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Thursday, 7 October 2010

The morning after the 3 days before…

We have covered a massive amount of distance over the last few days. 120kms: 42km on day 1 (Whangerei – Whananaki), 56km on day 2 (Whananaki – Kawakawa) and 20 on day 3 (Kawakawa to Russel).

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Ask me which of these was the hardest and I would reply that day 3 hurt the most. Steep climb after steep climb on tired limbs smashed through the walls of my positive attitude and began to tear into the ragged cells of my inner motivation. I began to feel like I had made a big mistake. The reality of the task still ahead loomed so very large, even the bike began to creak beneath my weight, almost as if it sensed my apprehension and decided to start giving up its own ghost. Time and again I had to get off, wipe the filth that was caked to my skin with an already drenched t-shirt and drink a small quantity of my precious water, making sure that I saved enough to last the rest of the journey. By the time we were cycling into Russell, the gateway to the bay of islands, I felt like I had lost around 2 stone in weight and an even greater portion of my motivation. I have to tell you; I wanted to go home.

Having booked to stay a couple of nights here at the ‘Top 10 Holiday Resort’ we began to pitch the tent. At one point it became too much for Mel, who I could see was struggling with aching knees and sore fingers, she made here way off to be alone for a few minutes, the thought of another guy rope clearly tipping the balance as the battle to set up our house for the night continued. Somehow, half an hour later, showered and changed, we were ready to head off into the township and find something to eat. The pain in our bones stayed with us, but after wholesome seafood chowder on by the harbour side, it all didn’t hurt quite so much.

It is 10:20am the following day. 20 hours since we arrived here and things are a little better. We ate quite a lot of cookies and a large chilli last night before having an early night. This morning, Mel has chosen to stay in bed, she is reading a new novel she found in the bookshop in the communal kitchen and I am sitting under a tree, sheltering from the strong sunshine on one of the park’s wooden tables. There is a bird in the tree above me making the strangest noises. It's called a Tui, it is black and it has a white sack hanging from its throat, as do all of its friends who are sat around in other trees, not because I see them, but I can hear them.

I am no longer feeling like we have made a mistake, that was a symptom of massive fatigue rather than a true reflection of how things really are. I am considering buying a car though, or maybe a campervan. Mel and I keep looking at the vans we see pass us on the roads and our immediate thought is always how nice it would be to be touring in one of those. The bed could stay made; it wouldn’t leak like our tent does in the rain etc. Then, after consideration we decide that we have made the right decision and that cycling is the most gratifying way to observe the country, it’s just tough going at times. You learn much more about yourself by travelling this way and you see more of the subtle parts of the landscape that you would otherwise be oblivious to with your engine running and radio blasting.

When I was at school I always felt sorry for the kids who never bothered to break away from the status quo. I’m talking about when I became a teenager, maybe 14 onwards. Most people would have their own group of mates and their own fixed perspective of what was cool and what was uncool; anybody who attempted to do things differently was mocked and bullied accordingly. Some of the adults I have met are still this way (mentioning no names as we all know the type). Teachers always bore the brunt of this animosity. During this period I had a teacher who was decidedly orange in every way. His hair, skin and teeth were different shades of ‘Tango’ and as a consequence much of the class decided that he was an object to be abused and ridiculed. He was different, it didn’t matter that he had a great knowledge of Physics and could teach it very well, he had dared to not look and sound as we all did and he wore shirts that may have been cut from fabric which may at one time have been hospital curtains.

I wouldn’t say that I was never in the centre of this teacher abuse, or other student abuse for that matter, but I was never actually afraid to accept something or someone a little different, to meet new people and visit new places. It is this willingness to allow new discoveries into my life that has brought me to New Zealand to cycle round the islands. Mel and I are the same in that regard, which is lucky I suppose. For us, it beats the stress and strain that mundane Monday always brings to the office worker who goes to Majorca every year in the same month, with the same people, to drink and eat at the same places, that’s for certain.

We started telling each other 3 interesting things we have seen each trip – it’s amazing how we both see and experience different things. The last 3 day’s interesting things included:

• Many dead Possums and 2 separate dead cats on the verge
• A vehicle ferry trip from Opua to Okiato where we were counted as vehicles with our bikes and trailer
• A stoat running up to the road, seeing Mel and belting away again at full speed
• The colour of the earth – so red it was almost like the Australia red centre
• A dog riding on the back of a motorbike
• Mel being chased by 2 terriers
• Mel being followed by a group of cows in a field
• A field full of bemused llamas
• A dead tree that was a beautiful silver colour in the sun
• The beautiful colonial architecture when we arrived in Russel
• The $8 amazing meal deal we had in a hotel we stayed in at Kawakawa
• The architectural wonder that is the Huterwasser toilets in Kawakawa – being photographed by several different tour buses full of people!

There are naturally things that I miss, like family, having our own bathroom, Norwich City FC, brewing my own beer, my students, Glastonbury Festival and other stuff, but it will all be there when we get our own home again. Pain or no pain; I wouldn’t swap this adventure for anything. Bring on tomorrow!!

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