music : The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company
Strange feeling that leaving New Zealand on November 28th in the afternoon and landing in US the same day, in the morning !!
Arriving in San Francisco, CA. my journey is changing again, Marion has decided to get back in France for christmas. She stays at the airport to have next flight to Paris. For me, it’s not yet time to get back, I stay in SF few days to visit the city and fix my bike (mostly my lights, here night is coming early, I’ll need it).
Almost left, that my plans are changing, I had planned to cross Sierra Nevada through Yossemite National Park, but the main road just get closed due to snow, it’ll probably be re-opened around next April/May!! So I change my plans, I’ll get around it by north. Here again, weather change my plans, back country roads remains under snow and only main roads get cleared from snow. But even on main roads, rest area, restrooms, campgrounds are closed, definitely, it’s not the best time to be there. By night, temperature drop down to -10°c (14°F) and pass are just plowed, but the road get frozen as soon the snowplow gets off. My bike looks doesn’t like it more than me this weather, cables get frozen and, shifters and breaks struggle to work… Maybe it’s time to go somewhere else.
I initialy planed to visit some nationals parks on est of San Francisco (Yossemite, Grand Canyon, Monument valley and some others), it’ll be for next time, the weather was not with me this time. I change my plans and go straight to south, to Mexico.
The following weeks will be exotic (failing to be warmer). I cross wide deserts cut by a straight road that goes as far as my eyes can see. Up to 60km without the slightest turn, almost 200km without any dwelling, but the landscapes are striking.
I arrive near the Mexican border at the end of the year. Cheryl and Chuck who lodge me, propose me to stay with them for the new year, I accept with pleasure, it’ss still nicer than to be alone in my tent on the side of road !!.
Here it is, I crossed the border on January 2nd. Changing country, changing language, it’s time to practice my rusty spanish !!
New Zealand – South island
Here we are, on south island. After a nice crossing through Cook strait. Although north and south island are just few kilometers far, they remains very differents islands. The northern one is mostly hills, where the southern one host few bigs mountains (and some glaciers). But paradoxically the southern island is a bit easier to cycle (ve are following valleys) but the climbs are harder (that’s, when we are not following valley anymore…).
So, we arrive in Picton, from here, we take the western road, then we’ll get down along the coast then cross the south island and get back by the eastern coast…
Almost arrived on south island that we are welcomed by a NZ family, Naomi, Mikael and their two daughter (Courtney et Cushla) and quickly girls adopted us and we are requisitioned to play cards. Our first days in south island are not so quietly, the first valley is a bit boring (80 straight kilometers and headwind) but as soon we leave it, landscapes and back country valley are lovely, and give us back our moral.
As on north island, there is lot of bike trails (MTB) that we use to avoid traffic… Still unadapted to our heavy loaded touring bikes, it remains a good alternative to the heavy traffic of main roads.
In south (as in North) it’s difficult to know the weather forecast, headwind in the morning switch to tailwind in the afternoon (or not…). The weather is a bit capricious, we know that the south west coast was synonim of rain jacket, and we checked it. Hard to describe landscapes on that coast, it was white and rainy. But as soon we leave it, we get nice weather back, and bike trails 🙂
In the course of meetings we adjust our itinerary, and on the way. We met Alice and Jeremy (through Warmshowers) and we realize that Alice was living on the same street as Marion 20 years ago. World is small !!. A bit later we met Toby and Kate, that I met on the road two years earlier, in Uzbekistan (they also are on warmshowers.org). Still some trails and we are back in the north (of south island).
Before leaving, a last preview of what NZ can be… on the night from November 13th to 14th, a earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shake us, it have been at 150km form the place where we were camping. During the night, the feeling is strange, probably more because we were sleeping directly on the floor… It’s a bit like if some people were shaking our tent, during 30 seconds… then we had few replicas during next days. Finaly we don’t had anything, but Picton and Wellington harbor have been damaged.
We’ve been lucky, we are once again hosted by Naomi and Mikael before leaving south island, just perfect to have a good night while outside weather conditions are worst and worst, roads are blocked by landslides or floods. But we had our ship in time. We are going back to Wellington where we find our friends Patrick and Dolores before taking a train to Auckland.
We still have few days there, but Katie and Steven invited us to their christmas party (after that they’ll move to UK to have christmas party with Katie’s family). So, we spend our last days here in joy, good mood and Christmas party…
From Vietnam to Thailand (including Cambodia, Laos, and Myanamr)
Music: The xx – Intro
and still cycling 🙂
New Zealand – North island
Here we are, we are almost at the antipode of France, after lot of time in asia, we reached the New Zealand.
We are greeted there by Katie and Steven, two cyclists that we met in Kyrgyzstan two years ago. They make us discovering Auckland and suroundings
No time to loose, we have to request a US visa (like we’ve been in Iran, we can’t have anymore visa exemption for the US). So, direction the US consulate in Auckland, here, we ask them to send us our passeports in Taupo, in the center of the north island. Meanwhile, we get back on the road, direction south!
Quickly, we understand that New Zealand will be a bit more… different than expected !
There is few roads on the island, so all the trafic goes by it. New Zealand export lot of wood, and we daily cross tens of trucks carying timber, moving fast on these roads, and don’t paying attention to us. We don’t feels safe there, so we get direction of back country roadds.
The good news is, in New Zealand, there is lot of bike trails, the bad news is, most of these trails are made for mountain bike ☹. But, to choose between high traffic roads and MTB trails, we choose the second option.
We crossed mostly north island on gravel roads, that are used to link farms and paddocks, trucks and traffic are replaced by sheeps and tractors, we sudently feels better. Then we get the famous « cycle trails » wich are obviously not made for touring bicycles like ours, we are too heavy loaded, but all right. And we have to admit, if you forget some the technical parts and few steep hills, that landscapes there are wonderful.
On our way, no problems for camping. when it’s time, we stop and ask people if there is a free paddock to put our tent, and the answer always have been positiv. sometimes we also have been invited to sleep on a real bed or to share dinner with our hosts… We met lot of nice peoples.
Here we are, after three weekd cycling on north island, we are on the ferry (with wifi) direction Picton, on south island…
(to be continued…)
Some news from the other side of the earth…
Sorry, I don’t give news anymore. Since Laos, lot of things happens.
In Thailand, first destination: Bangkok. Here Marion join me, so we get back on the road together, direction Myanmar.
We just had 28 days visa, so, not enough time to cycle the country. We decided to visit it by walking and using local transports (boat, train, bus, …). Myanmar is a wonderful country, still far from mass tourism, where locals are happy to see foreigners being interested by their country.
Back in Thailand, and direction Malaysia, We enjoy, to have some stops on nice beach, then,not really time to visit Malaysia, we are just coming there to have our flight to New Zealand.
Here a heavy program, and with that, not realy time to stop to write on the blog. I admit that, when I have some free time, I prefer to enjoy it with locals people, if I have more, I take it to have a rest, and if I still have some, I take it to write. But it takes time to update the website, writing, translating, selecting pictures, and updating the blog…
This is why there isn’t so much news on the last month. But I’ll try to write more detailed articles about last countries we visited… When I’ll have some time 🙂
Crossing the border to get in Laos is quite comic, this border is the only one between Cambodia and Laos, so impossible to avoid it, and customs officer knows it. So here everything works with baksheesh, for 2$, you have your stamp to get out, if you refuse, they never mind, you have no more solution that turn back… I had been warned, so I kindly pay 2$ to get out of Cambodia, but when the officer gime me my money with 2$ banknote, it’s enough !! I’m kind, but it would be nice to not to abuse.
In Laos side, it’s the same scenario, but this time, I refuse to pay, so after file charges, stamp fees and bike charge, with no more arguments, the customs officer let me go !!
Few kilometers after the border, I drop my bags on Don Khon island, a calm place, there I take time to do… nothing, spend my days on my hammock, watching the Mekong passing under my feet… It’s my way to celebrate my 30th y.o. and it’s going pretty good 🙂
Upon leaving, I discovered a puncture on my rear tire (the 3rd one on 27.000 km), so I take the time to quietly repair, and rest one more day in this quiet place. Then heading north to the Bolaven Plateau.
The Boloven plateau is known for its coffee and tea production, but also for its numerous waterfalls . I have all my time, so I take three days to cycle the loop around the plateau, and going to [wash] swim here and there. End of this loop in Tad Lo, a small village where life is good. I spend my days in the river, under the funny, puzzled look of kids that came here to play and wash themselves. We’re on April 12th, from 13 to 15th it’s New Year in Laos, also called « Pimay » (they get in 2559 in buddhist calendar), so I decide to stay here a bit more to live this event with local people
I’m going back the 14th, and enjoy the water festival, which occur during Pimay. Everywhere in villages, Lao people are throwing buckets of water on it, lined up along the road they’re waiting, beer in hand, and music background, someone passes in front of them. Bus, pickup, motorbike, and of course bicycle… everybody get it, so I can’t escape it… But truth is, by 45°C (113°F) the day, I like it, I’m refreshed every 500m from head to foot (and sometime welcomed with a beer) 🙂
Arrived in Vang Vieng, a small village on the road between Vientiane (the capital) and Luang Prabang, my time is limited (well, at least the one of my visa). Cycling (go and return) will take all my remaining time (especially due to elevation between these two cities), so I decide to leave my bike in Vang Vieng and take a bus to Luang Prabang.
The city, although very touristy has a good atmosphere, city center today is overcrowded by guesthouse and souvenirs shop, but when night came, the night market take the top and invaded the main street… Here we find (inter alia) a 1.7$ buffet, for this price you can refill a bowl as you can, so mine looks more a mountain that everything else, but no problems to finish it 🙂
Around Luang Prabang, cascades and waterfall (original isn’t it…) but they’re worth visiting, so visiting Kuang Si waterfall then surroundings of the city and it’s already time to get back…
Visiting surroundings of Vang Vieng, then direction Thailand.