Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cycling NZ 15 years later

[Michele] Fifteen years ago, Gavin and I spent 4.5 weeks cycle-touring though the North and South Islands of New Zealand.  This was an amazing way to see the country.  Visiting some of the same sites 15 years later with kids in a campervan highlighted how different modes of travel evoke very different experiences.  This makes me realize that we should do more cycle-touring.

Anyways, Gavin and I were both very excited to get a chance to do some bike riding with the kids in New Zealand.  By the end of our trip, we had three days of riding in three very different but intense environments.

The first was a day on the Central Otago Rail Trail. If we had had more time, a 4-5 day trip would have been wonderful on this remote and majestic trail.  Our one day trip had us crossing viaducts and passing through tunnels.  No, Robin didn't like that part.  One highlight was finding our first geocache, which quickly led to an addiction to geocaching.  In Rotorua we even picked up a trackable that we've brought to the US to put in a geocache here... after the snow melts I guess.

first geocache of many

The second day of cycling led to another addiction, single track mountain biking. We spent the first half of the day exploring geothermal feature around Rotorua.
In the afternoon, we discovered an amazing mountain biking park that just blew us away.  We flew through the stunningly beautiful forest along maintained tracks that were designed for fun.  We rode until we were all tired, and then we went again... and again.   Robin and Will are both clamoring for us to find comparable parks near Amherst.
The challenge will be to find a Mountain Bike park near Amherst that
comes close to the one we biked in Rotorua.
One of the things I love about New Zealand is that if you want to ride
with your son right up the edge of a boiling mud pit, no one is going to stop you.

The third day of cycling was a rainy track along the river in Turangi. Riding in the rain didn't charm California-raised Gavin but the kids made the best of it. This was one of our last days in NZ and we were all starting to feel some eagerness to be on our way home.  The rain seemed to be lamenting our departure.

kids are too cool for New Zealand... well maybe not

[Michele] While we were traveling through the South Island, it seemed that Robin and Will were more excited about the trampolines in many of the campgrounds than the spectacular scenary of New Zealand.

So now that we are in back in Amherst it is interesting to hear the kids reflect on our kiwi holiday.

Today we drove to a downhill ski area in the Berkshires and Robin remarked that the so-called 'mountains' around us would just be called hills in New Zealand.  Yeah, probably.   So when does a hill become a mountain, I asked.  Robin replied that it needs to higher than tree line. Hmm interesting definition.  I think she might have been spoiled on mountains from our trip to NZ.

What was more encouraging was that both Robin and Will both said that they found New Zealand to be beautiful and want to go back. They found the mountains inspiring as well.  

So it turns out they were taking it all in during our travels.  But maybe they were just too cool to show that they were impressed.

The best thing Gavin ever bought with bitcoins

[Michele]  After Fox Glacier we headed over the Haast Pass to Wanaka.  Being in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps gave us a very welcomed break from sand flies!  It is amazing the amount of itch produced by such a small bug.  Another benefit of the rain shadow is gorgeous mountain scenery without pesky vegetation in the way.

First on our agenda in Wanaka was an eco-tour white water rafting trip with Pioneer Rafting. We were looking forward to learning about the ecology of the region while enjoying a raft down the Clutha Mata-Au river.  The operator and guide, Finn, did not disappoint.  Rafting down the unbelievably clear waterway we learned about eddy systems in the river, the history of the South Island, the trees along the banks, conservation efforts in the region etc.  It was awesome!

While learning of these things and more, Finn occasionally made comments about recent banking crises.  We took it all in.  At our break time, we went to shore to have some Tea Tree tea and biscuits.  At some point in the tea making, Finn remarked that he thought that bitcoins could by a way to bypass unfair practices by credit cards.   Wait, hold up! Did he just say bitcoins?    Our river guide knows about Gavin's make pretend money project?

At this point Gavin told Finn that he is the lead developer of Bitcoin and well.. you can guess what the primary topic of conversation was from that point on.  We swooped over large boulders in the river, splashed through holes and swirled in eddies talking about the ways that Bitcoin might serve to benefit communities that are currently taxed by credit card companies and bank currency transaction fees.

Towards the end of the trip we offered to pay for the trip in bitcoins and we were excited to be Finn's first bitcoin transaction.  Gavin also now has an awesome answer the the question "What is the best thing you ever bought with bitcoins?".
Gavin and Finn at the end of the trip. Yes, the water really was that blue!

The story might have ended there.  After the trip Gavin posted about the trip on the Bitcoin subreddit and tweeted a link to the reddit story.  With over 10,000 twitter followers, Gavin's post generated some reaction within the bit coin community.  Finn was contacted by all sorts of people about bitcoins and the New Zealand Herald (the biggest newspaper in NZ) ran an article about bitcoin that led with the story of Finn rafting with the lead developer .  We are very excited that our happenstance trip with Pioneer Rafting led to meeting Finn.  He was an awesome guide and we look forward to rafting with him again.  Maybe next time more of our vacation can be paid with bitcoins.

There and back again

[Michele]  We've been back for a month now and are slowing starting to feel settled back into our life in Amherst.  The hardest adjustments involved going from long sunny summer days to short bleak winter days in Amherst.  Fortunately, we've had some recent snowstorms so we can get outside and enjoy the winter.
This ain't Australia!
Today, I took Robin and Will downhill skiing - their first time. The snow was fabulous despite the wing. The kids did awesome and I may have addicted Will to yet another sport that involves expensive equipment.

There are still a few stories that we want to tell about our adventures down under so we will blog on for just short while longer.