My Birthday Abroad

Feb. 28th was my birthday, and I celebrated it with a bus full of strangers / new friends at a sweet little camping lodge at Rangitata, on New Zealand’s South Island.

The day started on a sad note, as new friend Aussie Steve was leaving us in Christchurch, and we were pressing on to the Rangitata lodge for some whitewater rafting.  But the sun was out, so Jurgen, Nicole, Steve, and I chilled out on the grass in Christchurch’s Botanical Gardens, bullshitting and having a good laugh.

Half way to Rangitata, I hopped off the bus for a 22 Kilometer cycle ride through the scenic Peel Forrest.  The ride started easily enough, and I enjoyed the cool air on my skin as I pedaled through the forest and past sprawling fields, full of sheep, Cows, and Deer, with a light fog hanging low on the horizon.  I let out a loud whistle, while passing a deer farm and the entire pack (there were hundreds of them) turned their heads in unison to watch me pass.

About half way through the ride, I realized that I hadn’t brought any water, and neither had anyone else — stupid move, but it wasnt too hot out, and we weren’t too far from camp, so we pressed on.  The hills slowly became more prevalent, and more steep, and I slowly became more exhausted.

After one particularly long and painful incline, I had to take a break for a quick near-death experience on the side of the road.  I was dizzy, my mouth was too dry to swallow, my face and fingers felt numb, and as I stepped off my bike, both knees buckled and i fell into the gutter.  I had fallen slightly behind the biking crew and I didn’t think anyone would know that I had even stopped.

I was severely dehydrated — and I new I needed water.  I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry, and I began to dry-heave into the gutter.  I tried to zen-out and calm myself down, lowing my heart rate and taking control of the situation, but my body was so exhausted and shaky that I had a hard time concentrating.

Luckily, a car happened to drive by, and I had enough wits about me to take off my reflective yellow vest and flag him down.  I was able to gasp, “water!” at the man as he pulled over to the side of the road and opened his door.  He tossed me a big, half-full water bottle and said, “keep it, bro!” and sped off into the distance.

I took a long swig and felt almost instantly better.

While I was recuperating on the side of the road, Andrew had noticed I was missing and rode back to make sure I was okay.  I was glad that he had come back for me — a good man, for sure, but I was also glad that no one had been around to witness my little break down in the gutter — a very weak moment for me.

Anyway, camp was just a few hills away, and Andrew and I took a few more swigs of water before cycling the rest of the way home.  When I arrived, I instantly cracked onpen a cold beer and lit up a cigarette (I know, I know) and sighed a very long sigh of relief and relaxation.

The cook group was just finishing up an awesome BBQ with steak, burgers and sausages for dinner.  We all sat and ate and drank beers and laughed — good times.  Na (our guide / tour manager) had gotten a cake, and some candles and after a typically lackluster happy birthday song (why does that song always sound more like a funeral than a celebration?), we had some cake and more drinks. Candy even bought me a present, a sweet shirt made locally in Christchurch with some Maori design on it — thanks Candy!

All in all, a very good day — even with the cycling incident (i should say accomplishment, because I certainly felt accomplished when I finally rode in to camp).

Always pushing forward, heres to a great year!

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