After returning to Australia, I’ve put together some notes to summarise my trip. They’re mostly lessons learned, ideas for my next tour and a few useful bits and pieces.
I’ve graphed the distance, elevation and calories for each of my rides, to show how the rides stacked up against each other. In particular, day 4 was the hardest and other rides were significantly easier by comparison, even if they covered a greater distance. To fit the lines onto the same scale, I had to divide the elevation and calories by 10, so for day 1, I rode 110km, climbed 1425m and burned 2394 calories.
I was lucky to not have any bicycle issues along the way, I just packed some lubricant to clean my chain every 300km. On top of that I booked in full body massages at roughly the 500km and 950km mark, just as a nice treat. The cheaper way to do it would be to spend more time stretching or doing yoga as often as I can. For my next tour I plan to schedule some personal maintenance time, particularly since I’ll be away for three months, not four weeks.
This part was a lot harder than I had expected, simply because the touring element requires you to split your attention and change your priorities. Usually when I ride more than 100km, I pack enough food to eat 150-200 calories per hour and I can eat a variety of foods with one hand while steering with the other. But the added weight of the panniers and having a basket on my handlebars made it harder to balance, which ruled out eating or sometimes even drinking while riding. The main priority is safety and having both hands on the handlebars so that I don’t get pulled in by passing trucks and buses. The only way around it was to get off my bike every hour and a half to walk and eat muesli bars or even gels. I used the brand below, because it’s the same brand as the electrolytes I use, it’s roughly 100 calories and a hint of caffeine, which gave me a boost when I needed it. I was told that they were gross, but to be honest, I enjoyed them, I tried chocolate, peanut butter and salted caramel flavours and they had the taste and consistency of the gooey bit of a Mars bar. Or maybe my body was wasting away and any food would have tasted heavenly.
My post ride nutrition was a bit of a concern, I ended up losing 3kg during my trip, so I’m hoping I lost fat and not muscle. Either way, my pants fall down easily now, so I need to invest in a belt. After finishing my rides I mostly craved quick carbs and protein, so I ate out most nights, which isn’t a bad thing, but it is reflected in my budgeting at the end of the post. It wasn’t ideal to go to the grocery store and cook for one when I was often staying in hostels for one night, and couldn’t feasibly carry left overs or other unnecessary weight. I’m looking forward sharing food and cooking in my next trip, where I’ll be cycling for 6 weeks with my good friend Leo, who is an awesome cyclist, cook and an all round good egg.
This part was super easy, I had everything I needed and packed a lot of “just in case” things that I didn’t end up needing anyway. Aside from clothes, toiletries and the standard bicycle tools, the essential items I’ll pack for next time remain the same: first aid kit, spare bike lights, zip lock bags, duct tape and bungee cord. I have a wishlist for my next trip too: a new phone, a Garmin or other handlebar mounted GPS, proper riding sunglasses (for different weather conditions and to not leave marks on the bridge of my nose) and JD’s (from Scrubs) hairmet.
I set the bar quite low for my budget, aiming to spend $3000 or less for all expenses in my trip. I used this figure because when I was researching my route, I saw a 15-day tour which costed $6,295 NZD, excluding flights, so I thought I could do this at half the cost.
I’ve made a pie chart of my expenses, which ended up being quite well rounded. The noteworthy parts, going clockwise from the top would be:
- Airfares: since I started and finished in different cities I booked two one way tickets instead of a return flight, for the next tour I’ll choose the return flight option.
- Other transport: includes additional costs for carrying a bicycle, for instance I paid $75 for additional luggage to take my bicycle onto the plane, with Intercity buses I had to pay an extra $10 for each ride, on the airport shuttle I paid an extra $5. It’s worthwhile reading the fine print just to make sure you’re getting the best deals.
- Accommodation: I found out that YHA NZ has the Low Carbon Traveler Offer, which allows unassisted cyclists or hikers (those who don’t have support vehicles to carry their things) to have heavily discounted rates. I didn’t realise this until I reached the 5th YHA, so they wouldn’t retrospectively give me a discount, but the following YHA stays, I paid around $15 AUD a night. In my last week I was at a home stay with WWOOF and had free accommodation and meals.
- Breakfast: a lot of options are ruled out for cycle touring, for instance eggs aren’t ideal to be crammed into pannier bags, loaves of bread get easily crushed, cereal in big boxes is cumbersome to carry, cereal in small boxes is a over priced. The best option was to buy pikelets or crumpets, which are compact and account for two breakfasts. Plus I bought a 120g jar of ginger infused honey, which was a nice treat.
- Dinner: it seems odd that spent nearly as much money on dinner as I did for accommodation, but this is just the equivalent of buying petrol for a car. As per the nutrition section, I didn’t think twice about spending money for dinners, I was just so eager to eat.
- Alcohol: I had a single pint of cider and it went straight to my head, so I was happy to not drink for the rest of my trip, which saved a fair amount of money.
- Activities: I found that NZ has a fair range of cheap or free activities, but they’re not as well advertised as the pricey tourist magnet attractions. It takes a bit of research to find them and it depends on where you travel. For instance, in Taupo, there’s a huge emphasis on extreme sports, even my hostel room had advertisements plastered over the walls. These activities cost hundreds of dollars, but there was a massive free hot spa park, walking trails or cheaper activities like kayak hire in the beautiful Waikato River.
Overall the trip went very smoothly, I think NZ is the ideal place to start cycle touring, as long as you don’t mind the hills. I felt safe the whole time and found it very easy to make new friends and relax, even though my environment was changing so much. I’ve gained a lot of experience and confidence along the way, so I look forward to stepping it up a notch on my next tour.