Tag Archive: biking

There's no such thing as too much cake

It's that time of year, the time when I get to eat lots of cake and feel a little bit more wise (you know, every birthday you're another year older so surely also wiser as a result!).

Thursday we had a farewell (for me even though I'll only be gone a month!) and a birthday celebration (also for me but for the 2 other workmates with early August birthdays too) which meant I had to make a cake! It was pretty late on Wednesday night when I started making the cake so went for something simple, the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch, except I made a lemon cornmeal version which I've done before. It went down well.

Work got me the usual delicious vegan sandwich they get me (made specially by the bakery for me) while the others had the usual savouries and club sandwiches. A salad sandwich might sound a bit boring but actually these guys (whoever they are) make a pretty good one.

I may have eaten a little bit more cake (with delicious coconut yogurt) for dessert that night...!

Friday, after work and a nice little walk with M, we headed out to the Beat Street Cafe on Barbados Street for more delicious food. I ordered their Big Warm Salad with tofu (so so good) for my dinner.

They don't have a vegan dessert on the menu but they do make a damn fine beetroot chocolate cake which they served with berries and chocolate sauce. I gather this is not normal but I'm sure they'd do this for anyone who asked. They also had a delicious looking vegan brownie but I can never turn down cake!

Then Saturday dawned ridiculously summery hot (despite still being definitely winter here so it was awesome!) so we went biking along the tops and round the bays and eventually ended up in Lyttelton to check out the new vegetarian cafe there, The Shroom Room.

I had a delicious lunch of toast and hash browns with lots of delicious fried veges and salady stuff (yep, I'm good with descriptions).

And of course more cake was consumed...their vegan chocolate raspberry cake was amazing and quite possibly wins the mini cake competition of the last few days of eating!

All that food did make the final relentless climb up to the Kiwi pretty difficult though! But worth it.

It seems vegan cake is doing quite well in Christchurch at the moment. The Lotus Heart makes a pretty fine cake. Then there's the Beat Street Cafe and The Shroom Room and I also heard from the waitress at Beat Street that there is a lady who makes several kinds of vegan cakes to sell at the Riccarton Bush Market which we haven't ever been to...but you can bet we'll be going once we get back!

Riding through the winter solstice

I don't know what it's like where you are but here in Christchurch it is most certainly winter! In fact, last Saturday was the shortest day (so I guess we're heading back towards longer days again...but normally it's about the time the weather starts to really get into the wintery spirit). Fortunately, although there was minimal daylight, the sun was out (in a cold, wintery way).

Sunrise was 8:02am. We were a little disorganised so it was more like 8:05am when we were pulling out of our driveway. Fortunately The Goose was even more disorganised than us and was still eating breakfast when we turned up at his door so we went for a little spin while we waited. And then we were off...with a nice gravel hill to start with - up Rapaki to the Summit Road. I was very glad it was early in the morning and not too many people were about as there is one downside to tandem riding and that is that people do like to comment on it and that sure gets tiring after a while.

Clockwise from top left: First cafe stop at Diamond Harbour; Cruising along the Summit Road; Charteris Bay; Heading along the coastline to Diamond Harbour.

We headed along the tops and down to Gebbies Pass with lots of whizzing and fun times then along the harbour edge to our first cafe stop of the day at Diamond Harbour where we lounged around drinking hot chocolates.

Next up was the second big climb, up to the Purau Saddle. I love this climb. The road is quiet and the climb is never too steep but is still relentless enough to be exhausting. We then whizzed down to Port Levy for a quick view of the sea before heading straight up again for the 3rd big climb of the day, up Western Valley Road, a nice (although I don't think M or the Goose would have called it nice!), truly relentless gravelly climb up to the Port Levy Saddle.

Slowly warming into the endless climb up Western Valley Road to Port Levy Saddle and loving every minute of it!

We all collapsed at the top, feeling rather hungry and tired. So it seemed an excellent time to pull out the mini chocolate cakes I'd made to celebrate The Goose's birthday. We practically wolfed them down!

Wolfing down cake at Port Levy Saddle.

The cake recipe, if anyone is interested, was a modified version of the Red Velvet Cake from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Basically I substituted some of the flour for more cocoa powder, used coconut cream instead of soy milk, added some chopped chocolate and swirled some raspberry jam through each of the mini cakes (baked in a texas muffin tin - it made more than my tins could handle so I also mostly filled a regular muffin tin too). I also didn't add the food colouring. I totally recommend this cake. It's so moist and delicious!

After a rather exhausting, bumpy descent down into Little River (definitely a good test of how the tandem handles gravel descents) it was time for some serious refueling at the cafe there. My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach in that moment though as I could only finish one of the samosas on my plate and virtually none of the salad. I must have been feeling tired! So the boys polished off my salad while I took the other samosa for the road. Don't worry though, my appetite came back with a vengence up the next hill!

Vegetarian Samosas in Little River.

And then for the last, and biggest, climb of the day, up Reynolds Valley Rd to the top of Bossu Rd. I was definitely dying up this hill as it just kept going and going! It was definitely spectacular at the top though with stunning views of the Banks Peninsula in all directions.

Clockwise from top: Looking down Bossu Road towards Lake Ellesmere; Reynolds Valley Road; The Goose looking all suave near the top of the climb.

So all that remained was the descent down to Birdlings Flat, a nice little jaunt along the rail trail and then a cruise back into Christchurch. We'd be back not that long after sunset (4:59pm) right?

Not too far into the whizzing down Bossu Rd we got stopped by a vehicle informing us that the crossing over the ditch (draining Lake Forsyth out to the sea) to Birdlings Flat was, well, no longer a crossing so perhaps we might want to reconsider riding all the way down there. The boys, being boys, decided that surely there would be a way across and perhaps it wouldn't be too deep anyway (I was definitely not happy about this but when you're on the back of a tandem you don't exactly get that much say!) so down we went, chasing sheep left right and centre.

And yeah...there was no crossing and no matter how much wading The Goose did the water was not looking shallow enough to walk across. To make it more exciting, the sun was busy setting and only M and I had lights (The Goose was clearly under the mistaken impression that we'd actually make it back by sunset!). After well over an hour of dithering we decided to head back up the hill again...only just as we were about to head off into the darkness a local turned up with his little dingy offering to rescue the maiden in distress and her companions (he said he was only doing it because there was a girl in the group - yep, sometimes it definitely pays to be female!).

After 4 trips we were finally across (and the bikes of course!) and off to the rail trail...in complete darkness! There was much whizzing along (and desperate sandwich eating as we got more and more tired) and general good times and we made it to Motukarara in good time and good spirits.

Once on the road again M decided it was time for some time trialling much to the despair of The Goose and I. We finally managed to rein him in at Tai Tapu and the rest of the ride was at a much more civilised pace but I sure was glad to get home...nearly 3 hours after sunset!

The ride has made me super excited for more explorations on the backroads of the Banks Peninsula. It's like an adventure playground for this kind of riding and it's right on our doorstep. Bring on summer and the longer days.

Winter at the beach

Last weekend was supposed to be Heights of Winter, a 12 hour rogaine that happens every year in Canterbury around the full moon during June, but this year it was cancelled for, quite possibly, the first time after major flooding in North Canterbury earlier in the week. It's been a pretty wet year so far in Canterbury with with several floods in our street already and the hills are pretty green (they've been pretty brown for pretty much the whole time I've been here).

Anyway, we'd already booked a couple of baches in Gore Bay for the event so it seemed a shame not to head up there for the weekend anyway especially since the forecast was so spectacular.

Saturday a small group of us headed over to Kaikoura and up Mt Fyffe while the others did some other more epic icy mission. My favourite thing is going up steep hills so the track up to the hut was awesome (about 1100m). After that, however, the track started to get pretty icy and I ended up slipping over and hitting my head so M and I headed back down (and then up to the hutt again because hills are fun!) whilst the others continued. Spectacular views from the top and it wasn't even too cold!

In the evening there was the most amazing full moon which I wished I'd taken a photo of. My friend C and I had a very lovely walk by moonlight along the beach. It was so beautiful and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore is like soothing music.

Sunday, after a lot sleep in (!), a group of us biked over the hills to the Hurunui River and back (with a few detours down to the coast). It was a perfect cycling day - not too cold and very calm.

So all in all it was a pretty good weekend but still pretty sad there was no Heights of Winter this year especially since I could do with the training. We are heading to the States in about a month and a half for the World Rogaine Champs in South Dakota and I have yet to race a long rogaine with my team mate (other than TWALK and I'm not sure that really counts)! Hopefully the Golden Road Rogaine takes place next month. M has been helping me work on my route planning which is definitely helping.

But I better get ready for bed. Tomorrow is the shortest day here and we are planning on riding from sunrise to sunset (or something like that). Should be fun!

Birthdays for queens

This past weekend was Queens Birthday weekend (her birthday is actually in April I think but I'm not complaining) so we got a lovely long weekend for some fun adventures. The weather was looking fantastic (but cold) pretty much everywhere which make trying to work out what to do much harder! In the end M and I settled for doing some long tandem rides from Murchison each day since we don't have the panniers set up for the new bike yet.

Saturday, after driving up from home, we set off up the road for a nice warmup ride towards Maruia Saddle. We rode as far as the main bridge before turning back since the sun was on it's way down and it was getting cold. It was the first time we'd taken the tandem out on the gravel and it seemed to handle it with ease.

Sunday morning we were crawling out of bed early ready for a long day. The plan was to ride to Westport (for hot chocolates and hot chips of course) and back which would be the longest day ride for both of us, coming in at over 200km. Exciting!

Heading off to Westport following the mighty Buller River

It was a cold start but I'd warmed up by the time we got to the Upper Buller Gorge. The scenery was fantastic and there was very little traffic around so it made for pretty awesome riding conditions but M had promised me hot drinks in Inangahua which was about halfway to Westport. Unfortunately the only shop was closed (for sale I think) so we pressed on into the Lower Buller Gorge for more awesome scenery (and, finally, some sunshine!).

After a fairly painless 103km we'd made it to Westport and, after a quick trip out to the coast on the end of the pier (with a fantastic view back to the mountains and Denniston where we have ridden during a previous visit) it was off to the nearest cafe for hot chocolate and fries. Perfect! Not that we could stop long since we were conscious of the ever decreasing hours of daylight left!

The ride back was pretty good. We had a nice stop at the cafe in Berlins (it has a place name which makes it sound like a town but the only thing there is a cafe/accommodation) then it was back on the road. The sun vanished with about 20km to go and so too did any resemblance of warmth which made the end fairly torturous. I may have been wimpering a bit on the back!

So much awesomeness. Clockwise from left: Westport! The Lower Buller Gorge. Beautifully calm at Lake Rotoroa

But if I'd thought it was cold then, well, Monday had another thing coming. We headed off along the back roads (via Braeburn Track) towards Lake Rotoroa and, despite being wrapped up in several warm layers and super thick lobster gloves, I felt like I was getting colder and colder. Once my feet started getting cold my right foot was really playing up making it difficult to pedal. The Braeburn Track goes up a valley through the bush that clearly gets no sun during the winter months as the frost was thick on the ground and the gravel was icy.

I did eventually manage to sort of warm up in time for a bouncy decsent down to Lake Rotorua where we had a delicious lunch of only slightly squashed sandwiches! The lake was beautiful and I would have liked to stay there longer but it was too cold so we had to bike on.

Despite the cold it was a fantastic weekend and a good test of our tandem on gravel roads (and long distances). M has ideas of us doing the 400km Marlborough Mayhem Kiwi Randonneurs ride in October which is a little scary and if Le Petit Brevet is happening again this year we were going to give that a go so we're going to have to put in some more long rides over the winter. I better get used to being cold!

Since I've been gone...

In the thick of that season there were few things more magical than ice - the blocks that emerged, impossibly, from the back of a wagon, steaming not with heat but with cold, the unmistakeable stomp of the iceman conquering the stairwell, gleaming blocks of ice piled on his broad back like enormous melting diamonds.
- Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg

So I appear to have been gone from here for quite some time. Oh dear!

Since I’ve gone so long I thought I would give you a little insight into some of the things that appear to have gotten in the way of blogging lately. Basically, life in the south has been filled with many adventures.

There has been lots of running. I like running, especially in the hills. One day I will take the camera with me and show you all where I run every week. It's so beautiful here! And with more tracks slowly opening up again (after being closed for SO long because of earthquake/rockfall danger) there are more places you can safely go.

There has also been heaps of riding, especially since M bought himself a mountain bike and I upgraded. The best part about where we live is that you can go mountain biking straight from home without having to drive anywhere and there a lovely big hills to ride up and along on your road bike. I can't wait for summer and not needing to defrost after a ride though!

Anyway, below is just a little snapshot of some of my favourite adventures we've had so far (i.e. the ones where we have taken a camera!)...

Oceania Mountain Bike Orienteering in Central Otago
Back at the start of the year, when it was warm and summery (which seems like a lifetime ago since now buried in winter and the weather outside today is particularly unpleasant) we had several days of mountain bike orienteering in Central Otago. It was fabulous (mostly) and I seem to have become addicted to mountain biking since returning home.

Sprint the Bay 2012
There has been plenty of orienteering happening this year to distract me and Sprint the Bay was one of the events we traveled to. Basically it is 3 days of sprint orienteering on various maps around the Hawke's Bay region. There was a nice big group of us from Southerly Storm up there to represent the South Island.

Exploring the West Coast
I'd never been to the West Coast of the South Island so M and I went to check out a bit of it. We stayed in the cutest little house right on the coast at Granity and explored a lot of the historic mining sites near by. The highlight was exploring Denniston and getting to see the incline used to cart the coal down from the plateau. It has to be seen to be believed. It was also the first real test of my new bike. I think we're becoming very good friends!

Orienteering Nationals 2012
Easter equals the National Orienteering Champs and this year it was up in Auckland so I got to have a little trip home at the same time. 4 days and 4 very different maps and getting to see people I hadn't seen in a long time made for a lot of fun (and lots of sand in our shoes and socks).

Mountain biking at Craigieburn
We spent ANZAC Day with friends riding in the glorious sunshine at Craigieburn. Beech forest and incredible views made this a pretty cool day, even if the riding was rather scary in places. Hooning along the Hogs Back track down into Castle Hill at the end was an awesome way to finish a long day in the saddle.

TWALK...THE event of the year. 24 hours of madness in the wilderness with a bunch of friends whilst wearing silly costumes cannot really be beaten. As an added bonus, our team won!

Exploring the Mackenzie Country
What does one do when there is a long weekend? One goes on an adventure of course! For Queens Birthday we took our bikes for a few days of riding based out of Tekapo. Arriving in the late afternoon we had a beautiful ride along the Richmond Trail above Lake Tekapo as the sun was slowly setting. We got back to the car just before dark! Another day we rode up (and up and up) to the Omarama Saddle and pushed up the Saddle Ridge track even further where it was freezing and there was snow across the tops. We were far too cold to take pictures by that stage!

Snow Day!
Of course, what is winter without a snow day! I didn't believe snow was coming but that morning it was pouring with rain at our house so I dressed up in my wet weather gear and rode my old mountain bike to work. The closer I got the colder it got and the rain started to turn into ice and then snow flakes. By the time I reached work I was riding through snow drifts. It wasn't long before we were all sent home again! That night was the regular Wednesday night run in the hills and it was crazy because we didn't even need headlights as the snow seemed to light up the sky.

Riding in Rotorua
Last month we flew up to Rotorua for a few of days of riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest. The first couple of days we competed in a weekend of mountain bike orienteering events but we stayed extra days to explore the forest. It's like mountain bike heaven in there! Some of these adventures have not been so fun though. M and I have just recently returned to our flat after nearly 2 months living out of boxes at friends’ houses while EQC (the earthquake commission) “redecorated” it. That was not fun. Sigh. But now we are home and slowly unpacking again. I really should get a move on with that since I have some very exciting visitors arriving this weekend and it would be nice if the house looked somewhat, well, less like boxes and chaos.

There have also been lots of adventures in the kitchen but that is a story for next time...

Sleepy casseroles of winter

‘The idea is much too big for my little head.’
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
M and I moved house last weekend so now we have somewhere of our own which is terribly exciting. I mean, I have a fancy big fridge all to us and a kitchen that I can arrange any way that I like! And, at last, my cooking inspiration is slowly starting to come back again after what feels like forever (months? Years even?).

But our first meal at the new place was Hell pizza on the only furniture we’d moved at that stage...a table with a couple of chairs! I like to customise the Sinister pizza (which is naturally vegan but mixing the toppings up a little is always fun) and if you get the big one then you have leftovers for the following night when you’re too tired from moving to even contemplate cooking something proper.

The first meal I actually cooked though was pretty boring but still delicious, tofu stir-fry with turkish bread. Always a good safe option especially when getting used to a new kitchen.

I think I spent half the time trying to remember where I'd put everything and getting used to the fridge being in the laundry. Sounds weird but it actually works fine and that means we have more space in the kitchen.

Next up is a rice and veggie casserole which is based on the Cheezy Broccoli and Rice Casserole from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. I liked the concept of this and the taste was pretty awesome too but there was far too much rice to veggies even though I had added more veggies than the recipe originally said. Although I didn't have a cup measure and I think the cup I used for the rice was, well, definitely larger than your average! But still, it definitely needs some modification to reach a level of awesomeness!

Yes, it looks quite good in the photo above but the veggies (and beans) are all on the top and the rice is all underneath in a thick mass.

Another night I made a delicious wintery scone-topped casserole (you can tell it's pretty wintery round here by these last two dishes...-3 the other morning when we biked to work!). This has to be one of my favourite winter dishes and you can make it with pretty much anything you have on hand.

The casserole part of this dish has onion, carrot, cauliflower, celery, pumpkin and tinned sweetcorn with a tin of butter beans and a creamy sauce (pretty much just oat milk, flour and sweet chilli sauce). You cook all that up then dollop spoonfuls of scone mixture on top and bake for about 15 minutes at a super hot temperature. Voila, an awesome winter dish that is also brilliant the next day or even frozen.

Anyway, that's enough food for now. I am so tired! It's been so busy since moving and last night we had M's parents over for an awesome feast (which I will blog about shortly) and today we went for a lovely bike ride (route is
here) so I feel about ready to fall asleep on my seat. I wish we had a couch!

Oh, and for anyone interested, our new flat is in the white zone which means it hasn’t been assessed yet but I can’t see any reason for it to be classed as orange or red so I think we’re pretty safe. It’s got the usual cracks that every house in this city now has but it all seems pretty superficial. If you are interested, there is more information about the zones here. It is about whether the land is safe to live on rather than whether the structures themselves are safe (that’s different again - but appears to have a similar colour scheme as far as I can tell).