Editor’s note: Laura and Russ of The Path Less Pedaled are traveling through New Zealand and sharing with us exclusive dispatches from their trip.
By Russ Roca
In this episode, we finally start the bicycling portion of our bicycle tour. The video starts with a shot of a beautiful sunny day – flowers in the foreground and rolling surf in the distance. What we left out is that it was actually the first sunny day in about a week. We had tried to leave Waiheke island the day before, but were caught in a torrential down pour. What ensued was a comedy of errors that included bumming a ride with a local to the ferry wharf, his truck running out of diesel, and the ferry being canceled. It was an entertaining sequence captured here, but since it didn’t move the story forward – it was cut.
This is the roughest part about making these videos – killing the darlings. It’s all really sleight of hand. Compressing days into a twenty second montage and expanding a few chance accidents and encounters.
Another thing not mentioned in the video is that, while the ferry took our bikes without a problem, the wharf where we were we boarded was quite small. Instead of loading from the rear of the boat that had more room, we had to straddle a foot and a half of open water and essentially shove our bikes and gear through a tight fitting side door. My fishing rod kept getting hung up as I struggled to get everything in the door without dropping things into the drink. At some point my helmet got caught and my mirror popped off, slowly pirouetting into the blue water below.
Among other things that were lost was Laura’s brake pad. We’re still not quite sure how it mysteriously popped off. The retaining screw was gone, but the braking forces should have kept the pad in the holder. Needless to say, we were both quite horrified that it fell off and that we didn’t have spares. We would have been in really bad shape if we didn’t find those brake pads at the hardware store in Coromandel, since that area of New Zealand is known for its steep hills and fast descents.
Another wonderful sequence that had to be cut was the entire town of Waihi. Reduced to about two seconds of Laura and I toasting beer in front of a pub under an umbrella, Waihi was a fascinating mining town. Right in the town center is a giant active mine that produces both gold and silver (quite a rare occurrence). There’s a bike/ped trail that goes along the rim of the mine and you can peer in as large earth movers and cranes push dirt about in a fairly industrious fashion. Also in Waihi was a wonderful campsite where we stayed – it was butted up against the hills and next to a bubbling trout stream.
Perhaps the best piece of luck was running into Damian Day. He had actually been following our trip for the last year and we happened to be all in the same general area around the same time. We connected through Facebook and coordinated to meet in Rotorua. At the time, we didn’t know about his condition, so were surprised to meet him in person. It took about a day to sort out his speech impediment and begin to really understand him. We stayed at the same backpackers and spent a few hours talking to him in the afternoons and evenings. As we understood him more we began to really appreciate his wit and sense of humor. We were both really inspired by his story and a little saddened. He effectively has no family and has been wandering by bike for the last five years. We parted ways on Christmas Day.
Stay tuned for more episodes of the Kiwi Chronicles!