Sunday, March 15, 2009

The long way to Dunedin

John and me are planning on cycling around New Zealand now. Due to weather we will first do a loop around the South Island and then move on to the North Island.

Dunedin Cathedral
After spending a couple of days in Christchurch we decided to move on to Dunedin. One of the reasons for that is one of John's hobbies: Bell ringing. No German would have ever heard of it and indeed it is a very British thing. You have to picture the following: Early on a Sunday morning some very distinguished looking older and younger gentlemen (some wearing socks up to their knees combined with shorts that are held up by a belt shortly under their chin) congregate in a bell tower to do the Sunday mass ringing. They stand around in a circle each holding on to a bell rope looking very solemn. One shouts a command and then the ringing starts. The ringing follows a certain pattern (the aforementioned command) and sometimes they fuck it up. Not that I would hear any difference, but apparently you need a lot of practice to get it right. The whole thing is so popular, that there is bell ringing tourism - like John wanting to ring all the bells in NZ. The bells have to be hung in a certain way to do that, so there aren't that many churches available for that. He claims that there are 6,000 bell ringing places in the UK as opposed to only 8 in NZ. It is pure irony that we eventually arrived in Dunedin punctually on Sunday only to find out that this week's bell ringing had been cancelled.

It is only about 400 km from Christchurch to Dunedin and the terrain is more or less flat thought that we could easily do it in 4 days. We could not have been more wrong! Day one passed rather uneventfully: Too much traffic coming out of Christchurch, but nice warm weather and no wind. This changed on day two: There was a dramatic temperature drop in the evening and very strong wind came up - and of course they were blowing the wrong direction. So far we already had had strong head winds but they never lasted longer than one day, so I was not worried. Unfortunately, things got worse on day three. Strong headwind all day long. I ended up cycling in three layers plus gloves plus warm socks. It felt like freezing and on top of all that it started to rain. We had another short day, but surely the wind would not last......

But it did and day four had the worst wind I ever experienced when cycling. It got so strong that we had to get off our bikes every 10 minutes in order not to get blown away (and I am not exaggerating here!). For lunch break we sought shelter in a garage on the way and we politely asked for permission to do that. Immediately we were invited into the house, given hot tea (what a treat!) and were told everything we ever wanted to know about dairy farming. When we left they even gave us three enormous pork chops as a farewell present. This would have never happened in Germany. It took us over an hour to cycle the next 5 km due to wind and the situation got outright dangerous back on the major highway. Due to strong sidewinds we were constantly running a risk of being blown off the road by a gale or by a truck passing by so we had another short day and camped early. When we asked for water we were again invited to stay at peoples' house - New Zealanders are incredibly friendly and hospitable!

We thought we would eventually make it to Dunedin on day five but no such luck: The wind continued blowing like hell and we had to stop short of Dunedin with me being totally shattered and fed up. But that night we had pork chops for dinner and that cheered me up immediately!

Steepest street
In case you were wondering: We made it into Dunedin on day six! We celebrated by staying in a leopard themed Bed & Breakfast place - very fancy. I just want to add that the wind stopped immediately as soon as we arrived in Dunedin.... Dunedin is proud to have the world's steepest street, but after all that hard cycling I could not be bothered to cycle it - neither up nor down. But I must say that I have never thought of a normal residential street as a tourist attraction.

So far cycling in NZ has not been that great: Lots of traffic, bad wind and mostly monotonous scenery, but now we are heading inland and things are hopefully improving.

Preparing apple crumble
But I definitely cannot complain about the food. I must admit that I did John very wrong when we first met. He is carrying 2 pots, 1 pan, 1 set of cutlery, 1 cutting board and 1 wooden spoon for cooking. I thought that this is absolutely nuts and was doubting his mental health. Now I came to the conclusion that we actually do not have enough stuff: I was tempted to buy a spatula (lightweight plastic and collapsible of course), a grater and 2 plastic plates.... Now that my ambition is awakened our dinners become more and more extravagant. The other day we had pork chops with silver beets in sour cream souce followed by stewed apples with raisins and cream. Next I will be working on apple crumble. Luckily John lets me do the cooking and volunteers to do the dishes afterwards - very good job sharing. And he never complains about the food! How will I ever be able to get back to ultralight hiking? I better don't think about it now.

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