Leg 7 – Otago Peninsula to Christchurch

So, I broke my laptop charger this week and this is a trial using my mobile to blog. Maybe it will help me to be more brief… I doubt it!
A leg that began slowly, feeling rather unwell but that ended with me reaching Christchurch, my friends AND the half way mileage point! Woooooo!
The first downfall of the mobile is that I can’t create the overview route maps, which is a shame. I know my Grandma particularly liked them. Sorry folks.

Day 36 – Exploring the Peninsula – 14.1 miles
The morning started with me getting very cross with the technology I own – none of it seemed to want to work. I’d lost a bunch of pictures, had a late night and spent far too long trying to sort out the blog.
Needless to say, when I finally dragged myself from the comfort of the O’Neill’s house, it was quite late and I was terribly close to a two year old style tantrum. I was so happy to get back on the bike though and was looking forward to setting off to Christchurch to visit my friends there.
Unfortunately, my body was not responding well. I had a bit of a wheeze and my heart felt like it was racing, even when I was going downhill. I felt incredibly weird. I sent some messages off to Dr. Emily and she didn’t seem to worried but reminded me that I do need to listen to my body.
With this in mind, I decided that I would just pootle around the peninsula and look for penguins. It was a gorgeous day and I found excellent, cheap accommodation at Penguin Place.
In Portobello, I met two lovely ladies who were discussing education projects regarding conservation and biodiversity on the peninsula. It’s a big project and I wonder how the children back at my school would feel about a project that largely involves culling many nonnative animals to protect the original wildlife. Sophie and Cathy were just what I needed to begin my cheering up process, especially Cathy’s gorgeous dog!

Feeling a bit chirpier, I toddled off to the end of the peninsula and got to see a cute Little Blue penguin hiding under the stairs of the walkway – penguins are the best. I decided not to pay for the Albatross tour but looked out in their direction as best I could.
I loved Penguin Place, which I had all to myself. I cooked up a huge vat of sausage and pasta with veges and had a dance around to Justin Bieber on the radio before heading down to the office for my penguin tour.
At $52 it’s an expensive tour but the money all pays for the projects in the protected reserve, which is helping to create a safe environment for the Yellow Eyed Penguins. I got to see 3 waddle up the beach and saw the chick. I also got to see the guys who were convalescing in the hospital. Awesome times.


Day 37 – Peninsula to Port Chalmers – 26 miles
Oh dear. I felt even worse. Nonetheless, I was determined to get somewhere at least.
It was a very stop start day, following the shore of the Peninsula back to Dunedin. I met a chap on his way to a meeting who guided me a safer way through the edge of the city and then sent me off to look at the train station.
It was a beautiful day and I could have stayed lounging in front of the imposing station building for the rest of the afternoon but eventually, I did get going again!
I’d been spinning along for only about ten minutes when I was flagged down by none other than Hugh on his way to work at the Port. After a brief catch up, he escorted me to the cycle path which I hadn’t known about and then we said our goodbyes.
The path was fantastic, taking me right along the coast, following the railway line and I was disappointed when it ended.
By the time I eventually got to Port Chalmers, I was feeling hungry again and sat myself in a cute cafe and ordered lasagne. After only a few moments, I knew I was done for.
The owner directed me to the nearest accommodation at the pub a few doors down. I bumbled my way through a booking and just went to bed. I was exhausted and listened to the wheeze in my chest for a few moments before I was out cold.

 


Day 38 – Port Chalmers to Moeraki – 47.8 miles
Okay, I wasn’t feeling great still but I was going to go for it.
The hill was a tough start and I stopped along the way to get my breath back and have a few minor coughing fits. The views though, were phenomenal – definitely worth the up hill climb. Especially out onto the cove at Keritane.
Once I had descended, I stopped at the library to work out where I could get to that night. I had a few options in mind and thought I’d keep going as long as I could manage.
Thankfully, the climbing, coughing and ventolin seemed to have cleared much of what was causing the wheeze and I started to feel a little better even though there was more climbing to be done. Hopefully my improved fitness helped to fight off the virus before it really took hold. I had been dreading something really serious and was glad that I’d allowed myself to crash out.
I really wanted a fizzy drink and followed a sign leading me to a tavern. A closed tavern. I was gutted but so pleased I’d come this way as I got to cycle along the incredible bay at Waikouwaiti – a recommended spot.
Ignoring Idi Garmin and following Google, I continued along a road which said it was not suitable for vehicles. I soon found out why as the smooth white gravel morphed I to fine white sand and I watched myself in slow motion as I nose dived into the dune… A much softer landing than gravel and after a brief heave and haul to get Peggy the few metres across the dried river bed, the road returned. It was definitely worth it and I wish I’d paused in that paradise a little longer but I was still gasping for refreshments!
Refreshments were soon obtained in the small (and not that nice) town of Palmerston – the food was actually great at the railway cafe and I also bumped into a local warm showers host! I hadn’t been looking as I’d been unsure of my progress and it was nice to chat but I was determined to get a little further.
I camped at Moeraki after a reasonable feed at the tavern… The cheesecake was still frozen which was disappointing. Another early night and hopefully I’d be back on track.


Day 39 – Moeraki to Waimate – 54.5 miles
I missed my exit onto the coastal road somehow and just ploughed on during this day. There really wasn’t much to look at.
I did get passed by a huge group of road cyclists in an intricately designed blue and yellow kit. I’d love to know what they’re up to but they were much faster than me.
I had a nightmare outside the golden arches trying to hold onto Peggy on a ramp whilst repositioning a boy’s scooter. The scooter fell over. The boy came out, silently moved it and silently went inside again.
Free WiFi and terrible calories consumed, I had my new destination in mind – Adam had been given my number by the Warmshowers hosts at Waimate and was more than happy to put me up for the night. This gave me new resolve to make the longer distance even at the crawling pace the wind had reduced me to.
It was great to stay with Adam, he’s a talented craftsman and artist as well as great company. We watched a badly acted film together and he fed me delicious wraps which he’d been taught to make by a previous guest for whom he has a bit of a soft spot.
I didn’t last long and turned in for an early night feeling a bit rude but unable to do much else.
In the morning, a delicious porridge was served and Adam gave me one of his necklaces. I love it and have been wearing it since. Though I am not religious, I think everyone has a right to their own beliefs and feel honoured to be gifted such a cool pendant. It may not have the same meaning to me, but it will always remind me of my trip and of the many acts of generosity. I love it. Thanks again, Adam.


Day 40 – Waimate to Geraldine – 49.8 miles
The general consensus from the NZ cycling community was that I should turn inland and head to the Rakaia Gorge instead of following state highway 1 so I followed their advice.
Today, however, would be flat sh1 alllll the way. The main highlight was talking to the gorgeous pig just before joining the highway… Timaru is actually a really nice looking coastal town and had some bumps to keep me entertained. I got really stuck into Harry Potter under der Orden des Phönix, too.
Just before Geraldine, I snapped a quick shot at the sign for Winchester, the uk home of Emilie’s family (of Emilie’s charities) and that was about it for the day!
I loved Geraldine itself – a really cute little town. The campsite was lovely and I pitched up next to Bart who was 4 days into his tour but had been on a nuber of tours before. I coveted his awesome Polish panniers.
My favourite thing was my meal. The best meal out I’ve had in New Zealand. Incredible. It was so delicious. Oooh I want it again! And I hadn’t really even clicked that it was valentine’s day and I was having a romantic dinner on my toddle. Completely oblivious and just very happy to feel healthy and full of delicious food.

Day 41 – Geraldine to Mount Somers – 34.2 miles
I’m so far behind in writing this but I can remember this day very well. It all began in a hazy cloud, quite literally. Bart and I were cursing the morning mist for making our tents heavy though it soon burnt off to be one of the hottest days of the trip.
I loved this route, quiet and unassumingly pretty with shady spots to rest in. The wind kept me in check and with the very steady climb all day, it was slow but mostly enjoyable progress. I was pleased to find a couple of cafés om the way so I could keep topped up with water.
At Mount Somers, I met a couple of American girls who had been up to the nearby lake and we chatted for a while, mostly about the insane heat.
Finally, I dragged myself away, stopping to soak my hair to cool down a little. I made it about 6km before disaster struck… Well before I noticed it anyway! I was too excited that there was a little downhill section.
My rear tyre had split open, right down the middle. It had worn too thin and I guess the heat off the tarmac just popped it! There was no way I could cycle anywhere in that state, so I decided my best option would be to walk back to Mount Somers, camp and try to hitch a ride in the morning.
It was a long walk and a couple of people stopped to ask if I was okay, which I was, though frustrated. But the balance of luck weighed in my favour and the owner of the campsite could take me to the bike shop in the morning (at 0630!!)


Day 42 – Ashburton to Christchurch – 56.5 miles
Up and at ’em at 0530, with my tent packed and ready to go in time for my ride to Ashburton, I had a lovely ride in with Laurence and thank him so much for his help!
Since the bike shop wouldn’t open for a while, I went and sat at the nearest café and filled myself with protein and unusually, tea.
Unfortunately, the first cycle shop didn’t have any stock of the tyres I needed but helped me out with a ring round and I was soon on my way to Avanti Plus to get Peggy fixed. They were amazing and also just happened to have a closing down sale – a real shame that they’re closing but it was a good help for me! The only tyre they had in the 700×32 size was pathetic but they had a brilliant 35mm for only $30! Such a bargain.
I was on the road by 10 and it turned out to be another scorcher but with wind. I was seeking refuge in the shade of the roadside trees, drinking and eating enough to keep me going into the headwind.
In no time at all it seemed, I was at the Rakaia Bridge – the bridge of death – the longest road bridge in NZ with no pavement, no shoulder and lots of traffic. Actually, I didn’t hate it too much. I turned to Alicia Keys and sang my way along, pedalling hard and hoping the traffic would stay quite light! And then it was over… But there was another one soon after which wasn’t much good for cyclists either. I did see a girl jumping into a ute with her bike and felt good for having conquered it.
I thought I deserved a little break so approached a shady patch provided by a row of trees… Immediately I was attacked by a swarm of sandflies – I thought I’d passed that stage – so I hopped back on Pegster and span for my skin!
Much ice cream and strange power drink later, I was closing in on Christchurch. In the middle of nowhere, I hit the 2000 mile mark and stopped to have a bit of a jump around and a photo – HALF WAY!!!
When I reached the city, I got the help of an older lady on her e-bike to find the cycle path I needed since Garmy kept trying to send me onto the motorway!

Then! Finally! I was in joyous heaven with my friends from London, Nicole and Dirk. They helped me with my silly bike lifting photo and then we ate loads of food and caught up. I’m super excited that they’re going to do the Otago Rail Trail soon – an iconic NZ ride that I’ve missed out on.


REST DAY
I was shattered, the weather was bad and Peggy needed a new cassette so not much was achieved on my rest day but I needed it. I really liked the Tannery area near the bike shop, though the food wasn’t up to scratch at the café – very dry. Somehow, stopping to use the free WiFi, I ended up being invited into a bridal shop… Despite being clean, I felt too nervous to actually touch anything but the owner, Abby, was lovely and we had a good chat. The Bridal Space has got to be on the destination list for Christchurch brides with a decent wedge of cash! If ever I’m browsing for bridal gowns, I think I’ll have to start with white dustbin bags. Yeouch it’s a lot of money for a dress for one day.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the customer service at the bike shop but they did get everything done for a good price and at speed.
Later in the evening, Dirk and Nicole took me out for a drive around the city and I liked the feel of the space, especially the very large, very British park spaces. It was great fun visiting Kmart to get an extra power pack and getting Dirk to try on some of the bargainous t-shirts.
A brilliant time was had and I hope to see you crazy kids some time soon! Canada?

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