We’re now in Napier and Hastings for a couple of quiet days before heading on towards Wellington. We’ve ridden continuously since Auckland, for the last nine days, covering 932km. We’ve camped most of the way with two nights in hostels meeting a variety of other travellers. The campsite kitchens are good places to meet people and already we’ve bumped into new friends again as we move southward. It’s always interesting to hear their stories, not just about New Zealand but about themselves, why they’re here and travelling.
I’d always thought of the communality of this travelling life with a little horror – the dread of having to talk to strangers when all I’d want to do is eat and have a quiet moment with Yasmin. In reality, we’ve found mucking about in a camp kitchen and eating with everyone else a delight. Often we’re old enough to be most people’s parents but not always. There’s a real mix of ages and few stereotypes.
The hills have been really hard going with the road between Gisbourne and Wairoa particularly difficult. The climbing almost broke us with a very long ascent and steep kick-back where we had to stop and rest before being able to continue. In the last 3km of a 102km ride another hill blocked our final path to the town needing ‘out of the saddle’ riding to clear the summit for us to then descend like falling stones. We often clock more than 60km as we drop through the road’s sweeping bends and shaded corners coming to more open land and country. The views across the sun yellowed hills to the deep blue-black of the South Pacific Ocean keep us moving.
We’re typically pleasantly spent by the end of the day but surprisingly now find hostel beds and bedrooms not nearly as comfortable as our sleeping mats and tent. In Vietnam the beds were delightfully hard but here their softness leaves us unrested, hot and stiff. Beds with their mattresses seem to curve beneath us disabling our tired bodies from being able to sleep flat. This has become more pronounced as we continue to bicycle and means our bodies are changing as we’ve got used to a different way of sleeping. The hard flatness of the ground enables our backs and muscles to stretch and we awake feeling much more properly rested in the mornings. Sitting on the ground to read or write in the tent is good too, similarly forcing tired tendons and ligaments to stretch that the comfort of chairs and sofas don’t. I’m sure Madeline, my Alexander Technique teacher, would approve.