Some notes on the blog – I am converting to legs rather than weeks as I am not sure how many days will be in each! Then I will keep the cycling days numbered consecutively, which will be fun for me! Also, my writing style will vary from blog to blog, paragraph to paragraph depending on the mood I was in as I started tapping away.
Over the week, my mind has wandered and I wanted to note the following things… Do not judge a nation of people by the way its people drive. Silage and manure smell the same here too and it makes me feel such a country bumpkin that the smells make me happy. Anything is possible if the view is good enough. Wind is the most terrifying and challenging of the elements. What goes up must go down, must go up again ad infinitum. Biting creatures love biting me and I am bad at not scratching. ‘Passing lane, 400m ahead’ can roughly be translated to, ‘don’t even think about enjoying that descent, just pedal as hard as you can because we’re going up again soon’. Sometimes, not that much happens and that is OKAY.
Day 6 – Oparau to Te Waitere (Not pronounced Wait ‘ere like I’d hoped) 19 miles
I have no qualms owning up to the fact that I am a dustbin when it comes to food. I still fondly remember the day when I, with the traditional Jeffries hollow legs, surpassed my own father in terms of food quantity ingested. It was Christmas, I must have been at least eight, and I happily polished off a turkey leg along with vast proportions of all the trimmings. As my mum is a vegetarian and notorious feeder, there are many trimmings. Side dishes usually run into the double figures.
So why is it now, when I most need energy, that I have no appetite? None. Zilch. Nada.
I am getting increasingly frustrated with my body’s refusal to play ball. GET WITH THE PROGRAMME! We have to cycle 4000 miles in 3 months, visit our family in Australia and get home just in time to find a place to live and teach many smiling faces. EAT!!! EAT!!!
So far, food which has remained in my body for the appropriate time for nourishment to be gleaned since lunchtime on New Year’s Eve is as follows:
2 small packets ready salted crisps
4 energy bars
2 slices plain toast
1 bacon sandwich
This is not 48 hours worth of food. This barely constitutes one refuelling session for this cavernous, energy reliant machine which is supposed to be propelling itself and around 40 kilos of bike & equipment around an entire country. It wouldn’t even get me to Year Four break time on a hungry day and I’d be clawing at the classroom doors hunting leftover bread and cheese like something out of a zombie movie.
But every time I try and eat, even if it is a dried up concoction of birdseed, I feel sick again. And I’m just not hungry.
Still, I wanted to make a move. Bill and Brenda have been so kind to me, despite my inability to offer any kind of ‘banter’ to repay them and I appreciate it so much but I needed to be on the move.
We’re in pretty rural territory now and the next settlement which looked to have a campground is at Marokopa, 35 miles away. So this is where I set my sights. Bill had already assured me that it was glorious ‘tar seal’ the whole way, excepting a spot of roadworks and there was only one big hill. Perfect.
So it turns out the theories are true. New Zealand is Scotland on rocket fuel. When it wants to do something, it doesn’t do it by halves. Today it felt like raining. I didn’t actually mind. I was soaked but not freezing and this was the least of my worries.
There just wasn’t any power in my legs and I found myself grinding away in the granny cog up inclines I should be able to munch ten times over in the big ring. At one point, I decided stopping would be, you know, ideal. Only to have a mini meltdown because the rain had made my shoes too loose and I couldn’t unclip. Today I was not going to fall so I carried on in a bizarre fashion, continuing to rotate the pedals whilst furiously flicking my ankles out to unclip a foot – any foot!
I stood by the side of the road, pulling my laces almost painfully tight and then continuing to stand, doubled over as my stomach completed its unhappy butterfly dance. Maybe moth dance. I don’t like moths. Churrrrrn. I was not sick. Phew. I did, however, draw attention and more than one car stopped to ask if I was okay. One even turned around after they had passed to offer me a lift as I looked, “pretty exhausted”. Yes! Yes, please! I do want a lift, yes I am exhausted and I feel like there’s a laundrette service on overtime in my stomach… is not what I said. Instead, I smiled sweetly and said, no worries, not far to go! I’m just taking a little rest. Stubborn mule.
So, I continued and I should have been thrilled. These are quite frankly, the easiest miles I have cycled in a good while but I hadn’t even reached the coast and the beautiful bridge one of the lovely girls from the roadhouse had described to me – where her house was – I wasn’t exactly getting anywhere fast.
I got stopped again about 12 miles into the ride by Kerri, a friend of Bill, who Bill had mentioned earlier in the day, pointing his house out on the map in the café. He was on his way to the Roadhouse, had been asked to check up on me, wanted to make sure I knew his address and that the house was open, I could let myself in and he would be back around eight. He was also keen to point out that there was still a long way to go to get to Marokopa.
Grrrr!! Why is the universe telling me to stop again? Because it is the sensible thing to do, Jeffries, and you know it. Over the next few miles, I battled the ideas through in my head as the rain poured through to the inside of my glasses. Staying at Kerri’s would also mean I could stay at Craig’s the following night. It would mean not having to pitch a tent (and most likely decamp) in the rain. It would mean another night allowing my body to recover.
I rolled along the coastline, the beauty of the water and surrounding hills barely registering – the brain behind my eyes pretty blank at this point. Then I reached a fork in the road. A T-junction. Left to my destination, right to Kerri’s. I took the metaphorical and actual right turn. I couldn’t do anything else. I had nothing in the tank.
So… Grumpy, frustrated, peeling, wet and still not hungry, I am sitting here typing (with actually an incredible panoramic view) and hoping tomorrow’s ‘half’ of the seven dwarves turn out to be a bit more positive!
I know I will make the miles up. I know I will. It’s just disheartening to get so far behind so early on especially when you are as headstrong and stubborn to a fault as me. Maybe if I do a 75 miler the day after tomorrow…
After writing this section of the blog, I force fed myself so much food that I couldn’t sleep for feeling so horrendously sick, then I had a severe need to ingest Imodium and ended up with an enforced rest day, where I spent the majority of the time pining for home whilst looking at the rain out of the window.
Kerri was a remarkable host with incredible stories to tell of his fascinating life and we had a lovely time – as lovely as is possible when one member of the party has to leave regularly mid story in order to… relieve oneself. I was not on top form and all I wanted was to be at home.
Day 7 – Te Waitere to Waikawau – 40.1 miles
Setting off, I felt horrendous. I had to stop at mile 1, mile 2, mile 3 and then really had to push even to get to mile 4. I was wiggling around all over the road and I couldn’t really feel my arms or legs. It was horrendous. I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it and then I told myself I would make it to mile 10 and treat myself with a lovely break.
Looking back at the elevation profile, it is easy to see why I felt so mightily unwell. Not only was I actually unwell but the first 7 miles had led me up one of the biggest hills that I had climbed over the past few days. I just hadn’t realised how hard the actual cycling was because I was feeling too sorry for myself and because the gradient hadn’t been particularly severe.
After 7 miles, I turned towards the settlement of Marokopa, where I could potentially stop if I couldn’t cope. The glide down to the coastline was incredible – not much to look at but such a fabulous relief after the climbing and I actually started to feel like there was a possibility of making it the 40 miles to Waikawau and the comfort of a bed at Craig’s house (couchsurfing).
Pedalling along, just enjoying the change of health, I heard a voice behind me and (after jumping quite significantly) was greeted by the three cyclists I had met just as I was setting off from the caves and two of their buddies… London Dynamo cyclists! In the back of beyond in New Zealand! It was so uplifting – they chatted with me briefly but I am not match for Dynamo pace at the best of times and I said that I would see them at the café in Marokopa.
In Marokopa, we sat and I had an ice lolly for lunch and a ginger beer whilst we chatted. Mark and Lillian had already been travelling for a while and were lucky enough to be staying in New Zealand for a few months, taking in the occasional road cycling trip when they had the opportunity. After everyone had had a go at lifting my bike (with varying success) we said our goodbyes. I had a sit for a little longer and chatted with some locals who advised that there was gravel road only between here and Waikawau.
Fortunately, I was in such a good mood that I decided to go for it anyway!
The journey from there on was challenging and I’m not sure quite how I managed it. I was listening to Andrew Marr again and some funny stories about some significant ancient Greeks. I think it was the story of Socrates’s death by hemlock poisoning that accompanied me to the top of the first hill. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t have much to complain about really did, I!?
The valley road was long, and gravelled as I had been told and I did seem to feel the heat to a new extreme. I pulled over at the side of the road when I saw a gate rather than the continuous fencing and sat for a brief time with my feet cooling in the river water. It was just what I needed to keep myself going and I was at the foot of the next hill in no time.
This is where the problems really kicked in and my stomach was in agony, really gurgling and bubbling away, cramping as I pedalled – facing this on the flat had been just about manageable but as soon as I began to rise, it became pretty near impossible. I got off, had a rest and tried to carry on but it was so hard. This time I did do quite a bit of pushing, only getting back on when my cramps allowed.
After the long descent into Waikawau, I was overjoyed to arrive at Craig’s house and didn’t have to wait long before he came home from work. He was such a good host, cooking me delicious but simple food and not too much! We had a lovely chat and he took me to see the beach, which has to be accessed through an old tunnel, formerly part of the cattle trading route before the coastal roads existed. That must have been a hard life! Waikawau is a little treasure and I really enjoyed my evening there.
In the morning, Craig had to leave early for work but I was left to leave at my leisure and was packed off with some army ration supplies too!
Day 8 – Waikawau to Urenui – 54.7 miles
Craig had warned me that I would start climbing from the outset the following day and I did. Mount Misery failed to live up to its name however and, though there were breaks to regain my breath, I made it up and away I went.
I wasn’t thrilled by the day’s riding. There wasn’t much to look at and being back on the highway meant more traffic. I stopped and had a snack at Mokau and there were a few nice views over the sea.
It was getting hotter and I found myself having to use some of my precious water to cool myself down. There was no shade or shelter and I just had to keep going. Thus, I arrived at Mount Messenger feeling pretty terrible already and just in time for the rush of traffic from Auckland. It was terrifying and I hated every moment of it. At the narrowest part, I pushed, with my bike between me and the traffic. I stopped and remounted when the passing lane began and made it up through the narrow tunnel at the top.
The descent was also scary with cars passing closely – it is much easier to ascend and descend any hill when you have the freedom of the road.
That was it for hills for the rest of the day and all that was left was to plod on to my final destination, which seemed to take forever! The one bonus was my first glimpse of Mount Taranaki, which is so cool. Love Mount Doom.
Upon arrival, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The holiday camp was beautiful and the kind owner allowed me to stay free of charge. There were great views and I was quite content in my tent for the first night of the trip. The delicious fish and chips were an excellent addition to the day.
Day 9 – Urenui to Opunake – 60.8 miles
Considering this was to be my longest cycling day so far, I approached it in a very leisurely manner. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed and got going very slowly. I was then invited for breakfast with my tent neighbours and loved chatting with Wendy, Damon and Cooper over pancakes and bananas! It was the perfect start and I set off in a glorious holiday mood.
I had left my gloves on the top of my pannier… had to turn back and find them but STILL, I was in a good mood.
After 10 miles there was a sign proclaiming fresh, homemade ice-cream and I duly stopped and procured a mixed berry yoghurt ice cream and made a couple of calls home whilst I cooled down. I’m still missing being so well connected to my friends and family but I just have to suck it up, I guess!
I stopped again in New Plymouth and bought some extra energy supplies from the bike shop as well as borrowing a track stand to improve my tyre pressure which had been very low! This was after some pretty dodgy navigation of the roadworks… in the end I just got off and pushed across the road since right turns didn’t seem to be allowed.
The day continued in such a fashion – with me stopping regularly to enjoy myself, and the views opened out to the sea as I joined Highway 45, which is just stunning. I treated myself to a delicious late lunch at the café and just really enjoyed the day’s cycling with few hill climbs and beautiful views.
I was almost disappointed that I actually had to pay for my pitch at the campsite but soon a friendly voice (after laughing at how ridiculously small my tent was in comparison to the glamping tents all around) asked if I was vegetarian – I had thought that saying no would provoke a negative result but on the contrary – free BBQ!
After the obligatory cleanse of the day’s grime, I joined the Creamer families for brilliant conversation, fantastic food and bizarrely, foam rollering! I had so much fun in fact that it was well past my bed time before I went back to my tent to bed down for the night.
What a superb day, finished with a glorious sunset. Hooray. More like this, please!
HA! Looking back at my pictures has just reminded me that I ran out of iPod battery so I went onto Lucy Tunes… but that died quickly so I started talking to llamas. And saying llama repeatedly but in different voices. Spending this much time alone makes me even weirder than I already am.
Day 10 – Opunake to Waverley Beach – 58.2 miles
I don’t really remember much about this day. I don’t think anything really happened during the cycle… it just was. I did stop at Manaia – home of bread apparently – and bought a large bag of giant cookies and proceeded to eat 4 of them without so much as an inhalation of breath.
OOOH! I remember – a policeman came and asked me if I was okay. I was fine. I was just stuffing my mouth with TimTams. I didn’t even give him one of my cards. Ooops.
The campsite that night was special, however. It was so peaceful yet had good facilities. It was definitely more of a backpacker place and there were a few people who had been travelling that I could chat with. I joined the easy lifestyle and prepared one of my army ration meals using the pots from my Trangia (which is starting to feel like a luxury, unnecessary item).
Here, I met Bree (sp) and her husband who are avid cycle tourers and were good company.
The beach was incredible despite the lack of stunning sunset and I got to practise my new photography technique as shown by Gerard. Who knew that clicking different parts of the screen made such a difference?! Amazing!
The wind began its assault though and I slept very badly, worrying that either Peggy or I were going to blow away.
Day 11 – Waverley Beach to Wanganui – 34.5 miles
To say I woke up that morning to the howling winds is not quite right as I am not sure I ever fully got to sleep. I tried listening to the audio book of The Old Curiosity Shop, which I am really enjoying but I ran out of downloaded parts and it wasn’t all that helpful anyway. I just laid there trying not to be blown away.
I was however, rather nervous as I left that morning and rightly so! I left as the other campers tucked into their breakfasts, having hastily gobbled some of my supplies, with all but Bree and her husband (I’m so sorry I never asked your name!!) thinking I was completely insane.
It took me about an hour to battle into the headwind/sidewind the 5 miles to the library where I had to pay for my overnight stay – an honesty system I do hope most people honour as it was a fantastic site. And just before I got to the main road, a big van pulled up beside me and a beaming Bree was thrusting ‘Sidewind Challenger Mix’ towards me… but we were going uphill and I couldn’t clip out again so they went on and met an embarrassed me at the library a while later!
It was so kind of them and I loved their gift. I went in to pay and it took so long that I didn’t get a proper chance to say goodbye. Perhaps our paths will cross again some-day and thank you!
Along with the wind came the rain and it was a very soggy Elisha that crawled up a small hill and into the cheers of the Wellington branch of the Creamer family! Hooray! I am so going to miss this! Can you just follow me everywhere, please?
By then, I was only about ten miles from Wanganui and I even got a chance to dry off a little.
In Wanganui, I was staying with a friend of my dad’s cousin, Roz, called Paul and his son Jamie. Again, I couldn’t have asked for more from a host and I managed to do some washing before getting to see some of the sights of Wanganui in the rain! It was pretty wet and my photos didn’t even take at the top of the tower – oops!
I was fed beautifully marinated and cooked steak, played a little with Jamie and turned in for an early night on account of the fact I was absolutely shattered.
Day 12 – Wanganui to Waitarere Beach – 62.3 miles
All the place names are the same. I’m actually not going anywhere. I’m just adding different lettes for effect.
After a delicious breakfast and repacking all my clothes, I said goodbye to my fantastic hosts and headed out into another windy day. Paul’s neighbour’s weather vane confirmed the worst and I set off dreading a day of battling into a headwind.
The vane had lied! Tailwind! Tailwind!! HOW EXCITING. I pedalled practically the whole morning with the wind at my shoulders, thinking about how best to explain it. It wasn’t a true tail wind, with the wind pushing more at my left shoulder but it was fantastic! It really did give me an actual push. It reminded me of learning to ride my bicycle, which I did at a very late stage, with my dad pushing at my shoulder until I was cycling on my own. Ha! I was so bad at it. I do wonder what on earth possessed me to take it up as an adult… London transport, I think.
So I had a glorious tailwind pretty much all the way to Bulls, where I stopped to take in some of the puns and have a feed before heading off again.
Unfortunately, as I turned onto Highway 1, I turned into the wind and it was a battle to stay on the road! A particularly scary point was on a narrow food and pedal bridge to the side of the road. I really thought I was going to get blown off! Thank goodness though – it was something to concentrate on. This is a very long, straight, boring road. I think they call it the Foxton Straits.
Regardless, I made excellent time – owing mostly to the flat nature and rocked up at Waitarere at about half past 5. The site is slightly cheaper than the two big holiday parks I have stayed at but is considerably more run down in its feel. I haven’t been to the beach yet because of the wind! So no picture.
Today I listened to my first chapters of Harry Potter in German. So strange. I definitely can’t pick out every word but I can work out where they are in the story. Uncle Vernon has just tried to get rid of Harry but Aunty Petunia stood firm. Harry is confused. I got book five because it is the longest on Audible. I like it.
Since I was having a rest day the following day, I decided that I would have a drink and dinner at the pub. I probably should have cooked! I enjoyed the beer, though. Tui is yummy.
Since there’s no wifi anywhere in Waitarere Beach, I had to cycle 9 miles to Levin and have been chilling out at the library. The wind was horrendous all night and I was covered in dust in the morning which had been unceremoniously flung through the netting in my tent inner. The sun is coming out now, which is making me think I can deal with another night in the dirty tent. I had started to contemplate a B&B. The idea of wifi in my room to Skype call tonight is very enticing and a good night’s sleep with a delicious cooked breakfast in the morning even more so, but, since the wind is not too bad, I will stay to finish the blog, look at the ferry times and cycle back to camp. Wellington tomorrow and then, the South Island! I am SO looking forward to seeing my old housemate Anna but NOT looking forward to the infamous hill between Picton and Nelson.
Oooh I just had a surprise visit from Paul who was on his way to collect a friend from a nearby airport. How lovely.
I need to get better at writing something for the blog on a daily basis. I feel like such a hobo sitting outside the library uploading photos for hours. Especially as I’m surrounded by the town’s young folk. Though they are blastin’ some mega beats on whatever the new boom box is! Haha