Here’s to 2017

We were discussing the other day, what we would say if we were hauled up to give testimony in court.

We’re under cross-examination, the lawyer asks us:

“Where were you on December 22nd 2016?”

The answer is… we weren’t there. We didn’t have it.  We literally didn’t exist on that day.

It’s a weird feeling, being robbed of a day – but that’s what happens when you cross the International Date Line. Our flight left LA at 9pm on the 21st December, a nine-hour flight later and we wake up at 6am on the 23rd December! Of course you get the time back as you travel back west, but it’s weird to get your head around.

We can’t complain too much, as we were in Fiji. Fiji is beautiful:

The climate is humid and hot, and the people are warm and welcoming. We had a two-day stop over, so tried to get out and see some of the island. Benni from the hostel was running trips to nearby Natadola Beach.

The beach was undoubtedly beautiful, but the coolest thing was Benni and his pals. They live in Nadi, a Fijian city, and take tourists on day trips to the beach and surrounding area. Each day they come here, and eat lunch with whomever they are with.

We went snorkelling; us to look at the fish; Benni to catch lunch.

He uses a Fijian spear, which he “fires” using a sort of underwater slingshot. It’s mesmerizing to watch him in action. He caught nine, and then lit a fire and cooked them on the beach for us all to eat.

Benni said:

“Every ten year old kid in Fiji knows how to do this. We’ve ben doing this for generations, it’s very healthy way to eat.”

“When my wife was pregnant I was in here (the sea) every day catching her many many fish to eat. It’s her favourite food!”

Pretty cool way of life, being able to survive on your own steam without relying on Tesco.

Benni was adamant, that we were all to join him and his friends that night for “kava time” – it’s a traditional Pacific Island drink, which they love.

Not to be confused with cava (the Spanish sparkling wine), Kava is made from the roots of the kava plant, dried, chopped, ground down to powder, then infused with water. The taste can only be described as “earthy”. It tastes like ground up roots, mixed with water… which isn’t surprising, as that’s what it is…

It’s a pacific island way of life. Benni said:

“We drink kava every night. Everyone in Fiji. There is no alcohol or drugs, but it makes you “kava dope” when you drink enough.”

Wikipedia describes kava as “a drink with sedative, anaesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties”. Sure enough, after a few bowls we relaxed into “Fiji time”…

It was certainly a departure from Christmas Eve tradition – instead of sat around the pub drinking beers with friends, we were sat on a beach drinking what tasted like mud water with a bunch of Fijians. It was a great night.

Flying on Christmas day was a first. They gave everyone some champagne with breakfast, but the best Christmas present for us was getting our bikes off, trouble-free, on the other side:

We spent Christmas evening with Ewan’s long lost cousins Sophie and Jon in Auckland, along with the kids Sam and Ben. On the last time Sophie had seen Ewan, she said:

“You were about four, had a cute Scottish accent and were really interested in drawing ships.”

“Are you still into drawing ships?”

Not so much into drawing ships these days, although we did impress the kids with our Harry Potter knowledge, and by being able to name 40 Pokemon off the bat without google.

Sophie cooked a delicious meal, which we ate before putting our bikes back together, and then crashing out due to jetlag.

It had been 18 days without cycling (which is a lot in our current world), so it felt great to be moving again. The first night out of Auckland we found a camp spot in Kawakawa Bay right by the sea.

It was peaceful, far enough away from the road that you couldn’t hear the cars, and secluded so the houses couldn’t see you.

It was peaceful… the wind was softly blowing the tent… the waves quietly lapping against the shore… the birds twittering… the sun setting… so peaceful… we fell asleep, tired after cycling… such a serene place to drift off.

That was until the air raid siren went off around 1.30am.

We both sat bolt upright in the tent. Confused and disorientated. Still jet-lagged. What was going on, was this a dream?!

Imagine you’re in London in 1940 and the air raid siren goes off, just before the bombs are about to start dropping in the blitz. That’s honestly what this noise sounded like – so loud as though it was coming from inside the tent.

It wasn’t a dream, so we scrambled out the tent in our jammys. We reasoned it was highly unlikely it was a warning of an impending air raid, the only other thing we could think of was that it was an earthquake or tsunami warning siren.

There are signs along the road pointing to the tsunami escape routes, and NZ is prone to getting earthquakes, the last big one was only a couple of months ago.

We were genuinely scared as we were camping right on the sea so if it was a tsunami, we’d be the first to get washed away – we felt we had to ask someone.

As it was 1.30am in a tiny village, there wasn’t really anyone to ask, but we managed to flag down a passing car.

It happened to be a couple of teenage lads:

“Alright lads. Erm.. sorry to bother you, but that siren that just went off.. is there going to be an earthquake or a tsunami?”

“Nah bro – it was only one siren. Earthquake or tsunami is three blasts. If you hear three blasts you gotta get the f*ck out of here as quickly as possible! One blast means there’s been a bad crash on the roads and the volunteer fire brigade need to attend. They sound the alarm to alert the villagers so they know to stay off the roads.”

“Ah right.. cheers lads. Erm .. see you later then”

And we slunk back to our tent, relieved we weren’t about to get hit by a tidal wave.

We didn’t encounter any more tsunami warnings over the next few days, but we did encounter some absolutely enormous hills. We decided to take a scenic detour through the Coromandel Peninsula.

It’s made for some punishing days on the bike. In the last six days we’ve climbed a total of 4,394 vertical metres. That’s climbing the height of Ben Nevis on a bike 3.3 times in six days!

Taking the Coromandel route has been hilly, but we’ve met some brilliant people.

At the end of a particularly gruelling day we were sitting on a bench next a beach when we met Simon and his family. They’d just been for a swim and after talking for about 10 minutes they invited us to stay at their house.

We had a great night drinking beers with the family, and getting to know them

Simon, his wife Barb and their two sons Carl and Thomas made us feel lazy that all we were doing was cycling round the world… Their son Carl swam for New Zealand in the 2012 Olympics, Thomas is competing GODZone in a few months, an extreme adventure race. Carl’s girlfriend races competitively in swimming, and Thomas’ fiancé Corrine is a professional athlete, and finished fourth in the new Zealand Coast to Coast. Simon is a rowing coach and Barb had been on point with the fishing rod, and had caught us all the fish we were eating for dinner at 4.30am that day! It was an absolute pleasure to meet the O’ Donnell family.

Taking the Coromandel route also meant we got to check out Hot Water Beach. It’s got to be one of the coolest natural phenomena in the world.

On this beach, there is natural hot spring that runs from the forest into the sea underneath the sand. For two hours either side of low tide, you can dig a hold in the sand sit in a natural hand made Jacuzzi.

When we arrived, the beach was so busy you could hardly see for people. We didn’t even bother getting in the mixer when it was this busy, instead we camped out nearby and waited till the tide was next low enough, at midnight.

We ventured out in the pitch black, and aside from a few other adventurous types had the beach to ourselves. The sky was fully clear that night so with the help of an Irish lad and an Austrian we dug a huge pit and sat in our natural Jacuzzi looking at the stars as the waves crashed nearby.

Our camp spot at hot water beach has been one of our favourite of the whole trip. We were befriended by Blair who kindly said we could camp on his yard, which was right next to the beach. He warned us:

“You guys are welcome to camp here, but just to warn you, there are ten kids between the ages of one and nine who are also staying here who’ll all be back soon….”

All the kids were cousins who had come to the holiday house for their Christmas holidays. Sure enough, before long all the kids came back.

After telling them about the trip, we were bombarded with questions:

“Are you famous?”

“Are you boyfriend and girlfriend, or are you just cycling buddies?”

“Do you have a dab?”

“Do you know how to spell my name?”

They were such well-behaved kids, and just so much fun to be around.

We showed them our GoPro, which has a helmet mount, and a selfie stick type set up – they absolutely loved it.

They begged their parents to be allowed to go to the beach to play with it:

“Please please please can we go to the beach with Katie and Ewan and use the GoPro??”

“Erm … I’m not sure if Ewan and Katie want to go to the beach with you guys, they’ve probably got other things to do…”

We had nothing else to do, and we’re having such a fun time with the guys so took eight of the kids down to the beach along with one of the mums.

The game was that they each had one minute to film absolutely anything they wanted on the beach. After this it was time for their bed, so we didn’t have time to show them any of the footage they filmed, but we did promise that we would put their video on our website for them to see.

We spent New Year in Rotorua, watching 2017 come in with a huge meal, some beers and fireworks on the lake.

We’re super excited for the rest of New Zealand, the rest of our trip and whatever else 2017 has in store.

One of our friends has recently started up a new ladies cycling apparel company called Queen of the Mountains. QoM have kindly sent Katie some awesome kit to wear, here she is looking the business below.

As we come into the New Year, we were reminded of an email that Alicia (QoM Founder) sent us before we left. With a quarter of our trip gone, it’s a good time to remind ourselves to make the most of every minute. Alicia said:

“Someone once said to me, the most valuable thing in life is time. Time is an equaliser – you cannot buy more, you cannot get more time than anyone else. There are 1440 minutes in a day, try to enjoy every little one.”

Happy new year everyone, here’s to a brilliant 2017!