New Zealand, 2008

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Getting Ready

This winter and early spring we'll take the longest, most ambitious cycling trip of our lives (so far), four months in New Zealand. We're flying out of Boston on December 31 — yes, on New Year's Eve — because tickets are substantially cheaper that day. We'll be starting home on April 26, so we have nearly four months. We're excited and eager to go, but we dread the flight. At least 16 hours on planes each way, with horrible layovers in Los Angeles Airport, nearly 12 hours on the outbound trip.

We're certainly not "overplanning" this trip. We were awed to read the journal of another cycling couple headed for New Zealand this winter who have studied every journal, guidebook, and map they could lay their hands on. They have developed, months in advance, turn-by-turn cue sheets for their entire trip of nearly 2,000 miles! We're taking a more casual approach. With no predetermined route, we expect to strike a leisurely pace, staying some of the time with Servas or Warm Showers families, sometimes in "Backpackers," the New Zealand term for hostels, and most often camping. We have some definite ideas about places we want to visit on the South Island, but we expect to ask folks for suggestions, making up our route as we go, stopping from time to time when the fancy strikes us.

We arrive in Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, and depart from Auckland on the North Island. Though we're committed to visiting both islands, we'll probably spend more of our time in the south, since we hear that the roads are less crowded and the cycling is better. But we shall see.



Although we are taking a casual approach to route planning, we have been giving a good deal of thought to equipment and preparation. This is Barbara on one of the bikes we are using — Rans V-Rex recumbents. They're not light, and like all recumbents they require patience on long climbs, but we have found them to be wonderfully comfortable and (so far) reliable. And of course we've climbed a good deal with them here in hilly Vermont and also in the Canadian Rockies and Mexico, so we hope to manage in New Zealand.

This photo was taken in September on a short trip we did in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. We wanted to try out some of the new gear we have chosen for the New Zealand tour. We got compact LaFuma summer-weight sleeping bags. They're not really warm enough for the cooler nights we'll sometimes endure in New Zealand, but we'd rather wear extra clothing to bed occasionally than carry unnecessarily bulky sleeping bags for four months. Barb, in a moment of wild extravagance, added silk sleeping bag liners from REI, so they should make the bags marginally warmer. We're also trying some flimsy blow-up pillows.




We chose a new tent, an Alps 3-person model from REI. It's no heavier or bulkier than our previous 2-person tent. We tried it in Quebec, and the extra room was a treat.

Probably the most self-indulgent goodies for this tour are our new Exped Downmats. These are amazing Swiss air beds. They blow up like a compact air mattress, but they are lined inside with goose down — making a cozy bed, much more comfortable than Thermarest pads, and no bigger or heavier when packed.

We even got a new stove. Wally was fed up with the hassle of our Whisperlite, so we bought a simple alcohol stove, the Thermajet Ultralite. It performed well enough in our kitchen, anyway! We're bringing minimal cooking gear since we've heard that most campgrounds and all hostels in New Zealand have kitchens to share.

Finally, we bought new panniers to carry all this stuff: Ortliebs. It rains so much in New Zealand that waterproof Ortliebs are definitely the pannier of choice.

The full rig is shown on Wally's bike on the right. One thing we love about the V-Rex recumbent is the amount of gear it carries. We each have two full-sized panniers on the rear racks and two front panniers on the under-seat racks. There are also large seat back bags — much roomier than handlebar bags — so we can carry as much or more on these recumbents as on a conventional touring bike.

Of course, we always end up packing too much, so the generous carrying capacity is a mixed blessing. But this time, we'll do better. (Except that we're also considering whether to carry a laptop so that we can update this website as we go!)


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