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Published: February 5th 2010
In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness." When Robert M Pirsig wrote those words in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” they resonated with motorcyclists everywhere. They knew exactly what he meant. But Persig’s comments apply equally to riding a bicycle - in fact possibly more. With a bicycle comes the addition of hard physical exercise - and that helps heighten the experience.
A MAGIC DAY
I was pondering all this today. It was one of
those magic days, and the cycling had come right. I felt I was pedalling in paradise.
It's taken a couple of days to adjust to being back on The Beast of Burden, and also to figure where to pack everything - especially now that my handlebar bag won't fit on its broken catch and has to be fastened to the rear rack along with the tent.
I cycled from Picton to Pelorous Bridge, along Queen Charlotte Drive. It was no distance at all - maybe 55k - and that was part of the joy of the day. I had oodles of time.
A SOCIABLE START
Before I left my campsite in Picton I chatted to the Scottish couple camped beside me. They had a huge, borrowed tent and late last night I heard them hammering in extra pegs as the wind sprang up suddenly and tore through the trees above us. They are in New Zealand for a friend's wedding in Queenstown, and are taking a little extra time to see some of the scenic highlights of the South Island - particularly the West Coast. Then, just as I was about to climb on to
the bike, I was approached by Tim Galea, from Auckland. With his brother Mark he is cycling the length of NZ, but in much less time than I have available. They were heading for Nelson where, like me, they have to pick up a spare part. In their case, it's for the trailer that Tim tows behind his mountain bike. They were having a ball, Tim said. We compared notes on routes and favourite places and then just before he left, Tim handed me one of their specially printed cards with their website on it. I haven't had a chance to look up their blog yet (there's no internet connection here at Pelorous Bridge) but for anyone interested its: www.mountainviking.com.
ON THE ROAD
The ride along Queen Charlotte Drive was perfect. The hills were small, the road pleasantly twisting, the views stunning of the water on my right, and a cooling breeze which tended to be behind me rather than in front.
At Governor’s Bay, I paused on a bench at the water’s edge for a drink and a muesli bar. A man came over and asked if he could examine the setup on my mountain
bike. He and his wife were new to touring and were having a holiday in the district. Unfortunately, her bike had been stolen outside the supermarket in Picton, so she was on a rented bike for the rest of the holiday.
Back on the road, I was drawn by the sound of high revving engines reaching me from across the paddocks. I couldn’t resist turning off to see what was happening. It was the Marlborough Motorcycle Club’s monthly moto-x meet at Linkwater, and the racing was well underway. A motherly sort who was flag marshal told me some of the youngsters taking part were as young as six or seven. She had two children participating, and looking towards the track she pointed out her daughter, aged 14, who was coming third on her bright green machine. When I remarked that that seemed pretty good, the woman said her daughter should have been out in front.
“We changed the gears and she’s still getting used to them,” she said.”We’re going to change them back during the lunch break.”
By this stage, the girl had worked her way into second place, and her mum
explained how moto-x had developed her daughter’s sense of “aggresion” and given her confidence to tackle other things. “Aggresion“ might not have been the word I would have used, but I knew what she meant. It was better than having the kids sitting, watching tv. When I said that, the woman looked non-commital. “This can take over your life”, she said, perhaps yearning for an opportunity to put her feet up.
SORRY ABOUT THE SHIRT
My next stop was Havelock, where I had coffee, a toasted sandwich and a fruit laden piece of cake. As I sat at an outside table in deference to the other customers (I’ve now been wearing the same shirt for three days) I was approached by an elderly couple. They’d overtaken me on the road and wanted to know where I’d come from. Having established that, they were on their way but not before urging me to take care on the windy roads.
Outside Havelock, the road was busier as I joined SH6 but even the traffic couldn’t spoil my day. The highway was almost flat and I was able to keep the Beast at 25 - 30 kph for several
The cicadas were frantic with activity and occasionally we would collide. A cicada would strike my cheek and perhaps stunned, pause there pinned by the wind from the bike’s forward motion before sliding off and disappearing. Dead or alive, I know not. Talk about being part of your environment.
The irrigation pumps were working in the fields beside me, and a couple of times I cycled through the spray from one. I made sure I kept my mouth closed - no knowing where the water was coming from.
Shortly after 3 pm I pedaled into Pelorous Bridge. There doesn’t seem to be much here other than a DoC operated campsite and a store that sells icecream. I had a double scoop and chatted to a group of three aging motorcyclists on big bikes - a BMW, a Suzuki and a KTM. They were a good bunch, and when I told them I used to motorcycle they said I should get one again.
“Don’t get rid of the bicycle though,“ one said. “Keep it and get another toy. You can’t have too many toys”.
I’d already sneaked into
the campground for a look and decided it was a pleasant spot, so I went to the DoC counter and paid my overnight fee - $10. And that includes a hot shower. I’m in cycling paradise.
Tot: 1.65s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 13; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0166s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb