Back Country

I don’t like rain. Some people might say coming to NZ in autumn might not be the brightest idea. But I have been very lucky with the weather these past few months.

Sunny day with dark clouds

I had lots of clear sunny days and if it did rain good things happened. Like the lady who found me at the op-shop in Maston (where I got a real nice tripod, proof to come in handy with my latest obsession of night-time photography). And took me home.

Or the lovely group of neighbours in Robert Harris in Feilding where management offered me a free breakfast! Half an hour later I saw them again on my way out of town;

Cheering me on, Feilding

Or meeting a viking in the op-shop in Woodville. I’d just come down the saddle road. And got a bit wet and rather cold.

The Vikings Haul

He sent me down to his fiancé’s place who runs a B&B. They let me stay with them for the night. It was there I first heard about ‘Norway Day’. 

This part of the country is where our Scandinavian friends settled way back in the day. So there’s town like Dannevirk (Danish),

Welcome to Dannevirke

and Norsewood (Norwegian)

I don’t know too much about Norway, even though I rode my bicycle to the Northcape back in 2005.

But they have a national day. This day is celebrated here. 

Norway/Kiwi girl

It seemed a very private affair. I felt a little like I crashed some ones ‘party’.

I had a sneak peek in the town hall where I got rushed in and ended up sitting through a church service/ history lesson. I know all about the big fire in 1888 that burned most of the town to the ground. And the endurance and hardship of the first settlers.

From Norsewood a beautiful roads runs back to the east coast where you find Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the longest place-name in the (english speaking) world. 

that one

Meaning “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one“. What a wonderful thing to do, my sister had a nose flute once. Her knees are normal though.

From here I took the Pori road,

Pori Road

This road gets rather busy, 

Busy road

The people I did ran into greeted me with “ you’re not from around here”, “You’re far away from home” and “Do you know where you are?”

Stuart was just on his way to Napier with his wool.


He gave me a little piece to braid in my hair. So I did. 

Pori Road

 A friendly enough man I spoke to at the end of a day warned me against taking the road I was going up. “Have you been to Afghanistan!, it’s like Afghanistan up there!!….  

Mount Marchant Station was just up the hill. And somehow I doubt it was anything like Afghanistan, not that I’ve been there, but I’ve been on the border and I’m sure it would be great cycling if I could.

Jackie was just in the garden and invited me to stay the night.


Together with Bruce she lives at this sheep property. They have three kids about my age, their daughter just living up the road in Masterton.

SheepThe next morning was glorious, cycling above the clouds enjoying the views over the valley and accidentally giving the postman a fright.

Above the clouds

As soon as I got below the clouds I didn’t see much ’till late afternoon.



In Alfredton I sat on the doorstep of the townhall to make a brew. Suddenly a bunch of ladies showed up. They had their monthly meeting of the spinning and weaving guild and brought things like cake, scones and sandwiches along. Yay!

The ladies

If you ever cycle along rural roads in either New Zealand or Australia you can always tell how far it is to the next turn off/town by checking the house nrs. They tell you the amount of km’s. This way it’s easy for emergency services to find a place. It’s also easy for cyclist to know how far to the next town/turn-off is as often there’s no signs.

little old hut

When I got to Masterton I found Nat’s place. She is Jackie & Bruce’s daughter and has travelled quiet a bit herself. This evening she hosted a wonderful dinner party and slaughtered a pumpkin.


She also has a cat. Who likes to sit on your face as you’re trying to sleep in the lounge room.

Nat's Cat

Bruce & Jackie had some more friends, a convenient day’s ride from Masterton. 

White Rock Road

So they send me on to Whakapuni station where it rained.

So here the result of my little project;

“A day in the life of the Matthewsons”

From there it was down the coast and along Cape Palliser.

Down to the coast

A track through private land. I’ve been warned for the ‘grumpy man’ And for the fact  I had to climb two pretty high fences. But Frank was just letting some cattle through and decided to follow me to the other end and let me through the 2nd gate as well.

When he’d done that, he shot down the track only to return a few minutes later with a big block of chocolate some fruit and new lighter so it be easier lighting my stove 🙂


He then arranged for me to have lunch with his partner, Julie, on my way through the next day. Nothing grumpy there!

Shut Gate

It wasn’t very far to the light house,

Cape Palliser Track

although there were a few fairly rocky,

Push up rocks

and sandy bits.

Push through sand

I couldn’t cycle and had to push through.

River Crossing

I didn’t plan to stay at the lighthouse,


it was still rather early in the day when I came across two men on a tractor.


At first they thought I was a motorbike. I was not.

They were staying in one of the little huts along this coast, there’s a few of them around. More a shack then a house.

The Cape Palliser Shack

A shack with a bit of history. Dave wasn’t sure when exactly it has been build. But it has been moved a few times before it landed at the perfect place right on the beach where you can see the seals,

Sealthe lighthouse,

Early Morningthe sun & and the moon set,


and the little boats with cray fisherman working in the rough seas. And rough they can be. Windy too.

I noticed the next morning as I struggled to even cycle at all against the wind.


It was only 10km up the track when Bill overtook me and took me home for smoko in Ngawi.


Just riding into town a guy asked me if I was Mirjam. This is Adrian, a cray-fisherman.


I met his wife, Annemieke at Nat’s dinner party in Masterton…. A small world it is indeed 🙂 

And after having lunch with Julie, 


I kept riding along the coast

There's the South Island!

ending up at Neville & Annie’s dairy farm. They are friends of Julie and had their little granddaughter of 14 months staying. 

another glorious morning

It was there I made a little change of plans to keep moving along the coast instead of taking a track through the hills .

It took me 5 hours to cover just 20 km! Had to climb through/over 4 locked fences, the last one being 2,5 meter high. And with winds upto 130km/h I got blown off my bike three times!


Windy Wellington. They call it. It’s the first time I hear about that. And they’re not wrong. It was a ridiculous day to come along the coast.

It sounds like a truck is coming and when it hits you, even if you’re standing still, it’s rather difficult to stay upright.

SkyWhen I got back onto an actual road I decided to try to fight into the wind for a bit and see if there’s any indoor camp places to be found. A car pulled over and Alison jumped out.


Now this is a little odd. I haven’t seen Allison for 8 years since we worked at the Hostel in Derry together. She knew I was in the area and figured there wouldn’t be too many girls out on a day like this, on a road like this, on a bike like that…

It wasn’t too much later a friendly couple found me tangled up in a fence (got blown off the road again) and dropped me off at their Dutch friends place in Lower Hutt,


From where it was only a short ride and a ferry into town.

And found Alisson’s place where I stayed a couple of days.



3000km since I left Auckland.


7 thoughts on “Back Country

  1. Hi Mirjam……it’s Granny Shirley checking in at long last. Sorry it has been soooooo long. I have just had a look at your great photos taken in NZ and as usual they’re super.
    We have had some very worrying times re Granny Isabel as she has been very ill and we nearly lost her. Isabel and I had booked a Villa Carlotta tour to the Gibb River Road in early May but had to cancel it. Then she had to cancel a trip with her sister and bro to Qld but a better than expected report last week has allowed her to fly over there on Friday. Can’t tell you all about it here.
    Granny Gerry and I are off to Ireland again in July so I can meet my three grandies and where I’ll celebrate another milestone birthday at the Kilworth Festival. We have free accom 200 metres from my son’s house.
    Cheers for now. Granny Shirley
    PS You did try and send me an email some time back but I was unable to open it. SJB

  2. It sounds like your bike (and you) are getting more punishment that in the great sandy voids of Aussie. Beautiful place though. Take care lady.

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