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December 12th 2009
Published: December 12th 2009
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Hardly a Breath of  Wind Down in the ValleyHardly a Breath of  Wind Down in the ValleyHardly a Breath of Wind Down in the Valley

This is the windsock at the Pongaroa rugby club. An hour earlier I was struggling to control the bike as I crossed the Puketoi Range. At one stage, I got off the bike as the road passed around a bluff above a river. The wind caught the back of the bike and it swung through a 180 degree arc until I was facing the way I’d come.
Nor westerly winds have been buffeting me for days - providing me with riding that has been at times exciting, frightening and simply pleasant. From Palmerston North I took something called the Pahiatua Track, which in fact is not a track but a perfectly good, steep but sealed road . On a high ridge, wind generators spun swiftly and a cold blast sent a chill through me and pushed the bike off its stand. Later the same day, I was forced to push THE BEAST OF BURDEN in places, for fear of being shunted off the road. At other times, the wind struck from behind and sent me flying effortlessly uphill. I felt adrift on an ocean of wind.

Buffeted in More Senses than One

I’ve also felt adrift emotionally. For several days poor reception has meant I have had only intermittent text and email contact with my home base, and moments of intense loneliness have set in. It’s taken me by surprise, because up until now loneliness has not been much of an issue.

The Same Old Questions

I have suddenly become tired of the camp ground conversations that begin with, “how far have you come”
Tiny Settlement of MakuriTiny Settlement of MakuriTiny Settlement of Makuri

East of Pahiatua
to, “what’s that plastic stool on the back of the bike for” (it’s my seat when I’m camping) to, “don’t you get lonely?” To that last question I usually respond, “no I’m too busy cycling and sleeping and eating and anyway I often talk to people like you,, which is lovely”. And then I go through my standard list of questions to them.

Whoops - Feeling Low

But without the regular contact with home, it hasn’t been enough. So it was with considerable delight I made the acquaintance of a young German traveller, called Maria. I first met her at Pongoroa, where we were the only two people to share a rugby field that doubled as the camp ground. I slept in my tent, and she slept in her station wagon - but not before eyeing me suspiciously to judge whether I was a security risk.

Idle Interlude

We met again a couple of days later at a DoC campsite and Maria was good enough to tolerate me on a journey in her car to view the Cape Palliser lighthouse and the seal colony. As she drove, we chatted about any and everything and suddenly I realized
Merry Christmas Maria!Merry Christmas Maria!Merry Christmas Maria!

And happy and safe travels in New Zealand
how much I was missing real human conversation - the type that goes beyond the campground questions. We found the seals, and I was delighted to watch her enjoyment . It was the first time she’d seen them outside a zoo.

And suddenly - afterwards - I felt terribly miserable and homesick. I wanted human company.

And Then Another Factor

But now there is another force driving me - it’s the riding. Day in, day out, I’m enjoying it more and more. As I get fitter, the hills seem less steep and I finish my 90 or so kilometres feeling invigorated rather than tired. It’s like an endorphin addiction and I don’t want it to stop. But as I approach the end of the North Island leg of my journey I am feeling a sense of panic. I have only the South Island left and then it will all be over..

So I am feeling adrift on those winds - one moment they’re buffeting me on the bike, the next they are playing with my emotions. And I’m torn between the urge to ride and the urge to go home.

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Pongaroa TavernPongaroa Tavern
Pongaroa Tavern

It was the centre of the small community. The locals were friendly enough but as is often the case it was hard to enter into much conversation with them - other than the usual about where I’d come from..
On SH52On SH52
On SH52

By the afternoon of the second day out from Palmerston North the wind had eased for a time and the road stretched into the distance.
Bulldozer at NgawhiBulldozer at Ngawhi
Bulldozer at Ngawhi

Almost 30 of them lined the foreshore, used by fishermen to get their boats across the gravel beach and into the water.
Doing the DishesDoing the Dishes
Doing the Dishes

Photo by Maria after a shared meal. I think she was surprised to see me simply take the few dishes down to the creek and rinse them.

13th December 2009

Hi Mike
Really enjoying following your progress and seeing all the pictures of these charming little places and beautiful Marae. Have got out the map book tonight to try and find a few. Also good to hear some emotional truths about the feral life and going solo. Your latest blogs and photos really got me thinking how we function on different levels. physical, emotional, and spiritual and how we go about searching for satisfaction on those different levels. Hope you get the gears sorted and have a happy and safe journey on to Wellington Cheers, Mark
14th December 2009

Hi Mike! Like your way of writing. I also felt homesick after enjoying the pleasant human company. But I got over it by means of the hot, free shower in the hotel in Lake Ferry ;), meeting friends in Wellington and calling my parents. TIP: Free Internet in Nelsons Library! Greetings, Maria ... And yes, I was surprised :D
14th December 2009

Smart Move
Hi Maria, you don't miss a chance do you? I saw that hotel at Lake Ferry. Never occurred to me to check out the showers. Good on you! It was such a windswept miserable place I just turned round and got out of there as fast as I could. Safe travels to you!
14th December 2009

Good to hear from you
Hi Mark, thanks for your comments. Yep - I reckon you'd love that stretch down the Whanganui River. It's magic! Kayaking might be the way to go. They start much further upstream and come out at Pipirike, camping along the way and staying in marae etc. And yes, it's been a pretty interesting time - almost all of it brilliant, but the odd little bump along the way.
17th December 2009

Shower instead Coffee
Actually I wanted to enjoy a hot coffee there, but I only met a cleaning lady ... No possibility for a coffee, so I asked her spontaneously for a shower. That nice woman felt sorry for a poor, pong, dirty girl :D
17th December 2009

conflicting emotions
Reminds me of that Jimmy Durante song..."Did you ever get the feeling like you wanted to go but at the same time you wanted to stay" . Maybe I'll sing it for the gang at Christmas ;) I know how you feel Mike. But don't think of it as being over when you still got it going on. And we do have those passes to hike down south. See you soon. Ross
18th December 2009

The Big Hike
Hi Ross, Yeah, I'd love to do the Big One - the Five Passes. But we may be losing some of the team with work commitments. I think we have to have a serious discussion at Christmas! Finally got a result for Round Taupo. 6hrs 50 - I think it's a bit approximate. But probably as accurate as I'm going to get. Something went wrong there.
18th December 2009

Talking to Animals
Hi Maria, good to hear from you. And nice to know you enjoy talking to the animals as well. I fell out of bed with a helluva crash! Really woke me up. I enjoyed looking at your blog and even got google to do an automatic translation - but it didn't make a lot of sense. It was quite funny and I'm sure nothing like the meaning in German. Hope you are having a fabulous time and that wind has stopped blowing. Take care. Feral Mike

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