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 355 – BELGIUM and THE NETHERLANDS: St Leenard to near Krabbendijke

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 63.6km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.4km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 5h 35m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 675.93km (plus 428.5km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km

Today it began. Before I even got up out of the cold dark building, I could see the trees bending towards the east. Considering that I had to travel to the west meant that it was not a good sign. A strong westerly wind. A wind in the face.

My spirits were high however. The wind so strong that one could only laugh. It was here that I realised that I had broken through the four week barrier. After four weeks on the road, I feel as though I am ready to knuckle down and do this. No more inner complaining that I’m moving so much slower than when I was on the bike. No more complaining about rough roads. Just acceptance. This is how it’s going to be. Headwind included. Just do your five and a half hours, Rob.

Boat on the Dessel-Schoten Canal, Belgium

I followed the canal up until Wuustwezel, where I sheltered in the public library on the computers for an hour. The friendly library staff fed me coffee, and almost apologetically kicked me out at noon when the library closed for an hour.

I carried on into the wind to Kalmthout where I cooked up spaghetti for lunch. Today I experimented with spaghetti and mayonase. Simple, heaps of energy, and tasty. I’ll keep that on the menu, I think.

From Kalmhout it was through the beautiful Stappersven Marsh area.

Stappersven Marsh, Belgium

Against the westerly that thretened to stop cyclists and skateboarders alike in their tracks, I managed to make it to Hoogerheide in The Netherlands – back to the friendly atomosphere of the Dutch.

From Hoogerheide it was on to Zeeland. This vast, windswept flat area reminded me a lot of Canterbury in New Zealand. Getting a good view from a high bridge over a massive canal, you could see all the windbreaker tree lines along the edges of paddocks on the flat land.

The view was moving. Everything on such a massive scale. Massive man-made structures pitted themselves against the unrelenting wind.

Huge lock seen from the Zeeland Road bridge in The Netherlands

Wind turbines in Zeeland, The Netherlands

It is everything I imagined The Netherlands to be. I unreservedly rate this country as one of the most fascinating and moving countries I have travelled through thus far.

By 6:30pm I was finished. Mentally ready to continue, my body was saying no. With the wind so strong against me, I have to push so many more times to attain the same speed as if there was no wind. This takes it’s toll on my feet, and I could feel blisters forming on the back of my heels. I found an empty shed in an orchard and settled down for the night.

Day 354 – THE NETHERLANDS and BELGIUM: From Aezee to near St. Leenard

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 60.5km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.4km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 4h 46m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 612.38km (plus 428.5km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km

Sleeping spot in the woods on soft leaves near Deurne, The Netherlands

My sleep on the soft leaves was sweet. I woke to the sun shining through the leaves and birds chirping. Perfect.

The scenery for the most part of today was quintessential Holland.

Old windmill in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands Thatched roof in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands

Skating can be tough however in the villages. Annoying paving stones that look pretty, are not much fun for skating on. At times like this, it is neccesary to just knuckle down and trudge onwards at a slower pace.

And I suppose it is time to intorduce some of my new favourite foods, courtesy of this wonderful country.

Yummy apple spread in The Netherlands Caramel Stroopwafels from The Netherlands - far too moreish!

On the left is Apple Spread. On its own it tastes somewhat like malt molasses, but spread on bread, it is a moreish delight. I can easily polish off a whole loaf of bread if I have this wonderful goop to plaster on it.

On the right is something that I first experienced in Switzerland when working at the international outdoor education camps. Some teachers from The Netherlands brought some of these waffle things for us staff to taste, and I was hooked. They come in packs of 10. A small, heavy package filled with waffley caramelly wonder. It is extremely difficult not to eat more than three or four waffles in one go. Extreme self discipline is required not to over indulge.

As soon as I entered Belgium the rain started. It rained on and off all afternoon. Not nice.

Entering Belgium near Eersel, The Netherlands

Once again the border was a non-event. Non-existant even. The generous cycle paths disappeared also. The contrast between Belgium and The Netherlands was stark. Whereas the homes in The Netherlands were well kept and neat, the houses in Belgium were tatty. The roads were less cycle friendly. It was raining.

At Turnhout, I decided to get off the roads and head along the Dessel-Schoten Canal, a small canal leading west towards The Netherlands. Basically, this route is a direct route west that cuts across the north of Belgium.

Rain along the Dessel-Schoten Canal, Belgium

Towards early evening, the rain go worse, and just as I thought that I would be rained out, I spied an old building. That would be my shelter for the night.

On the phsycological warfare of human powered travel, I have made some adjustments. I no longer measure progress by distance. I now measure my progress by time. My daily goal now is to skate for five and a half hours. If I skate for more, good. Just so long as I make that time. Usually, this equates to at least 60km covered.

Thinking in terms of time rather than distance is a big advantage metally. To tell myself ‘I need to do 10km more’, is quite a big burden. But to tell myself to skate for another 1 hour, at whatever pace, slow or fast, carries much less burden.

So today I didn’t quite make my goal of five and a half hours. But I can live with that.

By 8pm I was cold, so got into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep. Sleep was long in coming, and when I eventually woke up at 5am the nex morning, I was ready to leave the cold empty building.