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Day three - the ultimate challenge

måndag 7 februari 2011 Leigh, Nya Zeeland
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We woke up and realized that most of our things were wet since there had been a mellow but enduring rain during the night. We started collecting our stuff and trying to shake of the water from all plastic stuff. Steph had to take all the wet clothes that we had left outside the tent and dry them with a hair dryer. Me (Jairo) and Damiano prepared breakfast which consisted mostly of rests from the previous day and tea. We got our stuff together pretty fast and after showering and applying sun block extensively we ate, did the dishes and returned everything we had borrowed to the owners and got rolling at around 8 am.

The day was hot and the road was getting steeper and the space allotted for bicycles was getting thinner. The traffic was also pretty heavy. And on top of this there were several segments of the road which were being repaired and the traffic had to do with just half the road. This made the traffic come even closer to us and at times it was scary, especially at the curves with heavy vegetation which hid us from the traffic coming from behind. The biking and pushing was heavy not just on us but on the bikes too. My chain came off several times - once when I was already falling behind. Stephs breaks, which were completely new, were getting very worn so I had to tighten them every now and then. Also since my bike + carriage were so heavy and slow up-hill I had to make use of the down-hill segments which gave me a lot of velocity (I could keep up with cars!). The three of us got separated all the time because of all this variables. Every now and then we waited for each other to check the map and direction.

At around 11:50 we were climbing one of the steepest and longest up-hills and we saw some shade at one of the turns and decided to take a rest there - both to avoid the sunniest part of the day and to have some food and water. Canned food and canned fruit and lukewarm water have never tasted so good! Honestly! Steph even loved the syrup of the Lychee fruits (she normally likes the fruit but not the syrup). The canned raspberries were also a bit too popular - normally I get to have them for myself. We also had some bread and canned spaghetti and beens. After ravaging the food we decided to rest until 2 pm. Steph had already fallen asleep on a towel extended on the grass. Damiano disappeared into a fenced meadow towards the trees with his hammock. I set the alarm for 13.45 and also tried to get some sleep.

After the well needed rest Damiano reappeared and we started preparing to leave. We collected the garbage and put all things back in place. Steph woke up and we were all ready to go. Here I committed a grave mistake as we would notice later. Me and Steph have an important bag each. I'm carrying the bag with passports, money and a few other things. Steph is carrying a backpack with the computer, camera, chargers and such. I didn't put the backpack on my back, but put it in the carriage with the rest of the stuff. We hit the road again.

The road was as heavy as before if not worse. My chain jumped off a couple of more times, Stephs breaks were getting worse, Damianos bike seems to be the only one that was keeping well together. We were making progress but the iPhone was getting low on battery. We were estimating that we'd probably arrive later than 6 pm and most camping sites close their offices at that time. So we decided to make a call at around 17.15 when we were still a fair way from Leigh. I said: "Hello, my name is Frisco and we are three people on bikes arriving today and we need to check if we can arrive after 6 pm.". The reply I got was confusing: "Hello Frisco, have you dropped a bag?". I was a bit freaked out and said "No, I really don't think so." and the woman on the phone said "Ok, because we got a call about three people on bikes dropping a bag and we thought it was you.". Weeeeeird... She said that there would be people there even if we arrive late, we just had to ring a bell. I told the others about the strange conversation and Damiano said it couldn't possibly be our bag. So we decided to pedal on. We got into the small town Leigh and found a store. The prices were about triple the normal prices! But it was the only store around so we bought a big cold Schweppes and shared it. We got some chocolate and nachos and dip and other random stuff. Since the battery of the phone was exhausted we had moved the SIM chip to Stephs phone, but on this one we couldn't use the Maps. So... We went the wrong way. We were close to the coast and on the brochures and maps it looked like the camping was very close so we followed the road to the water. There was a _very_ steep bit down hill and Stephs bike couldn't break so she got off and walked down. I hit the breaks all the way down and was happy the trip was over. When we got to the water there was a boat marina and no sign of the camping. We asked a funny dude on a small fishing boat who said I should get a haircut and get a job. I told him I have a job and he's just jealous about the hair (he was around 35 and bald. He told me to f*ck off laughing.. :) .. And gave us good directions - to the camping. We had to go back up and I could really hardly get to the top. We were very tired and pissed because we'd gone the wrong way on such a heavy bit of the road. We got back to the store which had just closed and asked for directions and a girl pointed at a blue station wagon saying "That's the owner of the camping". We talked to the very friendly woman driving. She was driving her 3 kids home from school so she couldn't give us a lift but she explained how we should get to the camping. And we struggled on.

After a couple of kilometers and two more up-hill battles we found a sign pointing to "Goat Island Camping". Joy! I had fallen behind with my heavy load. I found Steph who was waiting for me further up the road. Damiano was still further in front. We rode down-hill and passed a gravel road to the left and heard Damiano shouting from behind: "Friiiiscoooooo!!!!!". The wind generated by the speed we were going by almost made me miss the shout. I whistled at Steph shouting to her to stop. It took some 50 meters to get the bikes to stop. We looked back and Damiano was signaling from a bit up the gravel road. That was the right way. We went back and started struggling the last up-hill on gravel. What a finale! Damiano told us the cows on the field between him and where we stopped had peed and pooped and run when he shouted. He was feeling guilty - such a nice guy.. :)

When we got to the top, at about 7 pm, Steph had gone straight to some hammocks, dropped the bike and was laying half dead in one of the hammocks. I parked the bike on the grass and sat down and had some soda. Damiano also looked totally wasted. Most people were looking at us like we had just landed and exited a UFO. Most with admiration others just baffled. "You came on that? Wow!" We had actually gotten many looks and honks and shouts all the way from Auckland. That gave us a perspective of how... unusual.. an idea we had followed through. I got to talk to the owners and we realized the bag they were talking of was indeed ours. It was the passport bag - my responsibility. It had fallen of the carriage close to Leigh in a populated area. Someone had seen it and hang it up on someone else's post box. They'd seen it and looked inside and found passports and our bike repairing kit. This same person had seen us pass by on bikes and called the camping guessing we were on the way there. Thats when we called them and the asked if we'd lost a bag. Wow! We were far to tired to go back and we couldn't get a hold of the person that called so the owner offered to give us a ride to town in the morning so we could go get the bag. That was a very kind offer and we decided on that.

Stephs feet looked like she'd been running on a glass and my hands were hurting more than my feet because of pushing the bike up-hill. Damiano put up his tent, but I suggested to Steph that we'd get a good rest in a real bed so we opted for some stationary caravans. The caravans were really cozy, dry(compared to the tent!), relatively warm and had electricity. We ate, made some new friends (a Danish couple and a Swede), rested, showered and were extremely tired and bruised but very very happy.

Stephanie Benari
Senast aktiv - från Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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