Tour de South Island

March 4, 2011

It’s been a week now since I arrived home from my tour of the central north of the South Island.

The trip was fantastic, and the hardest thing I have ever done. I covered 450km in 6 days of riding on my trusty Team Miyata with little more than a backpack. Part challenge, part adventure, part holiday - this trip has taught me a lot about myself in just 12 days.

I met some wonderful people in the places I visited, particularly in and around the several backpackers I stayed at. Without fail each person I met would tell me I was crazy after they realised that I was riding  a track bike and that this meant one gear, no freewheel and no brakes.

Many doubted my ability to complete my trip, some going as far as to say jovially that I was going to kill myself. Thrown into their mix of advice and commentary was also a hearty amount of “good on ya, bro!” sentiment.

Beyond their initial disbelief, many seemed genuinely amazed that someone would do what I was doing, or that anybody would actually come up with such an idea to start with. Hearing all these different things, coupled with the actuality of the challenge I faced, meant I went through the gamut of emotions, from fear, terror and anxiety, to triumph, happiness and fulfillment. All this in little under two weeks.

But on to the riding itself, it was bloody hard, my entire body felt the pains of riding on average 75km each day with a 12kg pack. Some hills were impossibly steep to climb, or descend for that matter. This meant I found myself walking many stretches at a time. This was the case through the steepest sections of Arthur’s Pass and Lewis Pass which meant solid hours of walking to reach ridable hills.

But the pain and sweat was worth it when I reached my planned destinations each day. A strong sense of achievement mixed with a healthy dose of sheer exhaustion. I live in a  beautiful country which feels very untouched when you get out of the main centres, if you can ignore the fact you’re travelling along a winding man-made snake that is our state highways.

Once at altitude I drank water from streams and waterfalls flowing alongside the road. The best water I’ve ever tasted; crisp and refreshingly cool.

Being out in it with nothing but your own will and muscles to carry you along to your destination is an awesome feeling. It’s why I love bicycles and track bikes in particular. It’s just you and the bike in its purest form. There’s simply no better way to see the world in my mind. I’ve lived in Auckland for 10 years now and it’s taken that long to visit the South Island. I like what I see and I’d love to go back and see more of it in the near future.

There’s no point in telling people where they should and shouldn’t go because everyone’s tastes are different, but Arthur’s Pass and the route through to Greymouth and the West Coast narrowly comes in as my favourite area on this trip. I have hundreds of photos to go through. I’ll be posting some up soon which will describe what I saw better than any of my words can.

For the observant wondering how this route doesn’t add up to more than 450km, you’re spot on. The total round trip was 600km but for two stretches I relied on diesel power to get me where I needed to go. I caught the TranzAlpine from Springfield to Arthur’s Pass and a bus from Reefton to Maruia Junction. This meant I had the better part of the whole day to spend in the surroundings of Arthur’s Pass and Maruia. All other legs relied on my own two legs, and a dose of craziness, as they say.

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2 Responses to “Tour de South Island”

  1. […] more here: Tour de South Island « But that's the thing Share and […]

  2. […] is my friend Roei. I met him during my South Island ride. He’s near the end of a 64,000km round-the-world […]

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