So I'm back after getting up at 3 am in Auckland (11.30 pm Alice time) to catch the shuttle bus to the airport yesterday in order to make the connecting flight from Sydney to Alice. There is only one flight a day to central Australia from the eastern seaboard cities, and usually it's an early flight. I arrived home at 12.30 pm, having spent over twelve hours in travel (six and a half of those being on planes). One of the first things I noticed when I got off the plane was how quickly I became encrusted with flies. The other was the fine film of orange dirt over things at home -- difficult to escape in central Australia, even when you're not there to track dirt in, as it comes through the air-conditioning vents.
Distance has an amazing way of marking an immediate line between holiday-land and one's daily grind. The seven-day Northland circuit now seems a world away. Right now I'm thinking about revising my teaching notes for next week -- mind you, only thinking, having spent my morning embroiled in the mental spaghetti of administrivia. One of the good things about cycling is that physical exhaustion tends to curtail any mental hyperactivity such as worrying uselessly about work or writing projects. But I'm still tired and hugely hungry, unable to get out of the habit of 'carb-loading' -- that is, of eating carbs every one or two hours, now that I've started it.
I do feel a tad regretful about not being able to continue riding: I think it would be great to spend 6--8 weeks cycling round NZ. I felt sorry not to have done the last leg from Paihia to Whangerei when I travelled through that country on the bus. It looked quite beautiful, tho I would also have regretted not having the opportunity to play tourist at Paihia. In retrospect, having a day of rest every week on a cycling tour seems like a good idea. An average of 70 km a day also seems like a little too much. One of the hostellers told me about a little old lady who'd stayed at their BBH and who aimed to cycle 50-60 km a day, which sounds like a great way to spend your retirement. I found the first 10 km and the last 10 km were the hardest every day (not that doing less would make a difference to this). The first 10 km because your muscles are just warming up (always a big mistake to jump on the bike first thing in the morning without having walked around for a while) and because of the mental challenge of having to ride all that way. The last 10 km because you've ridden all that way and surely it can't be that much further. Most of the places I stayed were also on the coast, which often meant riding into headwinds on the last lap. Some of the headwinds were so strong I swear the bike would have come to a stop going down hill if I hadn't kept on pedalling.
N.B. I've uploaded my photos at Flickr, as it's much faster than Typepad. They are arranged under batches titled Auckland and the Northland Circuit.
My flight home was bilingual -- the first I'd been on to Alice -- with announcements in German as well as English, and German and Dutch flight attendants (this is Qantas). It supports my observation that downunder is crawling with German backpackers, albeit with largely impeccable manners. As I was leaving Alice airport with a trolley loaded up with my boxed bike, one of the tourists said to me: 'Are you a professional cyclist?'
'Ah no,' I said. 'Just a keen amateur.'
I thought that saying I was a Hubbard might be lost on her.