Thursday, February 20, 2014

Memorable Moments: When it Rains it Pours

My company for 120km in the rain
Every now and again I have some really memorable moments that make certain days stand out more than others.  Recently however, I’ve had a lot of them so when I say “when it rains, it ours”, I mean that in the literary sense rather than literally, but actually one of my most memorable days recently was a 120 kilometer day in the pouring rain.  Okay, maybe it was only 118 kilometers because when I set out it was dry, but 2 kilometers down the road it started to drizzle.  The drizzle turned to light rain, then showers, then dissipated. At which time I sang “Mr. Golden Sun” trying to work my magic on New Zealand’s storms, which unfortunately have a mind of their own - completely oblivious to the positive talking and singing.

It spit down the entire day and never let up, but you know, I have to say 120 kilometers in the rain wasn’t that bad.  First of all, it wasn’t cold.  Not like the day I cycled for 60 kilometers in the downpour in Bosnia and couldn’t feel my fingers because the temperatures were down around 4 or 5C. On this day, I did the whole stretch before lunch in a short sleeve wool shirt and a wind vest and shorts.  Why didn’t I wear rain gear?  The more gear you wear in the rain the more you have to dry out at the end of the day! 

They set off optimistically as well!  Rain??? NO!!!

The previous night I had also met Oliver, his father, and Coen, his friend and business partner at my campsite.  They were really nice young men, who had gotten an earlier start to the morning.  I kept motivated that day hoping that I would find them along the way.  I knew my services were limited, in fact in 120 kilometers, I was told there was only one restaurant at a salmon farm.  My GPS was inside my handle bar bag, so I had no idea how far I had gone or the time, but eventually I came across the restaurant.  I didn’t see their bikes from a distance and I admired their toughness for continuing to pedal. Even though I had food for a picnic, I decided to stop and treat myself to a meal.  I parked my bike in the car park and walked down the covered walkway dripping as I went.  To I my surprise, I found their bikes parked under the covering.  We all had the same idea…take cover, have a quick break, and keep pedaling to Fox Glacier, the next town with services along the road.  I luckily had a host waiting for me, the Thomson Bike Tour mechanic I had met previously by Mt. Cook.  They were set on getting a cabin or hostel for the night rather than camping in the rain.  Oliver, Coen, and I rode together for the next 60 kilometers.  It wasn’t as if we could talk a lot riding as a group of three.  There was poor visibility in the rain and we had to go single file.  However, it was nice to be in their company and I put myself behind their wheel and let them do the harder work! 

I never usually go 60 or 70 kilometers without eating and when we arrived in Fox, I was famished!  I couldn’t even make it to the picnic table on the porch at the information booth.  I collapsed on the steps and eat anything and everything I had in my panniers in order to be able to think straight again.  And wouldn’t you know it had stopped raining when we arrived?  We took a few photos, said our good-byes, and hoped we would see each other the following day on the road as they were all headed north!  I went to find my host, and was well looked after for the night.  I was in the company of a bunch of Glacier guides who gave me all sorts of camping tips and how to pack light for trips. I am determined to get the weight down on my bike, I am struggling with the added gear I shipped to New Zealand from SE Asia.  I’m used to it now, but an extra 10 kilos makes me so much hungrier throughout the day, or at least I think that is what is contributing to the ferocious appetite I’ve developed.

February 18, 2014- 15,000 kilometers on The Loong Way Home

Click here to see a short video clip of my celebration/Cliqeu aqui per a veure un petit video de la meva celebració

The day before the rainstorm was also quite memorable, not only because it was sunny, but because I hit a landmark distance of 15,000 kilometers on the road.  This happened just shy of being on the road for 6 months on my way over the Haast Pass crossing over to the West Coast of New Zealand. I was in the middle of nowhere and so I took advantage to make a fool of myself and do a little dance and celebration on the road.  I can’t believe I have made it 15,000 kilometers in under 6 months, and have another 8 months to go.  If you do the math, that means 30,000 kilometers might be an underestimation of my total route.  I might have to cycle past Eugene, then come back north to still arrive punctually on my birthday in October!  I have a great route planned for the west coast of the United States and Canada and I’ve added every detour imaginable, and it still only comes to about 10,000 kilometers.

Kara Froese, Canadian, 21 years old, clcying New Zealand solo for 3 months

On the same day I hit 15,000 kilometers, the longawaited day to meet another solo female cyclist came!   I had just told the students at a local school in Queenstown, New Zealand that I was hoping to find another solo female tour cyclist on the road, and two days later in happened.  I saw a lookout ahead and another cyclist pulled over.  They had all yellow bags like myself, the same set-up with three on the back and two in the front.  As I got closer, I could see it looked like a young lady.  In shock, I foolishly asked, “Are you a lady?  A solo female cyclist?”  She said yes in a similar tone I have when I answer the questions, “Are you traveling alone?”  Of course I can tell the difference between a man and a woman but I was so surprised to see a lady on her own.  I had been waiting my entire cycling lifetime to encounter her and here she was!!! A Canadian, Kara Froese, who I thought was more or less my age.  Later on, I found out she was 13 years younger! I couldn’t believe it! A 21 year-old solo female cyclist.  What an inspiration! If only I had discovered this passion earlier.  She was on her first tour ever, spending 3 months riding around both of New Zealand’s islands.  She had more time and more manageable daily distances than me and had done crazy things like sky diving.  She didn’t have funny stories to tell about the men she’d encountered, but rather with wild animals like opossums that had attacked in the middle of the night; they frighten me more than the men!

Go ladies!!!!

We cycled together to the next campsite where I left her off and kept going.  It was a tough stretch of road that we did together with a brutal headwind, but for some reason, it was more manageable in good company.  We rode single file, but of course managed to find a way to talk the entire time to share our experiences and laugh a lot.  It was great to share tips and stories with another lady.  There are certain things you just can’t talk about with guys in the world of cycling and women need each other for a bit of moral support.  I was so excited to have met Kara, I left her feeling inspired and know that is the reason I could make the difficult climb over Haast pass later that afternoon.  Ironically, 2 days later I met another woman on the road, solo.  This time a French lady double my age on a recumbent bicycle, Diana.  It gave me goose bumps when I met her.  When I grow up, I hope I’m like her and still cycling. Like I said, when it rains it pours!

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