Carrying all your belongings for
a year in just eight panniers and two bar bags is all about
organisation. Each item has its place in the packing system,
and to protect our sanity, this system simply cannot be
breached. God help anyone who tries to put a torch into
the tool-kit pannier instead of its rightful place in a
bar bag. When it comes to the food pannier we have developed
an elaborate sub-system of carrier bags to help organise
the larder. Breakfast things go in the breakfast carrier
bag, loaded at the top of the food pannier in the evenings
but at the bottom after breakfast. Lunch and treats go in
carrier bags stuffed in the back of Cameron's buggy for
easy access. The dinner bag joins breakfast in the main
pannier while tea, coffee and sugar slide into a side pocket.
Most of the time the plastic bags are full, rustling noisily
as we stuff them into place. But the Rainbow Road and Lewis
Pass took their toll and much longer than expected. By the
time we reached the Deer Valley camp spot, near the top
of the Lewis Pass the bags were silent and cupboard was
The bag lady found the cupboard
While we had little left to eat,
we were a walking feast for millions of sandflies residing
in the Lewis Pass National Reserve. We scratched fiercely
at dozens of bites acquired while relaxing at the hot-pools
earlier in the day and put up our tent. We wondered why
this beautiful riverside campspot was deserted except for
one solitary van. It was dusk and Cameron was travelling
in his pyjamas so we put him straight into the tent with
a briefing about the dangers of opening the flyscreen. "If
you touch it, the flies will eat you all up for their dinner."
We lit a fire, ate our last bit of chocolate and tried to
figure out where we could restock our dwindling food supplies.
Before long, our campervan colleagues came over with a kettle
of boiling water and a copy of the Christchurch Press Newspaper.
"We saw you in the paper today and just wanted to say hello.
Thought you might like to make a hot cup of tea and have
a look at the paper," they said introducing themselves.
It was a long time since anyone had offered us a hot drink
and we were grateful. Being featured in the newspaper turned
every campervan into a potential tea trolley and every house
into a possible coffee stop. We enjoyed Matthew's delight
at being featured once again in the paper, then sent him
to bed while the four of us stood companionably around;
cursing sandflies and sipping tea. Then a muffled giggling
from the tent told us the boys were up to something. As
I stumbled over in the dusk, the sight of glow-in- the-dark
pyjamas told me we were in trouble. Matthew and Cameron
had unzipped a whole side of the tent in a game of peekaboo.
The inner tent was a dense fog of swarming sandflies gathering
for a banquet. I scrambled for the torch. "Where is it.
Where's the bloody torch? Why isn't it in the bar bag? Stuart,
you had it last, why didn't you put it in the bar bag?"
I screamed as I tried to swat the dancing sandflies with
the newspaper, squashing them onto the photo of our smiling
A beautiful morning at Deer Valley,
before the muesli crisis
In the morning, our
arms and legs were red with welts and we itched it them
with a fury. We started the day with a row over cereal.
Stuart had used up the last grains of our muesli to make
a huge pan of the stuff which no one was eating. It sat
expectantly on a groundsheet while we packed up around it
until Stuart could suffer in silence no longer. "What's
wrong with the damn muesli? Why isn't anyone eating it?
It's all we've got. Look." He held up an tattered plastic
carrier bag. Matthew, Cameron and I looked at the unappetising
rabbit food we'd nibbled each morning since leaving Hanmer
Springs. "Not hungry," said Matt. "Hate moosely," said Cam.
I looked at Stuart and he glared at me, stabbing at a sandfly
that was feasting on his neck. "Well, don't blame me when
you're all hungry later," he said, picking up a spoon and
shovelling the offended food into his mouth.
As a dedicated foodie, I've spent
a lifetime thinking about my next meal. On a cycling tour
food becomes even more crucial to my existence; it's fuel
for my legs, it breaks up the day and adds interest to what
can sometimes be a boring ride. The ride over the Lewis
Pass hadn't been boring but it was tough and I was very
low in energy. I needed some carb loading, some fresh fruit
and vegetables and a little variety in my diet. One thing
our road menu lacked was variety: Monday - pasta and dried
peas; Tuesday - rice with dried peas; Wednesday - noodles
with dried peas; Thursday - picnic (can't face pasta again);
Friday - noodles or rice? We hoped to resolve this crisis
in a restock at the store in Springs Junction and approached
it with excitement in the pouring rain, discussing exotic
menu options. Our food pannier was in a sorry state, we
had run out of bread, pasta, noodles and treats. All we
had left was rice, dried peas and sandwich fillings.
A sign of scrawly handwriting outside
the store welcomed us, "Frozen Bread for Sale. Please Ask
at Counter." A woman sat behind the counter watching over
a few dull white formica food shelves lining the opposite
wall. The back wall was end to end branded coolers crammed
with all kinds of colourful fizzy drinks, sports drinks
and ice creams. I pushed opened the door, a bell rang, the
woman looked up and I headed for the food shelves. As I
surveyed the formica looking for food I found myself in
Communist Russia in a famine year. No need for shelf stackers
here. What little produce there was sat in units of one,
set in acres of free shelf space. One bright red tin of
beetroot sat a safe distance from a lonely tin of tomatoes
on one side with a tin of golden peaches on the other. A
packet of powder soup sachets stood a respectful distance
from a packet of binbags with a box of pizza bites for company.
There was little chance that this shop could supply our
daily energy requirements. "Ok then. Let's be creative about
this. If you were a guest on Ready Steady Cook, what would
you do with this lot?" I asked Stuart, trying to make light
of the dire situation. "Quit," he said hopelessly. "Lets
get some bread, take the box of pizza bites and get out
of here." He walked up to the counter.
"Do you have any bread please?"
"Oh. Any frozen bread?"
"Will you have any later?"
"If we come back tomorrow..?"
"But the sign on the window….."
"You don't have a delivery till Thursday?"
"That's not for four days."
"Right. We'll have the peaches and the beetroot then."
Outside the shop we repacked our
food pannier, putting the bag of rice, the packet of dried
peas and the tinned beetroot into the dinner bag when a
woman approached us. She told us she would soon be moving
to a farm sixty kilometres down the road, and said if we
were passing we should call in. "We won't be there because
we haven't moved in yet. But the people who own it are very
nice. Just tell them I sent you."
We stood outside Tui Lodge and debated
whether we should knock. The children were fed up, we were
on a main road and had just climbed yet another hill. "Come
on then. Lets go for it." We knocked on the door and a gentle
looking woman cautiously answered, popping her head around
it. "Hello." I wasn't quite sure what to say next. "Er…we're
a family of cyclists who need a break. Can we take it in
your garden please? The lady who is coming to live in your
house said you wouldn't mind."
Caroline was a librarian in a local
school and her husband John ran a dairy farming business.
They sat and questioned us about our travels while we wolfed
down a packet of their biscuits, two cups of coffee each
and a litre of juice. "Would you all like to stay for the
night? You can get some shelter here," Caroline asked, politely
ignoring the children climbing all over her leather sofa,
and crunching biscuits into the carpet.
John and Caroline showed us the
kindness of strangers yet again
"It's very nice of you, but we have
a tent and need to get to Murchison soon as our stocks are
running low. Would you mind if we cooked ourselves some
dinner instead? It will save us getting eaten alive by sandflies
again." Out came Caroline's pans and the remaining bags
of rice and dried peas. Pretending this was a normal dinner
for a normal family, we cooked it up and served it in our
camp bowls. The children looked at their food hopefully
for a moment, and then resignedly ate it up. "Would anyone
like beetroot with it? Eat up now boys, there is a special
pudding tonight…tinned peaches!" If John and Caroline thought
us the oddest family in the world, they didn't say so, but
as they waved us off, we had no idea what they made of us
gatecrashing their quiet afternoon.
That evening, we received an e-mail
from a family in Nelson that had seen us in the paper. "We'd
like to invite you for a feed when you get to our area.
Would you like Italian, Chinese, Indian or bland and boring
"Thanks for the invite," we replied.
"We'd love anything that doesn't involve rice or peas."