Amateur Home Videos – Straight From New Zealand!

24 01 2008

I just had a chance to sort through some of the videos that we recorded throughout the trip but haven’t had a chance to upload it because of the slow connections. So here you go:

NOTE: Before you watch our videos, I highly recommend that you watch the 3-minute commentary by Lewis Black on his trip to New Zealand. It’s funny, but completely true.

Our Videos:

New Zealand – Sleeping in the Rain
We wake up to find out that the rain is dumping on our tent; everything is wet and cold; and we have to get out and start biking!

Our Sad Hitchhiking Experience
In the spirit of adventure, we decided to park the bikes and hitchhike for a day. Unfortunately, the experience turned out to be less romantic that expected.

Our First Live Coverage of NZ On a Ferry
We bring you almost-live, top-notch reporting straight from the waters of New Zealand. Ahh, look how happy we are… it was right before we started biking.

Milking a Sheep
So, we milked a couple of sheep. Nothing wrong with that… right?

Shaving a Sheep
… and then we shaved a sheep. If I lived in New Zealand, I’d probably be a professional sheep shaver. ANYA SHAVING

Figuring Out Where To Go …
We just got into a much-anticipated town (store, 3 houses and 5,000 sheep) where everything turned out to be closed. So, now we’re deciding on where to go next and where to crash for the night.

Getting Out of a Cave
I wonder how smart it was to go into a cave after heavy rain… but either way, we came out victorious and quite happy.

Hiking in the Nelson Lakes
Pretty views, but you can’t hear me speak… so it gets a lower rating :)

We Just Got a Car
After we returned the bikes, we rented a car in order to drive 1,000 miles to our airport. I think this was the happiest day of my life :) We showed those hills!

These are the two videos that I posted in an earlier post:

Fixing The Bike

Hiking in Arthur’s Pass – Avalanche Peak





The longest night I’ve ever had

17 01 2008

As i’m writing this on my phone, i’m sitting in LAX airport getting ready to blow up my mattress and go to sleep for the night here. It has been one very, very long night and it’s still not over. But let me start from the beginning.

My first 2 flights (originating in Christchurch) were short – about an hour long each. Honestly, I don’t remember much about them. Since I woke up at 4am to catch the first one, I fell asleep the second I got into the airplane seat and woke up only when the plane landed. Both times.

 Then, the fun stuff began. My first big flight from Auckland, NZ to Fiji arrived as expected. We were even met in the airport by a band of 4 fijians playing guitars and welcoming all new arrivees into their land. However, I – along with about a dozen of other transfering passengers – were pleasantly surprised that our flight from Fiji to LAX had a minor delay… of 6 hours!

That spelled trouble as it would mean that i’d miss my connecting and last flight from LAX to JFK. But not to worry, assured me the lovely Air New Zealand personel, they’d take care of everything. 

In the meantime, they have arranged to put us in a hotel, give us a drink and feed us dinner. Not a bad deal – I actually wouldn’t mind the stopover if it would’ve been during the day, since there’d be a few hours to walk around. But this was all taking place in the middle of the night with heavy rain, so we all headed for the hotel.

After bonding with all the other passengers over our troubles and getting a whole 70 minutes of sleep, it was time to go back to the airport. Everything went dandy from there. We boarded the plane and 11 hours later – voila, I was in LA. 

At this point, I was a bit tired since I already spent about 2 days between planes, airports and bad airline food, but I was pretty relaxed thinking that there is just 1 simple flight left.

Imagine my surprise when I approached the Delta counter (my LA to JFK carrier) and then, with a confused look on their faces, told me that while I was rebooked for the next flight (leaving at 11pm instead of the original 3pm one), Air New Zealand didn’t actually re-issue the ticket. While i’m still not completely sure what the hell that means, it basically means that I wasn’t on the flight… And the flight was already booked. 

By this time, it was about 9pm and the whole thing was getting tiring. Understandeably, Delta couldn’t do much, so I headed to the other terminal to raise hell with Air NZ.

They were quite surprised about all of this, but weren’t particularly helpful. After 2 hours of going back and fort, they told me to go back to Delta and try again. By now, the flight was less than 45 minutes from departure. 

I raced to the Delta terminal and explained the situation for the 10th time to a new agent. She cheerfully looked at my passport, said that ‘you’re going home tonight’ and gave me a ticket.

Quite happily, I headed to the gate and only then realized that she gave me a ticket for another person who’s name simply started with the first few letters as mine! So, I headed back to her. She checked her records again and grimfully confirmed that i’m not on the flight. 

Kind of expecting this, I headed back to Air NZ terminal. By now, I was willing to accept their original offer – a night in the hotel and the flight the next day, since I already missed all the flights for the day.

But as luck would have it, by the time I reached their terminal, everyone went home and the terminal was dark. When I asked a nearby worker, he said that they only start work at around 1pm the next day. 

Now, it was getting to the point of ridiculous. I couldn’t go to the hotel nor did I really want to wait around till 1pm the next day to rebook my flight. So, after some consideration, I headed back to Delta and asked them to change my ticket for the first flight in the morning and paid for it myself. At the end of the day, the insurance will cover the fee and i’ll get home tomorrow (later than wanted, but hey…), but the whole thing did wind up sucking up a lot of energy.

But, at least now I can say that I stayed in Hotel LAX :) Sorry for the rant :) 

Good night!

 

 

Update: 01.17.07 – 7.00pm – I’m home!





Finita La Comedia

11 01 2008

As hard as it is to believe, we’ve actually made it to our final destination today – Queenstown! In light of these wonderful circumstances, I’ve wanted to share some interesting statistics about the trip so far:

Total Distance Covered by Bike: 727km (but maybe I can round it up to a 1,000?)

Most Distance Covered in 1 Day: 110km

Lowest Speed: 4.3km/hour (those hills :( …)
Highest Speed: 63.7km/hour (those hills :)!)

Average Weight Carried: 52lbs (plus panniers) composed of 35lbs gear + 3 liters of water + 6 lbs of food a

Total Biking Accidents: 4 (including flats, falling off the bike, etc.)

Total Power Bars Eaten By Me: Between 60-80 (3+/day and I’m still hungry…)

Amount of Water Consumed in a Day: 3-6 liters each

# Of Times We Had to Explain Our Trip to Others: Between 30-40 (at least once a day)

# Of Showers We’ve Had: 4 for me, 2 for Anya (just a rough estimate)
How Often We Complained to Each Other About Other Person’s Smell: Every Day

# Of German Tourists We’ve Met: One too many…

# of Flights It Takes To Get Here & Back to the States: 9 (4 here and 5 back)

# of Sandfly Bites We Got: At least 30 each
# of Sandflies We’ve Killed: At least a 100 each and counting!

I had more, but as I was writing this, my computer decided to restart, effectively deleting everything. So, I’ll add more as I recall them.

Now, that we’re in Queenstown, we will be returning our bikes, as per the rental agreement. We were originally planning to do a 3-day hike in the Fiordland National Park, but unfortunately, most of them require at least 4 days and an advanced booking (unlike most parks, this one is so popular, that you need to reserve it in advance!). Plus, I am recovering from a cold a few days ago and Anya got food poisoning, so we’ll take it easier in our last few days.

So, we thought about it and decided to spend our last few days doing something we tried to avoid throughout the trip. We’ll rent a car and explore the South area of the South Island on it before making our way to Christchurch in order to catch our flight. I guess we’ll become regular tourists now!

I’ll do my last post in a few days before coming home. See everybody soon!

-Borya





Last Push of the Pedals!

10 01 2008

It’s ironic that the last day was probably the hardest. We only had a short distance to bike today (around 70km), but we had to ascend to the highest mountain road in NZ in the meantime.

Well, I won’t mention the joys of pedaling 15km for 3 hours uphill, but let’s just say that we were happy to see the top – that’s for sure.

ANYA FLIPPING OFF THE TOURISTS AT THE BUS FOR HAVING IT SO EASY :)

The evening we just spent at a little village called Arrowtown. Went for a walk, and as usual, were asleep by 10 pm :)





The Day of Reflections

9 01 2008

I’m sitting right now inside our tent at a campsite next to a fast-flowing river. The wind is blowing around us like mad and it almost seems like it has the power to blow our entire tent away… But if you are reading it, then it didn’t :)

Today was a day of reflections on the trip. As we are more than two thirds into it, me and Anya were discussing what we both learned and got out of this so far.

While its still not over, we both agreed that it was probably one of the most challenging and difficult things we’ve done so far. We learned that bike touring is less about strength, as much as it is about the physchological aspect of it – forcing yourself to go when it gets really hard.

I also realized that I often tend to underestimate things. I remember looking at the map and saying – ok, we’ll do this 100km that day and then we’ll ride another 120km the next and then we’ll do a hike in between. usually0 however, things wind up to take much longer. That beind said, I do think that sometimes underestimating things is good. If I knew how hard the trip would actually have been in the beginning, i’d think twice about going on it. And this applies to all things, including work, etc.

I also learned that the toughest road and the steepest hill can be done one kilometer at a time, one push of the pedal at the time, one day at a time. Although, I sure wasn’t thinking of this philosophical notion while actually pedaling, but in retrospect…

We also learned that traveling solo gets pretty lonely (from accounts of other people), but doing it with someone takes a lot of compromise, so its important to pick your travel partner well. So far, we have spent about over two weeks with Anya – pretty much always together, with the exceptions of a couple of hours.

Finally, I found out that as a cyclist, you get so much attention from others. People devour you with questions. Everyone is super friendly and encouraging. People just perceive it as a really cool way of traveling. I do too… Except when im actually pedaling uphill or against the wind.

I also learned that I am always hungry, but I am close to reaching my limit of eating pasta and rice for dinner and PB and Jelly sandwiches for lunch…

So yeah, I’m sure there will be more thoughts closer to the completion of the trip, but that will come in its own time.

As for today, we just took it easy and hung out in a town called Wanaka. Spent some time kayaking on the lake, did a short hike, etc.

We’ll be reaching our final destination of Queenstown within a day or two. Although, I did damage my bike today by going over a pothole while going downhill on a steep hill, so we’ll see if we can get that fixed early tomorrow. It still rides, except that it stops working if I stop pedaling… Well, it’s technical :)





Go through the Gates of Haast, Do Not Collect $200

8 01 2008

The only thing worse than going to sleep wet and cold is waking up in the morning wet and cold. Especially when you know that you have a tough day ahead of you…

Today, we needed to challenge something called the Haast Pass. Its the lowest point in the Alps that has a road going through. The aborigens used that path years ago before the road was actually built to access to the West Coast.

Lowest point or not, when it begins with a bridge called Gates of Haast, you’re in for for a steep ride. I definitely think that it was one of the most difficult hills we ever encountered. Towards the middle, we wound up stopping every 5-10 minutes because it just drained all of our energy going up.

We spent about an hour going up and then, fortunately, the road started to flatten out. Another hour in and we finally reached the Haast pass. Of course, what goes up must come down, so the ride down was quite enjoyable – with the speedometer clocking out at 63km per hour :)

The rest of the day went pretty well. We actually made a few stops along the way, swam in a lake, and finally reached our destination at around 6pm – over 80km ridden today!

Tonight, we are camping in luxury – at a campground with a shower and a laundry. I’ll be honest, I never truly appreciated the value of a good shower until now. It surprises me that after just 3 days of riding, we can walk into a store and we notice how people around us just start to walk in the opposite direction. Nor was I aware that after a week of wearing the same 2 shirts and 2 pairs of socks with no laundry, your clothes start to stand up on their own. Ahh, the little lessons of life :)





Not quite waterproof after all

7 01 2008

Its funny – the previous night I finished writing an email to my parents about how great the weather has been over here. Mostly sunny with just one occurrence of rain. As I was walking back from the campground’s computer to my tent, I felt a little drizzle.

When I woke up at 3am, it was because the rain was literally pounding on our tent with a force to be reckoned with. I just had one brief thought in my mind on whether or not I remembered to close the panniers (bags that hold our stuff on the bikes), but I remembered that I put them under the tent’s raincover and then I fell back to sleep.

We woke up at 6am because we were supposed to check out the glacier before we left, but the rain was still strong. I asked Anya how she would feel about an extra one and a half hours of sleep, to which she happily agreed, so we went back to sleep again.

At 7.30, I woke up and opened the tent door. Rain was still so strong, that our rain cover was completely displaced. My panniers… Ohh, man, my panniers were filled with water in such a way that some of our stuff floating in there. One of the books that I had there abrosrbeed so much water that it expanded threefold! Turns out that even the best waterproof bags don’t work very well when they are left open :)


MY BOOK GOT A LITTLE WET

When we started biking later that day, it was as if we went into the shower with all of our clothes on. We got wetter than I can ever imagine being.

However, amazingly, it not only didn’t affect our biking, but it wound up to be one of the best riding days so far. We only covered about 50km today, but they took us through deep tropical forest, waterfalls, and beautiful woods. The gray weather just made things seem more dramatic, so it seemed like we were riding through some enchanted forest. Its strange, but the worse the weather is, the more enjoyable it is to actually ride.

After a few hours, the weather started to clear up, so by the time we reached our planned campsite, the rain stopped.

At a campground, we met a bunch of other tourists – most from Germany. Its funny, but it seems that every evening, we wind up explaining our trip 2-3 times, as everyone seems so intrigued by the bikes. We already got the whole pitch down, so when a new person approaches us, me and Anya just look at one another briefly to see who will handle it this time.








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