478km Dunedin to Geraldine
“Adventure is not in the guidebook
And beauty is not on the map
Seek and ye shall find”
-Terry & Renny Russell, On the Loose
We saw this inscription on a stone in the tranquil graveyard of the Church of the Holy Innocents, near Mount Peel and not far from the South Island city of Christchurch. It was one of those phrases that just struck a chord. So often we feel our trip is less about the places we’ve been and the sights we’ve seen than how we’ve grown and changed as people as we’ve cycled down the road.
It’s hard to describe how free we feel, pedalling our bikes as we did this week in Otago, with the landscape stretching out in front of us, all shades of gold in the autumn fields and intense blue in the sky. This is something we never knew existed before we left, not the landscape but the pure joy we could feel in a place like this.
There we are, on the little dirt roads that have become our favourite spots to bike. They’re hard going sometimes but they take you through these marvellous gorges and over high passes, where you barely see a car and spend most of your day talking to the sheep (although they never talk back and maybe that’s the charm of it – they’re a good listening ear when you have to figure something out).
Our day is broken by the spotting of some mushrooms far off in a field (we’ve found about 20 of them now, all giant and delicious eating!) or an apple tree loaded down with fruit and we fill our bags with all the excitement of kids at Christmas and carry on.
And at the end of the day, if we’re in a really good place, we pitch our tent off to the side somewhere, like we did as we rode the rail trail between the villages of Middlemarch and Ranfurly, and listen to the silence of the evening descending. There’s nothing out there. Just the sound of the sheep munching on the last bit of grass and maybe our campstove being lit up for a late cup of tea and then, as the last rays of the sun sink beneath the horizon, just quiet and us and the stars.
If we’ve come close to heaven on this trip, then it must be in places like these and you do wonder, when life can be so fulfilling with such simple pleasures, do we ever really want to go back to a 9 to 5 job? It’s been on our minds a lot lately because, after all, we’ve been doing this cycling thing for over 2 years now and in September we’ll be back where we started (or at least that’s the plan and you know all about the best laid plans but all you can do is make them and hope for the best) and then what? Do we keep going or try out one of those crazy schemes we’ve come up with on the road for refilling the bank account?
Or maybe we should just ‘settle down’ – whatever that means. We increasingly get the feeling that’s what we should be doing, according to the more conventional rules of life. “Do you really think you’ll get work when you get back?” comes the question now more and more often when people discover just how long we’ve been out of the loop. Yes, well, we hope so but who’s to say for sure? If we were adventurous and resourceful enough to quit our jobs for a life on the road in the first place we can only hope that we’ll somehow figure out how to do the same thing in reverse but nothing is for certain. This is an adventure definitely not in any guidebook and we’re still seeking the answers.