Guest post by Christopher Dempsey
I’ve been a commuter cyclist for a number of years now, first starting in 2006 when I screwed up enough courage to get on a bike in the face of Auckland traffic. Now I find myself choosing to cycle more often and to more places than before (and in the company of more people facing down Auckland traffic).
I took my bike to Perth for a change earlier this year and had a great time cycling around. But a few months ago, I began to wonder. What about cycling further afield than to say, Ambury Park and back? The web is wonderful; one day, you search for something and before you know it, you land on blog about a guy who cycled from London to Whangarei. As you do.
Decided that his time in London was up, but didn’t feel like flying home. Thought a bit, and decided to cycle home. So he did. Bought a touring bike, panniers, the equipment, and spent 15 months cycling through Europe, Turkey, the Stans, China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and then Auckland to Whangarei.
He kept a journal on his website. Fascinating. There’s something about cycling through Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe that appeals to the senses. I then discovered the crazyguyonabike (CGOAB) website which is all about cycle touring. At the heart of this site are journals kept by cycle tourists. A page that notes the start – stop points for the day, the distances, some descriptive text, and some photos are uploaded for each day generally. Each journal is made up of a number of pages that detail the journey. Remarkably, this basic format works, following someone as they weave their way across continents, or around regions.
Which is how I found myself following Jeff Kruys on CGOAB. Modestly titled “A few years in North Central and South America”, his journal details his 4 year, 4 month cycle from Victoria, British Columbia, to Inuvik (commonly agreed as the northernmost town in the Americas) to Ushuaia (the southernmost) and back. Don’t expect pithy, witty travel writing, merely descriptive writing that plainly tells a story which is engaging for its enormity, spanning both North and South America.
[Lest you think cycle touring is a recent phenomena, Louise Sutherland started cycle touring around the South Island in 1945, and in 1949 rode home from London.]
Inspired by Jeff’s story, I began to research cycle touring. First stop, a bike. My commuter hybrid bike might be ok doing a trans-continental trip, but a proper touring bike would be better. My research threw up several brands. NZ is a tiny place at the end of a very long supply chain so touring bikes are either non-existent or very expensive. Nonetheless, I figured out that I’d get to Melbourne and pick one up there, and do a proper tour, from there to Perth to visit my friend.
Reading CGOAB you notice that cycle touring is not for everyone. Mostly it suits everyone who does not currently have children at home. Young couples, single men and women, and retirees seem to make up the bulk of cycle tourists.
Time is another dimension. A tour can range from a few days touring around your region, to months for a transcontinental trip. A journey by bike is at your own speed, and not at the speed of a plane or car, something that as a cyclist you know already.
Bike touring means supporting yourself, so a tent, sleeping and cooking equipment, plus other necessities are needed. And the panniers to carry it all. More research. Slowly I’m getting there, adding bits and pieces, and one day, I’ll be taking it all over to Melbourne to pick up my touring bike. Like any serious hobby, it’s expensive, but the reward lies in the experience.
My motivation is in a desire to see ‘flatness’. Growing up in NZ it’s rare to see flat land extending out to as far as the eye can see. Even the Canterbury Plains are hemmed in by the Southern Alps. There’s something about seeing, and being in, ‘flatness’ that I find mysterious. Cycling across the Nullabor Plains I figure will definitely cure my desire.