Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

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?