Finding your Way: New Zealand Part 3
Cycling the roads of New Zealand is unlike cycling the more famous, talked-about roads of Europe. Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, to name a few, are rich in cycling history and tradition; pedaling the fabled cobbles of Belgium or the high Alpine passes of France are some of the most memorable cycling experiences of our lives --collectively and individually.
New Zealand, on the other hand, offers distinctly different but equally enriching cycling experiences. Cobblestone farm roads are 'replaced' by corrugated, dirt roads. Steep climbs from sea level to 3000' feet take the place of glorious switch-back climbs; flat roads here are almost as rare as a beloved tailwind. So when you do find a flat road you are sure to have a blistering headwind.
There are no medieval cathedrals or castles to fill the back drops here, but the raw beauty of the landscape, with its steep mountains, deep valleys and rolling plains, paint its own amazing picture -- kilometer after kilometer.
Cycling enthusiasts, who give you a friendly honk or cheer -- perhaps an encouraging allez-- from their cars in Europe may not be a part of this country's cycling tradition. Not even the Tour Down Under is shown on late-night television here. Yet, we as cyclist, those of us who love the sport, and ride for the love it, will find a different and rewarding cycling experience here. The South Island of New Zealand is filled with rugged mountains, deep valleys, endless coast lines, secluded beaches, protected fiordlands, glacial lakes and so much more. It's the sights and sounds that make riding some of the remote roads so rewarding.
The massive waterfalls that can be found all over the island are defining, due to their size and grandeur; the local insects hum so load in the lush forests that one cannot hold an audible conversation riding 2 abreast (which btw is so dangerous here we never do it). The ocean waves crash so hard against certain stretches of rocky coastline that one feels like he/she is riding right along the coast when in fact he/she is much inland. The sudden and so familiar rains swell the already-swollen rivers and gorges that for millions of years have carved the earth away and leave in their wake some of the most beautiful and enticing swimming holes. Ah, the blue pools of New Zealand.
Getting to these swimming holes is another challenge all together as they are extremely well protected. Just as ancient Roman soldiers fiercely guarded their city from invading forces, New Zealand's sandflys present a formidable defense to accessing the swimming holes, streams, lakes and beaches. A picture tells a thousand words or in Chris' case, a thousand sand fly bites!
Riding through the south island of New Zealand, whether touring with loaded panniers or doing a long, unweighted dirt excursion, is as much about seeing the world's most beautiful sights as it is about finding your way -- literally and figuratively. It is on the bike that we saw so much of this place. It is on the bike that we met new friends and learned things about ourselves, each other and about life in general. And it is from the bike that we will see so much more in the future.
Define Your Journey