January 16, 2011

Episode 12: Across the ditch

Route: Old Bones Backpackers to All Day Bay, return
Distance: 27.2km
Duration: 1 hour 8 minutes

Beach Road, Otago

Heading north on Beach Road

Even having done only one short ride so far, I can safely say that bringing the bike to New Zealand was worth the hassle.

Sharon and I flew out from Tullamarine at 9.45am on Saturday morning and landed in Christchurch at about 3pm local time. It’s strange to think that you can get overseas in ‘only’ three hours when it takes longer to fly to Perth and a number of other places around the country. I guess it goes to show how massive a country Australia really is.

I’d had no trouble checking the bike in at Tullamarine. After checking in our regular-sized luggage we headed over to the Oversized Baggage area and handed the bike to a burly looking attendant with an awesome 70s moustache. I asked him nervously ‘is there any way I can nominate which way it lies down when they pack it?’, trying to avoid the bike’s weight being focused on the derailleur. With a wry smile the attendant said ‘I’m in control of your luggage to that wall there but beyond that, who knows what happens to it!’. Not the most reassuring of answers but he assured me he had never got any complaints.

Outside the pub in Kakanui

Outside the pub in Kakanui

When we got to Christchurch I scurried to the Oversized Luggage pickup area and muttered a brief prayer to the cycling gods, hoping that the damage was minimal. Luckily, the only damage I could see was some superficial scratching to the top tube. I’d been so concerned about the fragile componentry that I hadn’t even bothered to protect the tubes. That said, a bit of scratching isn’t going to stop me riding, a snapped derailleur might.

Outside the terminal, we packed all of our stuff into the Holden Barina that we had hired, with my bike and bag only just fitting in the back. We then drove to the hostel in Christchurch to get settled in for the first night and after some dinner I spent about half an hour reassembling the bike.

Rolling down to the Kakanui River

Rolling down to the Kakanui River

After having breakfast at a lovely cafe on the fringes of the Christchurch CBD this morning, we headed south, following Highway 1 through Ashburton and Timaru to Oamaru. We are staying at a charming backpackers 5km south of Oamaru called Old Bones Backpackers which has apparently been crowned the best backpackers in New Zealand two out of the last three years.

After getting settled in this afternoon I headed out for a short ride down the aptly titled Beach Road. With some disgusting weather rolling towards us from Dunedin I was only going to get an hour or so on the bike but that was fine. I was more interested in seeing if I’d put the bike back together correctly than setting off on a five hour epic.

Slow moving vehicle

Slow moving vehicle

As it turned out, the 70 minute ride I got in was a remarkably pleasant one. I headed south down Beach Road in the  Dunedin direction and, as it turned out, into the strongest headwind I’ve ever ridden into. Somehow I managed to grind away at 20km an hour and with tremendous ocean views on my left I never really lost heart. At one point I passed a bloke who looked to be about 70 years of age, battling hard into the headwind at no more than 5km/h or so. His bike was loaded up with shopping bags and he looked as if he was more than ready for a rest.

I continued south for about 35 minutes, passing through the quaint seaside town of Kakanui and eventually to All Day Bay where I turned around. Instantly, the deafening howl of the wind stopped and it became almost too easy to ride back to the hostel. I was sitting on 26km/h on hills that would normally see me around the mid teens and on the flat I was cruising at 45km/h without even working up a sweat.

Beach Road, looking east

Beach Road, looking east

I flew back to the hostel and with around 10 minutes to spare before I was supposed to meet Sharon, I continued past the hostel for a few minutes, turned around and then pushed hard for the remaining few kilometres.

It was a short ride first up but a good chance to check that everything was as expected with the bike – as far as I could tell, there were no issues whatsoever. Tomorrow morning Sharon and I are heading to Queenstown for a couple of nights and I’m lead to believe there is some terrific cycling in the area. I’ll be sure to see what I can find and report back when I get a moment spare.

Thanks for reading and we’ll speak again soon.

56 days to go…

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