I’ll let the video tell the story. Once again I apologise for the lack of the Youtube version of this video. Uploading to Vimeo has proved to be more reliable than Youtube, and as I type the video is still uploading to Youtube. So without further adue…(direct link:

I awoke this morning feeling jaded after far too much excitement over the last week or so. Not that I was complaining. The week spent with the girl I met in Blenheim was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I was on the road early today. About 7am. I woke at 5:30am in my tent and I was instantly aware that this is the last day on the road. There would be no sleeping in this morning. The first 30km towards Christchurch was spent in a daze of euphoria. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. Excitement doesn’t last long when the body is demanding sustenance. Landmarks sped by one after the other, my mind reminiscing of adventures I had had in the past in each location. The turn off to Hanmer Springs (I once did 160km/h along that road in my Aunty Les’s car) . The small town of Amberly (always went through this town on the way to Hanmer Springs). Leithfield Beach (had bonfires there during a Christian camp at university). Woodend (good old Woodend!).

Before I knew it, I was entering the outskirts of Christchurch. Suddenly the rush wore off as the reality hit that it was almost over. My mind was awash with thoughts and fears…

Wow, Christchurch has changed, I thought as I cycled past gated communities of all things on the outskirts near Kaiapoi. Gated communities?! I thought. What is this, the paranoid USA fear of the boogie-man? I had seen plenty of gated communities in the US, guarged by 24 hour security. That would never happen in New Zealand, I thought way back then. So what has happened here in Christchurch? Is there such a culture of fear developing that we all of a sudden need gated communities?

Speaking of fear, anxiety is at an all time high right now. What is causing that? I probed deeper into my psyche and realised that I had an almost paralytic fear of normality. Does this end to my journey mean that I will slowly just ease back in to existing rather than living?

But this is reality! I suddenly realised as I watched people going about their business. Shopping, driving, walking…our real life tangible existance, this is our reality. For the last 2.5 years I have witnessed humans of every culture in wonderful vibrant existance. The passionate Chinese couples making love noisily in the next room over in the small inns in China. Old men dragging me out of the cold into a tea house full of laughing, cursing people in Turkey. Achmed in Tajikistan, struggling to support his family on the meagre income from his electrical repair business, but still smiling and exuding life and showing generosity and hospitality. North Florida ‘rednecks’ enjoying Christmas with family…I could go on and on. This, this is it. Family, friends, community, our planet. This is it. I spend so much time looking to the future, when here is what really matters. Now is what really matters. We are reality.

I also realise that I have been globally stimulated. I can no longer consider New Zealand as the only potential concept of home. While I am ‘coming home’, I am not coming home to a family home. Of my parents, my brothers and my closest extended family, only two individuals still live in the same house as when I last lived in New Zealand five years ago.

As I cycled through downtown Christchurch, I felt a detachment from everything and everyone else around me. No one knew that I was completing such a huge adventure. Even my Mum did not know that I was arriving. My cell phone was out of battery power, so I couldn’t tell her that I had arrived a day earlier than anticipated. I arrived in Cathedral Square in the middle of Christchurch, and I felt nothing. I had arrived at my physical ‘destination’, and essentially the journey by bike and skateboard was over.

I sat there for a few minutes, saying nothing. And then, in a profoundly Forest Gumpish sort of way, I muttered under my breath “Well I suppose I should go home then.”

I cycled from the city center out to Aidanfield, a super new suburb on the outskirts of Christchurch city. So new in fact, that maps at service stations for the area did not show my parent’s street on them. After a short search, I got some directions, and made my way to my parents house. Sound planning, wise decisions, and hard work seems to have paid off for them, I thought, as I surveyed their typically modest, but well laid out new home. Set on the edge of a reserve, there are pukeko, phesants, ducks, hares, magpies and wrens that wander across their back yard.

Mum and Dad's pad in Aidanfield, Christchurch

After calling Mum to get the combination to the key holder (and her spouting her surprise at me getting home sooner than expected), I settled down into a comfy couch over looking the reserve.

To clearly convey how I felt at that moment, it is important that I relay an event that happened a few days ago. I didn’t get around to blogging about this, but on that day a cousin of mine forwarded me a link to The Zeitgeist Movie. “I’m afraid that much of what is in the movie might be true,” my cousin, a regular church goer, told me. “It has shaken my faith, and I am in a major Christianity crisis,” she continued. She said she was concerned that her faith that she had been brought up on was not true. We were chatting on Gmail chat at this time, and I told her to wait for two hours. I was going to watch the movie there and then. Watching The Zeitgeist was perhaps one of the most important things that happened to me while on this journey of mine, and it had everything to do with my faith as a Christian.

The Zeitgeist is a movie about “What does Christianity, 9/11, and the Federal reserve have in common”. In the first part of the movie, it more or less deconstructs the Christian religion as a myth. Much of it I agreed with whole-heartedly. The scare tactics and false teaching and un-loving nature of the church. Terrible stuff. I have always disliked fundamental Christianity for that very reason. What came as a surprise was the movie’s arguements for how the historical Jesus may never even have existed!

In any case, I was left shaken, and unsure of my belief in the bible any more. I started to think about all that I had been taught in church.

  • Some good people won’t get to heaven! one tract I read in my university days expounded. It’s only through an acceptance and knowledge of Jesus that will get you there. You and your friends and your family who don’t accept this are doomed if they reject this message!

This I think sums up what I couldn’t figure out about Christianity. Yes, Jesus taught love. Yes I believe that love (love for other human beings, love of your body, love for the earth…) is the healthiest and most pure principle that us humans can live by.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

But what about that niggling wee issue of salvation and heaven and hell and damnation and non-acceptance of certain ways of life (read homosexuality)?

So, back to me sitting there on my parent’s couch. I was feeling anxious, because I was fairly certain that I was going to have to tell Mum that I could no longer accept the Christian faith. Son gets back from life-altering experience and has rejected all that he has grown up to accept and know. How tragic for a parent could that be?

In reality, I neededn’t have worried. After discussing the issues through with my Mum and Nana, I was feeling better not only for having the courage to air my doubts and confusion, but also feeling better in that my Mum and Nana’s sanity was intact. They had thought about these same issues, and I gathered this as the general response:

“The older I get, the less I realise I know about God,” said Nana. “He is far too magnificent and his ways are far too mysterious for me to know fully. He knows the heart of every person, and he is the perfect judge. Neither I nor anyone else can see the true intent in a person’s heart, so who is anyone to judge but God.”

So I wouldn’t say that my existential spiritual crisis is entirely over, but things are better in my head. I cannot accept that there is no God (I have seen way to much of His creation to doubt that existance), so “there is a God” it is. And if I can learn more about the heart of God through biblical scripture and honest truthful teaching, then so be it.

No one said it was going to be easy coming home. And I can testify that it ain’t no walk in the park so far.

Day 856 – NEW ZEALAND: Kaikoura to a church about 130km south of there

It was hot today. The hotest day I’ve had in New Zealand since arriving a month ago. I pushed on over hills and through the heat today, and stopped at St Paul’s church near the main road in a town whose name I do not know. I spent from 5pm till 9pm there reading and eating (pasta and pasta sauce), and was not disturbed. So I set up camp and fell asleep in awe that this is the last night of my journey on the road. It could not have been a better last free-camping spot.

A church

Tomorrow is it. A day that will go down in history in my life. The end of the road, so to speak. Right here and right now I have complicated emotions. Just live in the moment, Rob. What will come next will come next.

Day 855 – NEW ZEALAND: From Marfels Beach to just south of Kaikoura

A howling tailwind was my best friend today. All day. And just as well. There were some big rolling hills between Marfels Beach and the Kaikoura coast.

All Blacks sign near Ward, New Zealand

But once I was on the coast, it was all systems go.

On the Kaikoura Coast, New Zealand

To me, the scenery was very familiar. I had to remind myself to stop and take photos.

A man on the rocks taking photos of seals near Kaikoura, New Zealand A seal on the rocks near Kaikoura, New Zealand

Near Kaikoura, New Zealand

I stopped at Kaikoura to cook dinner (pasta and pasta sauce). As I was eating, a local guy arrived on a very peculiar bicycle. It was designed so that when you turn the handle-bars left, the bike turns right, and visa-versa. He could ride the thing like a pro. I could get no further than a few centimeters.

A reverse-turn BMX bike in Kaikoura, New Zealand

I camped on the coast about 10km south of Kaikoura for the night.

Day 854 – NEW ZEALAND: A rest day at Marfels Beach

I needed the day off, so after she packed up and took of for work in the morning, I returned to my tent and slept and read for the remainder of today.

At Marfels Beach, New Zealand

I am reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at the moment. It is an interesting book so far, and I look forward for her conclusion at the end of the book. Heather, my host from Blenheim, loaned me the book after she had reccommended it to me. The book is about the author’s pursuit of pleasure (food and language in Italy), spirituality (Yogic meditation in India), and a balance between the two in Indonesia. I have made it as far as the end of the spirituality part of the book.

Day 853 – NEW ZEALAND: From Blenheim to Marfels Beach

I left Bleheim on a high this morning. Carried over from yesterday, this high was. I was cycling and singing like a madman. This lasted about 20km before I hit the wall. “Um, Rob,” my body cried out to me, “I don’t care how happy your mind might be right now, but I need sustinence.”

I did manage to get by on some snacks, and pushed on to MarfelsBeach to make it a short day.

I know I should be more concerned about this fact (dodgy to get involved with someone this soon approaching a huge life change), but I can’t get her out of my mind. The girl from the last few days. Never in my 2.5 years on the road have I thought “Man, I wish so-and-so was here with me”. Today I was thinking that at Marfels Beach.

At Marfels Beach, New Zealand

Deal with it my inner voice told me, and I pulled myself together and went for a wander down the beach to the rocks to collect mussels for dinner. Big, fat, juicy green-lipped mussels. Absolutely fantastic. At low tide here you can rip massive mussles off the rocks without putting your hand in the water.

Beautiful green-lipped mussels off the rocks at Marfels Beach, New Zealand

It was on the way back to my tent that I got an awesome surprise. I saw someone walking towards me on the beach, but I didn’t recongnise who it was. It was not until we were only 20 meters away that I realised it was her! I’m sure this episode will stay with me for a very long time. Totally unexpected, she had driven the 40 minutes out to the beach to see if she could find me. Talk about stoked. We walked back to the campsite arm in arm brimming with excitement that we had another chance to hang out.

Luckily she had brought her own tent with her. I don’t care how nice the person is, no one is sharing my coffin-sized tent with me!

Marfels Beach Campground at night, New Zealand

Day 852 – NEW ZEALAND: Is life being kick-started again?

[blog post re-written due to mysterious loss of original]

Well a most interesting thing happened today. I decided to ask a girl out on a date. In hindsight I think I felt a little like Andrew Steyn, the lead character in the 1980′s film The Gods Must Be Crazy (see for quotes). All flustered and not sure what to do, rather than just being myself.

While I was rushing to find some concert or something to go to (doesn’t everyone go to concerts on dates? Like in the movies?), and finally giving up on that idea (we were in Blenheim after all), she ended up suggesting a much more pleasant option: go for a hike in the hills.

Chilling in the Wither Hills, Blenheim, New Zealand

I had a great time, and we really get on well, and have plenty in common. I’m thinking I would almost rather stay in Blenheim than carry on to Christchurch and face reality…but unfortunately the journey must be finished.

So with plenty of reservations about the big life transition up ahead, we have agreed that we should at least see each other again at some stage in the future…

A most unexpected event!

Day 850 – NEW ZEALAND: To Upper Moutere

I feel somewhat bad for not giving Neil MacNeil more credit on my blog. He is one of the masterminds behind and a former workmate of mine during my time working at Asia Pacific University in Japan. Neil has been a behind-the-scenes master of the universe with regards to keeping the 14degrees website up and running during my trip. At one particular time, the whole site got horribly hacked, and Neil came to the rescue.

Anyway, I was stoked to be able to travel to Neil’s place today in Upper Moutere to speak at the local primary school. After a slight debacle with the bus not being able to take my recumbent bike, I ended up having to borrow Heather’s car for the overnight excursion (thanks Heather!).

Driving for any decent distance since I left Japan two and a half years ago, the drive from Blenheim to Nelson was an interesting experience. Blenheim to Nelson, 128km, the sign declared. What felt like only minutes later, another sign claimed 100km to go. I felt like I was doing an astro-warp of some kind. Ah the wonders of modern technology.
I arrived in plenty of time in Upper Moutere to go for a walk with Neil and his two Italian sheepdogs…

Enzo gets a safety lesson in Upper Moutere, New Zealand

The pair of dogs, the breed of which I forget, are the only ones in New Zealand, and of only a few pairs in the Southern Hemisphere.

I was also greeted by Neil’s wife Michelle and their family of young sons. Jack and Joe were a two and four year old dynamic duo, with Alfie the youngest still not quite sure what to make of the stranger in the house.

Day 849 – NEW ZEALAND: Meeting Peter Yarrell in Picton

“Oh man, I just realised that this is probably the weirdest thing in the world for you,” Heather said out of the blue. She was driving her bird-pooped old Mitsubishi hatchback with me in the passenger seat, on the way to meet an acquaintance of her’s in Picton. “You’re coming along with me to meet someone that I think you should meet. How often has that happened on your travels? A stranger going 30 minutes of driving out of their way to take you to meet another stranger. Now that I think about it, this is kind of strange.”

If I tried hard, I could see her point. It did take some effort though, to see her point. To me, nothing much seems strange any more. A trip like the one I experienced teaches you to roll with it. Or, on a more philosphical note, I have been taught to be open to circumstances. Willing to approach most circumstances with a mind wide open.

I assured Heather that I was quite OK with it all, and was in fact looking forward to meeting this man that she had told me nothing but good things about.

Peter Yarrell is, among other things as I found out, the race director of the Queen Charlotte Multisport Race in the Marlborough Sounds. Heather had been singing his praises as a very inspirational person, and had mentioned my journey to him. She deemed that a mutual meeting between us was called for while I was in the area.

I have to thank Heather for her enthusiasm for arranging for Peter and I to meet. It was quite possibly the most ‘consolidating’ chance meeting since I have arrived back in New Zealand. I left Peter’s house inspired and energised, and most of all, with a real drive for the next big thing for me; a book about my travels.

A strong north-west wind stretched the New Zealand and Canadian flags flying outside Peter’s beautiful modern home in Picton. Both vehicles in the driveway were adorned with adventure race stickers and outdoor brand logos.

Heather had visited several times before, and made her way to the back door. Walked through the door, through to the entrance of the mansion. I felt slightly ill at ease, as if I was breaking and entering.

We were met by Peter’s son’s girlfriend, Sarah, who informed us that Peter was taking a nap. It was Sunday afternoon after all, and by the sounds of things, the previous weekend’s race was an organizational nightmare.

Heather had arranged to visit Peter this afternoon at 2:30pm. At 3pm he emerged as we were chatting with Sarah. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “Sorry for keeping you waiting. Terribly sorry. It has been a chaotic week cleaning up the aftermath of the race.”

He went on to tell us about the chaos of the final stages of the race. Kayakers were reported to be missing in 150km hour winds. Race placings were being muddled, Changes to the course were causing a constant stream of confused race officials bombarding him with questions. “And then, amongst all that,” he said,  “I got a call on my cell phone from a volunteer asking whether I was still planning to let the pigeons loose at the awards ceremony, since it looked like it was going to rain, and they would get wet! I tried as diplomatically as I could to tell her that pigeons were not my main concern at this point.”

What I felt emanating from Peter was a passionate enthusiasm for humanity. A passionate empathy for others. It is hard to describe how he influenced me, but I left his home two and a half hours later with a drive and direction for writing a book about my travels.

Peter is just a shade over sixty years of age, and for some reason his enthusiastic interest in my journey and what I had learned along the way woke me up to an important fact. Despite the fact that I came to view my daily life on the road as a totally and fully normal existence for that period of time, to others, the journey is in fact a multi-faceted, inspirational journey with much to offer to others from all age levels and walks of life.

So a big thanks to Peter, and thanks to Heather for taking me to a person she thought I should meet.

With Peter Yarrell in Picton, New Zealand

Day 848 – NEW ZEALAND: White’s Bay near Rarangi near Blenheim

I had to ask Heather to pull over as she expertly navigated her car across the narrow gravel road leading to White’s Bay. Even as we were appraoching the hill, I was lost in nostalgia. Not that I have spent much time at all in the Blenheim area, but because the dry, hot, windswept environment reminded me of the MacKenzie Country in central Otago. I had spent every summer holidays camping with the extended family at Lake Benmore near Twizel as I grew up. Those holidays felt like months long. Completely carefree. Although I’m sure that Dad wouldn’t have been able to take more than a few weeks off work. Perhaps one of my relatives reading this entry can tell me how long on average we would spend camping?

In anycase, it was magical to be taken back in time. Heather pulled over on the verge, and I took in the view.

Rarangi (Whites Bay), near Blenheim, New Zealand

What the image above does not show is the white snow-capped peaks of the Kaikoura Mountains in the distance. The view was spellbinding. “This is dangerous,” I said to Heather.

“You keep saying that,” she replied. “Why is it dangerous?”

It is dangerous because I am rediscovering the amazing beauty of my homeland. It is dangerous because it reminds me how wonderful it would be to live here. And that is dangerous because I still have so much desire to work and live overseas. Seeing this creates a tension inside of me. A tension between wanting to remain here forever, and wanting to still experience life overseas, and wanting to do all that at once, if that makes any sense at all…

Right now I have so many options I feel are available to me in terms of how to move forward. What a wonderful luxury. The only thing I can do to relieve this pressure of choice is to be thankful for the options. Thank God, thank whoever…just thanks. We are spoiled for choice here in the western world, and I think we often take that for granted, letting that reality stress us out too much.

Rarangi (Whites Bay), near Blenheim, New Zealand

As for one option I have been considering for a long time, I was greatly encouraged and enlightened by Heather and her workmates at a pot-luck dinner we attended tonight. Friends of Heather’s, Larry and Kim from Ontario, Canada, invited friends over for a slide show of their recent family holiday in the North Island. I was in a home full of teachers, and I got some very interesting perspectives on what excites those in the profession, and also what doesn’t excite them, of course.

So big thanks to everyone involved. A very loverly evening.

Rob and Heather in Blenheim, New Zealand Teaching host Larry to ride the Street Machine GTe recumbent in Blenheim, New Zealand

Teaching host Ryan to ride the Street Machine GTe recumbent in Blenheim, New Zealand Teaching host Morgan to ride the Street Machine GTe recumbent in Blenheim, New Zealand

Day 847 (continued) – NEW ZEALAND: From Wellington to Blenheim

Shop windows, pedestrian crossings, and dazzled expressions on faces of commuters whizzed by as I careened through downtown Wellington. It was 7:30am, and the Blueridge ferry that would take me across Cook Straight from the North Island to Picton on the South Island was scheduled to leave in less than 30 minutes. I would have to push hard to make the 8am sailing.

Images of how I would react upon sighting the South Island flashed in my mind’s eye as I pedalled. Tears welled up as I realised that I would soon be standing on ‘home soil’. As much as the North Island is part of New Zealand, I knew that I would never truely be home until I set foot on the South Island.

I did make it on time, screaching up to the terminal just in time. The following crossing was smooth, and I took advantage of an empty ‘Commercial Drivers Only’ cabin, sneaking in and locking the door for a few hours of shut-eye.

On the Blueridge Ferry from Welington to Picton, New Zealand

When I did finally emerge from the cabin, careful to depart undetected, I met an extraordinary man. Phil was his name. An algae reserach specialist from Lincoln, just out of Christchurch. “I cycle to most of my confrences,” he told me after I enquired about his cycling shoes and lycra shorts.

Phil was travelling back from a conference in Wellington to Christchurch. On a bicycle. “How long did it take to get from Christchurch to Picton on your bike?” I asked.

“One day. Well, 14 hours, to be exact,” he replied.

From Christchurch to Picton is a distance of 330km (just a shade over 200 miles). In one day. That is a decent effort. Very decent. Looking at Phil’s legs, I was not entirely surprised. Think Popeye.

Phil and I cycled out of the ferry terminal at Picton together, before he sped off on a mission to Nelson. It was just before noon, and he expected to get to Nelson (150km and some very big hills away) by evening. I was left alone to savour the tranquil beauty of the bay in Picton.

I never really appreciated it before, but the South Island really does feel different from the North Island of New Zealand. The trees no doubt feel the wind, but they sway lethargically as if thinking “well I suppose I may as well sway a little…I suppose that’s what I do…”. Ducks waddled, unafraid of humans as they pecked at the ground at my feet, lunging for crumbs off my ciabatta bread. The entire place had an air of un-rushed tranquility.

I’m home.

A lunch of ciabatta bread with peanut butter and jam devoured, I pushed off towards Blenheim, a short 30km ride away. The laid back vibe of my surroundings was only slightly disturbed by a fairly constant flow of traffic from Picton.

Half way to Blenheim, I was met with a very pleasant surprise. The plan was that I would stay in Blenheim at the flat of Heather, a Canadian, maths teacher, and avid active-type living in Blenheim. Also living at the same flat was none other than Nicola (Nic) Clark. My Mum will know who I am talking about. A neighbour from way back when I was living in Invercargill, at the southern end of New Zealand. I haven’t seen any of the Clarks for more than 15 years. I is a small world.

The pleasant surprise was that a friend of Nic’s was on a training bike ride, hoping to meet me along the way. It was a great diversion to the traffic, being able to chat as we cycled.

Heather had been a regular visitor to this blog since she had found it (while I was in China), and it was great to meet another blog reader in the flesh. With over 600 visitors per day to my blog at present, to actually meet one in the flesh, let alone hear from them via comments, is a great pleasure.

A question I was asked by Heather’s flatmates was “Isn’t it weird to meet someone that knows so much about you, but you know so little about them?” It was a valid question, but for me, nothing much is weird anymore when it comes to meeting people. I value the ability that this trip has taught me, to be able to enjoy the company of complete strangers, without feeling too out of place.

Heather, seemingly unafraid of any challenge, was the first to attempt my recumbent bicycle. After a few false starts, she was cycling comfortably in a straight line in no time. People often ask me if a recumbent bike is hard to learn to ride. My response is that in my experience it is easier to learn than a standard bike. Think how long it took you to get the hold of an upright bike!

Teaching host Heather to ride the Street Machine GTe recumbent in Blenheim, New Zealand

I enjoyed going to a local pub with Heather (of course by bike) and her flatmates that evening, and meeting some of the other local high school teachers.

Bicycles in Blenheim, New Zealand