I am back in the UK for two days only. I can't pretend I am over the moon to be back in any way but I am happy to have finished travelling. My flight from Bangkok to Dubai (one of four on the way home) was 19 hours delayed so I was travelling for over 48 hours. Not fun!
However, tomorrow I am back on a plane to Munich in Germany to do a German language course for three weeks. This is what I have used to motivate me to come home as I have wanted to learn another language for ages and am looking forward to being able to communicate with people in something other than English. Although I have no illusions that I am going to be able to speak a lot in three weeks!
My last days in New Zealand were as amazing as the rest of them. We did manage to cross the Arthur's Pass although it is actually 2 passes, the Arthur's and the Porter's Pass. We cycled up the Porter's Pass which was steep, 400m in 4km and to make matters more difficult it was really windy. The weather forecast, which in New Zealand tells you what the weather was like during the day rather than what it is going to be like, said that there were gusts of 70km/hr and it definitely felt like it! We were very grateful not to have all of our stuff! After we had got to the top of the Porter's Pass the road turned a corner meaning that the wind was blowing at us full force. As we had only done the first 20km of the 80km day we decided that it was potentially not safe to carry on in the wind, the only problem being that the options were to cycle back down a steep mountain with a strong tailwind or to cycle into the stronger headwind. For reasons that I can't really explain, and the fact that neither of us really wanted to turn back, we decided it was safer to cycle into the headwind since it would not blow us sideways and we could control our speed. Nancy is very good at cycling into the wind and can maintain a speed of at least 10km/hr (impressive in the wind). I am really, really slow in the wind and find it scary and HARD so poor Nancy was having to wait for me and remain cheerful. She did this very well and after we stopped and had lunch I managed to be more cheerful too!
We continued to cycle over undulating hills and the wind died down meaning we got up to near normal speeds at times. We then approached the rain forrest and it began to rain. Although it was exhausting we got to see an amazing rainbow, add cycling in a gale (according to the weather forecast rather than just me) and we cycled over the Porter's Pass!
That evening we stayed in the Arthur's Pass village where there are lots of Kea, NZ alpine parrots. They are highly intelligent and will rip bits off bikes and tents so we were very happy to be staying in a hostel. Because of the travelling light we went out for dinner wearing pyjamas which was great! I used to wear pyjamas to school in year 11 so I felt right at home.
The next day we crossed the Arthur's Pass early in the morning. We then cycled down an amazing road which was built in the 1980s including a viaduct at 16%. built to replace the steeper zig zag road and a hill at 11% where a waterfall had been built over the road next to a roack cover shelter. The engineering was amazing and the views were stunning but most of my concentration was on controlling the bike and my speed. It was very cold at altitude and we had to stop every 5-10 minutes to regain feeling in our hands. We then went to the first available cafe, we like stopping in cafes, and had hot drinks. The woman in the shop asked us what kind of coffee we would like and we told her and her response was "good, because that is all I know how to make. we have a new machine and I don't know how to use it". We were then served the weakest coffee I have ever had but the lasy came over to see how it was and was proud of herself.
We continued down the mountain, now able to feel our hands since we weren't at high altitude and on to Greymounth on the West coast. The next day we got the train back up to Arthur's Pass village. It is one of the six most beautiful train journeys in the world but I was disappointed because we had got to see much more while cycling and the really steep bit is done in a tunnel. However it was possible and not dangerous which I think cycling up a 16% viaduct might have been! The next morning we got up early and headed back to Christchurch, 154km away. The journey involved 70km of up and down back through the rainforrest and some steep climbs. The next 85km was down (although only the first 20 were perceptably down). At 2pm we had finished the first 70 and by 8:10 we were in Christchurch. Part of the aim of the day was to cycle 100miles (and to finish on a pass and a high for me) so when we arrived in Christchurch were cycled for 6km around the park and some back roads just so that we made the full 160!
One of the reasons that the holiday has been so great is that neither Nancy or I thought it was odd to be cycling round a park, having already cycled 155km, on a Friday evening and neither of us had really contemplated just going straight to the hostel. To make the whole thing even better Nancy had said to me something along the lines of "don't be surprised to see the hospital we are going to cycle behind it" but I missheard her. I regularly had to get Nancy to repeat things three times as I am incapable of eharing what she says when cycling. Anyway, I thought Nancy said that we were going to come out round the back of the hostel and she had worked out a route. I told Nancy this and she explained what she had really said.
We continued cycling round the park with Nancy asking how far we had gone every 300m and then getting, I thought, tired and stressed with the directions. However, we cycled round some back roads and got to 160kms! We were both shouting and laughing etc when she told me to turn right and the hostel was there! We cycled 160.2km due to Nancy's amazing navigation to to my mishearing. I cannot tell you how happy we were to see the hostel and that I wasn't navigating!
The final few days were spent recovering and doing other fun things. We swam in the Pacific which was something I really wanted to do. We did a "go ape" tree wire course which was a lot of fun but really challenging and in increasing amounts of wind towards the end of the day. We took our poor bikes on a mountain bike trail which was brilliant but we had to get off and walk in the sand as our tyres were too narrow. We rented bikes from the hostel which were green, had harley davidson handlebars and only one gear, a pedalo and did a segway tour. We also made wholemeal pizza so I got to have pizza for the first time in about 7 years!
It was as wonderful as the rest of the trip and I really can't belive it is over. I am going to be a cycle touring addict from now on. I am also going to upload my pictures so that you can see the amazing places I have been describing.
I will let you know how Germany goes and try not to go on too much about missing New Zealand and Nancy and my bike.
lots of love,