Cycling adventures – tally ho!

Penny farthings of the world unite! Photo: Tanya Batt
“Life is delightful on pedal-powered wheels.” Words and photo: Tanya Batt

We’re just back from a bicycle tour in the South Island, cycling along the country roads of Canterbury. Lycra and gears were shunned for vintage, one-speed bikes, with riders decked out in an eclectic mix of Victorian outfits.

David and I are now members of the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club, who have been holding such excellent expeditions for 17 years now. This jaunt was superbly organised by Oamaru artist Donna Demente, whose poodle Tuppence travelled in great style in her wicker basket.

Donna and Tuppence abefore venturing on to the Little River Rail Trail.
Donna and Tuppence before venturing on to the Little River Rail Trail.

Tuppence chats with a local.

Some rode resplendent penny farthings;  in some cases these high wheelers were made by the rider.  They were a pleasure to behold as they raced past us.  The youngest in our group of 29 was 16, the oldest 84 – George, a former New Zealand bicycle champion who was almost always at the front, chatting happily with everyone.

The Waikato contingent – two from Gordonton, four from Te Pahu – were no slouches, and displayed their various skills in coffee or porridge making, ukulele playing and op shopping, as well as displaying some first-rate pedalling.

Under bright blue skies we cycled alongside irrigation channels, pedalled past confused bovines, and waved politely to farmers and truck drivers. We stopped often for art galleries, ornithology and cups of tea. And at the end of each day we changed into our finest evening wear – men in cravats, gloves and tails, ladies in gowns, ostrich feathers or similar – to chat with the locals at pubs and other establishments.

Waikato! Te Pahu and Gordonton in the middle. (Wayne, under the k, Paul to his right, Graeme, Adrienne, then Gordonton's David.)
The Waikato contingent, from left from Donna Demente: Mr David Riddell, Gordonton; Mistress Adrienne Carthew, Mr Graeme Cairns, Mistress Paula Hudson and Mr Wayne Humphries, all from Te Pahu.


At Erewhon Station, one of New Zealand’s largest back country farms and a Clydesdale stud, we ditched our cycles for a wagon ride pulled by two teams of Clydesdales through spectacular  scenery. Mt Sunday, the location Peter Jackson’s Edoras in the Lord of the Rings, was just a stone’s throw away.

Pic: Tanya Batt
No pedalling please. Pic: Tanya Batt

Erewhon Station was also home to British author Samuel Butler in the 1860s, and is named in his honour after his novel “Erewhon: Or Over the Range”.  By all accounts he was a handsome chap who dressed very tastefully so that day we all dressed up as dandies.

Graeme and Annette as dandies at Erewhon Station. The wind was brisk.
Graeme and Annette disguised as dandies. The wind was brisk.

It really goes without saying that we ate famously all along the way. Highlights included the first night’s feast put on by the ladies of the Mt Somers Memorial Hall pool committee and a superb lunch in Le Bons Bay put on by friends of Donna’s.  The locally caught smoked salmon and pea soup was utterly divine.

Mark, a pizza chef from Oamaru, cooked for us. He did. It was wonderful.
Mark, a pizza chef from Oamaru, cooked for us. He did. It was wonderful.


We covered some 160 kilometres, starting at Rakaia and finishing at Little River, on Banks Peninsula. Minivans transported us along roads deemed too dangerous to bike along. And yes, we wore safety helmets, although these were cunningly disguised as Victorian hats, caps and bonnets.

The gentlemen comparing their tweed. Attire was taken very seriously indeed.
The gentlemen comparing their tweed. Attire was taken very seriously indeed.


The trip culminated in Akaroa, in time to join the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the French settlers. We practically were the street parade the following morning, riding behind the brass band and a handful of actors involved in the re-enactment of the landing.

A truly splendid time was had by one and all, and the little Taylor legs and other important parts were not as sore as one had feared.

Three cheers for the Oamaru Ordinary Cycle Club!   – email the fine folk here.

A bicycle trip is not complete without a day at the seaside:

Too cold for me although one member of the party took the plunge. (Waiheke storyteller Tanya Batt. Well done!)
Too cold for me although one member of the party took the plunge. (Waiheke storyteller Tanya Batt. Well done!)


The tail end:

Victorian bike ride
Sophia waits for the parade to start…


Penny farthing photo
Mr Cairns, middle, and friends enjoy the view on the open road.



Victorian bike ride
FORWARD HO! Tuppence knows the way (and barks at anyone who dared overtake her Mistress!)


And now, the tail end….


Vintage bike ride photo
Who could wish for anything more? Such well behaved horses. Pic: Tanya Batt






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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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