The places you’ll go are certainly all rather magical. But for me, it’s also about the people you meet along the way.
I have been supremely lucky and have met some fascinating people, who have enriched my experiences beyond the breathtaking views that fill me with wonder and energy.
At the 2017 Cycling Touring Festival in the UK (a MUST for any potential cycle tourists, in my opinion), I learned about Warm Showers. It’s kind of like couch surfing for cyclists. Warm Showers hosts, who have often themselves received kindness whilst cycle touring, open their doors to help cyclists and pay forward the generosity. They offer anything from a place to pitch your tent for the night with use of amenities, to staying the night in their home, sharing dinner and stories and making new friends. More often than not you are welcomed into families’ lives and are allowed the opportunity to delve a little deeper into the psyche of a country, compared to the average tourist travelling in vehicular and accommodation bubbles.
Kathryn and her family were my first Warm Showers experience and I got to share it with another cycle tourist, from Taiwan.
Kathryn explained that her family wasn’t in a position to travel all over the world, so this was their chosen alternative – if they hosted people from all over the world, it’s like travelling without leaving home. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Isn’t that an incredibly generous outlook and idea?
The day after leaving Kathryn and her family, I was faced with 40km of no pleasant country lanes; I’d have to cycle along State Highway 1 (known in cycle touring circles as Death Highway 1). I’ll admit it, it was not the most pleasant 40km I have ever cycled. Before arriving in New Zealand, I’d read long-term cycling guru Josie Dew‘s book The Long Cloud Ride. Had I been fainthearted, I would have cancelled my flight ticket after reading it. I arrived expecting every driver to be on a death-to-all-cyclists mission. I expected to be sucked under logging trucks and have bottles thrown at me by drunken bogans (boy racers). I think years of cycling in London had prepared me well for Death Highway 1; I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was not only survivable (that’s totally a word, right?!), but was also where I met this amazing young fellow, Justin.
Justin was hiking along the hard shoulder, carrying easily the hugest backpack I’d seen in years. He wanted to walk the Te Araroa trail, but decided that he wasn’t fit enough to walk the whole length of New Zealand, so he’d decided to ‘just’ walk the 430km (270 miles) from Auckland to Cape Reinga, the top of the North Island. And there was me worrying about cycling a few hours on this road. He would probably spend several days on this highway on his quest North. What an amazing thing for a 19 year old German guy to venture off and do by himself. I certainly didn’t have that amount of get-up-and-go when I was 19.
I have blogged before about one time when I stopped at a beach for a very late picnic lunch. I heard a small boy exclaim to his parents that I was the bamboo bike lady. They asked me to stay the night, I was invited to listen to both their children’s piano and singing recitals, we went to a Christmas parade and they even put me in touch with Vodafone Kerikeri who gave me a free phone. That doesn’t happen everyday.
I met Ingrid Visser, the orca researcher, rescuer and guru, who kindly shared a few hours of her time with me to connect me with conservation people around New Zealand. It was very special to spend some time with her and I really hope that one day I will be able to come back and volunteer with her team.
In Paihia, I was heckled from the roadside by a family whose children had endured a school visit of mine. The Mum was delighted to meet Sunny and told me that her daughters were now on an anti-plastic roll and were becoming something of a force in their local community. Music to my ears!
Whilst presenting at a tiny rural school in the middle of nowhere, near Raglan, I magically and unexpectedly met up with this handsome wee fella, whose Mum I’d lost contact with years before after being friends with her in Queenstown. I’d met him as a newborn years before and now here he was, all grown up and ready to take his conservation message to the next level of awesomeness.
Up North, my friend volunteered her parents to have me to stay, which was great fun.
And then last night, I got to meet up with them again when I arrived my friend’s house. Here we are, me with 3 generations of their family, sewing tiny bears from my pillow case excess scraps!
I recently stayed with this kind gentleman in Coromandel, who turns out to have been an Olympic hurdler in earlier years.
And then, just a couple of days ago, I met this incredible lady at the top of a great big hill. Several years ago, part way through saving up for another worldwide cycle tour, she had a stroke which left her a bit less than perfect on her left side. But instead of ditching her plan, she changed her idea to touring on a recumbent bicycle and made that her physiotherapy goal. And here she was, 22 months into her tour, having cycled from Germany to Singapore, across Australia and now New Zealand. That’s what I call one determined achiever.
And so, my adventure continues, meeting phenomenal people, who keep me inspired, excited and energised. Lucky, lucky me.