. Read the rest of this entry
First, for a fullish set of photos from today, follow this link…
So, approaching the end of the heavy riding of this New Zealand tour (just 85 miles or so to go tomorrow, bringing me in 16 days to nearly 900 miles in total since Queenstown, before joining Kat and Mela for Christmas and then some gentle biking a trois around Hawke Bay), this last Saturday before Christmas finds me…
a) not vapourised in the end of the world that didn’t happen (at least here in NZ. Did your world end by any chance? If so, please let me know as it may affect my return plans to the Northern Hemisphere…) and
b) in a lovely little place called Bulls, about half way between Wellington and my immediate destination tomorrow in Normanby, where Mela’s parents live just south of Mount Taranaki volcano.
The three days since I last posted have continued – surprise, surprise – totally fabulous.
Read the rest of this entry
Before I go ANY further, you must listen to what’s been waking me up pretty much every morning at five for the past two weeks of camping.
Tui birds chattering to each other, and quite clearly having a conversation. The most lovely – unsleepable-to – sound, captured on my mobile phone today. About a minute long, and do listen all the way through.
So, back to what I was going to say…
First, here are the pictures for the last two days on Google+. Also, click on any of the pictures in this post, (except the Tui, which will bring up the recording) and they’ll take you to the album. I hope. Read the rest of this entry
Two things to capture today – 1) how the actual biking is going, and 2), I think I’ve cracked how to post photos in sufficient detail without taking three hours to upload them to WordPress.
As some of you will have already been notified, I’m putting a daily selection up on Google+, and the link to yesterday’s post, with lots of wonderful Western Coast road and all photos, including those of the amazing glacier flight, now annotated and captioned, is here.
A link to today’s photos, capturing a fabulous but if in the end rather wet grind uphill from Westport to Murchison, is here.
And, a further link that should work for the first pictures, is here.
Right. A bit of a delay in posting, thanks to helicopter flights over Mount Cook (read on), some 160 miles of utterly amazing cycling over three days, a need for early nights and a severe paucity of internet and even mobile phone connections down New Zealand’s West Coast.
There’s a lot to report, so I’ll miss most of it out, and include instead a few thumbnails embedded in this text, and a lovingly long slideshow of photographs on Google+ which you can access by clicking here.
New Zealand must have the oddest set of naming conventions of any country I’ve ever visited. Read the rest of this entry
Greetings, friends and relations, from Middle Earth.
There have been moments these last two days, my third and fourth in NZ pedalling first into a ferocious hidwund (sorry, headwind) some 45 miles from Wanaka to Makarora, and then today a further 50 miles through blazing heat and increasingly rainforesty mountains to Haast on the South Island’s West coast, when I could have bottled the feeling and the fun:
- Waking this morning at the Makarora campsite to the utterly enchanting, bubbling calls of two native New Zealand Tui birds with, I leaned last night, two separate voice boxes that allow them to mimic almost any sound, including speech, with clicks grunts and even chuckles. Read the rest of this entry
Boy, do I need a faster laptop for my next big bike journey (and maybe some classier shades?)
Lovely little Acer netbook, but it gets into the biggest spin (as Sue found out in India in the spring) when you ask it to do more than two things at once.
It’s taken me nearly three hours to say this, (to compound the Acer’s crawl, Wanaka has no free WiFi, curious), but today was One Almighty Riding Day, taking me and Raven across New Zealand’s highest tarmacked (Tarmacced? Tarmaked? – I know it needs to be capitalised, but not how to spell it) road, the Crown Range Pass at 3,500 feet between Queenstown and Wanaka.
Wow. Not just 3,500 feet, but 2 knees and 1 neck – and mine made it.
MOST gratifying, as I (started to) write this blog in the gloriously-named Wanakabakpaka lodge, where Kat worked for a time on reception when she first came to New Zealand nearly four years ago, and which (rather like Findhorn) gives me a wonderful glow of feeling less than utterly ancient, and, like Sue found in India, inspired by the young. Read the rest of this entry
Read on to the end to find out about the phone box, but here at the top, let me put my cards straight on the table today.
Long-distance cycling has to be the happiest-making activity on the planet.
I remember a Guardian chap (Mike Carter, written about before on this blog) describing an anti-clockwise trip round the British Isles a few years ago and noting how after a few days, he realised as he bowled along that he was happy. Not just some of the time, but all of the time.
After the most delightful and gentle ride some 18 miles from Queenstown to Arrowtown (I think there are settlements in NZ that don’t end in …town) I’m reminded just how much I agree.
The jet lag (I ask you, a 13-hour time difference!) is abating nicely, and now that I and my knees and neck are actually and safely moving, with the South Island summer weather and the scenery as perfect as they could be, things really couldn’t get much better. Though I suspect they will.
Well, that was a bit of a journey. But I’m here, as are bike and luggage, and the stunningly lovely NZ Adventure Capital of Queenstown even arranged a rainbow of welcome for us all.
But not before, first, my Primus fuel bottle was halted and turned back at UK check-in security; then my pedal spanner (missed during a clearing of panniers of anything that security wouldn’t like) was found and sequestered on transit through HK.
THEN we landed in Auckland in the middle of an extraordinary tornado-and-storm which killed three locals not far from the airport, and had to stay put for a 24-hour layover as flights were cancelled.
Can’t say it was the most comfortable night ever, but at least I had a sleeping bag and pillow, and hey, the adventure begins… Read the rest of this entry
So, after the disappointment and nerve dramas of the RTW bike ride that wasn’t last Easter, Raven and I (doesn’t it irritate when cyclists anthropomorphise their bikes!) are on our way to cycle the South Island in New Zealand.
And this is also my first attempt at blogging with WordPress direct from my mobile. Hope it works.
Raven is packed up in a big CTC plastic bag, which did the business when I flew her to NZ last year (only to pedal a pretty paltry 60 miles from New Plymouth round Mt Taranaki to Mela’s [Kat's partner's] home town of Normanby.)
This time the ambition – having tested knerves and knees on the tandem with Sue through France in the summer – is altogether more ambitious.
Read the rest of this entry
What was the most important angle in the news coverage of Superstorm Sandy?
Was it – should it have been – the storm’s impact on the US presidential elections a week later?
Was it the number of human deaths – the usual measure of newsworthiness – or the personal stories of New Yorkers caught by the winds or the floods?
Or was it – should it have been – a much more profound message about the dramatic changes now underway in the Earth’s capacity for sustaining our present civilisation?
Businessweek got it right with its stark front page “It’s the Climate, Stupid”.
But most journalism about Sandy stayed with the old news clichés of individual human dramas. Within days, let’s be honest, the story was very quickly forgotten as attention switched to the Obama-Romney battle for the American presidency.
Thirty or fifty, maybe as little as five years from now, looking back at events like Superstorm Sandy, what will our children, and our grand- and great-grandchildren, be saying about how the world’s media covered climate change and sustainability in the first decade-and-a-bit of the 21st century?
I suspect they will not be very generous. Read the rest of this entry
A sobering quarter century or so ago, I recall appearing with our Barbershop Quartet The Four Tones in the British Embassy Pantomime (can’t remember what the nominal theme was, but it was hilarious) in Peking-as-was/Beijing-as-is with a jaunty, entertainingly xenophobic song that had as its refrain “Zat’s why you lurve ze French.”
(Cliche-laden photo right of, right-to-left, baritone Jasper Utley, high tenor Bill Zaritt, low tenor self and bass Darryl Johnson, and click the image to hear the song as we performed it at the Great Wall Hotel, Beijing at Christmas 1986…)
I was repeatedly reminded of those cliches in late August/early September this year as Sue and I tandemed our way boozily and enjoyably north across La Belle France from Montpellier in the south to St Malo in the north-west, whence home by ferry and train.
Eight hundred miles nearly, and knees and kneck (nees and neck?) held out gratifyingly well, as did Sunshine our tandem, glossing over a bad day with multiple punctures in the searing heat.
But what constantly got our goat, with alternating smiles and angry bleats, was how France, mostly, is shut. Read the rest of this entry
Ah well squared.
The great 6000-mile bike ride from Cirencester to Hanoi didn’t come off, but there have been compensations.
Since my last post, I was for quite a while in a bit of a grim state, recuperating at home from what a lovely young German neurologist – eventually consulted at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – agreed was probably the impact on an old injury to nerves in the neck of, in effect, an overdose of antiobiotics, anaesthetics and inoculations.
One can, it seems, over-prepare, and that’s why I had to turn back in The Hague.
For a while, I’d hoped to resume the journey just with some delay, as outlined in previous posts. My nerves had different ideas.
At the beginning of June, I called the whole thing off. And warm thanks to my insurers, Citybond via the Cycle Touring Club, for reimbursing most of the flights and visa costs I’d run up in readiness for the Big Trip. Read the rest of this entry
Ah well. It was worth the planning and the effort. But in the event, I’m not going to do the Great-2012-Bike-Trip-Of-A-Lifetime to Moscow and Hanoi.
So instead of images from the road to Moscow and then from Beijing to Hanoi, let me illustrate this blog entry first (left) with the lovely balloons from Meg and Jeff that first saw me off and then, rather too soon, welcomed me home, followed below (gallery at the end of the blog) by pictures from a most restorative 10 days just concluded on our lovely canal boat the Molly May.
Why the final decision not to go ahead, even with a bit of a delay?
I’ll spare you the boring health details, but as I had finally to acknowledge on a slow, slow potter with Sue around the canals north of Warwick, my arthritic neck and nerves are in no state to allow me to cycle 5000 miles – and sadly, for the moment anyway, probably not even 50 (although I might give a short ride a go in the coming weeks).
Sadly, sadly, dear friends, followers and supporters, the feared flare of neck and nerves happened in Holland, and I’m afraid to have to report that today Tuesday I am back home in Cirencester, having been retrieved from the Harwich ferry this morning by my lovely Sue.
But by just a few miles beyond Hook of Holland on Easter Day, on just day five of the journey, it became clear that I’m not at the moment well enough to undertake a long ride so long-prepared and looked-forward-to. Read the rest of this entry
In the final couple of hours before I get on the Saturday night ferry into Easter Day from Harwich to Hook of Holland, I bid farewell to England for the next six months with images of the most beautiful Cambridgeshire and Suffolk countryside and villages, reminding me why I so love this country and living here.
Loving also the serendipity of long-distance cycling. You’re bowling gently along, musing about memory and family and how often to blog and how (relatively) well the neck and the knees are doing, when – WHAM, BANG – there’s Flatford Mill just a mile off to the right.