A different country, even more lambs, I was in heaven. Their cute little tails wagging as they pummelled their poor mothers dry of milk, I couldn’t help but be distracted by them as we climbed what NZ was famous for, hills! It seems that over here we are either going up or down, it is only on the beach that the riding is flat. It is as if someone got a piece of paper and crumpled it, no skerrick of land left untouched, by hills or by sandflies! On that note, I wish to proclaim sandflies as the most hideous creature known to man, biting any section of skin left unclothed and demanding at any time of the day or night to be scratched as they produce the most insatiable itch on earth. These tiny bastards will rob you of hours of sleep without even being in your tent. If you thought mosquito’s were bad, think again!
Fresh out of Auckland, and well and truly sick of winter, we headed north, to what was proclaimed as ‘the winterless north’ and ‘sub-tropical NZ’, I sit writing this blog inside a backpackers as it pours down outside and we contemplate having ice-cream and chips for dinner from the reception instead of walking back to the tent to get the food pannier. Thankfully in our new country’s favour this is only the third day of poor weather in three weeks, so the statistics are looking significantly better than Australia already!
Rain before our arrival had turned the farm land green and lush, everything was thriving, except my legs. Has anyone seen my hill climbing legs? I think I left them at home…
It has taken me three weeks to find them, up several steep coastal hills, mountain passes and lengths of soft sand, but I’ve found them now and they are stronger than ever, until I have a day off, then they’re useless again.
I will never tire of seeing islands off the coast or long rolling hills, mountain tops, quaint country towns or the endless sea as I reach the top of a country, where I ultimately end up peering out across the expanse in attempt to see my own island home.
Our plan for this little country was to cycle to the top of the North Island and then follow the Tour Aotearoa route to the very bottom of the South Island before making our way back to Auckland via a different route. We have now made it to Cape Reinga, having already experienced some stunning scenery, and will now begin the trek south. It was to begin with 80km’s of beach, our longest stretch yet. We would enter the beach via a stream that ran alongside the biggest sand dunes in NZ. Our first day was a blast, the sand was hard, the wind was at our backs and we encountered several baby seals. The first came up rather unexpectedly, and once spotted we both came to a screaming holt, no more than 60cm long, a juvenile for sure, high up the beach and with a look of sheer exhaustion. Despite his pleas to be left alone we were certain we were doing the right thing, screw evolution this guy was cute and we had to save him! It turned out to be the funniest thing that we have witnessed on the road, the seal would get up waddle three steps and try to catapult himself into the sea, which at this point was still sand, after realising his fate he would let out a big sigh and refuse, like a stubborn child, to go any further. We continued this three step, flop, process for 30 minutes, until our little guy reached the waves. Our concern grew when the first wave swept over him and he did nothing, I attempted to give him a helping hand only to be shown his teeth, but as a few more waves crashed in he was able to propel himself forward and then proceeded to roll and tumble with delight, flippers raised in what we believed was thanks. I screamed with joy like a proud parent, full of triumph and elation to have saved a life.