New Zealand: The next island

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May 2016

Looking back, the last days in Australia were strenuous and fast. In just one week I traveled 3500 km from Cairns to Melbourne. As a hitchhiker I relied on nice people and nice people attracting I went down the east coast.

Smaller adventures happen itself in such a way of traveling. Sleeping on the beach on a small wilderness spot at the Gold Coast, within sight of the high-rise buildings.The early morning climb of Mount Warning to be the first who sees the sunrise in Australia, and reunion with friends in Brisbane Sydney and Melbourne.

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 Once arrived there it just remains enough time to collect my bike and luggage and to visit the new Crunchytown.

For almost a year now I haven´t been on tour and have used the bike for short distances only. I need a new backwheel and a bikeshop builds the strongest possible wheel, for a quite steep price but quality is what I need. I hope it will last at least as long as the old one which I have to replace due to a defect free wheel. I buy an additional rack and new front pannieres as well.

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By plane I arrive in Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand and once again hot shower hosts makes my arrival in a new country easy. Del and Tracey take me in for two days and I get first informations and directions. For the first time I have a closer look at my newly purchased map, except that it will be cold and rainy this time of the year I have no idea what to expect.

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Then I´m ready to got. All my belongings on my bike I start to cycle south. A familiar feeling comes up when I sit on the bike, I have spent hundreds of hours on it,traveled thousands of kilometers in dozens of countries. My start in Germany seems long long time ago, and yet the time passes quickly. Somewhere between Ashburton and Geraldine, after three days cycling, my speedometer shows finally 40,000 km – exactly four years after leaving home.

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New Zealand is known for its dramatic nature, but the first days I cycle through rather boring farmland. Left and right of the road long fences are extending for kilometers, almost everything is private land and to find a campground in the evening is always a little challenge.

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But the mountains on the horizon get larger and promise sweaty climbs and secluded tent sites.

In the small town of Fairlie I meet another cyclist, in front the supermarket of course. We decide to cycle to a nearby lake and camp there. A coffee break wouldn´t be sufficient to tell everything we have to tell each other and my legs require anyway a break.

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We set up camp and gathering wood for a fire. The sun shines through the clouds and warms us – winter still seems far away. We cook a big dinner, stuff ourselves full of delicacies from the camp stove and enjoy sitting by the fire under the mighty starry sky. It’s a beautiful evening, I have imagined New Zealand like this.

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The next morning, it is still dark, we are woken by shots echoing over the lake. It’s the weekend and hunting is popular in New Zealand. But the shots are numerous, seem to come from different directions and do not stop. Every few minutes someone shoots and so it goes on the next hours. We already believe that the New Zealanders are crazy because with just hunting it can´t be explained, it sounds more like a battle. Finally a man with a boat comes across the lake and provides the explanation: Today is the first day of the duck hunting season and that attracts a lot of people to go out and shoot the pultry out of the sky. The idyll is over and Alex and I go our own ways.

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Such brief encounters with other bike travelers are important to me. Similar are our experiences on the bike and in life. Valuable are also the information about routes and places firsthand.

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 I’m heading to Lake Tekapo and finally the landscape is as desired. A gray gravel road runs through the brown Tussock hills and at the end the turquoise glacial waters of Lake Pukaki are waiting for me, overlooked by the mighty Mount Aoraki.

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I’m on my way to the starting point of the Alps to Ocean Cycle trail. In the next week it will bring me from the highest mountain in the country to the sea, always off road and, as I heard, through wonderful places But first it’s time for a rest.

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