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Neither closer nor farther… on the other side of the planet Earth… here we are… wherever we go from now… our return begins…

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… The Iberian Peninsula is at antipodes of New Zealand or vice versa, as you prefer. Which means that if you make a hole in a spanish home, go through the center of the earth and continue straight without turning aside, you may find someone who speaks to you in a kind of English that will cost you horrors understand.

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We arrived on the 2nd of November to Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island. In the airport, as Maria had told me, we put together the bibycles in the “Bicycle Assembly Area”!!… a luxury due to the large number of cyclist visiting the country.

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Christchurch is known by the earthquake of 6.3 degrees shook the city in 2010 and killed 181 people, because the buildings were not prepared to support this type of tremor.

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Still now, the consequences of the shock are being felt throughout the city. Many buildings are being demolished, others rebuilding and there are some just shored up, waiting for the money that has to come from insurance companies.

Other have decided not to wait and have found other ways to stay alive, opening the stores in containers.

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We were looking forward to start cycling and enjoying the colors and smells of the Spring. And yes, we could feel this “crazy” Spring. It has been the most rainy, cold and windy Spring for the last years…

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As we have been told, you can see the guilty of it in the above picture: “El Niño”. It seems that this year we are experiencing a meteorological cycle change.

In New Zealand, the sentence “here you can feel the four seasons in one day”, is very famous, but we’ve had the feeling of having eight different seasons in 24 hours.

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This day the sun was our partner and we could enjoy amazing views of the mountains range, also called Alps, that vertically cross the South Island. This was the moment when Maria could be reconciled with this part of the planet and could include in her memories, blue skies and snowy mountains, with those days of continuous rain that didn’t let her see a hillside eight years ago.

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Pukaki and Tekapo lakes areas invite you to enjoy the nature in any way, walking, cycling or just resting.

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Its name is Mt Cook or Aoraki, in Maori, and with 3754m is the highest peak in New Zealand. It was a pleasure to cycle to its foothills with good weather, although the last 30km we had to fight hard against Eolo, the Lord of the Winds. It is not a very high mountain and technically does not have much difficulty, but the ascension is complicated due to the sudden changes of weather in the area. More than one himayist has had to try several times to reach the summit.

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Glaciers are very famous in New Zealand. Many people spend lots of money on watching and visiting them by helicopter. We were also able to enjoy his presence on our bicycles. It’s amazing to feel their strength so close to the sea, in a altitud of just 1000m.

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Here is an example of the “8 seasons”: between the photo above …

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… and this other, there’s only 180 degrees and the seconds it took me to turn arround and capture the image. After a endurence test for our used tent, 24 hours of heavy rain and wind, we run away leaving the Aoraki plunged into darkness… We had the certainty that the valley of Mordor actually exists.

 But do not think that spring only brought us rain and wind… It respected us while cycling as well as gave us many moments full of life…

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And you, where are you from?
From Hei Hei, the happiest town of New Zealand!
Wouldn’t you like to be from here so you can answer always this?

 If there’s something “kiwis”, the inhabitants of New Zealand, like are the old cars. We have seen hundreds of them and in some cases still used as a first car.

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It would be nice if they still use only this type of car so they would go more slow and relax. After crossing a lot of countries over the past two and a half years, this is the one where we’ve felt more danger while cycling in its roads. We know most of the road are very narrow, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to respect us. Besides speed, many times we’ve felt the car, van, truck or bus, very very close to us. Take the picture above as an example to make the idea that the government there is not much awareness: just before a sign that warns you of a school, they let you take the curve to 95km/h!

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In Maori language, Aotearoa means “long white cloud”. Those who arrived from Polynesia 1,200 years ago to these uninhabited lands, had an easy time to find the name…

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 In the South Island is not easy to meet with Maoris or feel their culture. Most of them live in the Noth Island, in big cities or in the east, where some communities still are very close to their culture, customs and language. After being in Australia, it’s impossible don’t compare the two indigenous societies and realize that the socio-cultural-economic difference between them is really big. Here you can feel there’s a big respect for Maori culture and, even with their difficulties (situation that exists in all societies where a majority has the power over a minority that thinks and feels different), it’s nothing compared to what the Aboriginal Australians are living.

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In a few kilometers you have the possibility to feel a wide range of different landscapes.

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You don’t need to pedal too much to change from a brown landscape without vegetation to feel yourself tinted on green.

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 There’re unexpectedly special days. This day we reached the most Southern point on the Earth we’ve ever been… the fifth anniversary of the death of Maria’s mother and, causalities of life, we realized that we were 2 years, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days travelling… A turning point, a point when we could start feeling the first sensations of the one who is initiating the return…

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 There has had something that hasn’t made us feel comfortable. Almost all land is full of pastures for animals, which means that everything is protected with fences. Only 5% of New Zealand is indigenous forest. If we add that, depending in the areas, it’s impossible to meet with New Zealanders and that the supply of private campsites and hostels is very extensive, it causes to cyclist big difficulties to put the tent anywhere and rest when you feel. It is not unusual to see signs like “No free camping” or “Keep out, trespasser will be Persecuted” everywhere. This is the problem of cycling through very touristics countries and as somebody said, “Money is money, my friend”.

Luckily there are still people who think differently and gives you moments where money is not mentioned. For example, you can see in the photo above someone offered his land to sleep with tent or caravan for free.

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 There are government campsites, mostly pretty basic, but very cheap and located at incredible places… the only thing is that you have to share the moment with millions of “sandflies”, tinies mosquitos who like blood more than we like chocolate.

Once again we had the luxury of sharing special moments with our Warmshower friends. It was a pleasure to feel how they live in this land and learn more about their society and way of life. Many Thanks!

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Do you know which is the price of crossing a rainbow with the bicycle?… you’ll be wet… but… it’s so beautiful!!

If you believe in reincarnation and become someday sheep, ask to bring you to this land, it’s paradise. We have it clear.

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 Does they think it’s different? Does it think it’s different? Does it think they are different?

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 Merino wool is very famous and appreciated in New Zealand. This kind of sheep, originaly from Spain, produces a very good quality wool, which is being used increasingly in the textile industry, as a very warm wool that dries quickly and that “repels” easily body odors. We’ve been using it during the trip and we can confirm it.

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 Between Te Anau and Queenstown we were with Vera and Aline. They were on honeymoon and we cycled few days together in incredibly beautiful and special places.

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 Once again we could feel the magic of traveling on gravel road without traffic …

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… although we had to dip our feet in icy waters… What’s the matter if you’re enjoying as a child?

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Malaysia, Thailand? No, no, it’s Punakaki, on the west coast. Completely different from the rest of the South Island… another gift.

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The Roititi lake also gave us a pleasant surprise. Esti and Raul, from Basque Country, were on honeymoon, traveling by van and enjoying trekking all they could. Jon, friend from work, had spoken them about us, showed photos and left them a mission… find us… And, because it’s a small world, they found us!!

 As we’ve said, New Zealand attracts a lot of cyclists eager to enjoy the scenery and its crazy weather… Americans, Thais, Scottishs, Belgians, Germans, English, Kiwis,… This country could be considered the United Nations of Cyclists.

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Our last days of cycling passed on the dirt roads of Rainbow and Molesworth Station. These two famous routes of the South Island, opened a couple of centuries ago to communicate the great plains of grass with the northern cities. Again we feel free enjoying the mountain and surrounded by unforgettable views and smells.

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Mother Earth had saved four perfect days for us, to say goodbye to the island with a big smile on our mouths and overflowing gratitude in our hearts.

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 Sometimes we thought we were in the Bolivian altiplano…

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 … and other times we saw ourself again in the Pamirs, in Tajikistan.

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 And finally, the day for crossing to the North Island came. The day to reencounter with Mehdi and Raha, that day we saw very far from Thailand, when we decided to continue through this part of the Earth. There in Wellington harbor we saw Mehdi, with his infectious smile and his gait, and Raha, who couldn’t wait at home to give us a hug that let you know you’ve come home.

In case anyone doesn’t remember, Mehdi, Laura and Aitor’s friend, organized the trip when our parents visited us in Iran. From the first minute we knew that the family had grown and we had another brother.

When we said goodbye to Medhi in Iran, he was packing everything to start a new phase of his life in New Zealand with Rahau. And synchronicities of life, we’ve had the luxury of being part of this family for the wedding and more…

… again we immersed in Iran… The table is filled with rich and abundant meals, while the sound of Farsi comforts us and makes us remember the good times spent on Persian land.

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 We spent New Year’s Eve at home with the Family and Raquel and Rodrigo… I refresh you the memory again… The two Spanish we met near Uluru, in the heart of Australia, who worked in Sydney and were thinking of starting a trip… And that is what they’ve made, they bought bicycle and all equipment and have decided to embark on this new life… We’ll follow their track…

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And while the day to start our next stage arrives, we enjoy every moment. We’ve been at Mike and Marlene’s home, to relieve a little Mehdi and Raha’s house, which was full with family for the wedding. We celebrated the wedding in a sunny day in a beautiful garden. After, we went to take care of Ursula and Marco’s house, where we were listening to the sea and almost touching it from the lounge, reading, writing, stretching, talking, plannning and “unplanning”… The 25th of January was Zigor’s birthday, and we made a party in the garden of the house with our Iranian Family and Amaia, the friend from Basque Country was living in Melbourne, and Guillame, a young French.

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Thanks to the Life for being so grand!!

Be happy forever, and discover the magic!

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Comments on: "AOTEAROA: So far So close" (4)

  1. Pierre et Stéphanie said:

    Hello Maria and Zigor ! Desde el mes de agosto no podiamos contestar a vosotros porque nuestro ordenador estaba “kaput”. Pero hemos leido todo cuantos antes . Y desde una semana tenemos una nueva maquina , por eso puedo escribir, (milagro de 2015).
    Muchas gracias por daros tanta Alegria, con las fotos, los comentarios y vuestras sonrisas. Maravilloso ! Nosotros viajamos solo en Francia pero ya que salimos con la bici es magico !
    Un abrazo
    Hasta pronto
    Stéphanie et Pierre

  2. Once again a beautiful post Zigor and Maria! You make me want to jump back on the saddle and cross the sea to NZ 😉 So happy for Mehdi – please pass on my congratulations!

    Have fun in Thailand!

    Chris x

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