The hardest step of the journey is the one you take out your front door. After that it’s all downhill (or uphill, or into the wind), you are going. That’s what I love about cycling journeys, you aren’t leaving, you are going, somewhere. All the time you are travelling, the movement itself is a large part of the point of the journey. Many have written of the difference when travel is the destination, rather than the journey itself. For me, the act of self propulsion, whether on foot or on bicycle, makes the journey the reason.
I started cycle touring when I was 12, and would go away overnight with a group of girls from my high school. We would get on the 3 speed bikes on which we commuted to school, put panniers on our carriers, or just tie things on the top, and head away. I can’t even remember why we thought to do it. We camped in A frame pup tents on Banks Peninsula and the lock got stuck around my bike wheel (I bent it apart, it can’t have been very effective!). We rented a motel room in Amberley under our parents’s names and were very careful to leave it clean and tidy. We went as far as Hanmer, staying in someone’s friend’s hay barn and going eeling on the way. The NW wind was so strong that 3 of us hitched a lift on a sheep truck; that was pretty exciting.
I don’t remember much before I loved cycling. Did I love it from the excited time I remember getting my first bike? Cycling, to me, is equivalent to freedom. I cycled to the beach. I cycled to the Port Hills. I got a flat tyre in a snow storm near Gebbies Pass and had to ask my not very pleased mother for a rescue. I pleaded to cycle to intermediate school rather than have to catch the bus. I cycled to high school and got chilblains from warming my feet on the radiators. My gym frock wouldn’t dry all day if it rained in the morning on the way to school. Sometimes I cycled to cello lessons with my cello on my back though I don’t remember liking that so much – cellos are pretty uncomfortable to cycle with.
I have bought houses on the basis that they were within cycle commuting distance of my work. Our house in Gibbston is the first place I have lived where that wasn’t a consideration, assisted by the fact I work from home! However, I still looked at whether I could cycle recreationally from home, with no car trip needing to get in the way of my cycling. Was I wired this way? Interestingly, my birth father Peter has been a lifelong avid cycle commuter and remains so in Switzerland, aged 80. Could one have a genetic predisposition towards cycling? Cycle commuting is certainly not an activity I ever saw Mum and Dad avidly partaking in!
We have been on this trip 6 days now and, like always, at this point it feels like one has been cycling forever, and that’s a good thing. Getting up each morning, eating porridge with nuts, having a cup of tea, packing our bags, packing our bikes and cycling off, is now our norm. I love it. Even when it’s snowing, even when it’s raining, even when I’m cold and tired I still love it.
My body was made to be exercised, I can hear the birds, smell the wet bush, talk to the variety of people who sell us meals and cups of tea. There is no separation between us and everyone and everything else, as in a car. Our possessions are minimal and all on display – we are vulnerable, rather than a threat in any way. Each place seems new and each moment totally here and now. Right now, here and now is exactly where I want to be.