Saturday, January 24, 2009

1/22/2009 - The Bike Community in New Zealand is Small

Bit of a continuance from last night - literally as I was sending the blog entry for yesterday (sitting outside the office to get the fresh, fat internet waves), who should walk around the corner but Kris and Erik, the tandem bicyclists I had hit it off with in Auckland (and have a web site at They, too are staying here at the campground. They have just finished biking around the peninsula (I cheated and biked directly across). They, like me, have enjoyed Gisborne, and are staying another day at this campground, living it up in one of the cabins (a very cheap alternative to a hotel where you rent out a small room with just a bed, but still use the communal bathrooms, kitchen, etc).

It doesn't take long to suggest picking up some wine. It's dark by this point, but the three of us end up walking about a mile to the New World grocery store and I pick up a true Gisborne wine. Back to the beach and settle in at one of the tables to enjoy the good company, crashing waves, and occasional sounds of revving exhaust notes from the large number of modified cars in this country.

IMGP1393.JPGThis is before the wine, but just couldn't resist the strap-on fishing pole - a fine and, I'm sure, manly addition to any angler's equipment.

IMGP1394.JPGFrom left to right: Kris, Erik, and myself. We are wine connoisseurs - I chose a Gisborne chardonney that reflects its woody tones of blackberry and tobacco against the contemporary background taste of the plastic wine glasses to result in an effervescent mingling of flavors reminiscent of a '66 Chateau Pormangiea. We clear our palates with an '09 Cadbury Crunchie bar.

Sadly, none of us have the tolerance we once did, and one bottle is quite enough. Around 11PM, we head back to the campground under the scattering of bright stars.

I really have to show off their bike, though. Truly a miracle of modern engineering, it is a custom job to combine Erik's 6'10" frame and Kris's 5'0" frame into one compact torpedo of a bike that has taken them already through South America (and completely invalidated my whining about going up a 2,400 foot gorge - they have had several days in a row in Chile where they put out 6,000 vertical feet).

IMGP1395.JPGThis bike does not have an official name, but I think "The Torpedo" would be good. I am officially suggesting this. Gertrude would also be good.

Off to bed after good-byes - I expect to see them again on the south island, quite looking forward to it.

Off to bed, and up again at 6AM. I pack up and make it to the bus station around 7:30. The trick here is to make my bike look as small as possible as the busses here really don't carry bikes. I pop the front wheel off, remove the seat, bungie it all together, and add some cardboard over the greasy areas. A really nice guy from the bus office offers me tape, and the cardboard is collected from a gold mine of boxes in the dumpster. Classy!

Another bicyclist is trying to get on the same bus. Her name is Kat - she is a Brit who has about a month to spend in New Zealand for vacation and is planning further travels to Australia. She has already biked across the United States. She has a grand total of two panniers of gear, and that's it. Admittedly, she does not tent camp (does the hostel thing), but still. . .

I also realize that she had met Kris and Erik. They had mentioned that they had met another bicyclist who was going 90-100 miles per day. Bravo, Kat.

Alas, did not get a picture of her or her amazingly compact bike setup.

The busdriver took a look at the trailer and bike when he finally pulled up, and I could feel him actively resist rolling his eyes. However, he kindly called ahead to the other busses that I would transfer to and found the they should have room, so allowed them on. As we started packing, he gave a little start and said, "Hey, were you biking up Wiaweka Gorge yesterday?" When I said that I had, he said, "I passed you while you were going up the hill!" He immediately warmed up and the more official, stern look faded away. The gorge must be some sort of unknown rite-of-passage. The bike and trailer fit just fine underneath, and all was well.

Despite worries about making connections, the bus ride was uneventful. Am glad that I wasn't biking the route to Napier - quite steep and hilly. Instead of gasping for oxygen and depressing pedals, though, I got to doze.

After two bus transfers and a brief stop for lunch, started to pull into Masterton.

IMGP1397.JPGFrom the bus. Glad to see that the mountains are close by as I will be in Masterton for 6 months once I am done bicycling.

Masterton is a small town by US standards, but a mid- to larger size town by NZ standards (around 15,000 people). It is mostly a farming and ranching community, most evidenced by the sheep grazing on the golf course. Unfortunately, couldn't get my camera out in time, but it was amazing.

Bus dropped me off downtown, and it took about 15 minutes to get everything back in order and bike-able. Biked over the downtown until I found the clinic where I am going to be working, and stopped in.

It was a great welcome, everyone friendly and inviting. I am still in "name shock" (will take some time to get them all down) but met David Nixon (will be one of my new partners and is the head of the clinic) who was as kind and exciting as he was on the phone and e-mail. The clinic itself is quite a large building, and they have just renovated the second story - by the time I start work there March 16, that should be all done. It is friendly, open, and comfortable. I like it all immediately. There is a pharmacy built into the clinic, as well, which is nice.

After time with David and meeting the rest of the crew, I end up meeting up with Kayra, Tracey (a friend of Kayra and Kylie's whom I have only known via Facebook up to now), and Riley (Tracey's 5-year old son). Kylie and Kipp (my old friends from Missouri) are still on vacation, but I will get to stay in the apartment with Kayra.

After storing my bike in the clinic, we end up back at the apartment.

It is, in a word, amazing. It takes up the entire top floor of one of the downtown buildings, and has an elevator to the front door. It has 12-foot ceilings and is extremely open, with 4 bedrooms and a very large living room and kitchen. It even has an old walk-in safe (as it was converted from some government usage in the past).

We end up on the roof, drinking wine and enjoying the sunset.

IMGP1401.JPGKayra, Tracey, and me. This building is one of the tallest in the town, and the view is spectacular. . .

IMGP1402.JPGAs evidenced here. The mountains are only about 20km away.

Rack out in a real bed around 11PM. The bed feels amazing after my air mattress (that has sprung a small leak and flattens out considerably after a night's rest). I am out within 2 minutes.

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