Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Road that Lies Ahead

Is going to be wet tomorrow, but no surprises there really. I’ve been lucky enough to get a long-range weather forecast from a friend and the weather looks pretty good for the trip. Yay! Here’s my route.

There are two things of import about my route. The first is that it indicates the winner of the name competition and that it Murphy (goddamitt!), so Murphy it is. Murphy Gypsy Dunlop. Secondly the little Murphys indicate my intended overnight points. My plan is for seven nights travel, although I have a contingency for 8 nights in case I want a couple of easy days from Okarito to Franz and then Franz to Fox. That aside the plan is:
  • Greymouth to Ross 66km
  • Ross to Okarito 99km
  • Okarito to Fox Glacier 51km
  • Fox to Lake Paringa 69km
  • Lake Paringa to Haast 52km
  • Haast to Makaroa 79km
  • Makarora to Wanaka 63km

As you can see, I’m not going out to smash myself every day and get there as fast as I can. I’m out to experience the West Coast wilderness. This itinerary should allow me time to stop and have a nosey whenever and wherever I see fit. I’m very excited. I’ve been practising being extremely itchy by being eaten by a mosquito last night which managed to bite me 8 times on my right arm before I splattered it and a horrific quantity of my blood. After getting many opinions on the subject of insect repellent I’ve gone with the home brew technique of 50-50 Dettol and baby oil, to be supplemented with long sleeves, trousers, Anthisan and Polaramine as necessary. I’m also taking plenty of Vit B, just in case. (As an aside, why is there artificial sweetener in Berroca now, it tastes awful. GRRRRRRR!)

I’m all packed. 10.5kgs (thanks for the timely advice Charlotte!) in the panniers including tent, thermarest, sleeping bag and towel; 1.5kgs in my handlebar bum bag; and two 750ml water bottles (to be refilled regularly) mean I’m not exactly travelling light. My train leaves at 8.15am tomorrow, what better way to start an adventure than on a train? I’ve got my journal so I can write up the experience as I go so expect a fairly detailed report upon my return. Actually scratch that. Expect a short synopsis and some photos on my return and then after a yet to be determined number of days, a more detailed description. Tonight I shall eat pasta and chicken and baked lemon cheese cake; hang out with my friends and my amazingly supportive husband. Then tomorrow I’ll be on my own, which is both daunting and exciting. Its over 6 years since I spent very much time completely on my own. Wish me luck and pray to the weather gods for me for tailwinds. See you in a couple of weeks!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Unknowingly I have opened up a can of worms with my request for a name for my touring mascot. As I am not inflicted with little children I was not aware that my mascot is in fact something called a Wot Wot and her name is Dotty Wot. Many a parent was outraged my intention to rename her. However I am still keen to run my poll however and I have 3 submissions. Obviously Dotty is one option. The second option is Murphy and Murphy looks like this.

Image curtesy of the artist talents of Craig Tregurtha
My own suggestion is Gypsy because that’s what she is, roaming the roads of the West Coast, without a care in the world. She also knows a trick or two (like clothes herding).
So the poll is up and will remain up until Wednesday evening. Get voting, exercise your democratic right to feel you have the power to influence things you don’t really care about!

In Further News
Map reading is a skill that will come in handy for touring and I thought I’d give mine a bit of a brush up by trying out MTB orienteering for the first time. The even t was held on Sunday at Bottlelake and was heaps of fun. I only got lostish a couple of times and hubby and I had great fun sprinting our singlespeeds all over the place. We got all the points and I’d definitely be keen to do it again. Luckily there’s not much chance of me getting lost on the West Coast since I’ll be sticking to the main road 90% of the time. Only 3 days till I leave and I’m getting very excited!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Touring – Not taking the kitchen sink

Being a stylish young woman, my first instinct when packing for my trip is to take plenty of changes of clothes for on and off the bike. However not wanting to carry 5kgs of clothes with me, I’ve come up with the following wardrobe that weighs in at just over 1.5kgs.

Underwear – 3 pairs sensible black pants, 2 bras

Socks – 2 short merino pair, 1 long cotton

Woollen undergarments – one singlet, one long sleeved (in case it gets really cold)

Bike shorts – 3 pairs, 2 lycra and one new exciting mesh pair

Riding tops – 1 short sleeve (red for visibility), one long sleeved (fluro green for visibility)

T-shrits – 1 martha hucker shirt because you can’t be out with your bike without one and 1 technical tee that can also be a riding top due to its wicking powers

Shorts – 1 pair long shorts with plenty of pockets

Trousers – 1 pair apr├Ęs riding trousers to keep the sandflies and mossies off my legs in the evenings

Warmers – 1 pair arm warms and 1 pair full length leg warmers for those chilly mornings

As you can see from the short film below I was lucky enough to catch them all practising packing themselves into my panniers. Unfortunately my merino hat, sports bra and warm gloves were too lazy to join in.

Finally the most important items for a trip to the West Coast, wet weather gear. I cannot say enough good things about my Groundeffect SheShell and my lovely new Groundeffect Helter Skelters. They both keep you dry without over heating too much and both pack down into tiny light little packages.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first ever attempts at film making. I will update tomorrow on the search for a name for my mascot!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Touring – Very Serious preparations

My training has been going well, and I discovered another not very sensible training tip while out riding in the Port Hills on Wednesday. Without a jacket or lights. The tip is: getting lost is a great way to have a longer ride than you were planning, and therefore pushing your boundaries harder. That is a good thing. What is not a good thing is if your reason for being lost is because you are inside a cloud and have zero visibility (no exaggeration, I couldn’t see more than 2m in front of me most of the time). Add to that a nasty cold wind and the afore mentioned lack of jacket and lights and you have a slightly freaky ride. Luckily I did have a base layer of wool on which saw me pretty right and I had plenty of food with me, also there wasn’t any traffic thank goodness. I was pretty disappointed when I finally popped out of the cloud and found myself heading down to Gebbies Pass. That meant an extra 35km on my ride and the weather was closing in. I stopped for a hot pie and a hot chocolate at the Blue Duck Cafe and then took off into what had become a nasty head wind. Finally I realised I was getting way too cold and rang my husband who came and picked me up from Tai Tapu with 70kms of riding under my belt for the day. Yay!!! Talk about an amateur mistake. Kiddies, always take a jacket into the hills!

Onto more exciting things, I have booked my train trip to Greymouth and my plane flight back from Queenstown. Waaaahoooo! I’m leaving next Thursday, so preparations have gone into overdrive. I went on a spending spree yesterday and acquired all the necessary things I didn’t already have. And here she is, Rocky Ell, fully kitted out and ready for the trip (disclaimer: bedroll in photo differs from actual thermarest that will be used, I haven’t picked it up yet).

From the photo you can see that I’ve kitted Rocky Ell out with a lovely new front mudguard, rear-view mirror (shudder), bike pump, and handlebar bag. I’ve also swapped out her worn grips for my plush race grips, fitted a myriad of lights and put the bottle cages off my roadie on her. And for added authenticity in this photo I’ve loaded all my clothes, my tent, sleeping bag, towel and various healing balms and pills and stuff onto her. The only thing that’s missing is food.

As you can see from the rear she is a sweet sight with reflective bits galore to grab the attention of any campervan driver.

A view of the cockpit shows my sweet bum-bag handle bar set up, newly installed speedo, double lights for penetrating the thick West Coast rain and of course my no- at-all lame rear vision mirror to keep me appraised of any rearward perils.

And finally the most important addition of all, my mascot. Now I need your help, beloved reader. I have no name for my mascot, it being a gift from my father in-law last night (I think he’s trying to tell me something about being a goat). So get those comments coming in with your brilliant suggestions. I’ll make a list out of the top 5 on Sunday evening and whack a poll up for your voting pleasure. Then on Wednesday night, on the eve of my epic (for me) journey, I’ll have a winner and an appropriate christening ceremony will take place. Thanks in advance for your help, oh intelligent and astute reader.

As well as update you on the name search, I thought I’d show you some of the gear I’m taking with me. The first instalment is:
Home away from home

Isn’t it a beauty? I have to thank my gorgeous and generous friend Sarah Smart for loaning me this veritable mansion.

You’ll notice the spacious interior with more than enough room for me and all my gear (not shown here). It has lovely indoor outdoor flow and is erectable (is that a word?) in no time at all.
Best of all it is light and easily packable when broken down into its component parts, as shown below. I look forward to spending many a comfortable (and dry, aye Sarah) night in this tent listening to the rain and, if I’m lucky, the kiwi.

So with only 6 days to go till I’m off I’ll be heading out at the weekend for some more big rides before resting up next week. Get your suggestions for a name for my mascot flooding in!

PS:The reason I've been so tardy posting recently is because I've been setting up my website to document my writing endeavours (incuding the result of this tour). Check it out at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Touring – Not very sensible training tips

My “training” for my trip from Greymouth to Wanaka is going very well, and I’ve come up with some extremely helpful, but not actually sensible, training strategies. Being the extremely generous blogger that I am, I will share these great* tips with you all.

Tip 1 – 3 steps to making time for training and eliminating the need for motivation
The first step is resign from your well paying, but soul destroying job. This will take a bit of forward planning as most employers require 4 weeks notice, so you’ll need to resign about 8 weeks before your trip, if you’re not very fit, like me. Secondly ensure you take on a new career that you are passionate about, but crucially, doesn’t actually pay any money. For example, become a writer. Thirdly, injure yourself. You’ll need to be careful with this one. Ensure you injure yourself badly enough that you’ll require twice weekly physio, but not so badly that you can’t ride your bike. Find a good physio that is based far away from your home. Madness I hear you say, none of that sounds helpful at all! Well, I’m sorry to disagree with you, but you’re wrong. Let me explain the logic here. Resigning from your job frees up your time greatly. You no longer have to plan carefully to fit in that 2 or 3 hour ride. Taking on a non-paying job, such as a writer, will mean you can no longer afford to use your car to go places. Now if you have to go anywhere you’ll have to ride your bike. No more training rides, just doing your day to day errands will mean you’re out on your bike for at least an hour a day (unless you are a house bound hermit, but then you’re unlikely to be training for a bike tour). However even if you are still not getting out and about my third tip will provide all the motivation you need. Being conveniently injured and having a physio, say 22kms away will provide you with a 2 hour round trip that you have to take. Note: it is important that any physio you see is good at what they do, you don’t want to be wasting money you don’t have much of, and they must also be okay with treating you when you arrive sweaty after your ride there. You don’t need to be motivated, you have to go to your appointment and since you’ve got two appointments a week you’ll be seeing results in no time!

Tip 2 – Follow rivers
If you’re following the instructions in Tip 1 then this tip will enhance its effectiveness. When planning a route somewhere you have to go, on your bike because you can’t afford to use the car, try and follow any rivers where possible. Not only with this provide you with a picturesque ride, but rivers are head strong buggers and tend to meander where they feel. This will extend your journey without you really noticing as you cruise along beside your lovely river.

Tip 3 – Lose weight
Those of you who train for racing will be well aware that when you’re training for speed you have to fuel probably. I’ve discovered that I don’t have to worry about this so much when going out for sifty long rides. I recommend for a two hour ride taking a bottle of water. For a three hour ride throw a muesli bar in your back pocket, take a full bottle of water and half a bottle of something with electrolytes like Replace. If you’re lucky you may even find that when you finish riding you’ll have worked hard enough that you actually don’t feel like eating. Any weight you lose now will make life much easier on the road (where you should eat as much as you can).

Tip 4 – Take a yoga class
But not just any yoga class, make the venue is up a big, steep hill. You’ll have “fun” riding there for the class and the class itself will be even more challenging with some climbing in your legs.

Tip 5 – Get sadistic friends
Your training has been going well so far and all the above tips have been helping a lot. This final tip with give you that extra strength that you need at the end of a long day in the saddle and there’s a hill in front of you. Try heading out for a roadie ride with a friend. Ideally this friend will be slightly faster than you and will be training for a race, rather than just pootling along. For added benefit it would help if this friend lives at least 10km away from you, so you have extra to ride. Ride to your friend’s house and then head out for a 30km loop. You’ll be nicely warmed up from your 10km ride so you’ll feel like things aren’t so bad at the start. However once your friend warms up she’ll (or he’ll) smash you good and proper. Of course once they’ve finished smashing you they’ll be at home, but you’ll still have that extra 10kms to ride. It’ll help.

With these helpful tips at your disposal you’ll be ready for your 450km ride in no time! If you have any equally helpful tips feel free to share them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Making a new friend

I would like, if I may, to introduce you to my new little friend. And to apologise for that terrible mish-mash of movie references. This is Rocky El!
I was thinking of nicknaming her El Rocky, but I like the cuss-like version better, because I’m sure over the coming months I will both love and hate her. Rocky El is a loaner bike from my lovely friend Lisa. Lisa has done a wee bit of cycle touring in her time, riding over big pointy mountains in Europe and smaller pointy mountains here in NZ. Therefore I know that Rocky will look after me.

I’ve started making a few mods to her, my seat, course, my pedals and for something a little different the front wheel of hubby’s old Kona which is pretty much brand new and has a much better braking surface that Rocky’s old, slightly groovy surface. Rocky El has also got some lovely skinny tyres now and will also be getting the lovely new grips off the Anthem in the not too distant future. I’ve got the loan of some panniers which I’ll hopefully be getting my mits on this week. Lisa has warned me not to do much practise with the panniers fully loaded and I’m going to heed her wise words, but I would like to do a bit of practise just to get a feel for them.
Riding wise, it hasn’t been too exciting of late. Lots and lots of riding on the road on Rocky to make sure she’s set up right and to get used to it. I’m aiming to go car-free as much as possible over the coming weeks so I get a taste of riding everyday and put some distance in my legs. This is helped by my twice weekly physio appointments which a convenient 45km round trip. Speaking of which it’s time I got ready to get on the bike and head over there. I’m looking forward to a sunny cruise along the river and then I might just head home via Sumner if I’m feeling up to it. I sense I’m going to be aching to hit the dirt very soon.