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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A bicycle trip is not complete without a day at the seaside:
The tail end:
And now, the tail end….