NB: This page has been written in chunks and may not make sense.
Still on the plane. Still somewhere over the Pacific (it’s a big old ocean). Six and a half hours until we reach our final destination and there’s a middle sized boy occupying a small portion of what I deem to be my personal space, so I am sitting at a fairly dodgy angle. I will complete the arrival portion of this post, well, upon arrival but I might as well get started, hey!
The adventure begins!
Leg 1 – Ealing to Heathrow
All packed up, with my things balanced precariously on Peggy, Vai waved Lucy and I goodbye. I almost broke Lucy at the first set of stairs, where she innocently suggested that she would grab the front, if I would take the weight at the back… it doesn’t quite work like that apparently but I have only ever wielded the beast solo before.
I had expected the Heathrow trains to be frequent but it didn’t appear to be so. We had a 40 minute wait but at least the train would be direct…. False. The train got cancelled and in some strange kafuffle which involved a train guard actually reopening closed doors (I have never heard of this happening before), we ended up on a train towards Oxford.
In a couple of stations time, we hurtled off the train and Lucy legged it for the bus, whilst I threw various belongings out of my bags trying to find Idi Garmin. From there, it was relatively straight forward though I did encounter the weirdest roundabout of my life – three roundabouts all stuck together with two way traffic. I still don’t get it. It was like some kind of Mensa problem. Thank goodness it was quiet is all I can say!
THEN, disaster! Somehow I managed to get the shoulder strap of one of the front panniers completely and (for several moments, I thought) irrevocably wrapped around the front wheel. GAHHH. This meant pulling up on the grass verge, ruining the perfect clean that I had completed on my shoes in preparation for entry to New Zealand. At least the worst had not happened.
I expected that Lucy would have been there by now but she was having her own hell journey and wouldn’t be with me for another twenty or so minutes having boarded an interesting range of public transport. What a legend.
She found me sprawled across the ‘repacking area’ flustering about how to move my handlebars. I had not got very far owing to the fact that several people had approached me quizzically and I had, of course, lapped up the attention and regaled my little tale giddily. I don’t think I will ever get bored of telling people my plan and watching their reactions.
Eventually, we removed the butterfly bars and the wheels and strapped everything down with duct tape and cable ties. Yey! Peggy looks very different and I hope she is going to be safe. PLEASE. Now that everything was done, I packed all the bits away and paid the daylight robbery price of £10.50 to have three of my panniers wrapped together in cellophane. The only problem was that I had forgotten I would need the tape to seal the bag shut. Ooops again. Fortunately, I think the cellophane man had quite enjoyed watching Lucy and I packing Peggy up and gave us the last of his packing tape. Phew. Problem averted.
Next, I had to get checked in. A variety of people came to tell me that Peggy was not suitably packaged and it was touch and go whether they were going to let her on the plane. I had to sign a waiver saying that any damages caused by transit were not the fault of China Southern. And there was me secretly hoping they’d hear about my amazing adventure and give me a free upgrade. Does that even happen any more?
After some serious negotiation, Peggy was taken over to point 62 and sent on her merry way. Fingers crossed I will see her again. Now all that was left to do was to say goodbye. First of all to the notorious Plum, my wonderful partner in crime over this journey. The selfie was rubbish, so we got someone to capture a quick pic of us and then away I went.
I was through security and, despite having set off about five hours before my departure time, had only about half an hour to call my family to keep them informed and wish them a very merry Christmas.
Leg 2 – Heathrow to Guangzhou
I had the worst seat. The middle seat of the middle row. Very unfortunate. However, I had a great flight and spent the first couple of hours chatting with my neighbour who is a tour guide, bringing large groups of Chinese tourists to the UK. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable and it was fascinating to hear him talk of how he always tries to learn a little more about each place on his route for each tour. We also spent time talking about his family and his worries over the schooling of his children. He had lived in New Zealand for eleven years and plans to move to Australia eventually.
I then managed to sleep the entire remainder of the journey save for meal times – mmmm who doesn’t love croissant, kiwi, yoghurt and chicken noodles for Christmas morning breakfast!?
The wait at Guangzhou was seven hours, a long time but it disappeared quickly along with my phone battery. My lovely plane friend had stayed to ensure that I got a code for the free wifi before heading on his way, which meant that I could get in touch with people again to wish them a Merry Christmas. My Aunty Sarah ensures me that she has WhatsApp but I can’t get in touch – if you’re reading this Aunty S – please reinstall! There’s no Facebook or Google in China, so I was a little limited but I managed most of what I had hoped to achieve.
The airport is not large but has ample facilities, including a smoking room reminiscent of the early nineties. I could smell it even from outside and one of my airport friends, later explained how she had been mobbed as she had managed to bring a lighter through in her hand baggage.
As it is Christmas day after all, I decided to treat myself to a feast of my own as the pictures came in of friends enjoying their traditional fare and I sat down to a delicious PIZZA. Nom Nom Nom. Not quite turkey with all the trimmings but hey – it’s an excuse to go all out on the cooking next year! It was also actually delicious. Having no idea what the exchange rate is like, I have the distinct feeling that I paid through the nose but it was worth it.
After refilling my water bottle, I decided to head down to the gate. There were still hours to go but I figured I’d seen pretty much all there was to see of Guangzhou Airport’s finest. Here, I saw people spread out at various angles, trying to get comfortable and decided to pull out my joker – I had my sleeping bag. Muahahaha. I crawled into it and vegged out like a caterpillar with my book. Bliss.
Before long, I had made some more airport friends and the hours passed quickly, with hosting offers made for Brisbane, Australia and Stockport, England… I also handed out the first of my little transit gifts, making someone’s day with a small gift with ten minutes of Christmas left (local time).
Leg 3 – Guangzhou to Auckland
On the plane, I met Olaf (who was more like Hans from Frozen than the snowman, though he was wearing a blazer covered with snowmen and other festive characters). He is travelling to New Zealand to visit friends and do some motorbiking. I have been very lucky with my plane friends – I love it.
This journey was LONG. That’s about all I have to say about it. I did, however, finally manage to finish a blog post and also Anna Hughes’ book, Eat Sleep Cycle. I think it was good timing for finishing and definitely buoyed me up for the ride.
Landing in Auckland, I waited nervously for Peggy to appear through the ‘Oversized Luggage’ doors. I think I squealed when she came out looking okay. With a little help, I got her over to an area to check her out more completely….
…other than the front mudguard which was completely broken, she seemed perfect. Yey! I did have to tweak the gears and the brakes, which seemed to have been altered during the flight. It took a LONG time to rebuild her. My multi-tool (Topeak Alien II) is brilliant but it is so bulky, it can be awkward to use.
THEN. Moment of truth – would I get her through customs? Would she be clean enough? For the last hour I had been listening to a recorded message in various languages saying that New Zealand took its biosecurity very seriously and any risk items such as footwear or camping equipment used outside needed to be declared – failure to do so would result in a minimum NZ$400 fine!
Thanks to my honesty and Plum’s excellent tent peg washing skills, I breezed through with questions asked but all answered satisfactorily. Apparently my kit was so well taken care of that it looked brand new! Excellent news.
So, onwards to the hotel – I didn’t cycle as my ears were really bad from the flight and I didn’t trust my balance. I spent the evening drifting between cat naps and Skype chats before finally turning off the light and getting some rest! My first spins of the pedals tomorrow!!
**Note on pictures to follow**