Ashburton On Tour – Introduction

An intimate tour of Mid Canterbury

Sue Newman and Jacqui Beardsley

If you see two women on the shady side of 50 pedalling their way around the district next week, don’t blast them off the road, give them a wave or stop and have a yarn.

Those struggling cyclists will be reporter Sue Newman and photographer Jacqui Beardsley who’re riding the district’s by-ways and highways looking from the grass roots up, at the place we call home.

We’ll be talking to locals, checking out whatever they’re doing over the fence or in their back yard and we’ll be recording our journey for the rest of the district to read.

We won’t be in a hurry, we’ll be happy to stop, to talk, to have a coffee, spend a while getting to know who you are and what you do. Our trip is about the people who make this district great.

If we wave you down, don’t keep driving – stop. We’re pretty harmless. The most we’ll ask is five minutes of your time.

We’ll want to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and we’ll want to take your photo – you and your dog, you and your tractor, you and your other half in the garden. Whatever you’re doing, we’re interested.

We’ll be happy to accept the odd coffee or glass of water and we won’t be too proud to cadge a ride if the going gets tough.

Guardian On Tour map

If you spot us toiling away in the blazing sun or drowning in an unexpected shower and you’re driving a truck – stop, offer us a lift and we’ll chuck our bikes on the back. That’s not cheating, it’s common sense.

We’re not doing this to be heroes, we’re doing it because it sounded like fun (and fun is not supposed to hurt!)

There’s also a chance that our bikes could go bad – flat tyres or chains that come off. If that happens then we’ll need help – or a ride. Hopefully fixing bike woes is all in a day’s work for a handy farmer.

Our route is rough. We’ll start and finish in Ashburton. Most days we plan to ride around 40–50 kilometres. In five days we won’t get to every corner of the district; there are too many long, straight roads to make that possible, but we’ll cover as much as we can and hopefully get to meet dozens of people along the way.

Where there’s a school we’ll stop if it’s within school hours, but we won’t make all schools in all corners of the district. Where there’s a café or a pub we’ll probably stop too and who knows, if you’re in your front yard or paddock when we roll by, then we’ll also stop off for a while.

We’ve driven the roads we’re likely to ride and some of them are now off the list – too long and straight, the shingle’s too rough, there are simply no houses in sight. And there are a lot of long, straight roads out there, soul destroying roads that stretch endlessly into the distance.

Avoiding the worst of these inevitably means there are large tracts of the districts we won’t be seeing, but at the end of the day one narrow ribbon of Mid Canterbury road sans trees or houses, looks just like another. And this is about people. Where there are no houses there are no people.

Our journey will begin early Monday morning. We plan to head out through Tinwald, towards the coast and end the day in Hinds. That’s the plan. The fine detail depends on who we see and who is happy to share some time with us along the way.

On Tuesday we’ll cycle from Hinds to Mayfield. Finding a route that was anything other than mind (and butt) numbingly boring was tough. We think we’ve found one, but again where we go and what we do depends on the people we meet along the way.

Day three is likely to take us from Mayfield to Methven, but anything could happen along the scenic highway. We’re not making any commitments to reaching our end point on this day. The journey will end when the journey ends.

And that makes day four an unknown. We’ve tentatively pegged this as the day we cycle from Methven to Rakaia, but where that day begins depends on the people we meet and the places we go on day three.

And because there has to be flexibility in our plan, there’s every chance Rakaia will be our journey’s end. Whether our trip takes four days or five depends on what happens on the road, how we’re treated by the weather Gods – and what happens to our bodies. While intrepid travellers can deal with most conditions, torrential rain might be one condition too far so like all good plans, ours has a contingency day built in.

The people we meet along the way will be part of our story, but if we can’t talk to you, please follow us on here on the Guardian website and in our daily newspaper. If we are in your area don’t hesitate to call us: 021 481-074