I thought I would tell you about some of the non-cycling things that we have done recently since there is only so much to say about cycling - although it is amazing. I think that I understand why if you read travel books by cyclists or autobiographies by sports people they don't tend to talk that much about the training and stuff because there are only so many ways to describe beautiful views or difficult hills...
We bungee jumped! We were cycling to Hanmer Springs and stopped at a cafe where there was bungee jumping on offer. They also offered quad biking, jet boat rafting, white water rafting, kayaking, clay pigeon shooting, ATV driving and the other, standard, New Zealand activities. We had been going through the Rough Guide's 30 things that you must do in New Zealand and I had done 4 and Nancy had done 6 so I think we were maybe feeling an obligation to be able to say yes to people who are bound to ask if we had thrown ourselves of a bridge during our travels. Anyway, we decided to bungee jump over a beautiful river from a 150 year old bridge. It was beautiful and scary for the 10 minutes between deciding to do it and jumping off the bridge but just couldn't compete with cycling down a mountain, especially one that you have personally cycled up! I am pleased that we did it though.
We have also seen the most amazing stars in the middle of the night. We were camping in a place called Hanmer Springs which is surrounded by mountains on all sides. We were planning on getting up early so that we could do a 135km cycle the next day but this plan was being thwarted by people arriving at the hostel late, the hostel manager telling someone off for being too loud (we hadn't heard the person being loud but were both woken up by the manager), us talking too much and a crazy wind that sounded like it was going to blow the trees over onto our tent. At 3:30 we got up to check that the tent was not about to be ripped in two with us in it and it was ok, however the stars were amazing! I don't know how different they were to the ones that you can see from the Northern Hemisphere but there were thousands and thousands and we could see the milky way. It was really strange that there was a gale but no rain and no clouds at all. While I would have loved to have been rested before doing our longest cycle ride yet I am chuffed to have seen the stars. We are about to cycle over the Arthur's Pass and stay in Arthur's Pass village at 730m so are planning to stay up late to see the stars then (normal bed time when we are camping and cycling can be about 9:30)!
I managed to fall into a Japanese bath in a place called Maruia Springs. We were cycling up the Lewis Pass and stopped overnight in a very strange 4* hotel which offered camping. It was by some thermal springs and there were traditional Japanese baths. The baths were great, there were stools for showering and then black water for bathing. The other really cool thing was that there were lots of Japanese people using the baths. I got changed and got into the bath and then had to get out because I was still wearing my necklace but when I got back in I managed to slip and fall headlong into the water. Nancy and I were having hysterics for about 10 minutes (it is supposed to be a calm and quiet place) but the three Japanese ladies who were showering did not even turn around when I crashed into the water and not one of them laughed. It was a lot of fun though and my skin did feel really soft.
The field next to the hotel where we were camping was beautiful with a river flowing alongside, long grass and mountains surrounding us. However there were thousands of sandflies which were torturing us. They bite and itch and you get to the point where you can't stay still because they will attack. We managed to get ready for bed (very early as staying out side the tent was impossible) and sleep through the night but the next morning they were attacking even more ferociously. We cooked porridge and got teh tent down as quickly as possible but it is really hard to think straight when being attacked by hundreds of insects. We then had a calming cup of tea in the hotel which was open for breakfast before setting off into the outside again. Once we were about to set off, calm and looking forward to reaching the 920m summit of the Lewis Pass Nancy had a flat tyre. I was really impressed with us because we managed to change the inner tube in record time without losing calm and ignoring the attacking sandflies. The changed inner tube lasted all day and there were no insects at the top of the pass!
Otherwise we have been to Hanmer Springs which is a very nice thermal resort with more thermal pools. These ones weren't Japanese and all we had to do was sit in them which I managed without incident. We also had massages and manicures/pedicures which was a lot of fun and a great thing to do on a day off. We have played crazy golf (which was great but we were attacked by sandflies again) and are today packing to travel light over the Arthur's Pass. This will be challenging as I am already travelling about as light as possible for a 2 1/2 month trip. However we are going to try and remove about half of the stuff so that we can cross the mountain more easily and see if it makes cycling easier. I only have about 6 tops anyway (3 for cycling and 3 for wearing otherwise) so am looking forward to seeing if I can manage with even less stuff.
Life is still wonderful, the country is as beautiful as always and I am having a great time.