I think the flight from San Francisco to Auckland the first and possibly the last time I actually enjoyed being on a airplane for 13hrs. The flight was only half full so I got a row of seats to myself and as we left at 11pm after eating some food I was ready to sleep and that's about all I did for 10hrs straight. Perfect! I only woke towards the end of the flight to eat some more food and watch a documentary about Mark Cavendish on the on-flight tv. If only all flight were that good.
I arrived at Auckland airport at 8am Tuesday morning. But having left the USA on Sunday at 11pm it was a bit confusing to have completely missed Monday because of crossing the international time line.
With my bike built I was ready to take on New Zealand again, having cycled here in 2010. Of course the sensible thing to do would be to go the direct main road route down to the south island, but that is not the way I was heading. There we're a few parts of the north island that I had not visited last time and was keen to see them. One of these places was the Coramandel peninsula. I was expecting it to be a slightly hillier detour but I was not expecting quite so much climbing! The constant climbing and descending mountains soon took its toll on my already diminishing energy levels. However I was glad that I took the detour as it was some truly amazing riding through the costal villages and up the mountains.
From the Coramandel I then began to head a direct route south through the geo-thermal lands around Rotoura and Taupo with the aim of doing approx 450 mile to a town where I would be able to go to Pure Sports bike shop where I would be able to give my rear hub gears a much overdue oil change. The service manual recommends changing it every 5000km, I had just done 10500km, but it Seemed to running fine though. When I phoned Chris from Pure Sports to arrange calling into his shop he was then driving a van full of his shops stock to a new location in Taupo, the town that I was only a couple of hours away from. So after having a search around in his van he found the oil change kit and arranged to meet me in McDonald's car park later that evening. This was a real bit of luck and very kind of him to go out of his way to help me.
After Taupo I continued on my way towards Wellington and from here I would catch the ferry across to the south island. The evening before i the day I hoped to get the ferry I had not got as close to Wellington as I had hoped. With only 3 ferries all day I was keen to catch the first one of the day so that I could get a decent way down the south island in the afternoon and not wast the day. To achieve this it meant getting up at 3:30am to do the remaining 60km to the port. It was a quick ride down the highway that soon turned into a motorway where cyclists are not normally allowed, but after trying to use the winding and bumpy bike paths in the dark I soon got lost and resorted back to the motorway and peddled faster.. What sign? I didn't see a sigh saying no cyclist!! With it being early morning I only saw a dozen cars, so it was a very pleasant and safe morning ride. I arrived in good time and was ready for breakfast and several cups of coffee. After a nice 3hr rest on the ferry I was ready to continue the day down the south island towards Dunedin where I was scheduled to fly from to Australia. I was also heading towards the race leader Mike Hall who had just landed in new Zealand and was steaming up the south island towards me. After checking the race website over the next couple of days I kept an eye on his trackers progress and we were soon very close to meeting. As I rode around the corner I saw him coming towards me and we both put our arms in the air in a to salute each others arrival. Mike had just passed a small town where he had eyed up a nice cafe. Despite his efforts of riding 400 miles in the last 30 hours he was happy to back track a couple of miles to the cafe where we enjoyed a extended lunch break, mixed in with a bit of bike maintenance and in a true sporting fashion I even changed his tyre for him! So when he smashes the world record it's not because of his great efforts to ride about 200 miles per day! Its the time I saved him that got the record! I think the Tour de France riders should take cafe break mid race. It's a very sociable thing to do. It's not every day you each ride in opposite directions around the world to meet for a cup of coffee! After parting ways with Mike I continued south as he continued north towards Auckland.
I had rode most of the route down the south island before so it was nice to be on some familiar roads and re-visiting some great places. One section of road that I remembered really enjoying last time and it didn't fail to impress again. As the road twisted and turned along the coast there was the pacific ocean to my left and in the distance to the the right were high snow capped mountain peaks. It was early evening and the sun was begin to set creating a amazing sunset and I was then riding past the vast seal colonies that were on the rocks to my left. There hundreds of them! So that was a great distraction watching them as I cycled although perhaps a bit smelly!!
Due to slightly poor planning when booking my flight from new Zealand I booked a much later date than was really needed and I was due to arrive in Dunedin 3 days early. Unfortunately changing the date of the flight was not an option. So I decided to ride past Dunedin and carry on down to Invercargill at the very southern tip of the south island. This gave me a extra 200 miles and this was a part of new Zealand I had not visited before. Once arriving in Invercargill I then had a day to do a quick service and box up my bike before catching a bus back to Dunedin to catch original flight.
It was great to be back in New Zealand as it is such an amazing country and one that I would love to return to again in the future. Also due to the popularity of backpacking there, it was possible to stay in a hostel most evenings so this was a nice break from the tent and also I met allot of great people and spent many evenings chatting with great company. However for some reason i struggled with the cycling here. I'm not to sure why but I think it was because mentally I thought it would be a easy ride, as it was last time I was here. But then I was doing half the distance each day and stopping to take in all the sights and sample all of the beers. So passing these sights and drinking holes was often a bit demoralising. Also I think that because of my late booked flight I knew I had allot of time to get down to Dunedin so never really needed to pushed myself and therefore went allot slower than needed. But hey ho! I suppose the easier pace may have been a good thing to let my body slightly recover.