Email silence is broken!

Yo everyone,

Yeah I know I haven’t written for a while but I haven’t done a great deal of round the world cycling so I figured I’d chill it with the emails for a while. That’s not to say I haven’t had an interesting time of late just that it may not be of interest to anyone else. Apparently my family have been a bit concerned about me because I haven’t sent an email since February the 17th. I think my Mom even sent people emails asking if they’d seen me which for a round the world cyclist is one of the more embarrassing things that can happen to you. I wonder if Sir Edmund Hillary’s Mom was sending mail to all his mates checking if he was OK but I suspect the answer is Yes. To anyone who was worried I apologise

My last email was on the 17th February from the town of Greymouth. I’d decided to head over Arthur’s Pass and then over Lewis Pass which would mean I’d cycled all the major road Passes in the South Island. Arthur’s Pass was quickly put to the sword (get it?) and it really wasn’t that difficult. The last mile or so is tough but most of it is just about patience. Arthur’s Pass was more notable for the possum that ate through my right hand front pannier while I was camping one night. I’d left some Weetabix in there and hadn’t taken my pannier off the bike so he’d had the whole night to munch his was through. Even more annoying is that it turned out he didn’t even like Weetabix as after destroying my pannier he took one nibble and then ran away in disgust. I patched the pannier with industrial strength insulation tape which I’m hoping is waterproof.

It was Lewis Pass which I found the more difficult not due to the steepness of the road but because the top of the pass is over 100 kms from the nearest town of Culverden and I had a headwind for those 100 kms which took me to the cleaners. I most have looked exhausted as I started to climb the actual hill as a farmer took pity on me and pulled over and offered me a lift to the top. If I was a religious man I’d have assumed it was a test from God. I said no thanks and told him that I was climbing all the hills in South Island but he just looked at me the way farmers do when you tell them you’re punishing yourself for pleasure. I guess their lives are hard enough without having to make challenges up.

I headed down Lewis Pass and for the town of Murchison. The sandfiles were still very much part of my life with cooking and eating being the biggest challenge of my day. Trying to eat when you have a fly net on is something I’m not sure I’ll ever master. Maybe soup would work but anything solid becomes more difficult. I’m personally still amazed that humans haven’t come up with a way of destroying the entire sand fly population. I’ve never wanted to kill another human in my entire life but the govt still spends billions every year developing weapons that do exactly that. I’ve spent my entire time in NZ wanting every sand fly killed but the govt spends nothing on making it happen. So much for democracy.

I left Murchison and headed up towards the north of the South Island. I’d had a hard few days with the two Passes and hadn’t had a rest day in three weeks so when I went past a Backpacker place called the Hu-Ha Bikepackers I figured it’d be a great spot to spend a day off the bike. In fact I’d kind of stopped enjoying what I was doing. My life just seemed to consist of cycling and sleeping and while I appreciate that cycling round the world is going to have a heavy bias towards cycling I’d been really struggling to stay motivated. I felt like I wanted to get home which isn’t good when you still have 5000 miles to cycle.

I was in Hu-Ha Bikepackers when I met a Swiss girl called Corinne. We just got on straight away. I’ve met a lot of people on my journey who I connected with but with Corinne it was more than that. Within a few hours of meeting we were having great conversation like we’d known each other for ages. I explained about how I was feeling with regards to my journey and we got talking about my favourite countries and my biggest regrets. My biggest regret so far is that I didn’t apportion enough miles to the SE Asian part of my trip. If I knew at the start what I know now I’d have given far more miles to SE Asia. Corinne asked me why I didn’t just go back if I loved the place so much. I couldn’t come up with any reasons why not apart from the obvious financial one. We sat talking about it for ages and the more we talked the more it felt possible. Corinne was planning on heading to SE Asia around the same time so the idea was floated that we could meet up and do a bit of traveling together if and when we crossed paths. I spent a few more days at the hostel and after exchanging contact details with Corinne we went our separate ways and I continued heading north.

After a few days of cycling I still wasn’t enjoying myself. Corinne and I had been in contact and I asked if she’d like some company for a few weeks and I’d take a few weeks off the bike and we could travel round together by car. It’d give me a chance to do the things I’d missed while on the bike and she’d have someone to share costs with. Bessie was relegated to the back of the car and it was time to do some touristy things. I had a great time but after a week or so I was getting a bit restless for the bike again. I suggested to Corinne that we cycle the Otago Rail Trail together. It’s a 150 km off road track and perfect for someone new to cycling. She was keen on the idea and the only proviso was that I had to carry all the luggage.

The night before we were to start the trail we met a Kiwi guy in a pub who had a spare bike and he offered to let us have it for a few days which was great and meant a healthy saving on hiring a bike. He was a bit hammered when he made the offer so when we went round the next morning to pick the bike up we were just hoping he’d remembered. In fact he’d more than remembered and when we got round there the bike was cleaned up and ready for us. All the beer we’d bought him was more than worth it.

We headed onto the trail and I started off slowly for Corinne’s benefit as she hadn’t been on a bike in a long time and I wanted her to enjoy it. I needn’t have bothered as the first time I nailed it a little she kept up no problem and we managed 50 kms the first day in about three hours including stops for drinks and food. I doubt I’d have done it any faster if I was on my own. The next two days were the same. 50 kms every day done in around three hours. Remembering back to when I started riding bikes with all my mates back home there’s just no way in the world I could have covered that distance in those times.

On the trail we started talking about SE Asia again. Corinne had enjoyed the cycling enough to consider the possibility of cycling SE Asia with me which would mean we could cycle together and I could still complete my round the world journey in under a year. I explained that cycling the rail trail unloaded was nothing like putting in sequential big days with a fully loaded bike so we agreed on a compromise that she’d hire a touring bike for a week and tour NZ fully loaded and we’d decide from there.

We headed for Christchurch and hired a Cannondale T800 with panniers for a week with an option to buy. We then headed up the east Coast for Picton. It’s about 300 kms and we managed it in 4 days for an average of 75 kms a day. I’m amazed that Corinne could manage this and even though it’s been tough, going from not cycling to doing 75kms a day fully loaded she’s made it look easy. I doubt I could have done the same if the roles were reversed. When we got to Picton we sat and spoke some more about SE Asia and amazingly she was still keen on cycling.

I’ve booked my flight back to Bangkok for the 31st of March. Financially it isn’t one of my smartest moves but this is my journey and the chance to go back to somewhere I enjoyed with someone who’s company I enjoy isn’t something that happens every day. We’re just north of Wellington and will cycle up to Auckland with an aim to get there on the 30th and get some spares for the bikes

My plan is to stay in SE Asia till the 21st June and then spend a month cycling in America before returning home. It’s a plan at the moment and as likely to change as all my other plans.

Anyway it’s dinner time so I’m off to grab some food.

Later.

Lots of love as always,

Craig XXX

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