Friday, January 31, 2014

Bicycling New Zealand: part 3 - John Cleese, eat your heart out...

We've made it nearly 700k to Wellington, our final destination in New Zealand. We had 2 options to get across the mountains to the West Coast, and we decided on a route that took us through the inland college town of Palmerston North. We've read that John Cleese famously said "if you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick." In response, PN named the town dump after him. Most people in NZ raised an eyebrow when we confessed our route, saying "Palmy! Don't go there, it's so boring!" Well, we stuck to our guns (we feared the Rimutakas! ) and you know what? Our best cycling was that week! We took back roads through Waipawa, cycled through a 6.3 earthquake, hit Dannevirk, then had a massive 80+k day into Palmy. Headwinds so strong, we couldn't stay on the bikes even on flat terrain. I'm not sure how we made it so far, creaking along the downhills at a meager 8k/hr, but we did it! After all the beautiful farmland, sheep, horses, cattle, bluffs, and the Manawatu Gorge, we collapsed at a friend's house...and a town never felt so good as Palmy did. A sparkling river, well-marked cycle trails, and gorgeous citrus trees greeted us. Eat your heart out John Cleese! We loved it. And we learned to trust our instincts. People get stuck in their ways you know? It felt like an old joke to poke fun at Palmy, but people really start to believe it. Then they don't know what they're missing.

Prior to that, we had a phenomenal time in Napier. Enjoyed a 3 1/2 hour winery gig where we pulled out a bunch of old tunes. Those "jukebox" gigs as we call them can be pretty fun. We both take risks that we wouldn't normally do at a proper listening show. I took a few meandering solos, trying to make Aimee laugh. It's a good time, cutting loose during a show. I've got to work harder and become a better player, so it will be easier to go off the rails and make for a more exciting performance. Listening to someone playing it safe is so boring, but I notice myself falling into that pattern often. I'll always prefer watching a player go for something great, even if they miss the mark. We had a lovely sold out house show in Napier that was less risky, but a far more emotional performance with such an attentive audience. I love how the show changes from night to night, keeps it interesting for both of us.

We played pool in a cool old bar in Dannevirk, and the bartender stayed open late to chat and serve us drinks. Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us" video came on the tv, and we stopped talking to watch and point out landmarks and acquaintances. She asked us, "does this make you homesick?", and it made both of us pause. My immediate reaction is "of course not!" But what is homesickness? I've been thinking of home a lot. Every garden I see makes me eager to get back and dig in the dirt. I constantly imagine detailing parts of the trip to our friends, describing what we saw and learned. But all this imagination doesn't mean that I'm having a bad time, or want to go home. I love traveling. I love learning new language, seeing new parts of the world, eating new food, meeting new people, hearing new music. But I do want to go home, eventually. It's one of the best parts about travel, knowing you get to come back and share all these fascinating experiences with people you love.

We've come to the end of the first third of this adventure, with our final show mere hours away...then off to Oz for another two months! I can't wait to tell you all about it! ~ Moe