Newsletter - April 2005
Inspiring families to live adventurously, promoting independent family adventure

The Family Adventure Project and Family on a Bike e-newsletter

Welcome to our April 2005 update

As we start the month of April, it seems appropriate for us to ask ourselves if we are the April Fools. Many of you who responded to our last newsletter or website postings have commented on how challenging our escapade sounds. "We felt for you, things sound really tough," wrote one concerned friend. "Your account of that race sounded really horrific," mailed another. "Can we send something nice over to you?" asked a loyal supporter. Even the other adventurous families we've been meeting as we travel seem quite baffled as to why we do our travelling 'the hard way' when there are many easier ways to enjoy a family adventure. So, in this newsletter we're going to try and tell you about some of the pleasures of travelling the way we do as we ask "Is the pleasure worth the pain?" and try and figure out who really is the April Fool.

If you prefer you can read this newsletter online at:

Is the pleasure worth the pain?

Kirstie says the whole thing reminds her of childbirth, an intense mixture of pain and trauma with a joyful end product. There are times when we've been slogging painfully up the hills of North Island, sweating away for hours on end while the boys have slept peacefully in their buggies blissfully unaware of our exertions, that the whole business seems like a glorious gruelling physical metaphor for the sacrifices and labour of love that is parenting. But equally when we're freewheeling downhill as a family shouting "wheeeeeeee" there is a harmony, togetherness and sense of fun that is family at its best.

We're now over 3300km and almost five months into our journey. Since our last newsletter, we've made our way across the central volcanic plateau, around the Coromandel Peninsula and are now beyond Auckland heading through Northland towards Cape Reinga, the place where according to Maori legends, the spirits depart this world for the next. But the spirits don't have to cycle there, whilst we will have physically pedalled every hilly, weather beaten, exhausting inch of the way.

"Would you like a tow?" asked a Jehova's witness who tried to save our souls way back in Southland. "I'll give you a lift to the top," offered a generous trucker whose leaky wagon dripped sheep effluent up the Lewis Pass. "You should catch a bus or a train out of here," suggested fellow cyclists in windy Wellington. "You really should try a campervan," suggested a family in New Plymouth, "you can see so much more." "Look, have a lie in, take a day off and we'll give you a lift over the hills," said a sailing family we met on the Coromandel. "We won't tell anyone," they promised in a desperate attempt to persuade us. But we remain committed to powering ourselves wherever possible to the end of the road.

So why are we doing it? Well, while the intense mixture of pedalling and parenting stretches us to the limit, it also brings countless rewards. On the saddle of a bike we have experienced the terrain, the elements and the people in a very different way to anyone travelling New Zealand by car, boat, bus or train.

We've felt the changing seasons and the seasons changing. We scraped ice from the tent on dark cold mornings in the Southern Alps, longing for the longer days and warmth of the summer sun. We baked and sweated in the heat of mid summer in Nelson, savouring picnics and playgrounds in the long warm evenings. And now we're playing 'coats on, coats off' with the changeable early autumn weather, chasing leaves as they dance along the road while the children dance in North Island puddles.

The journey continues come rain or come shine

Then there are the physical joys of cycling. The pleasure of reaching a summit after a hard climb, with the children bouncing out of the buggies to run to the viewpoint; of cruising along the coast; conquering an active volcano without getting lava in our wheels; of feeling fit and knowing you got there under your own steam. And of course the end of a day's riding brings its own rewards; cappucino's and long lazy café stops in the rain; unexpected invitations into people's lives; or the simple pleasures of a hot shower, Sky TV and a bed with sheets. On this journey we have come to expect the unexpected.

Boys bounce out whenever we reach a summit or at the slightest prospect of an ice lolly

One of the joys of this trip has been watching the children grow and develop. For Kirstie it has been an opportunity in co-parenting after four years of coping mainly on her own. For Stuart it has been a golden chance to get to know the boys, to be with them from the moment they wake up, bright eyed and ready to go; to their sleepy goodnights, happily tucked up in their downy sleeping bags. Together we have watched the children hand feed lambs and llamas, conquer their fears of monkey bars and zip wires, and settle down happily anywhere from unfamiliar houses to wild lonely campsites. While Cameron has (almost) mastered toilet training, holds his own in a playground, and can entertain a crowd, Matthew has taught himself to read, to navigate, to put up a tent, push himself on a swing and speak a few words of Japanese. We have enjoyed their excitement at naked midnight swims on deserted beaches, at the pleasure of ice cream on a hot day, and their appreciation of volcanoes and geysers, of mud pools and hot springs and all the many natural wonders of the Kiwi world. And their tastes have developed too; Cameron loves climbing and swimming, while Matthew has a growing passion for kayaking and the luge, and has developed an unexpected liking for watermelon, green beans and corned beef.

The world is a playground whether on sand dunes or at Shrek pools

But as with anything in life, with the pleasure comes the pain. Some of the North Island terrain has been the hilliest we have ever cycled, and with us both pulling almost a hundred kilos of child and luggage, the weight has often been a struggle. Off road cycling has been especially difficult for Kirstie, with the weight of her luggage leaving her back wheel spinning hopelessly without actually going anywhere. At times the intensity of the sun has been as physically draining as the cycling, and the lack of ozone layer has meant covering up fully, even in the hottest weather. The shortage of space, of silence, of time to think and be alone has also been an added pressure for us both. But as we said at the beginning, at the end of every day it's just like childbirth; you remember the good bits, and wipe the bad bits from your hard drive.

Oh yes, and then there's the childbirth. At four months pregnant, Kirstie has had to tackle just about every hill carrying two little people; one in the buggy and one inside, juggle morning sickness and pedalling, and cope with ever tightening cycling shorts. If the fact we are expanding Family on a Bike comes as a surprise to you, it's nothing to our surprise when we discovered the news. Of course for the boys, who have come to expect almost anything, growing a baby is a normal part of a cycling holiday, and they have already christened their new sibling Snooko Sninkofart. Matthew tells everyone he meets that Family On A Bike is having a baby, and mistakenly announced the news to Granddad on the phone only days after being let into the secret. Fortunately it was a bad line and Granddad was none the wiser. A few months ago we panicked that the appearance of a bump might make finishing our end to end trip an impossibility, and enquired about hiring a recumbent bicycle from someone in the cycle retail business. It resulted in the pregnancy being officially announced on a Kiwi website for Human Powered Vehicles. Our cover was blown and it was time to tell the grandparents.

But our worries about finishing the trip have been unnecessary. The doctors say the exercise is good for the baby, and there is little sign of a bump yet to make the cycling uncomfortable for Kirstie. In fact she thinks she may have discovered a cure for morning sickness; it disappears whenever she gets on the bike and starts pedalling.

And so we begin our last month of cycling New Zealand by tackling the coastline from Whangerei to Cape Reinga, the final leg of our end to end trip. Then we'll ship home the bikes and find alternative ways of travelling around Samoa, Canada and The States. If our mission was to inspire families to live adventurously, we feel we are keeping up our end of the bargain, although we're not really sure what the families we've met really make of it all. "You're all so keen" one of them says, as the children smear watermelon into their carpets, Kirstie throws up in their bathroom, and Stuart scans their bookshelves for a new map in search of a hill free route. "It looks so hard. Is it really worth it?" they ask we repack the bikes in their garage. "Without a doubt," we call to them, accompanied by squeals from the children as we freewheel down the hill towards the beach.

What's new on the website?

We continue to add to our postings from the road about twice a week, so if you want to know more about what we've been up to, take a look at our postings from the road index at:

Since the last newsletter we've posted stories about: unexpected encounters with fruit and vegetables (Do you like Chinese gooseberries?, Doctor's orders), family hitchhiking ('Thumbs Up'), and living with a natural disaster ('Naturally disastrous' and 'He who smelt it dealt it).

Check back regularly and keep up with what we're up to.

Big thanks

A steady stream of kind and generous strangers continue to take us in and look after us as is the Kiwi way. Thanks this month to Derrick and Karen Scott for sharing their home and their Easter with us in Auckland; Brian and Barbara Lee for a welcome evening meal in Hawera; Wayne and Pauline Hutchinson for sharing their own family adventure story with us in New Plymouth; Lucy and Geoff Tyrdeich for entertaining us and advising us on the pregnancy; Rick and Jo Wolfenden for a barbeque, black pearl jewellery and inspiration for a future adventure; Philippa and Chip for inviting us in and sharing their lunch at the top of a devilish hill in Waihi; Gail, Bob and Rebecca Robinson for sharing their home, story and spa bath in Kopane; principal Alasdair Maclean for showing us around his school; Peter and Peggy in Cooks Beach for serving up afternoon tea when we really needed it; Lester and his family for giving us the run of their holiday home; the Wylie Logan family for inviting us into their campervan for a Possum puppet show; and to all those who have brightened up our day or given us a bed for the night. We won't forget your hospitality even if we've forgotten to mention you here.

Keep in touch

It's always nice to hear from people so don't hesitate to e mail or give us a call. You can send us a message by replying to this email newsletter, by mailing us at or by calling us on our mobile +64 (0)21 203 2392! Our technology pannier means we're contactable throughout our travels. We'd love to hear from you. If you have any route ideas or can think of a more appropriate name for Snooko Sninkofart then please let us know.

And that's it from us for now as we head North towards Cape Reinga

Until next time,

Stuart, Kirstie, Matthew, Cameron, Snooko Sninkofart and Puppy The Wuppy
The Family on a Bike

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