The 650K challenge to get to Auckland

 

“All by myself, I’m gonna be… all by myself!” it was the song by Eric Carmen that my German friend Tom sung for me when we said goodbye in France after cycling together for five days. It’s a memory that brings back a smile on my face. I still remember that rush that I felt all over my body after our farewell: it was the feeling of freedom! Back on my own again!

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This time, it felt slightly different.

First of all: because I really enjoyed my time with my friend on the road. Like I just REALLY enjoyed my time with my friend on the road. Second: because my goodbye to Keith wasn’t permanent, it was just temporary. At least… it could be. Only, an ONLY, if I would manage to cycle all the way to Auckland just before his plane would take off.

So this is when a new challenge was born.

The challenge: 650 kilometres to cycle, 6 days to go. And to make this challenge a little bit more challenging: I found the right circumstances to feel the adrenaline in my whole body (even before getting started): I was going to cycle the east coast of the Northern Island all the way up to the Coromandel; the areas which are both known to be ‘very hilly’. And then after cycling all those kilometres, I would catch the ferry (that only goes ones a day, to make it a bit more exiting) that would bring me right to the centre of Auckland. Just like that. And hopefully… just right in time to say goodbye to my friend, maybe this time a bit more permanent. But let’s not think about that! So my mission was clear; failure wasn’t an option. I would make it: without a question!

And offfff we go!

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Day 1: 23/01/2016, Gisborne 

Better safe than sorry. If you want to make this mission into a good one: you’d better start early! That’s one of the secret ingredients for a good day on a bike, cycling in a full-on-summer-day in NZ. And so I did. This day, the 23th of January, I was on the road at 6 in the morning: ready for take offff. And the biggest reward for getting out of bed this early was just out there waiting for me. I say: what a way to start your day:

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Day 1: 23/01/2016, Gisborne 

Today promised to be a very hot day. You could feel the air getting heavier and heavier, the sun getting stronger and stronger. Just at the moment that I was wondering whether this weather was going to be a problem today… I noticed this man standing next to his truck to the side of the road. My side of the road… Am I in trouble? I asked myself again.

Some people had ‘warned’ me that this area (which is known to be Maori) is a bit more rough, so I should be ‘a bit more’ careful. Especially being this girl on my own (because that’s what they always seem to refer to).  And normally… I never really rely on this ‘advice’ based on people that feel completely comfortable with the habit of generally distrusting some other cultures just because they are different to their own values and believes. Thinking back about our history and the influence of western colonisation, I think to be honest they would be in their right to say exactly the same about us. Or even worse… But that will be another story, let’s keep on track with this one…

So some people told me to be ‘a bit more careful’ (and let’s just assume that they had the very best intentions telling me that), and normally it can be helpful, but today it wasn’t really helping me. The reason for this was all very simple: I just missed my friend and after cycling together for the last couple of weeks, I just really felt that I was: ON MY OWN again.

So my intuition was full on. I took a look at this truck driver, observing him very closely and I can say: with a very suspicious mind.

But then I did this magical discovering: he didn’t wear a gun (at least not that I could see), he wasn’t looking very threatening at all… and he was carrying a bottle of water. COLD water. Because he just felt like helping this girl on the road on a hot day like this. How nice! So I thanked him for his kindness and to make sure that I knew who I had to be thankful to, I asked him his name. Jason. Jason, the truck driver. Jason, thank you!

And so I continued my big bike ride.

Just for one second I questioned whether you could get poisoned as a cyclist by mad men offering you water just like this. But then I realised that I really was about to lose my mind and that I had to take it easy. Calm down Janneke. Maybe it was the heat? Let’s just blame the heat.

Well, finding my positive feelings back end pedalling like my life was about to end if I didn’t make it up to this 110 km target for today, I ended up cycling 115 km. And I was even wondering if I would continue… when I took a picture of the vieuw when I was just on the middle of this big brigde. Another positive point about cycling: you can just stop everywhere to take a picture. At least that’s what we cyclist believe (some people in a car might disagree).

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Day 1: 23/01/2016, Ruotoria

I was wondering whether I was really in the way this time or just slightly in the way, when I heared a car comming. It must be allright I thought. But then this car slowed down. So I questioned myself again. And this car stopped. Hi stopped and oppend his window. And I questiond myself a bit harder.

“Hi Janneke!”

What?? How the * is this possible I thought? I looked inside the car and still I didn’t have any clou about what was going on.

And guess wat?  It was Jason! But this time he didn’t ride his truck, he didn’t wear his workingsuit and so I didn’t recognize him. Oh, and I forgot his name. To make it even better. And there was another man sitting right next to him that I didn’t know. So you can imagine that I felt completely surprised (and a bit confused) finding this guy on the road again after cycling 80 km, on a place that happend to be his hometown (for the moment). They were beekeepers and just finished their work.

“I wondered how far you would make it today” , he said. And he looked at his compagnon as if he already knew about my existence. They sure did talk about me, I realised. “Yeah, I saw you cycling as well” said the other man. “Yeah, only he didn’t stop!” Said Jason. He obvious was a bit proud about his little mission today. And why shoudn’t he.

“So where are you heading to tonight?” He asked. And I told him about my most recent thoughts: continuing to the next village (only 40 km to go). No way, he said! That’s a longgggg way!….. Why don’t you stay with us?

My mind was still calculating the distances… My intuition was trying to get grip on this situation. Wondering what would be the right thing to do? What’s wise?  With a bit of hasitation I decided to accept their offer. Why not. Let’s just see. Just have some rest, it probably isn’t such a bad idea.

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Day 1: 23/01/2016, Ruotoria

And so it happend to be that in the end I stayed this night with four guys sleeping outside on their veranda. And I can tell you: it all felt very safe. I think probably they felt more uncomfortable having a lady around, they I felt being surrouded by 4 men.

After this perfect first day, I was happy to be able to say, that this very next day I already felt a bit more comfortable being on my own again. And I had my positive energy back. Right on track. I had the right spirit to make this second day into a good one. And I can tell you now: that this Jason-guy wasn’t an exeption in this story. There would be people all over the way; taking care of me or inviting me in to stay:

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Day 2: 24/01/2016, Te Kaha

There was a lady waving at me and after a short conversation I ended up puting my tent in her garden. Surrounded by three dogs, my safety was garanteed!

Day 3: 25/01/2016, Ohope & Day 4: 26/01/2016, Tauranga

There was a very nice couple and a family that offered me a warm shower and a nice place to stay, for this third and fourth day.

Day 5: 27/01/2016, Coromandel

And in the end, this very last day, I ended up cycling 155 km when I was right in the middle of this last hilly invironment, wondering whether I just climb the two of them or just the very first one. I took a look at my map, questioning my location, realising it was getting dark… And just at exactly the same moment there was this woman passing me with her car. She opens her window and a big smile was looking at me. Wondering what a girl on her own was doing on the road at this time of the day she could tell me exacly where I was: right in the middle of this two hills. But also right at the place where she and her boyfriend were living. So she invited me in to stay. And even this last day; I had a very nice and comfortable bed to stay. Can you picture this? I sure could!

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And what about this Maori-environment? Did you feel unsafe? Well you take a look at how beautiful it was and then you decide yourself: …

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I guess what people mean when they mention that an area is a bit more rough, is that it gets more rural and unshaped…. and so I would say: more natural, and I guess that’s just exactly what I like about those places.

But of course we are not interested in all those pictures and talking about the environment. We all want to know whether this story has a good end! So, did you make it to Auckland, right in time to see your friend?

Of course I did. I even had time left! So I could manage to give my bike a quick wash before catching te ferry. I sure wanted to leave him a good last impression ;) So I took the ferry straight into the heart of Auckland, and getting closer to the wharf, I saw him waiting for me: my friend! It was just the very best reward after cycling all those kilometres: just to recieve this big fat hug at the other side of the ocean. With many stories to tell and a big smile on our faces we fully enjoyed each others compagny for the last days that we had left together. The last days of this little story together…

Isn’t is funny how it all works out I thought? If Katie’s panniers didn’t got stolen, we wouldn’t even have met! This whole world seems to be full of funny coincidence, and it seems to be that that’s just the very best way to gain some very good friends.

All I can say is “look what I found on my way”. Happy that you were there, for all those kilometres and stories that we could share. Getting to know you sure did change my journey. I think in fact, since the moment that we’ve met, I was no longer on this mission to travel the world. From now on, I was just living my life on a bicycle. Curious where it will take me. Wondering what will be out there to experience and explore. And looking forward to a next moment that might be there, to find me a compagnion on the road to experience this beauty of life that seems to be just everywhere. But it does get even more beautiful, when you have those moments to share.

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With Love,
-x-

Janneke