Buses, reunions and steep hills

I have sinned. And I don’t even really seek forgiveness. I am ok with what I have done and I might even do it again. My crime… well, it is considered gaspworthy cheating in bicycle touring circles…

I mentioned that I went to see (and met) Jack Johnson right?! ? Whilst there at the

concert, I met some awe inspiring environmental champions doing brilliant waste reduction projects in Maori maraes, Para Kore, and others doing research in the ocean on plastics, Algalita South Pacific. Having exchanged mission statements and enthusiasm, I knew this was just the beginning and was flattered when they asked me to come join them for their Pure Tour of the North Island in February, where they will do a mix of educational workshops with kids and presentations to lawmakers and gamechangers. I laughed moments after hearing myself say; ‘oh, that’s a shame, I’ll be on the South Island by then.’ I gave myself a mental kick and almost instantly started plotting how I could turn my trip upside down to be on the North Island to join these amazing teams in February.

With almost nobody wanting to meet up over Christmas and New Year to discuss plastic waste (imagine the post Christmas guilt that might induce!), this would be the ideal opportunity to zoom down to Queenstown, my old home, and get stuck into friend reunions and adventures, free of guilt that I should be arranging talks and ‘doing more’. But I would have to cheat a bit with transport, given the last minute timings. Imagine the shame… cheating. Putting my beautiful bike on a bus to get from A to B. I can almost hear the tuts of cycle touring gurus…

Flying was an option, and actually probably the cheapest. But I decided to travel by bus, ferry and car pooling. Getting into a metal tube and hurtling through the air to arrive for a couple of hours is all well and good, but it feels so disconnected, so generic.

And what an adventure the trip was. The ferry trip through the infamous Cook Straight was a veritable rollercoaster. The Captain’s understated, casual announcement that “the conditions are less than ideal” was shortly followed up by the sound of smashing plates in the kitchens, squeals and sickbags being used.

Although I kept my breakfast to myself and consider myself to be a fairly robust seafarer, there were a few moments where I did feel something aproaching fear, as the waves smashed us from the side and the boat tipped at an unnervingly unnatural angle. But after 40 minutes of sloshing around, we turned around the headland, life was instantly more pleasurable and we could get back to wildlife spotting and gasping at the approaching coastline.

On the bus journey down the South Island, we saw seals, dolphins, penguins, seabirds, birds of prey, huge hares and stunning scenery.

Seals on the rocks, near Kaikoura

We learned about the Kaikoura earthquake and the landslide that has resulted in the main state highway road closure for over a year. In fact it only opened a week before we drove it. Look, the road is even in a totally different place for some sections:

I should pursue a carrer in graphics, right?!

A few hours in Christchurch brought back memories of their big earthquakes in 2010 and 2011; feeling the rumbles all the way down in Queenstown and being shocked when the news showed us the devestation they endured. The city still has huge empty spaces and very few tall buildings. This bizarrely flat cityscape has given rise to some funky playparks, cycle path networks and graffiti and sculpture artwork.

Journeying by bus also gifted me the opportunity to suss out different routes and mentally prepare myself for future cycling days. I know the gradients, features and scenery that I might encounter later on in my journey.

The last leg of the trip involved getting a lift with a lovely and funny pair of Brazilian fellas, which gave me the chance to bust out some fairly dusty Portuguese. Every day is a learning day.

A bit tired after 2 days of travel

And so finally, after nearly a year since deciding to make the trip to New Zealand and telling my friends I’d come back to see them, here I am, refalling in love with the spectacular scenery, having wheely fun reunions with friends (and their new mini people), cycling up ridiculously steep hills without any luggage on my bike (yesss!) and preparing for a Christmas filled with friends, carol singing, charity events, a pub quiz (oh yes, the reunion is on, we’re back again, team!) and huge smiles against a backdrop so spectacular that it attracts tourists and film makers alike. Lucky, lucky me.

And so, I wish you all a magical Christmas break surrounded by wonderful people, enjoying the company as much as the superfluous consumer ‘stuff’.  Huge festive love from Queenstown, catch you on the flipside… ??

One thought on “Buses, reunions and steep hills

  1. I don’t count that as cheating Libby! you adapted your plans like a Shaolin Kung Fu legend. Enjoy some well deserved party time ?

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