While I was mountain biking around the South Island I had first met Martin and later Xavier, both from Switzerland. They both knew each other and I visited both of them in Europe when I was there and we all agreed to tour the Andes together. In 1991 I flew into Buenos Aires during the middle of a military coop. Tanks and soldiers lined the highways and the US Air Force was busy delivering hardware to persuade the political situation. Not that it bothered us at all as we set off to the Sierra Cordoba. The military base at Agua Negra wouldn't let us pass the Andies into Chile. The road did not officially re-open to the public till the following year. We were however allowed to ride up and back to the pass at 15,633ft. (It was too hard for me, I camped on the side near the top and took a ride the final 3,000ft on a passing truck full of soldiers). Heading South through Chile, we enjoyed New Year celebrations in Santiago before choosing to split up to meet again at Puerto Montt in a months time. Following the volcanoes down the length of Chile was exciting, I had my paraglider and flew off Villarica. We shared a lot of amazing stories in Puerto Montt. I crossed the Andes via Todos Los Santos and arrived in San Carlos De Baraloche where I made some amazing flights. Camped in the simply idillic La Ville De Angostura and a couple of epic flights before crossing the Andes again to return to Puerto Montt. Here I finally sold my bike and headed south through the fiords on the RO/RO Tierra Del Fuego. This ferry has the best sea views ever. Arriving in the deep south I hiked with two other travellers from Glacier Balmaceda into the back of Torres Del Paine. Next stop was the incredible Glacier Moreno, simply incredible, and not far away the magical Fitz Roy.
After exploring my own country from top to bottom, I booked flights to Europe. Landing in Frankfurt with my mountain bike I headed across the Rhein and followed the Mosel into France. I biked to a small town near Paris and then took a train into the city. it was 200 years since the revolution, the Eiffel Tower was lit from top to bottom in celebration. The elevator ride to the top is a real step back in time and the tower feels so much higher than it looks. On returning to my bike I headed south into the Massive Central. Snow followed me into the mountains so I caught another train back to Paris to explore more of the city. On my last night I missed my train, so spent it sleeping with the homeless outside Gare de Lyon. Back on the road I camped in some utterly jaw dropping locations along the Gorges de L'A'Ardèche, over Pont du Gard, and then Mont Ventoux before arriving at St Tropez for my birthday. The Gorges du Verdon is a stunning bike ride that leads to Chamonix and the Alps. Soon enough I was in Switzerland and some of the best cycle routes I'd come across. My bike started to fail here so I worked in a local bike shop for two weeks earning parts for a new bike. (or rather a much more substantial old bike) Fully kitted I headed north across the Black Forest to Frankfurt where I caught a train to Dover in England. I explored as far as Cornwall, and back to London via Stonehenge. Camping in the city proved to be great value for money. I caught a train to Glasgow and biked to Fort William and a Clan Cameron reunion. Explored the boarders and Edinburgh before zig-zagging back over the Peaks, Wales and back again through Cambridge and London to fly home.
But let me roll back the clock for just a moment.
Life in New Zealand was a lot of fun for me, my favourite being the mountains and volcanoes of-course. So I explored the country from top to bottom, coast to coast. But it can't be all fun and games, there was also my first job. I was lucky to get an apprenticeship with AWA a radio communications company with a large operation near Wellington and a smaller operation in Auckland where I transferred to. One day I spied a job in the Cook Islands. I couldn't resist and applied for it. A few weeks later I was living in Pacific paradise. The volcanic cone rises dramatically out of the ocean, no other Islands for 140 miles. Although one Island in particular begs the question. 'Why would you ever want to leave?' If you have some one special in your life, then take them to Aitutaki.
While I was in Raratonga, I was fortunate to discover some old xerox copies of the trails that lead up all the major peaks and ridges. I rushed off to get a machete and I was away like a robbers dog in the mountains, slashing the paths back to life. I made friends, carried out electronic repairs and night announced on the radio station, KCFM. Just before my departure I was even leading locals along the trails that they had long forgotten. I loved that step away from familiar shores. The local airport beckoned with the scent of adventure. I island hopped back to New Zealand via Samoa and then booked a one way ticket to Europe. Thus the summer cycling New Zealand while I waited for the seasons to change in in the Northern Hemisphere.
Some might even say it began when I was 4 years old, camping out on the front lawn. As a student, I would always be thinking about hiking in the Tararua Ranges or riding my 10 speed. This inevitably led to cycle touring. A journey that began it all is one that I plan to recreate and share with everyone. It was a 2 month cycle tour of the South Island of New Zealand. It was such an amazing experience. Heading down the infamously wet West Coast turned out to be reasonably dry experience in '88. These were the days when camping was a little more free and easy than it is now, but I hope to uncover some good places for the traveller to bed down for the night. Able Tasman was my first hiking stop, anyone visiting New Zealand should spend some time here. I won't list the things to do because this is a mecca for everything outdoors or water related, and the fun doesn't end when you leave. The Nelson Lakes, Buller Gorge and the wild chasms of the rugged coast have something for everybody. The deeper south you go the more spell bound you become. It's rugged, and at times demanding, but always rewarding. Queenstown is an all seasons resort town with some of the best fun in the world. I headed across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw. Now I was in the heart of primal high country, hiking beautiful passes down to the fjords. (Bring insect repellant though). Then I began my return path up the Island completing the last of the Southern Alp passes.