Three weeks in the US

My family weekend is now official done, and my stay at Amber’s place as well.

There has been shopping, Universal Studios, Island of Adventures, beach, pool, sunbathing and a lot of heat! Some longboarding, driving and “catastrophe sightseeing” as well.

Going to Universal was nostalgic, even though you could understand why they are rebuilding old attractions into new one. Terminator 2: 3D is still awesome, but the 3d is… sucky. Both “Jaws” and “Back to the Future” were gone, and so was “Earthquake”.

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The Harry Potter parts were pure awesome! So well built, and I was too close to spend all my money on merchandise.

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Taking care of the little has been really fun. He is such a cutie, and almost never screams compared to other children, which the other people on the flight probably was really happy for.

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They are still cleaning up after Irma, much needed. There are a lot of boats which are destroyed, a lot of trees piled up and a few buildings where the roof has gone.

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On my fathers birthday Tim had prepared and bought some Key lime pie. I wanted to get a donut for him, but everything I could find was a bagel. Round with a hole in the middle at least, and a couple of candles!

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I also managed four skydives at Deland, and some work. It really can be too hot when skydiving… I ended up jumping in shorts, as the overall just made you sweaty all through. My sit is getting better!

 

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As my parents flew home from Miami, Amber came and picked me up! It was really cool, as we actually met at my home DZ in Sweden.

The stay at Ambers place was my lazy stay. I started rewatching Once Upon a Time, and borrowed Ambers longboard whenever I wanted to go shopping. We had some awesome nights, and tested the vegan restaurant Ethos. Walmarts guacamole sucks, though!

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Arriving in the US

Another year, another trip!

Yesterday evening local time I arrived in Orlando with my family. They will stay here for two weeks, while I will stay another five days before traveling to New Zealand! This time I will stay there for about six months, hopefully getting a job as a packer at a dropzone! This years trip may not be as adventurous as the last couple of ones, but I will try to keep the blog updated anyway (and get done with the last trip, sometime)!

The plan was to hitch-hike, but…

A small update about my life: I am not feeling too good. Bad stuff happens in life. This is not the blog where I’ll talk all about that, but that’s one of the reasons the last couple of posts go so slowly. For the dear readers still wanting to read “the ending”, it’s still on it’s way, though (and if you subscribe, you’ll know when there are a new post to read)! Bear with me!

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The breakfast view was astounding. Even though I have to bike over them, I am so in love with the mountains in this country. There are not too many countries I would like to move to, but this is one of them. I’m already thinking of returning some day.

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There are a few negative things, still, the sandflies being the main one. I walked around while eating my breakfast to not get all eaten, and that was with my repellent!

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Still had to stop and photo those beautiful lupines, which also grew a lot close to the river.

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As I already had decided yesterday, I was going to try and bike over the pass. This would be an awesome idea, something I felt as soon as I was going in the right direction. The winds were crazy, and just pushed me so much!

The grade was pretty gentle, and with the wind I hadn’t bike for too long before getting a really nice photo opportunity of the dwindling road.

Even though uphills are sometimes tough, they are really rewarding as well. Even on the shittiest of days, with four degrees, rain and 16 % steepness, it makes me so happy. It makes me feel alive!

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What I didn’t think was that I almost was at the top already. The end of the road you see in the picture above is at a lookout, just a couple of hundred metres from the top!

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From the lookout

Suddenly, i saw another cyclist making his way up. First, I though it was just a racer cyclist, but soon I saw a pair of bags as well. This intrigued me!

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He was on a small trip (I think from Christchurch to Wanaka) before he would guiding people as a bicycle tour guide. We decided to bike together as far as everything matched up (and I did not plan to bike in this wind whenever the road turned around, and would start going a bit north instead).

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We found a nice plateau with a good view, which would be perfect for lunch. During lunch we saw a poor bastard biking the other way, onto headwind and uphill… He didn’t seem like he had any interest in stopping; could be the challenge.

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Almost at Tarras with 30 kilometres left to Wanaka, the road started turning into the headwind. My water bottle was empty and I was really thirsty in this heat, so a pause at the Tarras gas station was much needed. I told Shay I wouldn’t bike into Wanaka with all that headwind, but hitch-hike the last part. He agreed upon that idea, and I had already told him how easy it was. We went to the next intersection and put ourselves at a good spot.

After just a couple of minutes, cars start to stop, but none can take our bikes. Because of that, I put my bicycle more visible. The fifth car passing (fourth car to stop) actually went by us, turned around, told us she would get her bike rack and come back in five minutes. Lucky as usual!

She dropped us off at a day care, where she would pick up her kids. Me and Shay had a fika together before parting ways, and I made my way to Johanna and Arvid!

We had an awesome dinner (according to my notes, but to be honest I don’t remember what it was we ate), and really good company. There would be some nice days coming!

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Dessert!

Selfie day!

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As the others were going to take a 100-something kilometres bicycle route, with a pretty high ascent, I slept a bit longer in my tent and woke up just to say goodbye. It’s always so much fun camping with random people!

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I continued, not aiming to do many kilometres. My plan was to arrive in Wanaka tomorrow, and I though that it would be too many kilometres, as there was a high pass on the way, and I was tired. An asian guy on what looked like a foldable bike passed  by, biking the other way, but he didn’t want to stay and chat.

Without stress, I filled my day with other stuff, instead. One of the things I wanted to do was to get a good bicycle selfie, as I don’t get too many pictures of myself. While biking, I looked for a decent spot, and started trying out. All this “setting the timer to 20 seconds, run to your bike and try to bike by really slow while the camera takes a series of pictures, oh, and remember to look nice still” can be hard sometimes. But, it’s something!

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There were a good spot to take a look over the lake and see, what I suppose at least, Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. I asked some other people who answered “that’s what we will tell people anyway, they won’t know the difference”. The clouds made it hard to be sure, but the location and everything tells me that should be it!

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I saw two girls wandering on the road, and hoped they would be people walking the Te Araroa. They weren’t, as they were hitchhiking, but still had a nice chat.

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More selfies, and also some pictures to admire the bicycle! This is also what my front stuff looks like nowadays, as I added my red light from the night tour to it. Hopefully it recharges itself enough from the sun hanging there, and you never know when you need a quick light!

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As the lake ended I decided to try a bike trail. I had biked parts of it during the morning, and they kind off sucked, but for some reason I always think a bike trail will get better. It didn’t.

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Bad roads with sharp turns, ascending and descending. Sometimes the gravel was of the type that just makes everything much harder. At least I gave it a try! (But I never learn…)

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Arriving in Twizel, I went and bought food, before finding a library with some free wifi to write my blog. They closed ten minutes before I was done, though, so I had to move ahead, and found a Spark box , when my computer died. I asked at a nearby cafe, and they let me use their power so that I could finish and upload the blog post. After this I had no real plan, but I found out about a free camping just 29 kilometres south of Twizel. That couldn’t be too much, I thought, even though it was already late afternoon. With some headwind it was kind of a push, but I arrived after another too hard trip.

Upon arriving, I choose a place kind off close to the bathroom, and away from other people, to keep it quiet. Just five minutes later two people biked into the camping, as Nils and Tom was done with their day trip! Nice coincidence.

I also started to plan for the next day, as I felt biking the last 110 kilometres shouldn’t be as tough as I thought earlier. The ascent was supposed to be within reasonable limits, and I could always give up and just hitchhike when I got tired or bored. As of Nils and Tom, they were going to visit the hot tubs in the morning, so we would split again!

Other cyclists!

Waking up, I was so damn tired… but I knew I had to get ready and check out, so pushed through the morning most of all wanting to check in for another day and just sleep. I didn’t feel like I had too much time according to schedule, and not too much to do in this city, so I decided to move on. I still managed to be a few minutes late checking out, but at least they didn’t mind!

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The night before was amazing!

My mind was set on walking up Mt John, to get a daylight look as well. The reception let me store my stuff there, and I brought a little bit of food and started my small journey. It was a nice walk up there, and I took an alternative route close to the top to get another cool view on the way to the observatories.

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After jumping a small fence I was back at the normal track, and the view was really nice! I could recognise where we had been during the night, and already missed the sky. I had a sandwich at the astro cafe, and took a lot of pictures. My lunch friend was a small bird who wanted pieces of my sandwich, but he didn’t get too much. Cute little fellow!

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My panoramas are still a bit shaky when stitching them together, but I’m still evolving my photography!

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I walked down again, got my stuff and went to do some shopping. I had found out about a bicycle trail, Alps 2 Ocean, which I would be able to follow. This would be a good choice!

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I wasn’t sure, but this was the canal I would follow!

After some downhill, I was biking along a canal, with the strongest tailwind! I wouldn’t have this exact direction the whole day, but right now I was going 30+ km/h without too much effort.

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I wished it could have been like this the whole day.

The road I was biking on soon ended, and a gravel trail started, with a “bicycle only” passage in the way. The passing sucked, as it would only almost let me pass with my bags still attached to the bicycle.

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The gravel went slower, of course, and it was the bad sort of gravel, making it harder to keep balance. Still some beautiful views, and picnic places, but I cursed myself a bit for taking the bicycle trail. No cars, at least. Actually, there were no one else around at all, which was some nice freedom. The direction I now was traveling in made it be headwind, and the strong winds were no more something I liked.

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There were one particular stretch, where there were warning signs for cars to take a side road in strong winds. I didn’t want to go down the valley, and then up again, but tried to put one bag in the front to see if it would help with the balancing issue. Didn’t make any difference at all, sadly.

Instead, I let som air out from the front tire, and it actually helped. It was still a pain in the ass to travel this road, but at least I didn’t have to walk.

When the asphalt road started, I got off to fill my front tire again. Suddenly, I saw two bicyclists approaching from the same road I had just biked. Their names were Nils and Tom, and they had also met along the way. We were all going the same direction, and continued together!

We came out near a salmon farm, still up high, with beautiful views. The clouds where playing with the sun, giving nice photo opportunities, and more than beautiful mountains.

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After rolling down the hill in high speeds, we started looking for a place to stay at, where we would not be found. First, we looked close to the beach, but there were no hills or anything, and we ended up going up into the forest. Looking around, we found a good spot for all three tents, not visible from the road, nor the camp fire site where people seemed like they had a good time, with cans and t-shirts left behind.

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Our camping area!

Not having too much water, I went down to the beach to wash my stuff. Of course I brought my camera to play around a bit…

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…which was exactly the same thing I went to do when the others went to bed!

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As we were still in a dark sky reserve, I tried to get some goods spots of the sky. Too many clouds, though, but still good enough to play around!

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Damn, that was beautiful

To arrive early, I woke up early. The sun was shining as well, making the tent hot and not too nice to sleep in.

After a naked breakfast I biked until I got to Fairlie, where I went to the library for internet and a pause. I also called and booked a tour with Sky&Earth in Tekapo, to go on a midnight stargazing tour around Mt John Observatory!

When I was leaving, I met another cyclist, who were biking from Bluff to Cape Reinga! She did it for charity, and seemed like she was tougher than I was, with less resting and longer days! She got glad over the fact that she had downhill, though.

Trying to leave the city again, soon a car stopped me. It was the first car with the Americans, and after talking a bit, I continued. The other car (Helen) soon arrived, goon and all.

To make me go faster, we loaded everything but some food and water into their car, as I would continue having an uphill for the rest of the day. I had started at 223 metres above sea level, and would end at 731 metres…

Somewhere during this day, I passed 70 km/h for the first time this trip. Damn, that’s fast.

As I was biking, a black and white bird start flying just past me, again and again. I guess I was too close to its territory or something, but it followed me for a good couple of hundred metres, almost pooping at me. It scared me for some seconds!

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After Burkes Pass, I soon passed a sign telling me I entered International Dark Sky Reserve! This would be so cool!

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I arrived at the beach in Tekapo by 15.30. Even without luggage, it had been hard to push, and as soon as I got all the important stuff, and shoes, off me, I just walked down into the lake and took a swim. It was so cold, and so rejuvenating, and probably made my clothes a lot cleaner. With the sun out, I would soon dry anyway.

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The Americans would continue to lake Pukaki, and I had a few hours to kill until midnight. There were some Canadians and a German chilling on a floating bridge, and so I hanged out with them until I got too tired and went to check in at a hostel.

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After shopping and preparing and trying to use the overloaded internet, I slept for an hour, being dead tired. When I woke up again, I didn’t feel like going on a tour at all, but I had already paid, and made myself put on warm clothes and go to the reception, where a bus was waiting.

The tour itself was awesome. I got to learn how to navigate quite easily on the southern hemisphere, and a lot of other stuff I probably don’t remember all too well. I also stepped up my game in astrophotography.

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I haven’t ever had the knowledge to be able to take this sort of photos, and that, together with an almost cloudless night, up at an observatory mountain, gave me some awesome pictures. I am totally in love with the results, and next time they are going to be even better!

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Two hours later, I had looked into ”clouds” full of stars, seen twin stars that looks like one for the eye, and many constellations and phenomena. We went back with the bus, and even though I was even more tired, I was too excited to go to sleep at once. I had to try and edit at least a couple of the pictures, and even though I saw things I could have done different, it was more than good enough for me. With those beautiful pictures in mind, I went to bed at 04.00 am, soon to wake up again, as I had to check out from the hostel… Totally worth it!

Starting late, ending normal, getting far?

From a late night, and much wine, comes a late morning. A call home and some other stuff delayed my life as well, and I needed to get a good shot of this cool aquarium which was in the room I was sleeping in!

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Started biking at 13.00, and wanted to get kind off far as I wanted to be in Tekapo the day after to meet the Americans again. It was a headwind in the start, and I wanted to hitchhike, but there were not too many cars on the road I was biking on, and I didn’t want to stop and hitchhike for real, in case of not getting picked up.

There was another back road I wanted to bike on, but i wasn’t sure if it was possible to bike it right now. It looked like there wouldn’t be a bridge over the river, and with the past days rain, I was unsure. After speaking with a local I decided to skip it, and get to the main road.

On the way there was a deer farm, and they mainly stood there and looked at me!

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It went fairly well anyway, and despite starting late, biking in headwind and having to get up from the coast again, I managed 82 kilometres, and it wasn’t even dark yet. I saw a really nice spot for camping, though, and decided it wasn’t worth 10 kilometres to miss out on a nice spot, not knowing what would come ahead.

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I also managed to get to bed kind off early to recover some sleep, still being really tired after last nights party!

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Who said kiwis can’t fly?

I went to Skydiwing Kiwis, where they were on a weather brake. It was supposed to get better, and I didn’t want to chase jumps or anything, so I was glad anyway. There was an airplane museum next door, and for ten dollars it felt worth it.

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The coolest part was the story about Juliet Delta 321, a C-130 Hercules which crash landed, and was buried, in Antarctica. They dug it up, made a few small repairs and flew it away, 15 years later!

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When I was done with the first hangar, the weather looked better, and when I went back I was put on a lift pretty soon. I made a Skydance, and we were well on level and all!

After the first jump I heard someone telling someone else he was Swedish, and so I met Viktor, who was travelling around, sometimes doing pack jobs, and right now doing labour work in Christchurch!

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I made another jump in the afternoon, and continued my relaxed day. When I asked about places to camp at I got a tip about a place nearby. There were even toilets, so and being 150 metres away from the drop zone, it was a good location!

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With the sky night being rather dark, I tried some astrophotography, but with those settings, I failed pretty hard.

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I woke up to the sound of airplanes, and when looking out of my tent, I saw a few canopies flying around up there.

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After another jump, I take a look at the second, and much bigger, hangar of the museum. The DC3 was nice!

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With the service hours running out, they made some tandem only lifts before letting sport jumpers jump again. I made my fourth, and last, at this drop zone, doing a high pull, cruising around and looking at the views. It is beautiful at those drop zones!

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We went shopping when the day was over, and had a BBQ, including some mushrooms they had found by the runway and landing area. I got to try and speak Spanish with another guest jumper, and it went so-so, including google translate!

The late evening was spent at Lee and Sophie’s place, where most people went into the bubble bath. I was still really tired and went to bed fairly early instead. This drop zone gave me the closest feeling to being at a Swedish drop zone so far, really neat!

So many photos! (179 in total…)

I woke up 08.30, even though the alarm was set at 09.00. The reason: It was too warm, and too bright!

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In that moment I was so happy. I just put everything outside, and most things were dry before I had the time to eat breakfast! Which took a rather long time…

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When I pitched my tent, everything was rather shitty, even the views. Upon waking up, I realised everything was rather beautiful in the brighter weather. Actually the most beautiful place on New Zealand I had visited so far. If it wasn’t because of the head wind, I would have biked through it, and most of the places I would stay at the next coming 15 kilometres.

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I refilled my water bottles from the small stream, and started biking in shorts, with a nice tailwind. The whole day, 82 kilometres, would consist of slightly downhill, apart from 6.5 kilometres. Everything was just plain awesome.

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The views made me stop so often, so the first 15 kilometers took about two-three hours. I have a lot of editing to do, and I probably weren’t able to capture the real beauty. You get the point, though, and can hopefully imagine the rest!

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Another perfect thing about my location was the lack of vehicles. Almost no one would like to drive on this road, when there were another one, as this one was pretty steep on it’s places, and only gravel. I loved it.

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Suddenly, the gravel road turned into asphalt. I would still go on another gravel road, as it would again be less kilometres and less cars, but it was nice for now. I almost hurt myself, though; while rolling down hill, I heard a strange noise close to my rear wheel. I looked at it, looked up, and saw that I was on my way to the shoulder. I went off, and went through the grassy side in about 40 kilometres per hour, and I stood up to use my legs as shockers, and held the handlebar as hard as possibly, yet firmly, to not let the bike or front wheel make any jump or fall over. Everything went well, but the insight right after was pretty ugly. The scenery was still nice, though!

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After biking behind a few sheep who had gotten out from their pasture, and riding down the Zig Zag Road, I had lunch (raisins, almonds and crackers to save time, as the photography had taken so long) close to a river. I was out on normal roads again, and it would be asphalt the rest of the way.

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In Methven (which always makes me think ”Meth Haven”) I looked up places to stay at. After the wet days a shower and washing machine would be nice, and I sent out a few couch surfing requests.

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I got an answer, from a lovely person who already hosted someone else, but could let me pitch my tent in their garden. Their other guest made dinner (accidentally vegan), which was more than enough for all four of as (a really charming child, as well as us two guests and the host). I went out to do the shopping needed, washed my clothes and took a shower. Really nice after that last few days adventures!

Shittiest day so far

This was supposed to be a really easy day. No real climbing, more or less flat for the whole day and the more food I ate, the less I had to carry. Too bad the weather didn’t like me.

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I slept on the bench to the right!

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A goodbye to my new friends, and I started packing my stuff.

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It started really well. Tailwind, fast speeds. Little to no rain. Suddenly, I was doing 12 km/h. Downhill. And damn, I had to push.

In the smallest of uphills, I was down at 5 km/h. I really didn’t get nowhere. It had started to rain pretty bad, and I was soaked. Everything was cold. I was so glad I had those extra gloves, otherwise it would have been even worse.

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On the flat part I did 7 km/h. A lady even stopped and asked me about hypothermia. She told me to take it really easy, and take care of myself. There was a café just a kilometre ahead, and I was already aiming at that one.

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Most pictures will look pretty boring today, and of course I could edit them like this, making everything look nice, magical and edited. Wouldn’t reflect the trip, though.

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At this point I had actually done 32 kilometres. There was an open fire here as well, and they seemed like they wanted to help me. They didn’t sell any food, but didn’t mind me eating my own in there, so I bought a pot of tea and sat as close as possible to the fire to dry up. Sat there maybe an hour.

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I decide to continue, and still though it was possible to do my 75 kilometres.

Suddenly, a short, but steep, uphill. I really wanted to hitchhike, but it was a bad spot for anyone to stop at, and I pushed myself to get up there. I really had zero energy.

The downhill was pretty shielded from the wind, and it felt good for a while, and even the flat stretch afterwards went on in 15 km/h. I knew this would only be for a couple of hundred metres, though.

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Being cold and all, I still loved the sights.

I checked my phone, which soon turned itself off, probably because of the cold weather. At that point I put my thumb out, and soon a camper van stopped to pick me up. At this point I had done 6 kilometres since the café, but now I was exhausted, and even colder.

They were an Australian couple, with some friends in another camper van, and they all were going to Springfield. According to the thermometer it was 4 degrees celsius outside, and it would be warmer at the lower level Springfield would be at. I didn’t want to change my plan, though, and after about 17 kilometres they dropped me off where the road was turning to the east, at the corner of Lake Lyndon. We drank a cup of tea together, and I got a package of rise crackers, which I ate before I continued. I also put my fleece on. Kind off a bad decision, as my rain gear still let too much water through, but I was too cold.

The road I wanted to ride was a gravel road, which even was closed. I didn’t really mind that part, though, and would just be happy without all the cars.

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I didn’t make it too far, though. After another 4 kilometre, with a small mountain shielding me from the worst rain and hail, I saw how it stormed around the corner. I already had problems getting anywhere at all, and at this point I was ready to risk a fine at 200 NZD. The risk of hypothermia felt pretty high, and I was actually a bit afraid, and I was really unsure of what would happen if I crossed that corner and continued. Pitched the tent, and kept myself moving around, fixing whatever needed to be fixed for the night. The tent was still wet since every day I used it the last week, of course.

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I kept my thermal underwear on me, to hopefully make it kind off dry before going to bed. No energy to cook anything, and just wanted to keep the tent close, I ate crackers with jam, peanuts and raisins as dinner.

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Made some sit-ups every now and then to get my heat up. The sound from the outside was really high, as the storm continued. It hailed every now and then, and when I went to the bathroom, of course.

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I had a merino t-shirt, my thermal underwear, my warm socks, two buffs and a totally closed sleeping bag. That, plus earbuds, as the sound, and sudden shakes of the tent, made it really hard to sleep. I woke up a few times feeling bit cold, but thanks to not getting a new sleeping bag, and using my -9°C T-lim sleeping bag, I was mostly warm, even though everything was more or less wet.