Here I am, New Zealand! But totally at the wrong time. Winter has already begun, and we can feel it. I need five days to rest and build my bicycle up, until I finally decide to make my way to Akaroa, the only originally French settlement in the country. I make my way on a nice, flat land. The landscape is actually pretty amazing: The trail goes through swamps on little wooden bridges, some black gooses are resting on the water. Still, I have to hurry up: The weather becomes bad, it starts to have a lot of wind, it rains. Even I wear a lot of Gore-Tex, the best material against rain, I manage to get wet. It’s still 5 degrees, but I feel extremely cold. I add some layers and hope to come back to Akaroa, my destination of the day. The hope is vain: I knew I had to cross a little pass, but it actually is on 500 m, and the road to the top is … extremely steep. The only comparison I had was in Laos, where roads went up to 15-20%, and it was hell to cross. Still, I make my way, after two months without sport. The sun goes down – already around 17 o clock!! – and I arrive at 19 o clock to my hostel. Dead tired, the mood was rarely so bad. I decide that I’ll probably skip bicycle in this country, I shall return in summer. Winter is definitively not the season to stand here without shelter!
I only drove one day. It was too much: The bad weather slapped me in the face.
New Zealand’s nature is for sure amazing. Well, maybe more in summer than in winter. That’s what I learnt from trying to drive bicycle. After one day, I already decided to let it be. The sky was constantly filled by clouds, the problems came as rain came too. Even I have a good rain protection, the wind managed to find interstices and to make me wet. The temperatures of around 5 to 10 degrees made it dangerous: You can actually die from hypothermia, even if it’s still 10 degrees. I rarely was so happy to reach the warm hostel I found in Akaroa and to take a warm shower.
Akaroa is a big fail of the French. A ship was on its way to colonize the south Island of New Zealand. But the English, knowing they were coming, hurried to sign treaties with the Locals and claimed the islands just some days before the French vessel arrived. Anyway, the French settlers stayed and now the place has a tradition of making cheese and butchery products a la French.
After some reposing days, I made my way back to Picton, to cross to the North Island. I reached Wellington, which is a truly nice capital city. You will find many cafés and bars, even an amazing Italian style bakery. The museum Te Papa is one of the nicest I saw in the country.
In Rotorua I attended a show of Maori people, where they would dance and sing. It was a useful complement of what I saw and read in museums. Rotorua is also famous for its volcanic activity: Everywhere it smells indeed like rotten eggs (because of the sulfur) and the thermal area is still busy today.
Finally I reached Auckland, where I took time to visit and to prepare for my flight to the USA. I first stayed at the place of a Maori-Polynesian woman, with who I could have very interesting conversations about her culture, then I changed to stay at a hostel. After sweating a little to get an US Visa (I don’t have an electronic passport and I was in Iran, two big problems for the US), I finally saw the stamp in my travel book and left on Monday, 7h30, to arrive in Los Angeles on Monday, 7h00. I guess I’m a time traveler now.