My recent New Zealand trip was a great experience as you can imagine.
My aim was to get fit mentally and physically. I had put on a lot of weight, despite some serious Smokkelaars rides, and up under the grey curly hairs and thick Austral-Dutch skull, things weren't running as they should be. Traditionally I like to embark on extensive hikes, or in the past few years, rides. Equally between hiking and cycling it seems I need 2 weeks to get fit, after which I start to enjoy my mad escapism and get extremely motivated when noticing how my spare tubes are deflating, how the speedo has better averages, how the sketchbook gets filled. How I drop basically every stress or issues. Just riding.
There is no truth in cycling though. One rides 2027 k's over Peter Jackson country and one would think that coming back in SA, one would ride the pebbles out of the asphalt. No way. Sure I notice a big fitness improvement, I am quicker. But it still hurts and will do so as long as I take the Roubaix or Stumpjumper out on whatever road or track. Fair to say, it will even hurt when I have windforce 35 blowing from behind. Elephant legs don't quite go in this undulating and un-accomodating terrain. I probably should be Belgian. A Flandrien. Johan Museeuw stuff. Wind, long flat roads, dieseling to a high cadence. What the Belgians so beautifully call 'a hard-rider'. Not much brain, just hard stumping on the cobbles and letting your team mate take the kisses on the cheek and the flowers. There is supreme glory in being a domestique on those flat roads under the Dutch and Belgian dikes. Someone's gotta do it. The South Island has surprising long flat roads too. So I felt quite at home. Sometimes.
Its a tough deal for me to reconcile with the fact that I am not 25 anymore. I still have to learn a lot.
The pain on the trip focused around my behind, where the glands started to get irate and needed to make their presence felt. I describe this in the best way when I am reminded of my great Dutch grandmother on my mothers side who used to knit. Tonia, as her name is, was sweeter to her grandchildren than Mike Rann to Lance Armstrong. She was a cool lady. But while riding the long roads of South Island, I could feel one of her knitting pens being stuck in my bottom. Repeatedly, about every 20 minutes or so. Lord of the rings indeed.
Enough pain stuff.
It was a great ride. I left Christchurch on 21-12 and rode down the east coast via Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin (beautiful city) Balclutha to the Catlins, a stunning southwestern area. There I got caught in severe headwind for a few days which slowed the hourly average from say 19k down to 7/8k/hour. Frustrating as one rides his heart out but does not gain much mileage. I arrived in 'The Fastest Indian Town' Invercargill. Saw the movie twice in the backpackers, the 1926 Indian on display at a local hardware store, the film props in the museum, next to the toatura's. As happens.
I stayed in that city for four days as the spells, bali belly, catlin kennel cough, dutch darkness, floored me. I managed to get the bike into a shop and had a few things fixed, then was forced to bed for 4 days. Annie Proulx made excellent reading.
In the third week I pedaled out of Invercargill and finally found my feet. Every inch from then on was magic. Spectacular scenery, the amazing feeling of 'getting in shape', peace with myself, simple, simple, simple life. How good is that! Up at 6, ride at 7 through at that time pristine, foggy valleys, amazing mountains all round. Stopping to give the old behind and the hands a break, looking in amazement. Riding on, stopping somewhere else. Other tourists querying about the bob trailer. Good social anchor that one, as is he sketchbook. Met some pretty amazing other cyclists. Kiwi's, Germans, Dutch, Chilean. Good stories, there's too much to write.
Southland, the west coast was dry and good. Sandflies kept me awake as I scratched the veins open in my sleeping bag. No drama on the road although I never felt quite safe. Rode the west coast up to Greymouth and crossed the Lewis pass back to Christchurch. In the end I clocked the 2000k, 27 k before Christchurch and I was very satisfied. Coming back in the warm weather and the Tour Down Under extravaganza was a superb tonic. I had a great time here too.
Here are some selected photo's. I rode every day in the Smokkelaars jersey and while it was a bit embarrassing in the first weeks when my gut hung over the new mountain bike shorts I'd bought in Blackwood, that as said, started to decline. I am not there yet where I want to be but I have given it a great start.