Saturday, 9 February 2013

Arrival in the South Island, NZ

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In the Beginning Was Vic

 On the morning of the 3rd of February 1993 I rose at 6.30am in an attempt to catch the 8am inter--island ferry from Wellington to Picton. All the panniers had been packed the night before, but this was the first time out on a fully loaded bike. The descent to Wellington City was precarious, and I got lost wandering about the dock-side area. I feared missing the boat but made it just in time. It looked as if I was the last cyclist on board, as a pile of bikes were already stashed and roped on the car-deck. Feeling rather dapper in my cycling clothes, but knowing I was probably seriously out of shape I wandered onto the decks and watched the city disappear as we pulled out of the bay and followed the coast around the Wellington hillside suburbs. I thought I recognised Island Bay, which is where I'd been staying with Jo. The weather was perfect for the crossing; clear blue skies and a calm sea. This made a change as my previous ten days in Wellington had been accompanied by some indifferent and changeable weather, and the Cook Straits are notorious for rough passage.


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The crossing takes three hours, so after watching the North Island disappear from view I went downstairs for a huge breakfast, and a wander around the decks and gangways. When the ship entered the sounds of the South Island I ventured back on deck to marvel at the greenery and the rugged coastline. Not much sign of civilisation until we turned a dog-leg into Picton Harbour. After a brief chat with the other cyclists milling around on the car-deck, especially three blokes of about sixty, I rode straight off into the country.

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The road was gently undulating, the weather was warm, and I had a pretty good idea of how far I was riding. It was still relatively early, with all day to do the riding. At my first stop I took a photograph of my pristine bike, before waving at the old-timers as they passed me. I wasn't to see them again. When I reached my intended destination for the day I decided that I still had time to travel a little further. One stiff climb, a double decker bridge, shared by the railway and fifteen miles later brought me to Ward at about 4.40pm. As I checked in I noticed only one other camper. He also had exactly the same bicycle as me, a '93 Cannondale T700. This was such a coincidence that we chatted, and went for dinner at a fish and chip cafe in the village. His name was Vic, originally from Lancashire, recently of Nelson NZ, but now living in Brisbane, Australia. We were to ride together for the next five days.

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