I realise with some trepidation that it’s now approaching one year since we peddled ‘Telia the Tandem’, hot, sweaty and somewhat relieved to Australia’s East coast and in so doing ended the two year cycling phase of our honeymoon journey. It has now also been six months since we finally returned ‘home’ to the UK, to the place where it all started, and began embracing the aftermath of our journey.

‘Aftermath’ sounds as if we’re in the wake of some kind of huge storm – one that’s picked up all that had once been settled and secure, shifted it around and left behind an entirely different landscape. In so many ways this is exactly how life has felt these past few months. Despite returning to our place of origin, familiar in so many ways, it’s nevertheless apparent that this is in fact another new landscape for us to navigate our way through, only this time without the simplicity and identity of two wheels below us and the added unfamiliarity of being a more individual undertaking for us both. Following years of being no more than just a few feet apart, we’re now having to learn to contend with our own challenges and adventures once more. Alice in undertaking a gruelling and intensive masters course in physiotherapy and Pete in setting up his own business: ‘Adventure Pedlars’ (more on this to come…) and finding freelance work.

Since our initial amazement at the most basic comforts a more settled life can provide; that we need not carry all of our drinking water with us on a daily basis but instead let it flow from taps (and be flushed down the toilet no less!); that a simple chair can feel like the height of luxury because you’re not sat on the floor; that we have a home of our own that’s not made out of canvas (and that has an oven!); that we have actual possessions like books, records, bikes, clothes, shoes and a dog!; that we have regular access to multiple varieties of cheese… and that speaking to a friend or loved one is no more difficult than picking up a phone or driving down the road; we’ve now become somewhat more accustomed to the ways of a ‘normal’ life (you’ll no longer find me staring, dumfounded in a supermarket aisle, at thirty different varieties of washing powder wondering what’s gone wrong with the world…). Nevertheless we do our best to remember that these things, now seemingly so basic are in fact a great privilege, one that the majority of people on this planet can still only dream of (and one that may well not remain ours forever..).

Another huge privilege for us has been to re-discover this most varied, beautiful, cultured and crowded little island. A dazzling winter’s day, a proper pint of proper beer, bleak moorland, a thronging live music venue, a warm fire in a country pub, drizzle, hedgerows, pies, leafy woodland singletrack, bluebells, crags, summertime barbecues and above all a sense of belonging, of history and of rootedness that you get from no longer being a stranger in a place.

Three years ago we borrowed a quote from T.S Elliot that read: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. Now, having tested the concept literally, thoroughly and to the best of our ability, we can say that, in so many more ways than we’d first imagined, it is true.

 

Having met fellow cycle tourer, Dr Paddy Pete, in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia over a year ago. We were thrilled to host him in Welli before the final leg of his 2 year tour took him down into South Island towards Christchurch. Our Pete just couldn’t resist the opportunity to accompany an old mate from the road on a quick jaunt down south. Beautiful riding, lots of banter, the odd hot spring, plenty of sunshine appreciation and numerous tea stops ensued…

Just because we’re no longer ‘on the road’ doesn’t mean that the two wheeled adventuring comes to an end. Quite the opposite in fact, by being in one place we now have the opportunity to explore an area in more depth, find out it’s secrets and extend our knowledge of an area beyond just a minutely thin line on the map.

While Alice’s back is not yet up to riding a bike, Pete takes up the reigns of continuing our two wheeled exploration of the world, starting with the world that’s closest to home. What lies just beyond our front doors is so often overlooked, taken for granted or underestimated by those in the grips of routine but for us the very novelty of having a door accentuates the wonders we find beyond it.

Fortunately in this place we don’t have too look to hard to see that wonder. Just around the corner from our sleepy suburb of Island Bay can be found a stunning array of raw nature, trails, wildlife and Kiwi heritage that it’s hard to believe lies just within a stones throw from the city centre; and despite being normality to our 200,000 neighbours they more than hold their own when compared to even the most exotic sections of our journey around the world.

So here’s some shots from a few rides within minutes of our newly acquired front door. What lies beyond yours?

It was bound to happen at some point… We were going to stop still. But where?

Back in North India we’d bumped into Kiwi Pete riding his bike towards Leh. On hearing that we were heading to New Zealand he convinced us that Wellington was the place to be. Craft beer & Mountain Biking were his key arguments and we were sold…

The plan from the very beginning had been to try living in a city for a while and being winter in New Zealand it seemed like the best option if we were to find work (& we really needed to find work…). Wellington seems to get underrated as a capitol city but we’ve been more than pleasantly surprised by this ‘Cool Little Capitol’ nestled into the hills on the southern tip of North Island where it seems that you’re never more than about ten minutes from being out in the countryside.

Re-united with Kiwi Pete we were taken firmly under his wing, being warmly welcomed into his family home and enthusiastically shown all that Wellington has to offer. Pete & his mates are crazy about mountain biking and more than a little fond of sampling the products of New Zealand’s thriving craft beer scene. As such they’ve formed ‘Team RTD’ (or ‘Ride-to-Drink’… recently changed to ‘Ride-the-Dirt’ for diplomatic and marketing reasons…) complete with tour bus, a whole host of top end mountain bikes and a knowledge of Wellington’s extensive trail network that stretches back further back than any of them would care to remember. Our Pete, having had fat tyre withdrawals for long periods of the trip, found himself in Mountain Bike heaven.

Alice, however had more important matters to address. Her back problems, having never truly healed since the mountains in Tajikistan, had ultimately forced her to stop riding bikes. So, taking advantage of being in a city, she’s thrown herself into finding treatment and rehabilitation in a number of areas with Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Pediatrists all scratching their heads to find the source of her problems. It turns out that there’s a lot of work to do but having also found a thriving yoga community in Wellington she’s well on her way and is taking her own geeky pleasure from thoroughly learning about every aspect and phase of the process.

We quickly found jobs, Alice picking up temping work in the city and Pete working a few days a week in the bike shop that is the heart of Team RTD, but we’ve have had other work on our minds too. With the experiences from the trip still fresh we’re keen to start using them as an inspiration to others. The first phase of this has been in creating a multi-media presentation that has already had a successful debut in the heart of the city. Although we’ve come to the end of one journey we’re now excited by the prospect of embarking on a new one with this project and we’re bursting with more ideas on this front.

So now we’ve found our own little place to live on the south coast of the city in the village-like suburb of Island Bay and are relishing the unfamiliar comforts of having a fixed home for a while. We’ve loved the adventure and challenges of settling down for a while and as usual it’s all the amazing people that we’ve met that have made the experience possible and worth while.

We’ve learned that life is in fact a continued adventure with no real beginnings or endings but rather a series of progressions that develop into and inform one another. We’re extraordinarily happy with all that we’ve achieved together over the past two years of traveling the globe and now we’re looking forward to what happens next.

So watch this space…

 

So we arrived in New Zealand… our long awaited destination. But what to do now? We were heading to meet a friend in Wellington at the South end of North Island but the temptation to cycle the distance from Aukland quickly dissipated as we realised that it’s winter now in NZ (we haven’t seen a winter in well over a year!) and all of our kit that once was waterproof is now looking decidedly dubious. Alice’s long suffering back also didn’t fancy the prospect of such a hilly route across North Island so we would give ‘Telia’ the Tandem a well-earned break.

However, in deciding that it was the end of us riding our bike as our main mode of transport, a problem presented itself… how do we now get ourselves, Telia and all our kit down south? The answer: ‘Tempi’ the Super Camper Van – a relocation deal that we found between Aukland and Christchurch. The deal was that we got the van for free as long as we delivered it in one piece seven days later in Christchurch.

In getting to Christchurch we would overshoot our destination of Wellington by about half of South Island but then who cares when the opportunity for one last road trip (this time on four wheels) was upon us and at the end of it all loomed the end of a (by now slightly drawn-out) honeymoon…

This is country number 22.

The Last Leg!

New South Wales was to be our last leg of riding in Australia and as such also the finale of our Grand Cycle Honeymoon!

The gorgeous winter sunshine smiled on us as we explored the jungles, meadows and beaches of this amazingly varied coastline.

As ever our plans stayed loose and, as it turned out, would change at the drop of a hat when we went to stay with old friends, Kate and Leif, in their wonderful ‘home-made home’ at the head of the stunning Tweed Valley. We were made to feel so welcome in this beautiful space these guys have literally carved out of the bush for their (growing) family that an invitation to stay longer just couldn’t be passed up (a pretty deep hole in Pete’s foot did contribute to this decision!)

After being truly inspired by this glimpse into another (more settled) life we pressed on, making up for lost time in a borrowed ‘Ute’ and finally pedalling the last few days into Sydney from where we’d fly to New Zealand and finally reach our destination…

Changing times are on the horizon 🙂

In catching that first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean it dawned on us that we’d actually done it… We’d cycled across Australia!

Since crossing the Queensland border over a month previously and finding a pretty fatal crack in our rear wheel had appeared way out in the outback it seemed that at times the odds may have been stacked against us. We’d have to get to The Gold Coast (2000kms away) to have it fixed & at the time riding the distance seemed pretty damn unlikely.

We pressed on though and somehow in the end that extraordinary ‘mcneilsonwheels’ providence (and quite a few zip ties) won through.

And aren’t we glad it did because it’s given us some incredible experiences & adventures along our way… Witnessing the beautiful, harsh and at times bizarre natural phenomenon that is the Australian Outback; riding through the historical time-warp of Queensland’s bush towns, and all the while marvelling at the consistency with which the our ranks of ‘Road Angels’ keep on swelling (keep an eye out for the upcoming, well overdue, updates) – from being gifted a homemade trailer, to some very timely dental treatment; being allowed to excavate real dinosaur bones to getting bought a few rounds in Crocodile Dundee’s Walkabout Creek Pub, the Aussies have proved themselves to be absolutely ‘golden’ time and time again.

Now, with Telia the Tandem back on track, we’ll turn our wheels to the South for what is (with our flights booked to NZ in a few weeks) really the final straight down to Sydney.