Saturday 2 June 2012

Back to Blighty


We were ruthless with the packing. One set of clothes only. Anjas wheels were left behind, people got very small presents, anything not of value or to worn out was jettisoned and still we were a little over on the 
Anja, Jenny, Derek, Tom. Hampton Court.
weight restrictions. Flying Emirates gave us 30kgs each in the hold and 7kgs each hand baggage. We seemed to have gained weight somehow since Australia and we only got away with it because held one end of each bike box up on the check-in scales taking a few kgs off each. Luckily the plane didn’t run out of fuel because of it.
It all went so smoothly. In 36 hours stopping in Sydney, Bangkok and Dubai we flew back over a half a world which we had taken 2 years to traverse, occasionally seeing from above places we knew in detail. We felt a little sad that this wonderful part of our lives was now over. We each had a screen in front of us on the plane and relieved some of the boredom by watching back-to-back movies and drinking free gin and tonics. Who would bother flying first class these days.
English Spring

Our bags and bikes were some of the first on the carousel, we walked straight through all controls and in no time at all (after I finally figured out the trolleys; Mr. Bean all over again) were being greeted by my good buddy Derek who whisked us back to Cheswick and bought us lunch in a pub by the river.
Derek in a way was responsible for this whole cycling to Sydney caper. It was he, some five years ago now who plied me with drinks one Saturday night and tricked me into agreeing to go out for a cycle-ride with him early the next morning. I remember gasping for breath as I followed him round a 30km circuit on a summer morning, eating everything in the fridge on my return and sleeping most of the rest of the day. We repeated this fiasco a few times a week that summer and slowly I began to actually enjoy it. Since then we have ridden many places together including a 3 week escapade in India and a jaunt around the backroads of S.E. Asia.
Kennet and Avon Canal

Being a computer whiz kid Derek set up this blog for his computer illiterate friend. I told him we were thinking of going on an extended cycle-tour and wanted one of those electronic diary things I had heard about. “I have set the thing up for you” he wrote me, “for want of a title I called it By Bike to Sydney, you can change the title easily when you decide where you are cycling to”.
Well, I never did figure out how to change the title and was too embarrassed to tell Derek this; the easiest solution seemed to be to leave things as they were and just pedal to Sydney. And that is what we did. Thanks Derek for everything.
After a few pleasurable though jetlagged days in London, putting together and repairing the bikes, catching up with old friends and being fed and beered by Jenny and Derek, the four of us rode off up the Thames for a picnic in Windsor park overlooking the castle on a sunny spring day. D&J returned by train and we carried on up the river, turned left down the Kennet and Avon canal, then another left just after Bradford on Avon
Narrowboat Art
 onto Sustrans cycle-route No.3 which took us the back lanes through Wells, Glastonbury and Taunton all the way to my brothers village in Devon. We were well received there and had only the last 20kms to ride the next morning to Ma’s front door in Bradninch where the whole escapade began 30548 kilometers (a smidge under 19000 miles) and 756 days before. Banners and balloons were tied above the door. We were back!

We met an awful lot of people on this escapade and were received, welcomed and helped by so many. Particular thanks to Manije and family in Tehran for looking after us so well, David and Sophie in the Hunter Valley for a great weekend, Chris and Rita and family in Matcham for such a great reception at the Opera House, and Wendy and co in Auckland for making us so welcome.

Bradford on Avon

Worlds Biggest Breakfast B on A

The Last Camp. Outside Wells

Back Where We Began

The Cake. (Thanks Ma)

Queenstown to Christchurch, New Zealand

Thinking we might be missing out on something if we didn’t tramp one of the “Great walks” in NZ, we decided to set off up the Caples River trail and Back along the Routeburn Track.
Socks for Dinner

Yes it was great, through the tangly-root mossy forests by the rushing river and up to the bald heights with views towards Milford sound and up the Hollyford river. We were though, very much on the beaten track, the Routeburn at least and it all seemed a little tame compared to the Reece Dart trail.
Finally we dragged ourselves away from the manicured claws of Queenstown and rode through a remarkable gorge to Cromwell, thence to the pretty town of Clyde and the start of the Otago Rail Trail.
This has to be one of the finest designated cycle-rides in the world. Central Otago has its own unique dry climate its own palate of colours mainly brown and particularly unique cloud formations high up in largely blue skies. My favorite area of the country, should anyone be interested.

We had had a run of good (awesome) weather since Westport at the top of the West Coast and could not believe our luck, the downside being cold nights where our tent would often be covered in ice in the mornings. This was no problem really but the autumn days were also becoming shorter.
At the 45th parallel marker we figured we had gone far enough south and headed North over Danseys Pass to Duntroon where we poked around the dilapidated old forge then rode up the Waikato river to Twizel and Lake Pukaki. The campervan season (road lice, the locals call them) seemed to be over and we rode into a strong headwind in relative tranquility.
To our surprise we hit a brand new cycle-path which took us round the lake a bit and over towards lake Tekapo. Now into the last week of our sojourn we were enjoying the cycling more than ever.
Head In The Clouds

From Tekapo, Burkes pass was the easiest pass ever, we hardly even climbed but the drop down to the Canterbury plains was phenomenal. Well it would have been if Anja’s front rim had not cracked halfway down. We swapped the wheel to my bike and I descended slowly using only the back brake, and wobbled the last 200kms into Christchurch. We planned to ditch all wheels at the airport because all four were pretty much worn out and with our return flight the weight restrictions were pretty tight. Somehow we needed to lose 20kgs.


I am not quite sure what we expected really from a town hit by an earthquake. Bustle and rebuilding I 
Kaiwarau Gorge

suppose. What we found was a rather subdued atmosphere and rubble still being cleared 14 months after the last quake. A part of the city centre had a retail village built from multi-coloured ship containers; quick, fresh, quake-proof and effective. Someone deserves an award for that idea. Most of the central district was still fenced off though and the locals seemed to be becoming a little disgruntled with the lack of action and some of the decisions made by the powers that be. People felt they were not even being consulted about the future of their beloved Garden City. In fact, throughout our travels through NZ we met no-one who was in any way gruntled with the government. People felt let down about so many issues.We had a good time though, treating ourselves to a backpacker hostel (Dorset House) while we cleaned and boxed up the bikes for the flight to England. Was this really the end?


Old Timer 

Cycling The Otago Rail Trail

Danseys Pass

The Finest Autumn

Last Days of the Adventure

Lake Pukaki

Southern Alps

New Zealand Scene

Frost Every Morning

30,000 kms

Canterbury Plains


Earthquake Damage

Container City