Thoughs on the first days of cycling in New Zealand...
If you don't like the weather now, just wait a minute. We've seen sunny skies, warm temperatures, dark clouds, rain, cold air, high winds and dead calms... and that was in the first hour of cycling! Our guide warned us that we should be prepared with biking clothes for all four seasons in the same afternoon, and after the first couple of days, I believe him. I've never seen conditions change so fast.
New Zealand makes cyclist better at shifting gears. I've used every gear on the bike more times so far than I would in a month of riding in Phoenix. One minute you have a tail wind, the next a head wind. The area we were in today is all rolling hills with lots of opportunities to shift into the granny gear for a short steep climb. And of course, best of all is riding up a steep hill into a head wind. :-)
The cows here seem skinnier than on the Great Plains of South Dakota. The sheep look just like the ones back home... ho hum. But for some reason the cows all look thin to me. It's strange enough to see a herd of cows in a pasture with an ocean view surrounded by palm and fern trees. Cows just look out of place on a Pacific Island. Maybe they stay thin because they're all concerned with how they'll look in their swimsuits!
This country has some weird stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else in the world. This afternoon a few of us rode to a place called Hot Water Beach. And the name isn't an exaggeration! At low tide there is an area where a geothermal hot spring pushes water up through the sand. People go there with tiny spades and dig holes to create little hot tubs right on the beach. I put my feet in one that someone had vacated and almost scalded my foot. I don't know how people could stand to sit in it. But move 10 or 15 feet away and the water is lukewarm at best. It was very strange to see a pair of 70 year old women in their frilly-bottomed swimsuits right next to a group of 20-something hard-bodies and both groups are sitting in a water-filled hole like some kind of strange, nesting, sea birds.