With only about three weeks left of this adventure, and money beginning to get to a point that even a boa constrictor would consider tight, I decided to return to the South Island. I bid farewell to all the folks I’d enjoyed meeting over the past week at the campsite I’d been using as a base for exploring Auckland, and headed for the airport. This being Waitangi Day, (a bank holiday in New Zealand, the anniversary of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty between the British and the Maori. Very basically, it gave the Maoris the protection of the Crown and New Zealand became ‘officially’ under British control.) no public transport was running so I was very grateful for the lift from one of the camp residents. (Cheers, Lesley! Sorry if that’s not how you spell your name…) I found it bizarre that the check in and waiting around at the airport took longer than the flight itself, but an hour and twenty minutes after leaving Auckland I touched down for the second time in Christchurch. After a second lift from the my mate I’d spent Christmas with, I was back at their house in Mount Pleasant and had a problem. What to do next? Sensing that they didn’t particularly want people staying too long in their quake damaged home, (with over a quarter of the floor space unusable and the five of them relying on a chemical toilet, I wouldn’t want people over for too long) I had to make skedaddle plans. Herein lay the problem, skedaddle how? I’d sold the van, I couldn’t afford to jump on the South Island Kiwi bus, the tent and equipment I’d used on the North Island were all borrowed and I’d given them back. Hiring a car would have meant selling a lung and as for a camper van, pah ha hah hah! It was fleetingly suggested that I gave hitchhiking a go, but I thought that would be ever so slightly hypocritical of me, I could just about hear the yokels tuning up their banjos. So what about hiring a bike then?
A quick check on t’web narrowed the search for a hire shop down to two that didn’t ask for the deeds to your body after you’d snuffed it as payment. One of these was soon off the list as they didn’t have a bike spare so it was in the last shop my hopes lay. It was a second hand bicycle store that advertised itself as in the business of hiring, selling and buying used bikes. I explained that I needed a bike for three weeks, including a pannier, helmet and bike lock. He showed me a selection of bright and shiny mountain and touring bikes, seemingly fresh out of the box. I showed him the moths that were chewing holes in my pockets, he nodded sagely and beckoned me into a dimly lit attic above the shop. Up here, under a single unshielded lightbulb and behind a curtain of cobwebs was stock that had not managed to find a place with the ‘cool’ bikes downstairs. There were almost a hundred of them, stacked for storage and not display. I could see where some of the hostels had bought their own ‘sit up and beg’ bikes. In the dim recesses of the room I fancied that I could make out the outline of a Penny Farthing. The shopkeeper searched amongst his stock, glancing up occasionally to check how tall I was. Eventually, he pulled one out that to me looked fairly modern, I was fearing something that looked like what a post mistress would use. It was a steel frame, 21 geared, Raleigh Amazon, made in Nottingham. I guessed it was somewhere between twenty and thirty years old, but not being in the know about these things I could be wrong. It was coloured with blue / green paint with glitter mixed in. With choice being the luxury of those with more cash, I bought that one with the agreement that the shop would buy it back from me when I returned in a few weeks. He assured me it would be ready at four, after it had been given a thorough check and a pannier fitted.
In the time before picking it up, and with suggestions being made of where I should head to, I picked up a few vital odds and sods from the supermarket. It depressed me to think that I had already owned most of this stuff just a month or so ago, a camping stove, air bed and pump, cup and bowl, knife and fork. It had all being sold with the van (my air bed had a leak and I left it in Auckland). Thankfully, I could once more borrow a small tent. Time ticked buy, I emptied my backpack and tried to arrange everything so it all – tent, sleeping bag, everything – fit into one bag. Did I need jeans? No, they got left behind as did my shirts and best shoes. I only took a few pairs of shorts and teeshirts, jacket and raincoat. I managed to cram it all, including the tent, into the pack. I decided I needed to keep my computer safe, so that went into an old satchel that previously had been used as a school bag before the lad moved into high school. This also carried my wallet, camera and a bag of sweets.
With timing that would impress the military, and reasoning that the shop could be done before four o’clock, I was bustled into the car and whisked back to the bike shop before the kids needed picking up from school. I waved bye bye as mum on a mission dropped me off and vanished in a cloud of tyre smoke. As with all these things though, the shop wasn’t ready at four. The manager had failed to tell his staff that the bike needed preparing, and when they did begin they found a whole load of other problems. I breathed a sigh of relief as they told me it wouldn’t cost me any more, and that some of the things going on were brand new, but it wouldn’t be ready until the next day. As I walked back to the house, I began to feel a bit bad in having to tell them that the bike wasn’t ready.
The next day came and the bike was sorted. After rummaging around in the garage we found an old wheelless skateboard that I strapped to the pannier rack with bungee cables to act as a support for the backpack. More bungees and extra straps made sure everything stayed in one place. Flinging the satchel onto my back and selecting ‘Road to Nowhere’ for riding music, I headed off north – destination unknown…
Mini Count :- 44, there isn’t one for ages then four crop up in one day!