In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

Boiling Point

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From:       Stuart
Subject:   Boiling Point
  Date:       31st January 2005
     Nelson, South Island, New Zealand


Another droplet glistened on my eyebrow, hanging there irritatingly, then with a tiny splash fell and trickled down my sunglasses distorting my vision. "Dad, I'm hot in here, I'm really sweating," said Matthew from his buggy. Summer had definitely arrived and we were overheating on the hills around Nelson and Marlborough. I wiped my brow and smeared my sunglasses. "What is sweat Dad?" asked Matthew, keen as ever to expand his knowledge despite the blistering heat. I was too hot and bothered to reply, "I'll tell you later."

Right the way up the South Island, Kiwi's have apologised personally for their terrible summer and promised us it will get better. And now it's changed, they're ever so happy but we're finding it tough going. It's not that we don't like a little sun nor that we love to battle masochistically with wind and rain but right now the sun is too much and too strong to enjoy the cycling.

The Kiwi sun is a killer. Down here the rays come in at unfiltered strength thanks to the hole in the ozone layer; the poor Kiwi's pay the price for the world's carelessness with CFC's. So, if the sun is out, even when it's not that hot, it's fierce and skin burns quickly, especially on us fair skinned Poms. The press print a daily UV warning and right now it's 'extremely dangerous' to be out in the sun. You are advised to seek shade between 11.00am and 4.00pm, reschedule outdoor activities for early morning or late evening, cover up and wear plenty of UV protection on exposed skin.

We struggle to create a sun shelter for four

Good advice no doubt but we're struggling to follow it. Believe me, we've tried to get away early but as it takes us up to two hours to get up, get the kids dressed, make breakfast, feed everyone, clean up, pack up and load the bikes, the chances of getting on a bike before 11.00 are as good as winning the lottery. We've tried leaving late too but that leaves us with the problem of whiling away the day before we go, often in the middle of nowhere, in the burning sun with little shade. Oh, and with kids that refuse to wear shoes, would prefer to run naked and have a violent dislike of suncream. So, we live up to our reputation and like 'mad dogs and English men' we 'go out in the midday sun,' clothed from head to toe, with all exposed parts greased. And while we grind pedals up hills, tyres stickily clinging to the softening tarmac, the boys enjoy a snooze in the warm shade of their buggies.

Grinding up a hill in the meltering heat of the morning

"Why are we sleeping with no clothes on tonight?" asked Matthew, "Is this another naked camp site?" "No," said Kirstie, "It's a wild camp and it's just too hot for pyjamas. Now lie down and go to sleep." We lay exhausted in the dark wearing only silk lining bags. The boys played feverishly with their abandoned sleeping bags, still fresh from their long afternoon nap. "Dad, why is your face all wet? Is that sweat?" said Matthew. "You're wet Dad, yuk, yuk" said Cameron. Kirstie and I sweated in silence hoping to quash the boys' high spirits, waiting for them to go to sleep and the cool of the evening to relieve our discomfort. Round and round and round they went, playing, pestering, laughing. Darkness was no match for their commitment to merriment. There was no relief from the heat or the action.

Cameron decided to transform himself into a snake charmer, playing with himself as little boys do, with a sleeping bag turban on his head. "Look, we're a pair," laughed Matthew as he copied Cameron's impersonation. "We a pair. We a pair," said Cameron pulling harder on the snake. I couldn't hold back any more. "Will you just stop it and go to sleep," I shouted. There was a moment of shocked silence from the boys. I continued my rant, "If you don't shut up and go to sleep I'll .." My turn for silence as I racked my brain to think of a suitable threat. The trouble is, smacks aside, there are few threats you can carry through when camping wild with toddlers. A laugh began to stir inside as I recognised the futility and absurdity of the situation. I couldn't hold it in, a smile broke on my face, tears of fury rolled down my cheek and beads of sweat dripped off my forehead, "I'll put your pyjamas on both of you, and put you in your sleeping bags and you can sweat yourselves to sleep or to death. All the water in your body will ooze out of your skin until your sleeping bag is soaking wet so it feels like you've wee'd in it." Matthew finally got his explanation of sweat and his curiosity was silenced while Cameron settled down to sleep. I lay in my own bag, water oozing furiously out of my body, longing for a child free night. The heat and three months of twenty four seven childcare was taking its toll.

Matt and Cam hang out happily in the sunshine after their afternoon naps



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