New Zealand – Introduction


Denis Kertz, ©2000





New Zealand is reputed to be a great outdoor country, great for cycling as well as hiking (tramping) and other outdoor sports.  Since I had a bunch of frequent flyer miles on American Airlines that were also good on Qantas Airline, I decided that it was time to tour New Zealand on a bicycle.  So I made plans to fly to Auckland on the North Island, the largest city in New Zealand with almost a third of New Zealand’s total population.  As usual, I wanted to cycle in the fall with its cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.  Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere with seasons opposite those of the northern hemisphere, I arranged to fly to Auckland in early March, approximately the start of fall, for 10 weeks with a return trip in mid-May.  Because the South Island is supposed to be more scenic and lies further south, as the name implies, and hence likely to turn cooler/colder sooner, I also arranged to immediately fly from Auckland to Nelson on the South Island to begin my tour on the South Island and spend the majority of my time there.

Prior to leaving, I searched and found and bought the book, New Zealand by Bike by Bruce Ringer.  Then just a week before leaving, I stumbled across a site on the web where I learned about another book, Pedallers’ Paradise by Nigel Rushton.  With little time before leaving, I was fortunate to find a book store in Indianapolis that carried this two volume set, one each for the North and South Islands, and was able to get the books just a couple of days before I left.  These books were more like pamphlets with concise and very useful descriptions of New Zealand touring.  It would turn out that I would use these books almost exclusively while I was in New Zealand and would even meet the author along the way.


My cycling equipment was a Litespeed Blue Ridge touring bike equipped with 27 speed Shimano SIS with bar end shifters.  I replaced the stock Litespeed 32 spoke wheels with 36 spoke wheels on Mavic touring rims.  Tires were 700x32 Continental TT2000 tires. My gearing consisted of 24-34-46 chainrings (Shimano XTR crank) and a 11-32 9-speed cassette.  This gave me the following gearing:










































My bicycle was equipped with four Overland panniers, two medium sized front panniers and two larger rear panniers, and Scott clip on aero bars (used as a map holder) with a small aero bar bag.  Finally, I had a Trek wireless cyclometer with front fork mounted pickup and the cyclometer mounted on the aero bar.

 I carried a tent and sleeping bag with the intention of camping wherever I could.  As usual, I wasn’t interested in cooking so I planned to eat out along the way and carried no cooking gear.

 (For anyone interested in numbers, a table at the end of this report summarizes the riding statistics for each day.)

Metric Measurements

Since New Zealand uses the metric system, I set my cyclometer to metric mode.  Almost all distances reported in this travelogue are in kilometers or meters.  For the metric challenged, conversion to miles and yards is almost trivial.  A kilometer is equal to 0.62 miles and in most cases kilometers can simply be multiplied by 0.6 to get equivalent miles (8 kilometers = 8 x 6 / 10 = 48 / 10 = 4.8 miles).  A meter is 39.37 inches or essentially 10% longer than a yard.  So conversion from meters to yards can be done by adding 10% (12 meters = 12 + 10% = 12 + 1.2 = 13.2 yards).  In this travelogue, kilometers and meters are indicated by K and m (12K = 12 kilometers, 12m = 12 meters).

New Zealand also uses the Celsius (C) temperature system rather than the Fahrenheit (F) system.  Conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit is also relatively easy.  Fahrenheit = 32 + 9/5 x Celsius, or 32 + 1.8 x Celsius.  Keep in mind that Celsius 0 degrees occurs at the freezing temperature of water which is why you must add 32.  The 1.8 factor can be roughly approximated by multiplying by a factor or 2.  Or for those adept with numbers, multiply by 2 and subtract 20% (multiply by 2 and divide by 10).  So, 24C = 32 + 1.8 x 24 = 32 + 2 x 24 – 0.2 x 24 = 32 + 48 – 4.8 = 80 – 4.8 = 75.2F.  For quicker conversion, remember that 10 Celsius degrees is equivalent to 18 (10 x 1.8) Fahrenheit degrees.  So 10C, 20C, 30C, 40C = 50F, 68F, 86F, 104F respectively.  Knowing these values, any temperature in between can be quickly estimated.

And lest anyone wonder about the derivation of these conversions, these derivations are the type of mind games that a cyclist often plays while on the road.

Day 0: 3/2/2000, Thursday – Naperville

I completed my packing and sealed my bike box.  I strapped my two rear panniers together to form a single bag and put my tent, sleeping bag, an empty front pannier, and other miscellaneous into a large duffel bag.  I used my other front pannier as a carry on bag with tickets, valuables, and fragile items.  Dave picked me up at 12:30 for my 4:00 flight.  At the airport I checked in at American Airlines for the flight to Los Angeles and subsequent Qantas flight to Auckland.

I had 3 checked bags and a carry on.  The agent thought I was allowed only two carry ons and two checked bags in business class.  Previously, I had checked with Qantas who said my bike could go free if it counted as one of my checked bags.  AA had said they would charge $50 for the bike but I was entitled to 3 carry ons.  Now I got a third story.  However, the attendant, who talked with what sounded like a German accent, decided not to make an issue (since my checked baggage wasn’t that heavy – 40 pounds for the bike and 40 pounds for the other two bags) and checked it all without assessing $50 for my bike.  I didn’t complain.  She also told me I was entitled to use the Admirals Club as a business class traveler, which was very nice and pleasant for a two-hour wait.

The flight to LA was uneventful.  Disembarking at LA for the international gate, I followed the signs out of the domestic terminal when all international directions promptly disappeared and I had to ask directions.  At the international terminal, I checked in with Qantas for my sixteen-hour flight to Auckland.  For some reason, the agent wanted to give me a window seat but I already had an aisle seat and saw no point in a window seat to watch the Pacific Ocean at night. My plane was a 747-400 and I had a very nice aisle seat in the upper deck with no one next to me.  I got two more meals on this flight, dinner and breakfast.

My seat had about four different adjustments to convert from full up to recliner.  Each seat had a 4”x5” TV with several channels.  I watched two movies, the latest James Bond and a movie about the guy who blew the whistle on the smoking industry.   I later learned that the whistle blower was played by Russell Crowe, a New Zealander.

Since I was due to arrive in Auckland at 6:00 am, I stayed up until 11 pm (5 am Chicago time) and slept fairly well until 3:30 when breakfast was served.  After landing in Auckland in the early morning, it was now Saturday and Friday just disappeared, as NZ was 18 hours ahead of Chicago.




Copyright Denis Kertz, 2000. All rights reserved.