Of a short ride being unexpectedly hard. Of my legs feeling unexpectedly non-compliant. Of my lungs wanting to burst. Of the sudden steep gradient that appeared around a bend. Of the undulating road. Of my misery on the first day of cycling. Of not being able to find a bar despite having the address. I could go on, but you get the picture. Suffice to say that today, which at the start was supposed to involve a nice short bike ride (of about 50 km/30 miles) to “find” our cycling legs and make sure the bikes are all OK unladen turned out to be bloody difficult, it turned out I was not OK (the bike of course was fine), and for a while, had me panicking about the thought of cycling 90 km/55 miles tomorrow with the bikes fully loaded. And of doing this for the next 10 months. Fear not, it is not all doom and gloom, I cheered up at the end.
Before coming to NZ a friend and ex-resident suggested that whilst in Christchurch we should go and visit Lyttleton and go to the Wunderbar. His suggestion was to take a bus from town. We looked on a map and Lyttleton was not that far from our hostel and further research suggested that we could cycle to Diamond Harbour for what looked like a nice 30 km bike ride and pick up a boat from there back to Lyttleton. And so that’s what we did, on our bikes, not on the bus (note to self: follow advice more closely in the future).
We headed out around 10am and had a delightful ride following rivers and streams on quiet roads; it felt a bit like we were in The Netherlands. Well, aside from the rather large hill we could see. As we turned left after about 8km onto Dyers Pass, the road rose sharply and up we twiddled. Well, after Adam figured out how to use his gear shifters properly…..it felt pretty steep for about 1 km and we had already climbed to around 100m so thought we didn’t have that much further to go (we mistakenly remembered that the summit was at around 200m; it wasn’t, it was more like 350m). The bike felt heavy and cumbersome and it had no panniers on. I began to worry about the rest of the trip. There was no way I could conceive cycling up that first ascent fully loaded.
We grinded on and on and I’m sure every metre of ascent caused my smile to gradually recede to a frown. I was hot. I felt unfit. I wasn’t loving the bike. I was losing confidence about my ability to manage with the next 10 months. The last 4 km to the summit was at a more friendly gradient, although I was still forced to use my penultimate low gear. Again, this made me worry. But finally we made it to the summit and there we got chatting to some walkers who were also cyclists, discussing various bike rides (LeJOG, Japan, etc). We explained our plans to cycle round to Diamond Harbour (no problem they said) and then take the boat and cycle back to Christchurch (errr…road closed – soz; don’t worry you can take your bikes on buses here – yay!).
Then came the swooping descent. I missed the carbon framed, disc-braked bikes we had hired in Mallorca recently; the touring bikes don’t corner nearly so well! We descended for what felt like a not very long time considering what we had come up. And then came the undulating road. Up and down. Misery and ecstasy. There was a flat bit – we had a strong headwind. I had words with Adam and told him in no uncertain terms that the strongest cyclist should be on the front AND NOT ME ANYMORE! I was watching my garmin counting down the km to the end. I was miscounting, so expected us to arrive at the ferry after 32 km. I got a bonus 3 km…..
I was hot and bothered and miserable. We had some food. I cheered up. We took the boat and got chatting to some people. She was a local cyclist and when we told her we had cycled over Dyers Pass, she reassuringly told us that was a pretty tough ride. Phew – not just me being a wusser after all then. Considering we have 90 km planned for tomorrow I was pretty apprehensive about that. When we told her where we were going she said it was flat and beautiful and nothing to worry about. Hoorah! Aside from at the end when we have to cycle up into a gorge. Booo.
The boat docked in Lyttleton and off we went to find the Wunderbar. We could see it from the port. Could we find it? Nope. We had the address, we had the right street, we couldn’t find the entrance. Sorry Steve – we missed out 😦
Then we had the fun of taking the bikes on a bus. The road we had planned to use out of Lyttleton was still closed following the 2011 earthquake and so the only option was a tunnel where cyclists are not allowed. Normally in the UK this would present a problem, but not here. All the buses are fitted with bike racks on the front that take 2 bicycles, and flip out quite easily (we had some help from the driver). He drove us through the tunnel and dropped us off at the gondola and we cycled back from there (it was mostly downhill – thankfully).
So hopefully after what felt like a ridiculously hard ride considering the distance, tomorrow should be OK after all. It will be our first night of camping, which normally would be fine, but with 90 km to go and fully loaded bikes and the thought of 10 months of this, I’m a little nervous still. Adam has just told me not to worry and that it isn’t 10 months of camping, I can look forward to the airport hotel we have booked in Melbourne for March 23rd…..