Living car-less in Auckland

Opanuku Pipeline Campground

It turns out I’ve been car-less for over three years now. Don’t get me wrong, aside from the eight month bike adventure, I’ve had the use of a mate’s car (almost) whenever needed. But I haven’t owned one. I haven’t commuted in a car, I haven’t needlessly blocked up a car park trying to turn a giant car around and I haven’t run over anyone’s toes with a car. Just some of the things I don’t miss there.

I’m not anti-automobile, aside from their emissions. I can’t support the part of vehicles that literally pipes poisonous gas into the air and chokes school children. No matter how many wallies Amazon chuck on the internet to tell me that choking school children is a necessary cost to which the benefits far outweigh, I’ll never succumb to the exhaust pipe’s tantalising ways. I’m just not that way inclined.

However, I do see the benefit of the little metal pods. When driven respectfully and treated as a privilege, cars help us go many times our normal daily walking range. Far away ends of the country can be accessed in a matter of hours; a journey that would have once taken weeks. When adequately equipped and driven in the right direction, they can save lives. And I’m not going to deny that I made use of several vehicles during my monster bike ride. When the bike inevitably broke down, old el motorist was there to ferry me to the nearest bike shop and back. I’d still be out there somewhere if they hadn’t.

The truth, though, is a lot of us don’t need one. We’ve become accustomed to them, convinced we need one. Our very dependence on them drives us towards a deeper dependence on them, as inactivity leads to poor fitness which leads to poor health and heightened auto-dependency, the circle continues. Break the chain, if you can, when you can.

It’s actually not as difficult as you might think, either. Firstly, try to patiently walk yourself through the mindful removal of yourself from the driver’s seat. Think of your body and consider all it was capable of before we began down the evolutionary path of motoring. Then try to envisage what your strengths might be, if sagging into a springy seat for a few hours after work wasn’t how you travelled; climbing, running, swimming? Our muscles long to be used. Reconnect with yourself, appreciate your body and start dropping in little actions to show it.

While out walking the streets, I often notice the long lines of slow-moving vehicles. Cars are ideal for people who love queuing. Do people love queuing, though? Honestly? I find it funny when motorists complain about an “empty cycle lane”, while failing to see the greater problems a “full road” creates. The cyclists on the cycle lane have arrived already. Try distancing yourself from your habitual tendencies and see if there’s ‘another way’. Perhaps there’s a short journey you often make that you could sub-in a new form of transport for?

It’s unrealistic to suggest everyone gets rid of their car and to expect it happens overnight, but I believe a shift towards more thoughtful motoring is possible. A culture that considers driving as a privilege, not a right, stands to gain more collectively. Thinking outside the box before taking a journey can enlighten and result in some surprising and memorable adventures. You also see more, absorb more and learn more when travelling below 100km/h.

On my car-less journey, I’ve been on some incredible adventures in New Zealand, both in Auckland and beyond. Auckland’s Regional Parks are accessible by public transport, bike and on foot. And some of the national coach services allow you to travel in far greater luxury than your 1990 Speedwagon. From short camping treks in the Waitakere Ranges to a weekend cycle trip to Shakespear Regional Park and a full blown mini-break in Russell, it’s public and clean and healthy transport for the win.

We’re all at different points in our addiction, but as humans, we can all appreciate similar things. Saving money, better health, less stress, hassle-free parking, improved time-management and discovering new local spots are just some of the benefits you’ll stumble across once you begin the weaning process. Start planning that one kilometre walk that you’d normally drive today.

VIDEO: That time I cycled up Baldwin Street, Dunedin. It’s the world’s steepest residential street, you know

Dunc Wilson on Baldwin Street

One evening, during the bike ride, I called my maps man Scoot and said “hey, I’ll be in Dunedin tomorrow. Fly down?”. Seven hours later, he was on a plane from Auckland.

One caveat of his impromptu visit was that I must cycle The Bike (the one I was riding around the entire coastline of New Zealand) to the top of Baldwin Street, which just so happens to be the world’s steepest street.

It happened. You can watch my brief summation of events here (warning: contains the s-word):

Yes, look again, I cycled up there in jandals (flip-flops).

The Story Of Dunc’s Big Bike Ride will be out as soon as I’ve written it – please ‘Like’ my Facebook page for updates!

Polite Media Notification: NZ’s longest ever charity bike ride now northward bound

St John fundraiser Dunc’s Big Bike Ride reaches the end of the south, turns corner

108 days since leaving Auckland’s Mission Bay, Dunc Wilson and his Merida Big NINE 500 mountain bike are now on a course north for Cape Reinga. The trip, a fundraiser for St John, has raised more than $3,000 for the charity.

The ride, which staunchly claims to be the fullest possible circumnavigation of New Zealand on a loaded bicycle, is following the Kiwi coast clockwise and expected to take around seven months to return to east Auckland. Geography and maths have been combined to calculate this:

“We reached Dunedin in about three months. If you look at how much East Cape sticks out compared with Taranaki, I reckon that makes Dunners about halfway. So it should take six to seven months all up,” reasons Dunc, ignoring completely the size of the Kaipara Harbour and the jagged shape of the Bay Of Islands.

Old Papatotara Road
Literally the end of the track: New Zealand’s Fiordland Coast is “unmountainbikeable”

Having to divert inland due to something called ‘Fiordland’, the ride will now head to Milford Sound, before cutting back in through Queenstown, Haast Pass and up the West Coast.

The money raised for St John will go to help the organisation buy lifesaving equipment, for use nationwide. Dunc’s target is $10,000, which is more than enough for two defibrillators. Donations can be made via the Dunc’s Big Bike Ride Givealittle page (link below).

The three-and-a-half months since the trip began have been a full-on adventure ride, taking in heaps of the country.

“There can be no better way to truly meet New Zealand. From townies to tourists, loggers to lifesavers, sheep shearers to students… I’ve met people from all walks and I feel I know NZ better than ever. There’s some pretty funny stories in there too, which I may share one day.”

The odometer so far stands at roughly 5,000km, which has put a fair amount of strain on The Bike, a 29″ wheeled hard tail MTB specially modified by Bike Barn with the rigours of such a trip in mind.

“We’re on chain number three, cassette number two and I’ve broken about ten spokes all up. The spokes break because I insisted on bringing my nice three-man tent and travel pillows. They are protesting against the weight, but it’s fine; if they don’t want to be part of this huge ride, then I just transfer them at the next Bike Barn stop. They are out, just like an EPL footballer.”

The tour turned north at the Southland township of Tuatapere and will soon pass down your road*.

Hashtag: #SeawayNZ

*provided you live on or as close as possible to the coastline

Three stages down, not sure why I keep winning them!

Dunc’s Big Bike a Ride, Tour de Zealandia, that thing that idiot is doing… whatever your name for it is, it’s going quite well so far, thanks.

Stages completed so far:
Stage 1: Mission Bay – Omana Regional Park
Stage 2: Omana Regional Park – Thames
Stage 3: Thames to Coromandel Town

Let’s be clear, here, though: it ain’t easy. It’s bloody tough. But, thankfully, I haven’t yet suffered the issues many friends and bike touring colleagues usually succumb to on these sort of adventures. Yet.

After a marvellous send off at Mission Bay, from some top peeps who are awesome, my early-stage riding buddies Scott & Jarrod and I set about seeing all the beaches on Auckland’s east coast. And I think we did okay: that spit at Tahuna Torea that lets you get within 200m of Bucklands Beach, Point England Reserve, Bucklands Beach, Eastern Beach (where all the people were: all the people!), Mellons Bay (ridiculous name!) before riding round Howick and Whitford to arrive at Beachlands’ pretty snazzy looking marina: Pine Harbour (for boats, not making movies).

When I gave my notice for this adventure, my manager said to me, in that generous way that Kiwis have mastered: “you’re welcome to stay on our lawn when you come through Beachlands.” Not realising the distance, I rejected the offer, thinking anywhere within commuting distance to the city centre was way too close and I’d like to be a lot further than Beachlands on day one!

As it happened, we stayed just up the road from Beachlands on day one: at Omana Regional Park. Ah well, I’m not sure she was around over the holidays anyway.

Next day, we set off and rode Maraetai Beach, which was awesome as we got to go under a little pier. The road to Duder Regional Park was fun, with the stunning Pohutukawa coastline adjacent all the way.

My fave part of stage 2, however, was shortly after we arrived at Orere Point. I knew that we had to also hit up Tapapakanga Regional Park before heading to Miranda. We’d been a few hours on roads by that time, so decided a quick look at the map and a trek round the beaches was in order. Even if we had to push. It turned out we did have to push for a lot of it, but it was worth it for the feeling of arriving on Tapapakanga Beach with holidaymakers all glaring in bemusement at where these two mountain bikers had turned up from!

The remainder of the day was a fast burn down the Pacific Coast Highway into Miranda, then State Highway 25 to the new Kopu Bridge, with a view of the silly old single lane one as we crossed, then a closing stretch of the Hauraki Rail Trail into Thames.

Leaving Thames, I knew I had only job to do: survive State Highway 25 heading north to Coromandel Town. Fortunately I had the returning holiday traffic going the other way in my favour, plus a seemingly calm, relaxed bunch of drivers heading my way. The hills were hell, but I treated myself to a milkshake at the top and everything seemed to pass by. The downs were amazing and I captured the pay-off superbly on the helmet-cam!

I’m currently enjoying a well-earned rest day at Tide Water Holiday Park. The good buggers gave me a discount when I arrived, too! Tonight: rest ride to Wyuna Bay and back. Stage 4 tomorrow!