Location: San Francisco, USA
Hello all, welcome to the final update of my travels. I am in sunny San Francisco in the good old U.S of A. I'm here for 2-days on my way back to the UK. I had a fantastic time in NZ but I was ready to leave in the end and I just about managed to squeeze me and all my luggage (inc my bike) on to the plane. However once I found my seat I was shocked to see a massive American guy sitting next to me. His gutt and thighs were literally over-flowing onto my seat, oh dear god! But thankfully before we took-off he swapped seats with his slightly smaller son otherwise it would have been more uncomfortable than usual. However after 12 hours with no sleep I was glad to land in San Francisco although bizarrely as we crossed the International Date Line I actually landed in the US before i'd left NZ; I left NZ at 4:30pm on the 4th April and landed in the US at 11:30am on 4th April! I like to think this puts back my forthcoming 30th birthday by a day making me younger than I actually am!
But anyway, San Francisco is fantastic but it was more than a little shock to the system. It's the busiest place i've been since London over 5 months ago, a bit of a culture shock to say the least. But it's great to see some really old buildings again and some proper architecture. Yesterday I took the ferry across to tour Alcatraz which was great before meeting up with my friend Johann (who I met when I was in Chile and who now lives here in SF) for dinner, very pleasant indeed. Today I've wandered over to the Golden Gate Bridge again in glorious sunshine before heading over to watch some basketball later this evening with Johann. And then, that is it people; I leave for the airport in the morning to catch my flight back to the UK. I can't believe that 5-months has passed. It's been an amazing experience but I'm ready to come home now to see my family, friends and of course Lotte. Particularly I can't wait to see my little niece Hannah 'The Bear' Bloss, I expect she's changed a lot since I last saw here.
So that's it, I hope you've enjoyed reading my blog, the site has been visited nearly 1000 times over the past 5-months so someone has been reading it. I'm off to France for a week when I get back to a) avoid working for another week, b) to celebrate my mum's 60th birthday and c) my 30th birthday so I hope to catch up with you all when I return. Byee for now, JBx
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
3075km-3166km: Hello all and welcome to my penultimate blog update (you'll get one more when I'm in the U.S). Im now in Christchurch sorting myself out before I fly to San Francisco for a couple of days on Saturday. I had an enjoyable few days in Dunedin prior to here but it felt good to get back on my bike one final time on Monday. I say one final time as Id decided to cycle to the Moeraki Boulders 80km north of Dunedin but not to bother cycling all the way to Christchurch as it would mean cycling almost 400km on the dreaded State Highway 1.
However, cycling out of Dunedin is not easy; firstly all the major roads are motorway, which means no cycling (very helpful) and secondly Dunedin is situated in a bowl with mountains on three sides and the sea on the other, therefore all roads lead only one way and thats up! So for the first hour or so I climbed on small deserted roads out of town with stunning views of the sea to my right. Eventually after 25km I found my way to SH1. Now my plan was to avoid SH1 as much as possible throughout the day so I headed off up remote gravel roads and over hill after hill, but at times there was no choice and I was again left fighting for space with traffic on SH1. However I was relaxed in the knowledge that today was my last day and the hills came easily. Eventually after a final 20km on SH1 I arrived at the Moeraki Boulders thoroughly cold and wet. The Moeraki Boulders are rocks which have weathered to be perfectly spherical; they are said to be geologically unique. They were interesting enough but a little disappointing and as I left the Boulders and rolled into my camp for the night I realized that that was it, Id cycled my last km in NZ and I was about to have my final night under canvas.
Come the morning after a particularly wet night I was ready to catch the bus for the final leg to Christchurch. Sat on the bus looking at the road ahead I was happy to be sat in the warmth of the bus rather than trying to negotiate SH1; some of the bridges had no shoulder or guard rail and being blown off a bridge by a truck into the river below would have been a real possibility, so thats why the guide book warns you!
So here I am in Christchurch and i'm sharing a room with a lovely old man, he reminds me very much of my late Grandad although unfortunately he snores like a trooper. However his snoring is nowhere near as bad as the Hungarian guy I shared a room with in Queenstown, his snoring was worse than my dad's which I didn't think was possible! He was 80ish and I'm surprised he was still alive in the morning to be honest, he coughed and spluttered and popped pills all night, snored like a trooper and at one point woke to tell me he'd just urinated blood, thanks, no need to tell me that but thanks! So anyway, Ive just brought a cheapo bike bag so that I can bring home my faithful GT and Im looking forward to being home a week today. Byee for now, JBx
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
2804km-3075km: Hello all, Im now in Dunedin after whats been a fantastic 5 days. I was ready to leave Queenstown last weekend for a couple of reasons, firstly as it was my third time in town this trip but mainly because Id once again spent the evening talking to the Police (my third time in NZ) after my room was broken into and trashed by thieves. They emptied out my panniers and went through my stuff, quite brave considering I had days old sweaty cycling kit in there! Thankfully they didnt take my stinky shorts or my camping stove and they left me my three remaining pairs of pants (I dont know where the other four pairs have gone); they even left my roommates laptop!
The morning after it felt great to be back on the bike again after fours days off. But as I wandered outside the hostel that morning it was a bit of a shock to the system as it was bloomin freezing; summer is definitely nearly over here. But it warmed up to be a gloriously sunny day as I cycled down the Kawarau Gorge towards Cromwell with wall to wall spectacular views of the mountains and the bluest river you could imagine. Over lunch of a highly nutritious banana sandwich I met a fellow cycle tourist called Darcy from Australia, he too was heading my way and over the next few days wed bump into each other numerous times.
Waking in Cromwell to frost on my tent I was a tad nippy but happy in the knowledge that from Cromwell I only had another 30km of road riding to do before I reached Clyde and the Otago Central Cycle Trail with 150km of car free riding ahead of me, bliss! The cycle trail used to be a railway taking passengers and freight from Dunedin in the east to Cromwell in the centre of NZ. However only the eastern 75km of track survives today with the section from Clyde to Middlemarch turned into a cycle path. The trail passes through the Otago district which is just like a film set from a western movie; its beautiful as you pass through gorges and the darkest tunnels, over huge viaducts with mile after mile of nothingness and the widest blue skies you could imagine. For 2.5 days I rode the trail safe in the knowledge that I was safe from traffic, all I had to do was pedal, relax as I rolled through breathtaking scenery. By the time I reached Middlemarch Id had the best 4 days cycling of my whole trip, absolutely fantastic. And that evening as I treated my bike to a wash and a spot of lube I settled into a night in my tent reasonably safe from the howling wind outside.
The morning after I took the tourist train along the remaining section of the railway down the Taieri Gorge to Dunedin, which was great. I also arrived into Dunedin just in time to cycle to the Museum where Darcy (the Australian cyclist Id met a few times along the way) had informed me that a local cycling group would have a mechanic on hand to tweak anyones bike that turned up. So after 30 minutes my bike was working like a dream again but just as I was about to leave more and more cyclists arrived until there were about 30 of us, and before I knew it I was part of a go-slow cycle protest through rush-hour Dunedin in the pouring rain! However I think their methods are a little strange as I reckon it annoyed more motorists than it informed!!!!! But still, a very surreal end to a fantastic few days!
So here I am in Dunedin and I like it here quite a lot, it reminds me of home. This morning I went on the Speights brewery tour as Speights Gold Medal beer is my drink of choice here in NZ. The tour was great and was topped off by beer tasting at 10am in the morning, oh yeah! Unfortunately they dont export to the UK but I hear on the grapevine that one pub in London by Temple tube station sells it; I feel a session coming on when I get back! But now I only have a week left in NZ before I fly home (via San Francisco). I plan just one more day on the bike before my faithful bike is packed away, I have no desire to ride for the remaining three days to Christchurch on the dreaded SH1 so I shall catch a bus once I get to the Moeraki Boulders 80km north of Dunedin. Byee for now, see you in Christchurch, JBx
Location: Invercargill, New Zealand
2552km-2804km: Hello all, after 37 days pedalling and 2804km, yesterday I made it to Bluff at the far south of the South Island. It wasn't quite the picturesque location bathed in sunshine I was hoping for, in fact it was an absolute dive of a place and it was pouring with rain, but I still felt proud of myself to have made it, all the way, every km, on my own. There have been many ups and downs along the way but overall it's been a fantastic experience and as a lady took my photo next to the Bluff signpost and shook my hand to congratulate me I felt exceptionally chuffed. And so seeing as I was in Bluff (where the oysters are supposed to be the best in the world) I wandered over to the café opposite to sample the local produce (especially as the cafe owner was providing me with free drinks for having made it this far). The oysters tasted great but 10km down the road I started to regret them and as I checked into my motel for the night (my treat for getting to Bluff) I started to regret them further still, may be shell fish dont agree with me after all. Still, a night in a bed with a duvet and a TV was heaven!
Prior to getting to Bluff Id spent 3-days in Te Anau resting and sight seeing. After getting my knackered pedal fixed on the first day, the second day I went sea kayaking in Milford Sound, which was fantastic. The drive North to Milford was spectacular and kayaking in the Fjord with massive mountains falling into the sea was amazing. However, as breathtaking as the scenery was, its tourist central and the constant sound of aircraft taking off and passing over was unbelievable. Our guide said that Milford Sound was the 2nd busiest domestic terminal after Auckland last year, its supposed to be a remote natural environment! My 3rd day was spent on a tour to Doubtful Sound, another of the fjords. Now Doubtful Sound truly is a remote wilderness with much of the amazing rainforest untouched (mainly as its so inaccessible, you get there via a 1hr ferry ride then a 1hr ride along a dirt road) and theres no airport! However, my trip of choice turned out to be with 150 fellow travellers mainly old Americans wearing President Obama t-shirts! Being farmed on and off buses all day long isnt my cup of tea, but Doubtful Sound was stunning and so remote and for the 5-minutes that the captain turned off the engines and asked everyone to be quiet, the silence was again astounding!
Now I had contemplated heading North along the road to Milford Sound but having experienced the Homer Tunnel just south of Milford in a mini-bus I had no desire to cycle it! Most of the guide books warn against it too, its a 1.2km long tunnel, mainly unlit and unventilated and choked with diesel fumes with a 1:10 gradient; its ok (ish) going down but coming back is supposed to be a lottery! So I thought better of it and started to head south towards Bluff along the quiet Southern Scenic Route along the south coast. For the 2-days it took to get to Invercargill the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful as I first passed through mountains and over the Jericho hills, before passing into fertile pastures and along the remote coastline to Invercargill; possibly some of the most pleasant cycling yet. However as I neared Invercargill and headed onto the dreaded SH1 the traffic increased drastically and once again I was fighting the traffic for space (something I hadnt had to do since Wellington).
And so yesterday, I made it to Bluff. Having dreamed of doing this trip for so long it seems surreal to now think Ive made it and even more surreal when I look back at the route Ive taken. Have I really cycled that far? Some of it seems like so long ago! So is cycle touring for me, definitely! I love the freedom, the challenge; all the small things you see and how friendly people are towards you when they see the bike. The next challenge has to be Lands End John OGroats and I reckon I can get a few fellow idiots to join me this time (i.e. BIL, Ox, Roger, Si, Mr Goble). We will also be accompanied by my faithful GT mountain bike which has carried me over 2800km through NZ with only one puncture and one broken spoke, yes shes coming home with me!
So whats next? Well as soon as it stops blowing horizontal rain at me here in Invercargill (the weather really is horrible) Ill head back to Queenstown and then on to do the Otago Central Rail Train down to Dunedin. I dont know how much more of cycling on NZs roads I can take, but somehow I need to end up in Christchurch before the 4th of April. Byee for now, JBx