Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fashion + Bikes: a winning combo

Just found this one: Copenhagen Cycle Chic, or  "Sartorialist on two wheels," according to a British newspaper. Its slogan: "Style over Speed."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Australian Cycling Conference in Adelaide Jan 2012

Just read about the 4th Australian Cycling Conference to be held in Adelaide during the Tour Down Under activities.

Programme looks interesting, with presentations from the City of Sydney and a researcher from Monash University.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Speaking of Perth and Bicycles

While visiting, I found a great local ride/bike culture book called Velo City Perth.

I saw a lot of future ride possibilities in WA. Not only does the city have a network of bike trails, it's possible to navigate over to the start of the 1,000km (when finished) Munda Biddi mountain bike trail.

This one's in my "future rides" file. Seems like it's rideable using a touring bike.

Foodie Riding in Style City Sydney

I've been in Sydney for a short time. Found a wonderful thematic bike map:

Includes places with names like "Strangers With Candy" and "Deli for your Belly" What's not to love about a city like Sydney, with cafes like this?

Sydney Cycle Ways also provides new riders with a city map. I picked up a print copy at one of Sydney's museums, and you can also get it online.

Other useful publications are the Urban Walkabout Guides to the city. I first discovered these food/fashion/art focused foldups in Perth. Looks like they cover just 2 Australian cities so far.

Urban Walkabout also recently published "Slices of Sydney: A Taste of Our Villages," an attractive print booklet/publicity tool for the City of Sydney. In each of the 10 neighborhoods profiled, there's a stylized map that notes the cycle network that might pass through. I like this marketing piece a lot.

Way better than the typical tourist crap you find at the I site.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preparing for another shot at riding in New Zealand

Earlier this year I rode my beautifully designed but under-geared Brompton folding bicycle in various parts of New Zealand (both islands).

This coming January, I'm going back, North Island only (for now), with my Trek 520 touring bike. I've paid for 40kg of luggage allowance on JetStar (the maximum I could buy), so, with the boxed bike weighing currently about 27kg, I'm going to get busy downsizing, again. Maybe store excess gear at the YHA in Auckland.
Earlier this year, I found the roads in New Zealand to be mighty tough on little wheels. This time, I have my roadie tires, and all the ashphalt embedded in the tread from my Sept 2010 ride in Arizona is long gone.

I'm also packing along Peddler's Paradise. Plans are for Northland, and maybe a trip over to Hawkes Bay. Don't think I have time to re-do the 360 of Taranaki, but we'll see.

I'm outta shape, my shoulder still hurts, despite hydrodilitation, and endless wasted dollars on PT, but it doesn't matter.

Being "on the road" again is all that matters, really.

Predictable and Preventable: Dooring Death in Melbourne



A recent news story, and related commentary from the Melbourne Age newspaper, regarding the death of cyclist James Cross in a "dooring" incident.

Predictable, preventable, and so very very sad. Again, the excuse given is "I didn't see him/her." Doesn't matter. He's dead and it could be prevented.

The Australian incident and fatality statistics in the news story outline just how much more we need to know about real vs. perceived cyclist behavior.

Anything that can be done to foster "Share the Road" and "Bikes Belong" attitudes can only help.

Rest in peace,  James.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wrapping it up in Adelaide

Today's my last day in Adelaide. Sort of bittersweet, but so it goes. I walked by the Adelaide City Council offices this morning, and added my comments to Adelaide's strategic plan. I noticed lots of bike comments on the various feedback notice boards, but the woman I spoke with said she'd not heard of anyone suggesting putting bike racks on the city busses. So, now they have the suggestion.

I love the way they solicit feedback. The pavement outside the council chambers are painted like a rainbow carpet, and they offer wooden "sofas" to sit on, while you give your feedback.

Way to go!

I also enjoyed "Ride to Work" day in mid-October. Lovely day to ride in (sunny, as always, in this mediterranean climate) and lots of cyclists hanging out, briefly, to spread the word. Seems like Adelaide has a nice bike community. It's a pity I didn't get the chance to get more involved, but it was nice to visit, for a while.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things to do when your bike's in a box

Last night I packed Sir Gulliver, my touring bike, in a recycled cardboard box begged from the bike store around the corner on Pulteney St. This morning at 10am, the Seven Seas Shipping van came by, relieved me of a couple hundred $, and I consigned the bike for a trip north,and a couple of months in my niece's garage.

I feel sad, it's rainy, and I am bikeless in Adelaide. So I was pleased to see an alert from Adelaide Public Library, announcing that my hold on Kristian Bauer's Ride a Stage of the Tour De France: The Legendary Climbs and How to Ride Them [London : A & C Black, 2011] was waiting for me. As I'm heading out of town for two week's on The Ghan train to Darwin and back, I can't borrow this little gem. So I skimmed it.

It's a well designed, well written and comprehensive manual, offering short route descriptions, supplemented with photos, maps, altitude charts, and sidebars on fun things. It's written by a knowledgeable German road cycling enthusiast,a translation/update of the original German book from 2006. It's blessedly free of marketing and sales hype. I know I could tackle some of these "hills" on trusty Sir Gulliver, and not feel too self conscious. It's the "doing" that's important, not the "being seen to be doing."

Kristian helpfully lists a "quick guide to fun passes," which include the 3 easiest (Col du Hundsruck, Notschrei, Pra-Loup), the 3 most athletically challenging (Col de l'Iseran, Galibier via Telegraphe, Mont Ventoux), and the most beautiful (Port de Pailheres, Col d'Aubisque, Col d'Izoard).

He's so right. This past July I was able to watch as many hours as I could stomach, live, of the Tour De France, for free, on Australian commercial TV, from 10pm to 2am. Needless to say, I stayed up for the full 20 nights, going to bed in the wee hours, and wandering around at the office in a daze the day after. Only a handful of people there were paying attention to the fact that Cadel Evans was going to be the first Aussie to win.

In all those hours, listening mesmerized to Phil Liggett's delightful commentary, 've never really had the opportunity to study just how lovely the French alpine Tour sections are. I was struck by the realization that the Alpes look remarkably similar to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In past, stronger times, I've ridden two Ride the Rockies weeklong events, I now realize just how lucky I've been so far in choosing great places to ride. So I need to keep on making my own luck.

I immensely enjoyed this year's Tour de France, as the riders went through both Brittany and Normandy, and I saw several of the roads I'd ridden myself, only a year ago. Of course, I was loaded down with a ridiculous amount of gear, and a total novice at road touring, dealing with stupid things like having my back rack fall off the bike, as I'd not tightened the screws adequately,and dealing with all the insanities of life as a solo cyclist on a long road trip. Despite my laughable start, since then, I've ridden my touring bike from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, taken a folding bike around New Zealand, and even had a little time to ride in South Australia.

So, as I take the slow route back home to the USA, I'm planning to travel via New Zealand. I have just bought a flight from the Gold Coast in Queensland, to Auckland, and will hit the NZ road again, me and Sir Gulliver, in the new year.

Something to look forward to. Life hands you lemons, make lemonade, etc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ride to Work Day in Adelaide

Yesterday I attended a free breakfast for cyclists happened in Victoria Square, in central Adelaide. I found it ironic that for me, at least, it was, "don't ride to work" day.

There were free bananas, scones and juice, also a silly "ride as slow as you can" event mc'd by the local public radio station. The mayor was there, announcing big plans for more bike infrastructure to come to the city. The local radio commentators in general are non-cyclists, and went off topic fast, asking the various politicans who showed up about completely non-bike related topics, including asking someone's opinion of gay marriage. What relevance that had here, is anyone's guess. I heard the interview later, when I was back home. Made me scratch my head in wonderment.

Later I rode my bike in the Central Business District, and had to scream "heads up" at a woman inching her car forward out of downtown car park, heading straight at me. Just the typically blind motorist you find here. There still is a climate of disrespect "roads are for cars" type thinking here, making it difficult for cyclists. In turn, cyclists here take a number of risks that threaten their own lives, and don't help motorists get on board. Very few announce themselves as they ride past you on a bike trail. There's a lot of ground to cover here if the city is to become, in the mayor's words, the most bike friendly city in the country.

BikeSA is working on a number of good programmes to make the roads more multi modal. Good luck to them. Were I staying here, I'd have gotten involved, but my path lies in a different direction.

I am packing my bike for shipment north later today. If I pack it myself, it's much much cheaper than paying for the shipper to do it for me. They wanted a minimum of $180 for the privilege, and wouldn't let me put the tools, helmets, bags, etc in the box with the bike. With the other belongings I'm sending to Queensland, that would have meant a lot more expense.

Starting Sunday, I'm traveling to the Top End (Darwin) via one of the most famous trains in the world: The Ghan. I'm here, I have time, so I'm giving it a shot.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On the Road Again

The job I moved to Adelaide to take ended last week. Such is life.

I'm boxing up my belongings, ending my lease, shipping what I can, including Sir Gulliver to touring bike to Queensland, where he can live in a friend's garage for a month or so, and going on the road as a backpacker once more.

Despite the fact that I just cancelled my registration for the Tour Down Under day ride in January 2012,I know that Adelaide is pretty good for cyclists. As I won't be here to meet Eddy Merxcyx, or catch a glimpse of Cadel Evans during the Tour, I'm cutting my losses. There are many places to ride, and I won't miss the motoriststs and bus drivers here who straddle the bike lane. Share the Road isn't fully embedded in the car crazy culture here. It will take a few more years I suppose. But it is better.

In spite of my shoulder, I managed to start bike commuting, moving to 5 days/week in August, after a such a tentative start back in July. I worked out a great route along the Torrens Linear Park, and my temper improved immensely once I was back in the bike saddle. Gosh, I'd missed riding. I also discovered the ride up "Old Norton Summit Road" to the Scenic Hotel. It's a steep winding road, giving a view of Morialta Conservation Park, some vineyards, a cherry orchard, and the chance to be attacked by nesting magpies.

I rode up there last Sunday. "Maggie" ignored me on the slog up, but I felt the tell tale feathery flutter, sort of little dancing bird feet touching me on my left shoulder as I was rocketing down the winding mountain road. This is a rite of spring cycling around here. I didn't need a helmet embellished with plastic spikes, or even a set of printed human eyes from a "Swoop Off Kit" [http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/plants-and-animals/native-plants-and-animals/problem-wildlife/swooping-birds/swoop-off-kit]

You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September is Spring in Adelaide

Woman on her bike has been off line for a while, as she figures out how to manage living in a new city. Having a busted shoulder since April hasn't really helped. I stopped riding, because my shoulder hurt. It still hurts. So I've gone back to bike commuting. Last week was the first 5 days in a row I've done in months. My shoulder still hurts like heck, but my spirits are 100 per cent improved. I'm in for months of physio therapy, so I decided I may as well ride.

I've figured out a safe route to work where I won't get sideswiped by Adelaide Metro busses, and where I can manoeuvre relatively smoothly up the super narrow curb cuts built as an afterthought into the sidewalks around here. These cuts in footpath are theoretically built for wheelchairs, but I can tell you that a wheelchair user would have one hell of a time using them, as they're too steep sided.

My route to work is about the same number of kilometres I was covering by bus, and doesn't involve bus drivers who drive in the vomit inducing jerky stop/start manner that flings passengers who try to stand up too early straight into the windscreen. I also have learned that a lot of the bus riders on my normal route to work really really need to stop peeing their pants and take a shower more often. I'd forgotten how, in car-centric Australia, it's somewhat low class to use public transport.

I hook into the Torrens Linear path, which toodles along the Torrens river, winding through pretty trees, and a phalanx of huge magpies, which I know will soon start attacking me as an intruder, as spring is nesting season, and these little beauties are super-territorial. Perhaps I will be painting my helmet to have a set of evil eyes on the lid to scare the buggers off.

I've also figured out a place to keep my bike, inside the building, with access to a locker and a shower.

It's been a matter of trial and error, plenty of the latter, but I've done this all before, and, because I know it's worth it, I just stuck with it, and will keep on going until it's perfect.

I just realised that it's coming up to the 10 year anniversary of when I first started bike commuting year round. My oh my, what a lot has happened in the past 10 years.

Friday, June 17, 2011

First steps in assessing the local bike scene

Riding my bike hasn't been an option for the last two months, but I've been scanning the local scene and figuring out where I can ride, once the PT says it's ok to get back in the saddle.

The local newspaper is The Adelaide Advertiser. What's nice about South Australia is that road biking gets newspaper coverage, like every other sport around here. Adelaide hosts the January Tour Down Under, so it takes competitive cycling very seriously. I've noted plenty of commuters riding M-F here, usually on limited gears "sit up and begs" and low end mountain bikes. Weather is a bit chilly in the mornings, but by 9am, it's like a warm Seattle day, so I find it funny how everyone is wearing scarves and overcoats as they ride around. On the weekends the flash set comes out to play. Lots of Giant carbon bikes, Specialized, and various European brands. Also a few super cool dude fixies about. I've seen only one type of folding bike, Dahon, and they're pretty scarce.

There are bike lanes in the city, not as wide as I'm used to, and I've seen a couple of close rider v bus encounters, and cyclists choosing (or forced?) to ride in high speed rush hour traffic. These things warn me about the state of the locals re "share the road," which basically isn't as advanced as I'm used to in Seattle. I am forewarned. It won't stop me riding, but cause me to adjust my road behavior to match.

I picked up a copy of the Advertiser's latest rides book (there are several) at the newspaper's retail sales desk on Waymouth St. I also quizzed a cyclist at the coffee shop at Mt Lofty visitor's centre last monday, where I went for a hike on the Queen's Birthday public holiday. Hard to missall the riders slogging up hill to the summit. Looks like I found one of the good training rides for the locals. When my shoulder can take it, I'll ditch the bus ride to Mt Lofty and ride with them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back in the saddle in South Australia

Woman on her bike has been busy moving to try out a new job in a new country. Riding's been on hiatus, due to the challenges of such an endeavor, along with living with a torn rotator cuff in the left shoulder.

When the physio therapist says: OK, she's be joining BikeSA and checking out a few of their weekend rides.

Friday, April 1, 2011

On March 30, I attended a webinar hosted by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, APBP, "Women Can Change the World through Cycling."

To see presentations from five knowledgeable women involved in “normalizing” cycling as a transportation option for US women, read it here.

This isn't about bike chic, i.e., how fashionable it is to ride bikes these days. It's about getting more women out there, sharing the road, and using their bikes to commute to work, pick up their kids, run errands, have fun, get healthy, do their bit for environmental sustainability.

Inspiring stuff!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Interesting Advertising at Brisbane Airport

Another one of those quirky things you see when you're travelling.

Masked Monster

There's something wonderful about a university town that does gallery shows like this one.

Share the Road Dunedin-style

I was briefly back in New Zealand this week, to interview for a job at the University of Otago. Outside the Central Library building, this is something I've never seen before, but I like it. "Bike" racks for everyone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bicycling Guide to the Gold Coast

Today I visited a bike store at Palm Beach, and picked up the 2010 copy of the Gold Coast City Cycling Guide, a professionally produced brochure that includes 17 linked maps detailing how to ride from Yatala, north of the Gold Coast, through to Coolangatta, on the border with New South Wales. It shows both off-road and on-road bikeways, totalling about 620km of marked routes.

In the 1970s, when I was a Queensland teenager, it was common to see barechested guys dressed only in board shorts pedaling barefoot along the beachfront road, one hand on the bike handlebars, a full sized surfboard surfboard squeezed under the other arm.

I'm pleased to report that yesterday, during my morning stroll at Burleigh Heads, I saw someone doing this.

Back in the 1970s, beachfront cyclists like this didn't have a nice cycling guide like this one.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japanese Friends Please be Hopeful

I'm normally a resident of Seattle, which, like so many of the US states on the West Coast, looks east to Japan as a place for friends, travel and trade.

There's not much I can add to the outpouring of support for the latest disaster. Everyone in Japan, I wish you the best in finding your family members and rising from the wreckage. To my former host students and house guests, Hoshi-san, Yo, Michiyo and Yumiko, I'm thinking of you.

Last Friday (Seattle time) my husband was at a fundraiser arranged by local kiwis for Christchurch earthquake victims at Kangaroo and Kiwi, a local pub/restaurant off the bike path, near Greenlake. They raised $16,000 for the cause.

Now, we need to also include Japan in our thoughts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mudgeeraba market chicken food

Live critters for sale at Mudgeeraba

Bananas for sale

Stalls at Mudgeeraba Saturday market

The hanging things are epiphatic plants, things that normally grow on the side of rainforest trees.

Saturday Farmers Market on the Gold Coast

I enjoyed the fact that at this stall at the Mudgeeraba bimonthly market, there are baby ducks in one "cage" and a human baby in the other.

I've discovered two things important to anyone who decides to ride bikes around here.

1. Weekends are great on the Gold Coast, with plenty of farmers markets to ride to, where you can buy coffee, pastries, fruit, organic greens, and snacks, as well as tropical plants, miracle potions, and dog treats, like "roo ears."
2. It's hot and humid in these parts so get on the bike early. 6am is the norm. I guess if you ride here, you finish by about 9am.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bike Riding on the Gold Coast Initial Observations

As I'm still on New Zealand time, I wake up early (Queensland time is 3 hours behind New Zealand time) so I've been driving to the beach at 7am and checking out the scene. So far, I've figured out that many locals here are serious roadies, as I've seen a number of tanned, fit and top-to-toe lycra and spandex riders whizzing around. Traffic is heavy and, like New Zealand, less in the "share the road" mindset, so riders tend to come out when it's cool and safe.

I've also found bits and pieces of a marked bike trail, that stretches along the beachfront from Surfer's Paradise to the lighthouse at Coolangatta, nearly 40km. I don't think it's a full bike path, rather a mix of bike lane, bike path, no lane, no path. I need to find a local bike store and get the skinny on how it works around here.

Riding along the seashore is spectacular. Pounding surf, big sky, golden sandy beaches, and lots of cool coffee shops. I've seen a bunch of cruiser bikes, many sandy, rusted out beater mountain bikes, and one guy riding by on a unicycle made from a full sized mountain bike wheel. Today I had brunch at wonderfully named Kirramisu, in Kirra, one beach up from Greenmount, where the surfing contest is running. It's busy at Greenmount, with many surfers, boogie boarders and stand-up paddlers enjoying the breakers just a little way from the hoopla of the pros. At Kirra, the beach was a wide expanse of clean, people-free sand.

Next week is "Ride to Work" day on the Gold Coast. Seems like the local government is trying to support expanded transportation options. They're taking a "soft start" approach to integrating bicycling into the mix here. Australia is a car culture. I've been away for many years, and I'd forgotten just how supreme the car is around here. The federal government is trying to get voter buy-in for a carbon tax scheme, to start in July. I can't yet figure out the details of the plan, despite reading The Australian, The Courier Mail and The Gold Coast Bulletin each morning at the coffee shops I visit. I feel like I've just dropped in during the middle of the conversation. Which is true, I have, literally, just dropped in. There's a lot of heated discussion, political posturing and grandstanding going on, and the Letters and Emails to the Editor pages, are full of rude submissions from angry illiterates. The Australian political discourse is known for its no-holds barred shouting matches.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gilliard is currently in Washington, DC, visiting President Obama. Back at home, the opposition is having a field day screaming about misuse of travel funds, and all the other expected hot buttons.

It's an odd thing to watch, as I only half understand what is going on.

Burleigh Heads after work on a Monday

I am spending time visiting my mother who lives on Queensland's famous "Gold Coast." Every evening I drive down to the beach to see what's going on. This was the scene last Monday. After being flat for the start of the Pro Surfing championship a few headlands south of here, the swells finally picked up. Then, like magic, the surfies show up.

Currumbin Resident

Whoa, take it easy with the sunblock.

Surf at today's finals

On the rocks at Quiksilver competition

Naturist at the Quiksilver

Lettin' it all hang out at the pro surfing.

Diggin' at the Quiksilver competition

A canine fan of pro surfing.

Roxy Pro Quiksilver at Snapper Rocks

Gold Coast swimmers

A couple taking a morning dip next to the Roxy Pro/Quiksilver Surfing Championships at Snapper Rocks, Coolangatta.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Farewell New Zealand for now

View into the Glenorchy valley: Routeburn, Greenstone, Caples, Rees-Dart, take your pick and

William the Conqueror at the Queenstown Lakeside YHA, getting boxed for the flight to Gold Coast, Australia

In a nutshell: if you're a cyclist, how could you resist a country that serves up views like this? And, if you're not a cyclist, it's there for everyone.

Christchurch will rise from the dust and rubble. It's a temporary disaster. The rest of New Zealand is open for business.

It's a great place to ride.

Mavora Lakes Around The Mountains Mountain Biking

Photos: bikes in the hold of the good steamship Earnslaw, enroute from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station; Sheep Jam! Ever patient Sebastian, mountain bike guide and a happy customer, overwhelmed with photographic possibilities and the author, thinking about adding a mountain bike to her stable of machines.

Scenes from Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track

A spectacular tramp in Southwestern Fiordland. Had it all: solitude, wilderness, bird song, cloud forests, tors and tarns and mud!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Around the Mountains Mountain Bike Ride

I decided to risk the "iffy" weather here in Queenstown, which delivered a dusting of snow yesterday to the tops of The Remarkables. I booked a $199 NZ day trip to Mavora Lakes, a joint venture between Real Journeys, one of the bigger Queenstown tourist outfitters, and Around the Mountain Cycle Trail, which is hosted out of Outside Sports, on Shotover Street. This is one of New Zealand's future "Great Rides" 18 mountain bike trails distributed throughout the country, and all expected to be open for business by Summer 2012. Read about the cycleways at www.tourism.govt.nz

The gods smiled. Threatened rain, but just made things atmospheric. Took the 10am Earnslaw steamboat ride to Walter Peak Station, then did a van supported ride through an incredibly grand glacial valley, bounded both sides by steep mountains. The high peaks still wore a little snow, and in places you could see up to the end of Lake Wakitipu, all the way to Glenorchy. I could make out the valleys of the Routeburn, Rees-Dart and Greenstone.

Three companions (2 US, 1 Hong Kong) and Sebastian the guide meant a great private trip, with lunch in a corrugated iron musterers' hut in another superbly scenic spot. Then great riding on a public dirt road, past tussocks, glacial fans, braided streams, and beech forests reaching up the mountainsides to the treeline. Saw about 3 cars, 2 ATVs, used by farmers, and a bunch of skinny and smart working farm dogs.

Great downhill at the end, with endless views of a snaking stream. Then, on the race back to catch the 4pm steamboat ride to Queenstown, we hit the proverbial "sheep jam", where we pushed a huge flock of sheep in front of the van, like a rolling carpeted river.

This was my first ever mountain bike trip. I've always stuck to sealed roads, and have limited experience of dirt. I did fine, didn't skid out, didn't crash off a cliff, figured out the bouncy bouncy ride of a bike with front shocks. The scenery is like that you get when you do some of the kiwi tramps. If you like feeling really really small in really really big country, this is a good one. I met two Aussies, Renee and Sarah, coming back from a loaded bike tour on their mountain bikes. You don't have to take a tour to ride this road, which takes you through to Te Anau, but you do need to be prepared to carry everything, as there's no facilities, just some camping at Mavora Lakes.

A lovely end to my multisport visit to New Zealand. William the Conqueror is resting in a cardboard box back at the YHA, waiting the final sealing up.

At 10am local time tomorrow, I'll be in the Gold Coast airport, loading it all into a rental car.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wrapping It Up in Queenstown

I took the Awesome Bus back from Te Anau to Queenstown last night. Extraordinarily gorgeous evening ride. All the mountains painted in late summer light, all the peaks out, no snow, but you can tell it won't be long.

I've booked 3 nights at YHA Lakeside, in a little "cell" of a single room, but it is a private room, so I don't have to use the earplugs any more, or worry about disturbing the other 5 bunk occupants if I need to get anything out of my bike bags.

This morning I went into R&R Sports, and traded a bottle of ginger beer for a cardboard bike box. Looks like the wrenches have a nice little barter arrangement going here. Made me laugh, so I bought them a big size in the 4 Square supermarket across the street.

It's raining in Queenstown, so I used my time to pack up William the Conqueror. I've used at least one kilometer of duck/duct tape, and the box is under a great deal of pressure, but thankfully, I have several blue NRS kayaking/river straps to hold it all in.

My flight to the Gold Coast is from Queenstown "International" airport on Friday. I changed the flight due to the continued difficulty of knowing what is/isn't going to work in Christchurch airport. They're still pulling bodies out of the rubble, and the work of reconstruction can't begin for a while.

I am watching the weather. If it clears tomorrow I might spring for the guided mountain bike tour of Walter Peak, near Mavora Lakes. You take the steamship Earnslaw across to a station on the other side and go for a ride. I ran into Mary and Ermanno, my fellow Seattle touring cyclists, in Te Anau, and they'd ridden this route. Said it was even better than Molesworth Station, up near Hamner Springs, which I keep hearing is paradise for mountain bikers.

Would be a great way to wrap up my time in lovely New Zealand.

Ironically, at the end of my adventure, I learned there's a book from Kennett Press called Classic New Zealand Road Rides, published just late 2010. Queenstown is big enough to have a bookstore, so I plan to look for it. After figuring it out on my own, using old trip reports found here and there on the good ol' Internet, parsing out the possibilities from the ripped up South Island section of the Lonely Planet Guide to Cycling New Zealand, that I found in the bike cave back in the Wellington YHA, and asking around and following my nose, there is actually a book of rides.

Isn't that just the way it is?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Te Anau and the Topic of Conversation

William the Conqueror attracts a lot of curiosity when I park him outside cafes and shops. Taken today outside the Fiordland Bakery in Te Anau.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Captain Scott in CHCH before earthquake

Here's a photo I took of Scott of the Antarctic when I was in Christchurch earlier this month. The statue has fallen off its pedestal, one of the casualties of last weeks' quake.

William the Conqueror meets Fellow Seattle Bike Tourers

A meeting of folding bikes last week in Te Anau outside the Sandfly Cafe (apt name)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On to Tuatapere and the Humpridge Track

I booked a private tramp today: the Humpridge, which is at the bottom of Fiordlands NP, next stop Stewart Island. I had the choice of doing this one, or sticking around Te Anau for a few days then heading off on the Kepler Great Walk. I decided $51/night was a bit steep to sleep in a mountaintop bunk house with 30 of my closest smelliest hiker friends.

I'm going with Trips & Tramps again tomorrow for the shuttle to the town at the start of the 3 day trail. This one is a bit more expensive than the Great Walk, but I get my pack helicoptered into the first lodge, and there will be a hot shower and a warm bed with SHEETS! waiting for me.

Sounds like my sort of trip.

I've had to adjust my trip planning due to the earthquake in CHCH. There's still lots of conjecture and little hard information to go on. I have a flight from CHCH in just on 2 weeks' time. It makes no sense to go into the quake zone unless I have to. I have to figure out how to get to the airport, etc. All in good time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tuesday Feb 22 Christchurch earthquake

Today saw a 6.2 trembler in a lovely city that sure doesn't deserve it. This time there are many casualties. I spent the day in beautiful Fiordland NP, unaware of the tragedy in a city I'd visited just a few weeks' ago. My condolences to the citizens of CHCH. Beautiful NZ is a young country in geological terms. I suppose this is what "young" means.

Tasman Sea from Milford Sound

The cruise skipper claimed you could see the Sydney Opera House across the horizon if you looked hard enough. This is "the West Coast" of New Zealand, and the turnaround point for the Milford Sound boat rides.

Trips & Trails Tour to Milford Sound

Apparently 450,000 people visit Milford Sound each year. T&T does small van tours. I signed up for a bus and cruise trip. As I'm a YHA member, there's a little discount off list price. Here are my awestruck companions looking around the Hollyford Valley. We had many moments like this in achingly beautiful Fiordlands National Park.

Reflection Lake Fiordland NP

Another lovely stop on the Milford Road.

Mitre Peak Milford Sound

TradeMe/Craig's List/eBay/Gumtree

Who needs an online board when the real ones still exist. Want a van? A place to stay? A short term job? This is the notice board in the Internet cafe next door to the YHA Central Queenstown. Location, location, location.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day riding from Queenstown

It's Sunday, and my last day in Adrenalin Town. Weather is better than the rain and mist of yesterday, so I headed out on Queenstown's lakefront trail to Frankton. It's a shared use dirt and rock trail, so slow going, as there are lots of pedestrians, and the rocks are tough on William's little wheels.

I was able to join a paved bike path into The Remarkables Shopping Centre, which is on one side of Queenstown International Airport. It is one of the most scenically-situated airports you could wish for. I bet pilots just love to land at this one: a long approach with huge spiky mountain ranges on both sides.

I rode out of Frankton on SH6 for a few km, then took a turn signed "historic bridge" which led to the bike/pedestrian only old Shotover River bridge. From here, I followed my nose, and the occasional signpost, looking for the Wakatipu Trail to Arrowtown. I had to walk a couple of huge hills, but it was a lovely back route, off the busy highway to Cromwell and Wanaka, and the scenery, was, as to be expected, extraordinary. Officially it's 17km to ride from Queenstown to Arrowtown by this route. I did a lot more bonus km, as I got lost here and there.

In Arrowtown, an old gold mining town that's now a row of tourist boutiques, I had a great lunch at a nice artisan bakery, where they really did make artisan bread like promised on the shingle hanging outside. Arrowtown lies alongside a river, with tall mountains all around. Lots of interesting trails out of here, to ghost towns back in the hills.

Turns out, the Connectabus was just loading at Arrowtown for the ride back to Queenstown. I rode up to the bus door, jumped off William, did my sleight of hand fold up trick "dah dah!" in front of the curious bus driver and fellow passengers, and got on board. The bus doesn't allow bikes, but, as the driver said, in this case, it doesn't apply. Bus ride cost $8, with a change in Frankton.

It's starting to spit with rain finally, so I think I got lucky.

Today's Sunday jaunt is exactly what William is designed for. A tool around in the country, then a ride back to the start via public transport.

Tomorrow, we're off to Te Anau on the 7am InterCity bus. I'm watching the weather. If it breaks and fines up, a trip to Milford Sound is on the menu.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dawn of a new travel era

The Remarkables at dawn, yesterday.
It takes a few weeks, but then you figure it out. Independent travel is an exercise that requires you to trust your sense of humor.
I'm spending most of my nights in hostels and backpackers. It's almost the cheapest way of getting around. Cheaper would be camping, but I couldn't carry a tent on this trip. Cheapest of all is what the New Zealanders call "freedom camping." This is basically pulling off the side of the road in some nice place and pitching your tent. I sense it's going out of style here, due to the fact that freedom campers are treating the bush like an outdoor toilet. In local paper after local paper I read articles about the local citizens up in arms about these renegades, and how they want the local government agency to basically outlaw these pigs. Seems there is much fear here about the World Rugby Championship which is coming to New Zealand in the new future. Perhaps people have fear of large rowdy groups of international rugby fans despoiling the local landscape. Hmm. A bunch of people who don't know how to ##$!@% in the woods, eh?
Still, the officially sanctioned backpacker circuit requires you to have a good sense of the absurd. In a nutshell, folks, you can't trust any rating service. Here in Queenstown I'm staying at a particular place that has a 90+% approval rating in the BBH scheme.
During yesterday's hike on the Routeburn, my fellow trampers and I discussed how a place with a number of charms in a rather inconvenient location, run by an angry eccentric with a major persecution complex can rate so highly? Hmm. I suppose if I cared I'd check the survey methodology used by the BBH. Likely there's some sort of loophole in it that allows an outlier like this to garner what's basically a very very valuable competitive advantage.
Despite the crazy making aspects of the accomodation, it's convenient for me to continue my stay at this particular hostel because I only go back there to sleep. Today it's raining, and I chores to do downtown. I'll also stay down here for all my meals. I prefer to eat with people who are not burned out on tourists. I've dealt with plenty of drama and stress in other parts of my worklife. I sure as heck don't need it here.
The New Zealand tourism industry is changing, and it's turning away from independent travellers, at least for the near future. Today's Otago Daily Times has an interesting article of just how tourism is changing: fewer British, and fewer Europeans generally, few if any of the freespending Americans, more Aussies, but they are tighter with their wallets, and a huge boom in mainland Chinese and Korean folks, who prefer to travel to big cities, on big coaches, in big groups.
It seems the outfits catering to the independent traveler need a new strategic plan. Independents tend to stay a long time, and spend their money throughout the country, especially in little places that only have scenery to sell. The recession is killing these travelers.
I'm surprised how accurate this news article is. So far I've met one Chinese independent traveler, and I first assumed he was an Asian American from the US. Mostly I'm meeting Germans and Israelis in the backpackers, and they, like me, know the value of a $.
I wonder how they propose to sell things like paragliding, bungy jumping, zip lining, pub crawling, extreme snowboarding, heli-biking, etc., to the next wave of sedate and conservative Chinese visitors.
Hmm. A new dawn indeed.

Routeburn Track, and the vagaries of independent travel

Yesterday I joined three other travelers on a "bonus" day hike on the Glenorchy side of the Routeburn, one of New Zealand's "Great Walks."
The weather in Queenstown is deteriorating, so we had a day of cloud and misty rain. Still, Bruce and Joy from Ontario, Canada, made room in their JUCY rental car for Silka, a German woman, and myself.
First, an incredible ride into the Glenorchy district. Basically, a place hemmed in on all sides by mountain ranges. Choices up here include the Rees-Dart, the Greenstone and the Caples walks. We turned towards the Routeburn, and locked the car by 9am.
By 1pm, we'd made it to the Routeburn Falls hut. The weather had been changing throughout the day: occasional showers, weak sunshine. Made for cool and atmospheric hiking. The "boing boing" of each of the swing bridges only added to the experience. Along the trail we were joined by robins and rifleman birds (cute) and sandflies (not cute).
At the Routeburn Flats turn, we met a large group of students from the University of Otago, coming off 5 days in the backcountry. I chatted with one of the two leaders, who told me that this isn't just a bunch of outdoor education majors. In fact, it's a mixed group of Otago students. UO mandates this course for all students.
So, I've heard of colleges that assign a single book to be read by all undergrads. Looks like Otago goes one better, assigns a 5-day killer tramp for all its future philosophers, financial analysts, doctors, writers, sociologists and historians.
What a great idea, folks!
Is the Routeburn "worth it" in the rain.
Hmm: acquamarine streams, bushclad mountain ranges, pieces of glaciers. I think so.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Road to Glendu: cyclists' dream

This is an example of why touring cyclists just can't say "no" to New Zealand, despite the hazards of the roads, the blood-sucking sandflies, etc.

I read somewhere a quote from Daniel Boone. I think it goes: "I enjoyed myself, despite the dangers and inconveniences."

Rob Roy glacier, from road to Glendu

Ho hum...

Glendu or Brigadoon?

This is a little inlet on the lake about 12km from Wanaka. Nothing here but a sheep station and a 1960's era motor camp.

What they grow in Otago

Summer fruits for about $4 NZ per kilo (cherries are more expensive) in Cromwell, enroute to Queenstown.

Pictures are Worth 1000 Words: Queenstown

I took this photo today on, where else, Shotover Street in Queenstown. New Zealand: creator of the jetboat.


I moved on to Queenstown yesterday. The InterCity bus did a short stop at a fruit stand in Cromwell, where the passengers loaded up on peaches, cherries and plums from the orchards nearby, then, just after 4pm we arrived in "The Adrenalin Capital of New Zealand." Appropriately, as we pulled into the bus stop, we could watch 3 paragliders doing lazy circles over main street. We rolled into town via Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley, which is lined both sides with pinot noir vineyards.

Queenstown is sited on beautiful Lake Wakatipu, opposite an immensely attractive mountain range, called The Remarkables. This is the place where you can bungy jump, tandem sky dive, river surf, jet boat, river paddle, mountain bike to your hearts' content. There are plenty of outfitters here who will happily relieve you of your cash.

Just for fun, I went and priced out a coach/cruise/fly back by Cessna trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound. The booking office looked like a plush hotel lobby, so that gives you an idea just how profitable these trips are to the local economy.

After I recovered from the price, I'm at an internet cafe, where I can get the cheapest internet yet: $3/hour, with a discount if you have a BBH card, a YHA card, or several other options.

Back in the C19th, Queenstown was a goldrush "town" called "the Camp." It rebranded itself to Queenstown, but the goldrush spirt is alive and doing very well here.

Still, I had a great surprise today, in town. I was walking back from my survey of the town, looking for public telephone booths that might have a shelf in them wide enough to hold a laptop. I'm doing this odd activity because I have a couple of phone job interviews to do back to Australia this afternoon, and it would be nice to have a relatively quiet location in which to do them. Anyway, I saw two people ride by on fully loaded folding Bike Fridays. Now, I have been chatting via email with a couple of Seattle cyclists that I've never met in person, yet we have a friend in common. Exactly what Facebook and LinkedIn do, but way better. Real people, a real handshake. Well, well. It's them. Hi Ermanno and Mary!

It's rare enough to see other cyclists on folding bikes in New Zealand. So this meeting is super sweet. They're off to Te Anau soon, and both look buffed and tanned and obviously having a great time. Happy trails!

Me, I'm off to the phone box for some job interviews. Still, tomorrow I may get a free ride out to the start of the Routeburn track with a couple of Canadians who are staying at my hostel.

Life's sure a trip right now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bike Riding in Wanaka

I'm not doing anything like the level of serious point-to-point bike riding in Wanaka with William the Conqueror that I'd do if I'd brought my full-sized touring bike Sir Gulliver. However, I have managed a few rides.

Yesterday was the first really sunny day in Wanaka, so I celebrated by first riding out of town to the right, and lying on a park bench at Eely Point, a little finger of land that juts out into Lake Wanaka, and gives you nice views of tussocked green brown mountains all around. Later I rode to the left of town, about 12km on the Mt Aspiring Road, as far as the motor camp in Glendu, a mountain + lake setting so beautiful you can't believe it's real. This road, also known as the Matukituki Valley road leads to a long dirt road, and eventually to the Rob Roy Glacier hike. It's a roller coaster of a road, and I found it pretty tiring, given the heat, and the normal headwind involved, though, laughably lightweight in comparison to what any fully committed touring cyclist faces when riding the West Coast.

I thought about riding up SH6 to Makarora, but it's a series of super roller coasters. The SH89, to Cardona then Queenstown is also likely a butt buster.

I've just been contenting myself with hanging around in Wanaka's cafes, and snatching up any copies of the Otago Times or Christchurch newspaper [name forgotten]. Today's Otago Times had a scary article about some 24y0 woman who killed 3 cyclists last November, basically by spinning out of control into a group ride. The story recounts the tearful courtroom presentation by the son of one of the three killed, about the experience. It's a bizarre and gruesome tale, involving a quote like this: "when I was home that night I washed people's body parts off." WTF?! What I find interesting is that apparently all the relatives of the victims petitioned the judge and apparently don't want this driver jailed.

This to me is astonishing. Such forgiveness of reckless driving? I guess there is no punishment in New Zealand for being stupid. Heavens above, yesterday, on the Glendu road, I saw two locals, one driving a truck with empty trailer behind, take a shoulderless corner so fast, two wheels were in the dirt, kicking up gravel and sticks. Given the fact that 30 minutes earlier, I'd been riding in that exact spot on my bike, this caused me some concern. I'm sure that, in person, drivers of both these vehicles are perfectly nice people. But they were driving recklessly and apparently people just throw up their hands here, as in "what can you do" mode.

What is it about this acceptance of such totally avoidable and totally stupid road behavior that I don't get? It's not as if there is any big important place these drivers need to get to in such a hurry. This is the South Island of New Zealand. I still think people are outnumbered by sheep here. Perhaps its sheep driving then?


Wanaka and Thoughts on Technology While Traveling

I'm spending a few more days than expected in Wanaka, just north of Queenstown, on the West Coast. While on the road I am doing job applications for my normal profession. I came off the Mueller Hut hike to discover that
1. Two Australian organizations want to do telephone interviews this week
2. They couldn't reach me on my mobile phone when I was at Mt Cook

The explanation I got from 2 Degrees, the NZ carrier is that possibly it was on account of the number of high mountains in Aoraki Mt Cook NP getting in the way. Well, perhaps. I bought a really cheap little cell phone to carry with me during my travels, but it's showing its limitations. I can barely read the screen, I'm only apparently getting texts from 2 Degrees wanting me to "top up" and other things.

I brought my US i-phone with me as well, though I turned off the phone part. I figured it's cheaper just to buy phone cards to call home. Up until a few days ago, it was a useful device to capture photos and quickly load them to this blog when doing a full flash card dump from my camera wasn't convenient. However, I'm having wifi problems with it now, with the wifi carrier used by the YHAs. The carrier is Global Gossip, and I can't seem to rid the i-phone of an error page, which remembers my GG card from Mt Cook, tells me I'm out of $, but won't let me change it to the one I bought in Wanaka. I emailed GG today, and their explanation: "can't use 2 devices at once" to access GG, isn't the issue, and that i need to buy 2 cards, or register two devices, or some other crap that an itinerant traveler surely has no interest in doing. I'm not sure I have the energy to deal with their helpdesk anymore today. It doesn't help that I know I logged out of one device before using the other. I'm sure they will think I don't know what I'm talking about. All I know is the few photos I have taken in Wanaka, are trapped in my i-phone right now and I can't post them until I get the blasted GG message to butt out.

Most cumbersome of all, I brought a notebook PC with me. I did this because my eyesight couldn't handle the idea trying to write job applications, and use different companies' online HR systems to upload resumes, cover letters, references, and all the paraphenalia of job hunting in 2011 on a smart phone.

What the hell happened to travelling I wonder? Back when I first came to NZ, you could barely trust email to do a backpacker booking. When I was here in 2005, a few backpackers had wireless enabled laptops, but the service was still Internet Cafe based, so these poor people had to lug around a useless brick for the whole trip.

I've noticed that a large group of travelers do cart around their notebook, and even their laptop these days. I have to presume a few of the bike tourers do it, but I sure wouldn't do it. I'm in the oddball situation of needing to apply for managerial level jobs, so I have to present an image other than being some sort of eccentric. All I know is the computer weighs a lot and it's a pain having it, plus cables, etc., in my bike bag.

Last night there was a French touring cyclist staying in my dorm. I'm not sure if he had a PC with him or not. What was most impressive about him was the huge number of red welts he had on both legs, from the knee to each ankle. He told me he got bitten badly by sandflies in Haast, when he passed through. I felt for him. He's obviously one of those poor people who is allergic to these suckers [literally]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka

New Zealand seems to have more than it's fair share of retro movie buffs. It's Sunday and I'm at a showing of The Social Network. I get to sit on my choice of comfy sofas, next to a yellow Morris Minor. Outside I hope the clouds have finally left the mountain range, and maybe I will go for a hike. Or not. It's a day for recovery.

Life in the Backpackers of New Zealand

I'll be in Wanaka for a few days, deciding whether to go down the West Coast, to Queenstown or up the Coast, to Franz Josef Glacier. I'm staying in the YHA Purple Cow Backpacker, which has a nice view of Lake Wanaka from the dining area. I'm staying in a 6-bed dorm, for $29/night. As a YHA member, I get a discount off list price. The dorm is all-women for the first 2 days. For my last day here, I'll move to another dorm, this one a mix of men and women.

Every backpacker you stay in has its own distinctive flavor. I've also stayed in those that are part of the BBH network, and others that belong to no network at all.

Sometimes the single-sex dorms are filled with considerate bunk mates. Sometimes they're not. Ditto for the mixed dorms. So far, I've dealt with one woman who insisted on turning on the dorm light at 2am, and then who proceeded to email into the wee hours, inspite of 5 other people trying to sleep. Fortunately for this priceless person, I was exhausted after hiking, so I could sleep through despite this blatant rudeness. In Mt Cook I had to deal with a stink pot, a giant of a man who I don't think took a shower, despite having just come off a 4-day tramp on the Tasman Glacier. Last night, I had to enjoy the sounds of a woman in the room who was snoring loudly. Not only that, her cell phone must have been powered up, as I could hear faint supersweet elevator music coming from the depths of her daypack.

The solution to all this is having the right attitude + earplugs and an eye mask.

In other backpackers I've met the most delightful fellow travellers you could wish for. Great girls and boys, men and women from Israel, Germany, Russia, France, Holland, USA, Australia, UK, Norway, Spain, Canada, Uraguay, China, and other places.

The best situation is to be around many other solo travellers. That way, you are happy to talk to others. I've met a bunch of "WWOOFERS" [Willing Workers on Organic Farms]. One German guy told me he's woofing to get 12 weeks' experience before enrolling in an organic agricultural degree back home.

Many of the travellers on on a "gap" year, either taking time off, up to 1 year, after high school and before starting college, or during a college break. Most seem to be in the 20- to 35 yo demographic. Yesterday I shared a shuttle ride with a guy coming off 5 months of work in McMurdo in Antarctica. Travellers like me, in their 50s, are quite rare, and often folks with interesting reasons to be on the road. I met one woman from York, England, a landscape designer with 3 college age children, here to visit her 92-y-o uncle,and get inspired by the tussocks and mountains of New Zealand's national parks. Not your"run-of-the-mill" type.

Sometimes the backpackers have excellent kitchens, well stocked with dishes and cutlery. Other times, they are greasy pits where you don't want to risk touching any surface. Those nights you eat out.

I find the Chinese travellers the most interesting to watch in the kitchen. There are many more Mainland Chines folks touring around than I've seen before. I guess it's a sign of the Chinese economic boom. Usually these folks try their darndest to do a full-on multicourse dinner in the backpacker, with freshly prepared vegetables and enormous fruit salads. I'm always interested to see how they do it, as most knives in backpackers are so blunt you could use them as a mallet to hammer in your tent stakes.

If you're a fully self-supporting bike tourer, YHA gives you a good discount on nightly stays, around $19 per night. The rates vary depending on good ol' economics. In larger towns, like Wellington and Christchurch, you pay $30-$35 for a dorm bed. In smaller places you pay less.

YHAs usually have somewhere for you to store your bike. However, often it's a shed filled with old mattresses and stacks of extra chairs, so you have to have a sense of humor about "bike storage" as a convenience.

In at least two backpackers, I've walked into the TV room, and joined a bunch of kids watching one of the LOTR movies.

Yesterday, I went through Twizel. Nearby is the site of the big battle scene with orcs, armoured elephants, etc., from the 3rd movie. Apparently Peter Jackson recruited the entire town of Twizel (1000) people, plus everyone in Mt Cook Village (300 people), backpackers with time on their hands, to be extras. He still couldn't get enough people for the shoot, so apparently he contacted the New Zealand army. As they had little else to do, they were happy to help.

Nice to know that if New Zealand is ever invaded by orcs and goblins, their defense services are well-prepped.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mueller Hut in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Scenes from the steep and spectacular hike to Mueller Hut, including
the local wildlife: "What, me, chew through your tent with my harmless little beak?" - kea #1
The hike up is steep as heck. The hike down is equally steep. I'm in Wanaka now, two days later, hobbling around like an old codger, and muscles in my upper legs tight and sore.
Still, you can't see things like this without putting in some effort.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mt Cook National Park

Here's a shot of "cloudpiercer" at 5pm today. I came over from Lake Tekapo this morning on the shuttle, and my plans for tomorrow include a hike to Mueller Hut, assuming the weather is a repeat of today.

When the sun is out, this glacial valley is hard to beat. I rode a total of 2km from the backpacker where I'm staying, then lay in a field, reading a book and watching the mountain.