Continuing the journey from Part 2.
I worked with Mark and Tracy, the first Kiwis I met, back in Weymouth when we slaved away at Superchoice outdoor centre for £40 a week in what was to be a job that changed my future path in life. I had always promised to come see them in New Zealand, and 19 years later I did. Now, though, they’re parents to 6 kids and have 10 sheep, 3 cows, a rabbit, a parrot and a hilarious chocolate Labrador. They are warm and loving family, full of traditional family values that I envy and enjoyed. Dinner at the table, chores doled out and lots of laughter.
Permit me to tell you a little story about Grace, their eldest kid. Never has a name fitted a soul so well. She has just one leg, which is currently in plaster after recent surgery to continue to correct her malformed foot and on top of all that she has spinal problems which surgery has failed to help, so far, and I wonder how is it that those who have lost limbs, mobility, aspects of ‘normal’ life continue to have way more then those who have none of the challenges that Grace faces everyday.
I was fortunate to spend time with Grace and Tracy whilst they toured bike shops in Christchurch, trying to find a frame which would fit her. She’s so determined to ride a ‘normal bike’ despite the adaptive issues and I don’t doubt for a second she will make it happen...
I left the Johnstons feeling like my heartstrings were strummed so hard they’d vibrate for some time to come. They have inspired me. Shifted my mindset and I’m so thankful that we could meet again. 19 years is no time at all in the company of choice people.
You see bikepacking is not about getting from point A to point B. It’s the gaps in between that make all the difference. Sometimes it’s physically hard. The weather is occasionally set out to make you work harder but all the while those gaps in between are the most fulfilling and life affirming times you can get in this modern life. Opportunity surrounds me all the time. It’s a way to remove those shackles of modernity. The stresses that aren’t really all that real, life happens
It's only when things go a bit wrong you then become aware of how everything was going so right. Leaving Hastings I had already felt a twinge...then after relentless hills my knee blew out! I had to push for some kilometres to the brow of the hill. Dejected and in pain I couldn't help think how this effects everything. I knew I needed to rest up but I had a long way to go.
Lazing in their leathers were a couple of bikers enjoying the view. I sat with them to enjoy the view too. Talking about a bunch of things like 'do you not go a bit mad on your own?', yeah I said, I ride a fine line at all times. They suggested a place just down the hill that had a hut and water and it'll be much nicer to stay there then in the site further on. Well I did, the Blowhard Bush Hut, toilet, water, shelter. So thankful am I of their advice. It rained most of the night whilst I lay nice, cosy and dry for a solid 13 hours on the largest bench I've slept on in NZ (I've slept on about 10) I got my rest and miraculously my knee and my head too was sorted. Set for the beastley hills ironically named Gentle Annie!
Ahh don't look at me like that. I need a day off! Found the best backpackers here, Rusty Nail in Taihape. A little log cabin oasis. I wasn't going to rest but this place insisted.
Ohakune to Mosley' camp via the the old coach road and mountains to sea. Whanganui national park. Mosley's camp via Kaiwhakauka, Whakahoro and Taumaruni. Came upon this camp by complete surprise. Presenting itself like a 5 star hotel in amongst the ferns.
This track had been ravage by recent storms. Parts entirely washed away or hidden completely by inches of mud. The river below like the valleys draining board. Trees and detritus on every bend. Deep bogs that swallow my front wheel. Always in the back of my mind is how far I am from any assistance. I feel totally wild. It helps that the rain added to the ambience of the rain forest I was in.
Startling the odd goat. Mother Nature (Papatūānuku) was taking it back by force. I get to the famous Blue duck cafe. Folk on the terrace with all eyes on this muddy figure that rode towards them. They were DOC (dept of conservation) workers preparing for the days work. It was 11am. One of the tasks was to check the trail I had just ridden could be reopened. I didn't know it until then but it had been closed for weeks! I had been the first to ride it and by proxy the first to reopen the track! This saved a job for the Ranger and as such I was the first to write in their bike specific visitors book and get a free coffee.
Forge forwards to thefinal instalment.