Heino again!

I even got treated breakfast, and it was a nice change to the loaf of bread I was usually eating. Weet-Bix with orange juice and homemade rhubarb cream, which was delicious!

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Tomorrow I would climb Arthur’s pass, and today I would just get around 70 kilometres, and refill my food stock, as I wouldn’t  pass by a store in about four days. From Michaels house to Ashburton it was around 280 kilometres, which would give me a good average of 70 per day, with the second they being the toughest with the uphill.

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On the way to Greymouth I biked past quite a few really nice views. The weather really made everything look more mystique and beautiful!

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I even had a plenty good tailwind most of the ride. As I arrived in Greymouth, I needed to get better bungee cords as well, and the fuel for my kitchen was running out. I also wanted to change my pedals to ones who would be better to use when climbing steep roads, as those SPD+flat-pedals were pretty small, and I never use the SPD-side.

As I approached the bicycle store, I recognise a bicycle, which looks pretty empty, though. When I got closer I was sure – it was Heino’s bicycle! His multiple years old thermarest had gone bad, and he was buying a new one in the store next to the bicycle shop. We decided to eat lunch together, and I went to get new pedals.

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This is how the bicycle looks like since I got the extra backpack on top, some fuel that didn’t fit my fuel bottle and all free spaces full with food

After shopping for food, fuel any bungee cords as well, we found a small green corner with a bench where we ate our lunch. I ate beans and olives, Heino some yoghurt and stuff. After lunch there was a guy biking over the bridge in front of us, apparently being a Danish guy biking around!

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New pedals!

A good bye to the Danish and Heino, and I continued this day’s ride. Even though I went more easterly, I still had tail winds pushing me further! As I left the coast, I initiated a small climb, which would be nothing compared to tomorrow. On the way I saw this fence, full of shoes…

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As I was close to where I wanted to stay the night, I remembered it was time to send home a few things… there was a petrol station, closing in just thirty minutes, where I could print some stuff and send it away with their postal service. Good timing!

I spent another hour outside, eating olives, crackers with jam and surfing the internet, waiting for it to get darker, before biking a few kilometres more. There was a small side road with a great place to pitch my tent at, right next to the railway. I thought they didn’t use it too much, but I had great timing going to the bathroom when a train passed by in 20 kilometres per hour…

After refilling water in a house nearby, and tightening my pedal as it was making strange noises, I went to bed, prepared for tomorrow.

“Resting day”

I woke up as Heino was already awake and up, and when I asked him about the dream/the cows/the earthquake, he told me it was for real. Such an experience, I just wish I had been more awake!

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This would be my resting day, so I was thinking of making an 8 kilometres walking trip in the area, and to visit the Pancake Rocks and the caves. When we were already packed up, Michael came back to meet us in the morning. He informed us about the earthquake (the americans says it was 7.8 – lucky for us, on the east coast, north of Christchurch). I asked him about staying at his place tonight, as we spoke about it yesterday, and he was living 10 kilometres south. Would be a good place to stay at, and getting in the right direction!

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Hir Surly!

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And the horses!

So I went up to the information centre, logged into Facebook, replied to people asking if I was dead and asked about leaving my bags there during the day. The first stop afterwards would be the Pancake Rocks, on the opposite side of the road!

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Apparently they formed 30 million years ago, from dead animals and plants 2 kilometres below the surface. When high tide and rough sea there would be water sprouting up from them, but it was pretty calm when I was there. Still an extraordinary view.

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The next destination would be down hill just north of the information centre. It was a cool visit, and I met some americans in there as well.

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My next plan was to do the walk along the Pororari river, and then continuing on the Inland Pack Track back to the road. It was in total eleven kilometres, but I figured I would be able to hitchhike back to the start.

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I stopped for lunch and bathroom break at the Punakaiki Tavern, and left my bicycle outside as I started the walk. It was supposed to take a total of three hours, with the first part being 1 hour 15 minutes; I arrived at the junction after 45 minutes already. Halfway through I felt something in my bad right knee, but it went away again.

After the junction it took much longer time. As I didn’t bring a water bottle to save weight, I stopped by a small stream to drink some water.

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It started to rain, but as I didn’t want to carry it all around, I had left my rain jacket as well. Not a problem, though; as long as I moved, I was keeping more than warm!

When reaching what would be the highest point of the track, I saw what looked like a kind of track going even higher. My curiosity didn’t let my walk away, and I started walking, almost climbing, through bushes, trees and above stones. It went really slow, being a pretty thick forest, but I managed! It was not possibly to get a good view, though; too many trees, and too cloudy.

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On my way back to the track I managed to almost lose myself. I certainly didn’t walk the same way, at least. It was lots of fun!

I think I could see the place where we camped the night before. You would need high resolution pictures and zoom in to see anything, but there it is!

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After completing the rest of the walk, and walking out the same path I biked out this morning, same horses and all, I was at the road again. I didn’t want to walk on asphalt, and after reaching my thumb out, the first car passing by stopped to pick me up. They were one Norwegian and two Finnish girls, so suddenly we had a Scandinavian road trip! They were actually only going two kilometres farther than where I had left my bike, but it was perfect for me!

I biked to the information centre, loaded my bike and started the short trip to Michaels place. It ended with a really steep road up to the house, but that would give me a nice view from the room I would be staying in, as well as the howling sound of the small storm going on outside.

It was a really pleasant evening, and I got time to update my blog and start looking into what petrol kitchen I would get, as I would travel up to the northern part of Sweden for one week just one and a half weeks after arriving at home.

Michaels parents treated me vegan dinner as well, and eating something made in a real kitchen was amazing! Potatoes made in the oven together with a chick pea salad, and something I still don’t know the Swedish name of (if you are reading this, Michael, please tell me English word of the vegetable/whatever it was)! After yesterdays earthquake, there were still some aftershocks, which made the whole house wobble a bit.

Earthquake!!!

As I was leaving the backpackers, the manager told me about a road he thought I should take, as I would be able to visit a seal colony as well. It was another 20 kilometres, but whenever I get a tip like that, I feel like I would miss out if I skipped it. 20 extra it was!

When I arrived out there I noticed my rear wheel was going a bit soft. I thought it could be a flat, but decided to wait until after the seal colony, so I would be sure as well.

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It was a beautiful walk to the seal colony, and upon arriving, there were a few seals as well. I met a photographer who was travelling mainly to take photos, and exchanged a few words with him. I would never be able to wait with editing my photos until I come home; that way I would just continue postponing it (looking at you, photos from the Kirghizistan trip).

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The tire was flat when I came back, and I began the tube change. It was a small plastic spike which had gone through the tire. I noticed a lot of cracks and tears as well; probably back from the Maungatapu track.

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I set off again with my aim set at Punakaiki. I had the mountains on my left and the sea on my right; it was a beautiful view, especially for taking a pause.

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I climbed what would hopefully me my last climb today, and gazed back at the road. It was beautiful all right!

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After adding layers of clothing I started going downhill. Suddenly I saw two people at a resting point in the middle, and one bicycle with lots of gear. Had to stop and speak with them!

The bicycle fitted with panniers and what not was owned by a German living in France, Heino, who had been biking for thirteen months, I think. The other person had a bicycle as well, with two almost empty rear panniers, and it looked like brand new! The guy owning it was Michael, and the bicycle was more than a year old, but well taken care of. His aim was to do a trip, but he didn’t know when. Also, his cycle was a Surly Disc Trucker, just like mine, from the same year (the same red colour), with a few small differences. He had 700c wheels, and some things were probably just from another batch, but otherwise identical!

I sat down and spoke to them, and this was the German the Polish people had told me about. The Kiwi told us abut a good wild camping spot, and as I hadn’t wild camped nearly anything so far, it sounded like a great idea. The spot was close to a river with drinkable water, and a beautiful view of the gorge. Michael stayed with us for a few hours while we set camp and ate dinner. There were horses walking around freely, but they would probably keep their distance. I was really tired from not having had time to sleep as much as I wanted to the last days, and went by bed earlier than the others. It was a neat evening!

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Suddenly I woke up, with the tent, and me as well, shaking! I was really newly awake, and I was sure it was a bunch of cows shaking and/or eating at my tent! I said something to the others, not sure of what, and as it stopped, I went back to bed. It was an earthquake!

Astrid flying home and me meeting cyclists

The weather was kind of shitty when we went to the airport. The check-in didn’t go too smooth, as we first got the answer that you didn’t need a box for the bicycle, and later they told us you would. Lucky enough, there were two guys who had just arrived who had a bicycle box. I think their plan was to save it, but they had time to get a new one and gave us theirs.

The airplane was delayed, as many others. It was  pretty close that all went to hell; the airplane Astrid would fly with was the last to land at the airport. As the clouds were really low and the weather shitty those small airplanes couldn’t land, and all the other airplanes were redirected to other airports.

After knowing Astrid had gone through the gate, I biked to the city to have a fika with someone I chatted a bit with earlier. It was nice and well-needed at the moment, and I didn’t feel like stressing about the kilometres, as I was a bit behind schedule anyway.

It was northerly winds, and strong ones, giving me a good push. Maybe too good, as I was passing cars in my bicycle lane, and the traffic went real slow. Someone was turning left, looking for an entrance to a company, and I didn’t have time to react, which made me bump into him in pretty high speed. The bag took most of the hit, and I wasn’t even sore anywhere; I felt a little above my right hip, but nothing more. He didn’t drive away at least, and not really feeling there were anything more to do than checking my gear, I told him to take a better look next time (I had a high visibility vest and helmet) and started biking again. Later I saw I had a 0.5 centimetre rip in my bag, but nothing I really cared about. All the gear inside was okay!

I made a stop at a bicycle shop I passed by, as I have wanted a mirror for my right side as well, but haven’t been able to find one so far. They had an actually good one, and I felt it was a bit expensive, but after using it for a while I know it was a really good investment! I also stopped to refill food, and when I came out again it started to rain a little. I continued. 

Even though I had started as late as 15.30 I had already done 45 kilometres, much thanks to the wind helping me push a bit. I did meet another bicycle tourer on the way, a guy from Quebec, Canada, who was going the other way. He had strong headwind but aimed at 160 kilometres; he had less than two weeks to go from Invercargill to Picton, so he was biking a lot. His gear was sparse, probably only what he really needed.

In Wakefield I decided to try and hitchhike instead of stressing trying to cover enough kilometres the next coming days. I gave it 20 minutes, but after about 10 I decided to go a few hundred metres down the road, as there were people turning in an intersection and coming out of it as well, and I could cover more from the other position. While biking there I saw a car waving to me; they had seen me, and had a trailer, but needed to turn around. Easy as usual! They were going to Murchison, which would shave off about 100 kilometres, and save me a day. The rain started pouring down as well, and the road wasn’t too wide, so it seemed like I had chosen the right thing to do.

When checking for places to stay at I saw there was a Warmshowers host about 16 kilometres after Murchison. He had built a small camping which was free for people using Warmshowers, but they didn’t have any coverage out there, and had written you could just appear and hope for the best. That’s exactly what I did, and they were home!

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After pitching my tent I borrowed the shower to get clean, but more importantly, to get warmer. Everything I was wearing was pretty wet, and my 15 year old rain gear don’t really have it anymore.

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On my last bicycle trip I had stayed at a place right before Andorra, which probably was the coolest home I had stayed at through Warmshowers. This place reminded me of it so much; outdoor shower, just a small indoor home, and a nice view!

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The evening was really nice, I cooked my dinner any we spent the rest of the evening talking about everything; my transition, how peoples prejudice affect their views of other people regarding gender, if it would be a good or bad idea to let robots do all the jobs no one wants to do and have a standard salary for everyone, making work optional, and lots more. I went to bed too late, but totally worth it.

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I slept in a bit longer than usual, and fixed a few things on the bicycle before I left. A had put the mirror down on the fork, but I didn’t see enough, and put it on the right side of the handlebar, which would be a much better position. I also put my extra rear light on my helmet, so I would be more visible in the dark, or when it was raining.

Some of the spots I passed by were really cool, and I stopped to take pictures at a few of them. It looks like they’ll have to do something in the future, or the road will disappear!

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I was starting to think of lunch, but though It could to ten kilometres more, to have less in the afternoon. When ascending a hill I saw two people with bicycles sitting and making food at the resting area, and of course I couldn’t miss the chance to speak with them! Every time I have seen bicycle people, but not stopped to speak with them, I have grieved afterwards. It is usually when I have a good speed and don’t really have time to think, and suddenly the chance is gone. Now, they couldn’t flee, though!

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They were two polish people who had been out for the last two years. They had actually met the Swedish girl, Fredrika Ek, who is biking around the world! They had even met her twice, but missed her this time, as she had already left. I had been biking in the same country as her without even knowing!

While we were sitting there a new friend of theirs, from Switzerland, biked by and said hi as well. She seemed to be a bit in a hurry though, and soon continued. They also told me about a German who was living in France, who I would probably meet later as I was biking faster. So many bicycle tourers on the south island!

As their money was running out, New Zealand would be their last country before flying home. I do think their plan was to save up and get out again, though.

When I arrived in Westport, which would be my destination for the day, the bicycle computer turned over to 10000 kilometres! That is 1 690 kilometres done home while commuting, and a total of 8 310 kilometres done touring! Hopefully I’ll reach another 0 in not too many years.

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I decided to celebrate this and make it comfortable for, and for the first time this trip I paid to sleep indoors. I also bought a bottle of wine and a quarter kilo of chocolate to have after dinner. At the backpackers I stay at there were two more people in my room, and one of them had been bicycle touring bit around Europe!

The evening was really relaxed, with a long, hot shower, kind off nice dinner, a good chocolate desert, some wine and Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers! As usual, I went to bed too late.

Behind the mask, not everything is well

I’ve never been very good at expressing any negative feelings through this blog. If it’s because I am afraid that people will think it’s boring, or because I don’t want to show that side, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll start doing just that.

Astrid and I have split. It didn’t work out travelling together, with different mindsets and all. We have tried talking things through, but it didn’t work, and none of us felt good about the trip. Of course there were moments that were good, and moments that were awesome, but too much of the time it would just eat at us, and our friendship.

Following this, Astrid flew home as of yesterday. I will continue travelling alone, which sadly is what has worked best for me so far. The blog will continue, covering before yesterday and onward as usual.

Maungatapu track

So this was the day! We would try and get over the Maungatapu track, which would have its highest height at almost 800 metres, only gravel road and a steepness close to 18 percent at its places! It is a ”grade 4: Advanced” mountain bike track according to most books and websites, and it’s closed off to standard vehicles, meaning you need a 4WD and permission, a motorcycle or a bicycle to pass there. It’s not maintained, as there are no ordinary traffic going through.

Quote: “for the brave” and “lightly loaded bicycles only”. 600 height metres in 5 kilometres means an average of 12 percent!

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This was for 26 kilometres. Pretty steep!

The climb started easy, off course. The gravel started early, and not too far up into the mountains we met four motorcycles on their way down. Those would be everyone we would meet all day. There were also places where we had to cross the river, but fairly easy ones! Still added to the whole experience.

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Not too much to say about the track otherwise; pleasant views, a hard challenge and I had to let some air out of tires to keep the grip as I didn’t want to push my bicycle. Still had to for a couple of hundred metres.

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As we were high up, we could refill our water bottles in the stream as well!

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This clip shows you one the quite easy parts riding uphill, as I had the energy to actually put the camera up.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at the top! We stayed to make lunch up there, with a view over some mountains and a lake.

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The road down was in one way much harder than the way up. It was actually even steeper, and the brakes had to work most of the time. Asphalt had been awesome, but this was a blend of big and spiky stones and the usual gravel. There were huge ruts ruts all over the place, not making it any easier! The hands hurt a lot from all the pressure, but it was much fun!

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Suddenly, we were at asphalt roads again! We made a quick stop to inflate my tires again, and then biked all the way into Nelson to do the shopping for food. The plan was to stay at a Warmshowers, but he wouldn’t arrive until an hour later, so we took our time shopping before going to his place, just sitting down and relaxing the legs.

When Wayne arrived, we did the usual routine, and I took a bath! So relaxing. The evening was spent grieving Trumps victory, and also a lot of interesting talks with Wayne about all sorts of stuff related to different countries over dinner and some wine!

Weta Cave and also real Wetas!

This day’s adventure would be visiting the Weta Caves! As Julie worked close to the port where we would leave with the ferry later, the first step was to leave our bags at her place.

We then biked our way to the eastern, more industrial, part of Wellington. At the Weta Cave we went on a tour where they showed us what they are working with – more specifically the props for different movies, such as District 9, Narnia, and mainly, Lord of the Rings! It was a really cool tour, and afterwards we got to hold Sting and Gandalf’s staff!

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After biking back to Julie’s work, we said our goodbyes. The ferry terminal was just a couple of hundred metres away, and we checked in fast and easy. As we hadn’t eaten any lunch and didn’t really have time, I ran to a McDonalds to get us some french fries.

On the ferry we met a bunch of people who were traveling as well. One of the guys were from New Zealand, but lived in the same town as the others in Austria. He had a Swedish girlfriend, and could speak fairly well! The company made the trip go pretty fast.

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It had been raining the whole day, and it still was. Our first priority getting off was getting food, and then start our 15 km trip to get to a camp sight. It was one of those where you pay in a box, but we didn’t have change. After asking around a guy in a camper van gave us two tens, plus six dollars. Thanks a lot!

The camping was really small, and we started talking with one of the other people there. As he lived in his car we invited him to cook in our tent. The plan was to take the inner tent down to cook inside, as it would otherwise be too much water in the food. When we left Wellington we still had ingredients for curry-chickpeas-sweet potato soup, and didn’t want to make it out in the rain. All went well, and the warm dinner was great in the rain!

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As our plan was to ride the Maungatapu Track, we wanted to camp as close as possible. Therefore, this day would be easy, and we slept for as long as we wanted. During breakfast this little bird, the Weka, came really close and tried to snatch things from us in its search of food. There were also a couple of small children!

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Just before our first stop for the day we had a really nice view.

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After biking half the distance, 20 kilometres, we took a break in a small village named Havelock. To get more information about the area we visited the information centre to get maps over the south island and ask about the village, as there were supposed to be museums in this city. As we had time, we spent an hour in there, reading about the gold rush and other things.

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We cooked lunch, and then went to a cafe to get ourselves something to drink and wifi to check how many kilometres we had to bike on the south island. From Nelson it would be around 1400 kilometres, which should be doable without stressing.

The camping were just 19 kilometres away, and we bought sand fly repellent when we arrived. There were a few things to do around this camping as well. There were a hollow tree with about ten Wetas in there! Fun to actually see what Wetas looked like after the Weta Cave in Wellington.

When they produced The Hobbit they had recorded the barrel scene really close to this camping. Of course we had to check!

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The last thing we visited was a small waterfall, where there were hundred of glow worms! Sadly I didn’t bring my camera, which was really stupid in hindsight… hopefully I get another chance later on!

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Hitchhiking and Te Papa

We were supposed to get on the 10.20-bus, but when we came there 9.30 the bus driver told us we would probably have to get off in the middle due to normal luggage being prioritised before bicycles. The next bus would leave 14.20, but we couldn’t be sure we would be able to go with that one. Up on our bicycles and we went to the nearby camper van parkings to ask around. None was going in the right direction with space enough for us and bicycles. One guy was positive, but he was going north. To actually have a real chance, and not just ask parked cars, we went to the main road just east of Taupo. It took maybe fifteen minutes before we got picked up.

I think his name was Max, and he just happened to have a trailer as he was moving (or his girlfriend. Something with getting a car for his dad as well, I think.) He wasn’t going all the way to Wellington, but would stop in Palmerston North. That was about two thirds of the way, and would help us a lot!

After a nice ride (and I only fell asleep once) we got dropped off outside of the information centre in Palmerston North. There was less than one hour before the bus would arrive, and we booked that one. When the bus arrived it was the same bus driver, but another bus. He told us we must have been fast on the bikes, and if we could fit our bicycles in one of the smaller compartments, we could go with the bus. The front wheels had to be taken off, and my saddle had to be lowered, but we managed, including running in to the office to pay for the tickets. The bus driver didn’t care about the extra 20 NZD for the bicycles, which was nice. At least half of the bus fare saved through hitchhiking!

Without any food, we arrived in Wellington. As we would live with another Warmshovers host we bought ingredients to be able to eat ”real food”, and then started our small trip through the city. The GPS suggested to go through an awesome park. It was surrounded by buildings and roads, but the park itself had everything – cliffs, trees, bushes and walkways making it look like we were out in the middle of nowhere. And it wasn’t even that big! If I would have lived in Wellington, I would hang out here. A lot!

There were stairs, though, which our bicycles didn’t like. In the end we found a way up and out (as the park was in a hill) but we had to push our bikes on a really steep gravel road.

Starting downhill, I knew there was another uphill we would need to go up to get to their house. It was long and steep – but damn, good views!

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Julie and Thomas were our hosts. Thomas had Swedish parents (which we though after seeing the name) and there were a bit of Swedish things here and there (Dalahorse!) They were going on a barbecue for the evening, so we cooked our dinner.

This evening was the celebration of Guy Fawkes as well. None of us had the energy to get back to the city, knowing we would have to bike uphill on the way home again, and so we missed out on the fireworks. There were small fireworks going around us for a couple of hours anyway, and we had our own little celebration; watching V for Vendetta!

Our main event for the next day was the national museum Te Papa. We began with their World War 1 exhibition, which took two hours alone! I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to see what we wanted, but this was apparently the longest of all the exhibitions.

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After a lunch at Pita Pit (one of the places that serves vegan fast food) we continued exploring. One of the, according to me, more interesting exhibitions was about the LGBT-rights, and the anti apartheid protests. Other exhibitions were random art, immigration history, millions of years of transformation of New Zealand, earthquakes and much more. In the end, I felt one day was actually quite enough, as we were looking at less and less interesting parts in the end of the day.

In the evening Julie had made falafel for dinner, which was really awesome. Thomas told us about the times he had been in Sweden, and we talked a lot about Sweden and New Zealand, trip plans and life overall.

What I like about Warmshowers, instead of Couchsurfing, is that I never had anything close to a bad experience through this. People have the same interest as well, being mountain biking, bicycle touring or commuting – but biking it is, in many different ways!

A couple of Skydives and bad weather

This was a resting day, and my plan was to do a few skydives at Taupo Tandem Skydiving. The weather in the morning was bad, though…

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While I was writing all the necessary information, Geoff, the guy organising the sport jumping, recognised my dads name. There were also another guy, Andy, who had been jumping at Gryttjom DZ around 2001!

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I got to do three awesome jumps, and got one of my exits filmed as well. It was also the highest altitude I’ve ever jumped from, and it was nice to try a Sabre2 150 as well (for me, a small canopy, while being kind off standard/big size overall). I had views over Mt Ngauruhoe, also called Mt Doom, which was really cool!

As Geoff wanted me to first jump a 170 Safire 2 to see that i was safe on that canopy size, I had two rigs at my disposal. By having two rigs I managed to go directly from my first load onto the second one, with maybe a minute waiting time, but I got enough time to pack between second and third load. It was some time ago I packed my last canopy, though!

Astrid had been biking through the city while I was skydiving. When both of us were back at the house Astrid and I planned for the next coming days, including Tongariro crossing. Weather didn’t look too good, but we hoped.

Night pancakes!

We got up all too early at 05.00, but to no avail. When I called them at 05.30 they told be it would have to be cancelled, as the weather was too bad, and it otherwise could’ve been a risk to or lives.

As Rose and Trevor were going to Auckland to pick up their daughter, we said good bye. Thanks for all the help planning the rest of the trip, and for the tip about Maungatapu Track!

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The rest of the day was pretty slow. We went to check about the busses for tomorrow, as we would more or less skip everything south of Taupo on the north island. We had heard that there would be unpleasant roads to bike on, and not much too see, between Taupo and Wellington. As we had limited time, we skipped Napier, and aimed at a bus all the way to Wellington. After a lunch with wi-fi outside of the information centre we pitched the tent in a park close to where Rose and Trevor lived, with a pretty good view over the lake.