Today started bright and early with a 7:15 rendezvous at the train station in Christchurch where I met my group at 7:15 AM. I am doing this bike trip through Backroads, a company that arranges bike tours all over the world. I’ve been on Backroads tours before years ago, but had not been recently until this past March in which my family did one of their trips in Ecuador (a combination highlands and Galapagos trip), which was EXCELLENT btw!
For those not familiar with the geography of New Zealand, there are two islands, North and South. North Island contains Aukland and Wellington, while South Island (the larger of the two) has Christchurch and Queenstown. Christchurch is located on the eastern side of the South Island, about two thirds of the way up the Pacific coast. This 9 day bike trip, on the other hand, has us going down the west coast of the island until we reach Queenstown next Thursday.
Today’s itinerary was designed to get us to our starting point at on the west coast, essentially crossing over the South Island. We accomplished this in two parts: 1) take a train for most of the trip, including over/through the mountains than run north to south and 2) undertake a warmup bike trip to get us the rest of the way to our destination.
The train that runs from Christchurch to Greymouth (west coast) operates once a day, and it is mostly a site seeing train. People who have real business to and fro across the island would be much more likely to take a car. True to its design intent, the train offered up some pretty beautiful landscapes and views.
I am going to say right now that anyone reading this blog might consider creating a drinking game in which every time I use the word “verdant” they take a drink. That’s because the country is crazy with verdant-ness. It almost makes Ireland look brown by comparison. It’s no wonder the hobbits love it here so much (btw, this could be an ancillary drinking game — every time a make a non-funny reference to New Zealand and the Lord of the Rings, please take a drink). At three hours and change, the train ride delivered plenty of beautiful landscapes, made more accessible to my camera courtesy of a car they keep windowless to please all the shutterbugs on board.
We jumped out at a tiny town called Moana, where we had lunch and our trip orientation. It was also a good opportunity to meet the other folks on the trip. As far as I can tell, none of them are cannibals or practice ritual animal sacrifices, so that’s good!
Post-orientation started our first bike, this one designed as a warm-up. The ride was a 26 mile run from Moana to Rapahoe, which is on the coast. It was a nice, fast ride with a couple of small climbs and a lot of satisfying downhills. It made me feel fairly in-shape, a notion I expect to be disabused of in the days to come. The ride coursed through a variety of beautiful green fields, filled with mountain-scape backdrops and lots of happy bovine. It ended at a tiny little barely populated beach town — I’m looking at the surf as I type.
All of this verdant splendor made me wonder the following thought: do the Kiwi’s use the expression “the grass is always greener on the other side”? I assume not because it’s not really true. The grass seems to be epically verdant everywhere (feeling that nice warm effect of the alcohol yet?).
Good first day. I’m off to dinner. Maybe I will order a salad, which will be… wait for it… verdant.