“Not all those who wander are lost.” — Bilbo Baggins

Bikepacking Cape Reinga to Bluff

New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the country of the great white cloud, home of Hobitton, my favorite Marlborough wine, glow worms, penguins and more sheep than people. Also home to a bikepacking route that stretches about 3,000 km starting on the northernmost tip of the North Island (Cape Reinga) and winding to the Southernmost tip of the South Island (Bluff). And I do mean “winding”. The entire length of New Zealand is only 1600 kms.

We have not seen a “River/Sea” segment on any other gravel bike trail – conjures up a vision of needing Moses like powers.

Most details will be figured out day to day. I expect it will take a few days and perhaps a few kms before Nav Guy has honed his skills again. But it is a fairly narrow country and we are already expecting to cycle twice the length of the entire Country. So really, how many wrong turns can we make? Did you know that Dunedin has the steepest street in the world at 19 degrees? Not that I lack confidence, but I will route us completely around Dunedin.

There are organized groups of cyclists that do the route – in January or February. Using our hurricane experience from Newfoundland has led us to ignore this glaring fact and book our flights for early October. Whatever.

3000 kms in 10 weeks. Allowing for logistics and days off, that should average about 60kms a day. We averaged 90 kms a day on our X-Canada trip. We think this is a reasonable goal. But who knows. We need time for Hobitton, glow worms, and Marlborough wine (lots of it). So our Christmas cards will be late. And who writes Christmas cards anyway?

First cycle day is on 90 Mile Beach. We hope to stop at a lodge along the beach but they, and in fact every accommodation I have emailed, have not replied. Apparently it is off season in New Zealand. I am concerned about my flawless record of not setting up a tent. But it would appear that a lot has to go right in order for there not to be a tent night or two in the first few days. So we packed 4 days of food and lots of Red Rose tea. I suspect there is a flask of scotch hidden somewhere too.

Friends and family have asked whether we’ve been training. Definitely – Transcona Training. Cold beer; gin martinis; wine on deck at 4:17 pm. We’ll get our real training in the first few hundred kms.

We will bring our experienced Kona gravel bikes with us. We ordered next generation gravel bikes 8 months ago. They haven’t arrived yet and no word on when they will. A lingering Covid supply hangover apparently. But we did manage to find new tires and a lower gearing for both bikes. Something to do with aging joints says Gear Guy. Must be talking about a bike part.

There are alot more logistics to long term bike-packing internationally – notably no support network like we had in Canada – family and friends in every province supplying us with cold beer, hot showers and clean wash. But interestingly, as soon as we committed to the trip and started telling people, we have made some wonderfully unexpected connections. Perhaps it is how desperately unprepared and unorganized we look? Our friends Kate and Stephen who moved to Nelson, New Zealand about 7 years ago offered us their home as a refuge and a bike part cache. And it only took a little wine when they visited us in Fernie this summer! We also ran into a server at Island Lake who is from Invercargill, the exact southern town that we plan to fly from after completing our ride. She offered up lots of useful intel. And we also just learned Thorna’s nephew is a bike mechanic in Auckland. Speed dial Will for parts.

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And so starts our adventure. Going in the wrong season, with old bikes and questionable maps in a covid free world. Jay just tested positive.

¡Kia Ora! (Which means see ya down the road Mate!)