Way back in the 1980’s, Natural High’s intrepid leader Andy had his first introduction to cycle touring, thanks to an adventurous pair of Americans called Bert and Doug…
I was a fresh-faced youngster in the 80’s when I met my first cyclist.
Bert and Doug were a couple of 20-year olds from Colorado, who were seeing the world by bike. They had made contact with the Auckland tourism hosting group my parents belonged to, which helped visitors to New Zealand arrange meals and accommodation with host families.
My parents were superb hosts. Mum would cook a Sunday roast of Yorkshire puddings and three veges fresh from the garden, topped off with a superstar kiwifruit pavlova. Then Dad would take visitors on a tour of the dairy farm, and if they were really lucky, give them a display of young calves feeding on a Kiwi invention called a “calfateria.”
Not surprisingly, Doug and Bert loved our hospitality and their planning seemed to take a while! Maps with notes, directions and contact addresses were constantly strewn all over our breakfast table. Cycle touring in New Zealand was very uncommon back then, and cars would often stop cyclists to ask if they would like a lift. Cycling was seen as a mode of transport forced upon by circumstances, certainly not something anybody would choose to do for fun.
I’d never seen anything like Doug and Bert’s bikes before – 21 gears, cable caliper brakes, drop-down handle bar, bags capable of carrying extreme quantities of gear and enough repair kit to start their own bike shop. Tubes, tires, spokes, derailleur hangers, brake pads, cables – they had it all!
Yet what amused me most of all was their choice of riding clothing. Tight, stretchy material that was ultra-revealing, yet they called it comfortable and practical?
Their New Zealand grand tour was split into two: North Island, back for Christmas at the Hunt’s, then the South Island. Their stories at Christmas were hilarious and featured eye-opening acts of kindness; a stay with an active mob member and his family, rides with local farmers when their bikes had broken down, kicking up their heels at a Young Farmers Ball…
Doug and Bert were no athletes, but their biking journey had taken them deep into the lives of Kiwis that the average tourist was unable to experience. It was the connection with the country, the land, the environment and the people that seemed to set cycling apart.
Doug and Bert had an acceptance that everything would always work out and a sense of freedom that was inspiring. Their experiences were to prove the catalyst for my own cycling adventures…but that’s a story for another day.
Inspired to start planning your own biking tour of New Zealand? At Natural High we offer a huge selection of both guided and self-guided cycle tours that will give you an exhilarating, first-hand glimpse of Kiwi life.
Not sure where to go? Feel free to drop us a line or give us a call on 0800 444 144. We’re always happy to listen to your questions and share our recommendations.
Until next time, happy cycling,
Photo: Andy and Kay freewheeling around New Zealand.