Waking to freshly powdered mountain tops surrounding Queenstown I was eager to get out and explore. First things first, laundry, restocking inventory etc. I met a couple of other bike tourers from Germany finishing up breakfast. They had spent a rest day here yesterday but were hitting the road once again. Chores done, me, Eal and our hostel roomie, Adrian from Adelaide decided to hike up Ben Lomond lookout. We quizzed Adrian with Australia questions during the steep 1 hour hike as adrenalin fuelled mountain bikers rattled fearlessly downhill past us. The view of QT and The Remarkables mountain range was stunning. Grey clouds began to sprinkle us with light snow, just after I had been exclaiming how my upcoming birthday would be the first spent in warm climes. These mountains don’t respect my seasons, but I forgive them as they are majestic as they are immovable.
Eal finally had a shave, the first since Boston I think, but left the ‘tash for the night out we were going to have with a bunch of people we friended over pool in the hostel. Entering a bar/club packed to the rafters with music blaring felt very alien, I wasn’t digging the people or their elbow bashing. I’m not anti-social, far from, it was just a situation that I didn’t feel comfortable in somehow. Spending so long out on the road seemed to make the whole situation all the harder to engage with. Me and eal had two drinks before retiring to a quieter place in search of gown, slipper and pipes. A place we had agreed to visit as our old technical directors brother was the bar manager. He treat us to a free nightcap, fun conversation and the first half of the Man Utd – Arsenal game, lunchtime KOs are midnight in NZ.
The second Queenstown rest day, Eal wasn’t feeling to great, possibly coming down with man-flu, so I wandered the town and lake generally feeling a little aimless. With the trip drawing to a close there is so much to organize and prepare for the Australia chapter that I was slightly overwhelmed by it all. Wanting to do everything but failing to do anything I just stared at the mountains and watched the ducks whilst thinking about jobs, locations, accommodation, bank accounts, visas. Today was the first day I shifted from thinking about upcoming riding to accepting it was coming to an end with the reality of pressure I’d submerged myself in, by leaving my comfortable UK life, weighed heavy on my mind. Pick-me-up and or hug needed. Knowing that I have people wishing positive thoughts for me around the world always helps me believe in myself.
Leaving QT we had some backtracking the same way we had came into town before diverting east towards Alexandra. Eal was still feeling pretty lousy with slight fever and general fatigue. We made hard work of a relatively short flat days ride but thankfully had delightful warmshowers hosts waiting at the end of the day for us. Our first in NZ and their first guests of what becomes a busy season with their house situated bang on the central Otago rail trail.
There would be steep climbing to follow that morning, with short, sharp hills reminiscent of riding in the Pennines, tough work. I knew immediately Eal had now gone from feeling under the weather to being down right sick. After the first flurry of climbs I paused to wait for him, he was really struggling and in need of a bed, sleep and lemsip. Unfortunately we didn’t have many options other than Lawrence. The mileage wasn’t too bad but at current speed would take considerable time. He simply had no energy and had to ride in low chain-rings throughout.
Given Eal’s sickness, sleeping bag thermal range and the cold night forecast, camping was off the cards. I scored a small cabin room which is offered at almost every NZ campground. Basic but warm, with beds. Eal pretty much collapsed and tucked himself in the sheets. I rode out to find us food, fish and chips! The smell alone picked Eals spirits up and he managed to eat a fair bit before going to sleep. It was still early, around 8pm but I rolled over and went to sleep myself, exhausted. Both having accepted we are ready to be over with riding and living out of panniers, 6 months is a long time to be without the consistency of house keys, familiar walls, regular showers and a reliably stocked fridge. As with all aspects of bicycle touring, its easily as much mentally demanding as it is physical, which cannot be underestimated.
A glorious spring morning reminded me to cherish this last week in New Zealand. I flew out of the traps to the first town half way through the ride. I sat out an ate food picked up from the market waiting for Eal who was still taking it easy. By the time he caught up he had taken a turn for the worse, throwing up by the roadside and in no fit state to pedal another stroke. We had to get to Dunedin today, it was only another 20 miles but there was little to no public transport. At the information centre the old volunteer lady, Nancy called the only operating bus company that passes through. The one and only service for the day had just passed through but they agreed to turn around and pick us up! I sprinted down to the park bench Eal was resting by to tell him and get to the stop ready. We arrived in Dunedin, located the hostel we had booked and tucked Eal up straight in bed with some medication.
Eal felt better the following day, albeit still pretty weak having not eaten properly for several days. I went for a ride out to the peninsula in hope of seeing a yellow-eyed penguin that our Alexandra warmshowers host informed us about. It was tough riding even with the unloaded bike, followed by a long hike across the sand, sidestepping sleeping sea lions (worth the sweat alone) to reach the wooden hideout situated by nesting areas. Having been warned to be patient I waited for around an hour as I began to lose hope of seeing a penguin.
Finally a little pingu slid ashore to my delight and waddled its way towards the rocks, hopping 2 feet at a time between gaps, very agile! So happy with the experience I had a smile wider than Stockton high street for the rest of the evening. Special little pengbird, thanks. Dunedin is a very scottish town, bagpipes can be heard all round the city. NZ’s architectural captial, it felt very much like a typical British city. This would be the final rest time until we finish for good in Christchurch on my birthday in a few days time!