Riding our bikes to the Tekapo bus station marked the end of the cycle touring for us, although it wasn’t the end of the over all journey. We still, somehow, had to get ourselves, the bikes and all of our luggage back to Germany. We waited anxiously and hoped the driver would accept all our stuff. We had five bus trips, three flights, one ferry and a couple of taxis to catch over the next two weeks and it would be a crying shame if we had to miss this bus because of too much stuff…
The driver did allow us on with all our stuff and seemed to enjoy the challenge of fitting the bikes into the luggage compartment. He was a nice guy and made us laugh with his jokes as we were getting on. He even made fun of me for being Irish and said he was only taking the piss. I somehow have a feeling he was of Irish heritage himself.
We got off the bus in Christchurch where we planned to meet up with Rachel, one of our work mates from when we were Woofing in Gisborne. She hadn’t finished work yet so we reassembled the bikes and cycled to the Irish pub to kill some time while we waited for her.
Staying with Rachel was awesome. It was great to catch up with her and share stories from all that happened over the last couple of months. We also got to meet her boyfriend Ben and her house mates Kate, Steve and Sam who made us feel very welcome in the city and in their house.
Christchurch is slowly recovering from the devastation caused by two earthquakes. The first in 2010 with a magnitude of 7.1 and the second, six months later, with a magnitude of 6.3. Since then huge scale clean up, demolition and construction projects have been ongoing. Although a lot of work has been done, the aftermath is still visible wherever you go. On a more positive note, a lot of artistry has emerged from the chaos. Among the many construction sites you will find colour, creativity and a vibrant culture eager to include itself in the rebirth of the city.
A few days later we took the bus back to Picton, where we originally crossed over to the South Island six months earlier (read about it here). We liked Picton the first time we were there but only stayed one night. This time we planned to stay a bit longer and have few days of relaxation as our bodys and minds were wiry from travel. It wasn’t going to be all fun and games though, a few days in Picton would give us the perfect opportunity to give the bikes and camping gear a proper clean down in preparation for our stop over in Melbourne. If you’re not familiar with Australian customs, just know that they are very strict about organic substance coming into their country. Any mud/dirt on your gear that may be harboring seeds, insects or other organisms can cause trouble in the airport, so its best to have your stuff clean.
By chance, while staying at The Villa Backpackers, we got to meet two brothers, Andy and Rob, who were on an epic cycle touring trip around the world. They started their trip in England and by the time we met them, they had already cycled about 18,000kms to reach Picton. I was very impressed by their stories which made me start to conjure up plans for a bigger tour, sometime in the future. The around-the-world trip, that these guys are doing, is truly inspiring and the best thing is they are doing it for two really good causes. They have an awesome blog which I recommend everyone to check out http://abrothersjourneyaroundtheworld.co.uk/ .
The next day we got up early and made our way to the ferry with Andy and Rob. We boarded and enjoyed the views of the Marlborough Sounds one last time as we made our way to Wellington.
Shortly after we got off the ferry, Susan (the sister of Kirsty from Gisborne) came to pick us up. While we were Woofing in Gisborne we left our backpacks and some extra stuff there. Susan took our stuff to Wellington and had been holding it for us ever since. Having a place to stash our stuff was a great help. If we would have had to carry all that extra weight around with us, I’m not sure that the bikes (or us) would have survived.
Being reunited with our stuff was bitter-sweet. It was great to see all our old things again but the reality was we had A LOT of stuff and our up coming flights only allowed us a 30kg limit each.
Regardless of the growing anxiety about the weight limit, we had a great time in Wellington. Susan and her husband Kevin made us feel very welcome in their home. Being in the city also gave us an opportunity to sell some books to the second-hand book shop and visit our favourite restaurant, in all of New Zealand, Aunty Mena’s.
To say the least, we didn’t enjoy ourselves in Auckland. For a start we spend eleven hours on a bus to get there and the anxiety about the weight limit was reaching fever pitch. We had a lot of stuff and the reality was we were going to have to leave a lot of it behind. People aways suggested, why don’t you sell your bikes? but that was something we couldn’t do. The bikes had taken us on this massive adventure and there was too much sentimental value attached to them now. So much so (although I’m embarrassed to say it) that we gave the bikes names. Jasmin’s is called Bertie and mine is Black Beauty.
We went to a local bike store and asked if we could get two empty bike boxes to pack our stuff in. We then spend the next day going through our stuff, throwing things out, giving clothes to charity, giving stuff away for free, anything that would lighten the load.
We borrowed a weighing scales from the hostel we were staying at and went about packing everything up. To get the bikes into the boxes they had to be totally dismantled. The front and back wheels had to come off, the handlebars, saddles and pedals had to come off, the racks need to be disconnected and then everything needs to be padded up because airport staff are notoriously rough with bike boxes.
To our utter dismay, when everything was packed up, we were still 7kg over weight. The penalty for this with Emirates is you have to pay about $25 for every kg over for each flight. We had three flights ahead of us so we were looking at a potential fine of $525. This was something we couldn’t afford but we were out of options. We left the city on our way to the airport, not knowing what we were going to do.