Long-distance cyclist Jo Haines will be speaking at the NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival this month about her three-month adventures all around the globe with her partner, Alan Cutler. Their trips over the years include South America, Australia, India, USA and - most recently - Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2019, the subject of her sold out talk on Sunday, June 28.
Haines is excited and a little nervous about the talk, which will also be broadcast online as the festival goes digital for the first time in order to accommodate its smaller set-up - which was necessary given uncertainty around what Alert Level New Zealand would be in when June 26 rolled around.
Haines and Cutler had always spent time in the mountains, climbing and tramping, and were first inspired to try long-distance cycling after a friend of theirs took a long-distance trip through South America. After a bicycle trip to Samoa - “carrying snorkel and masks and Sunday whites” - the pair decided to try cycling from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina in 2012.
Haines recalled that they felt like “weekend warriors” on their three month trip, surrounded by cyclists who had started in Alaska over a year and a half ago, and would end in Ushuaia at the tip of South America. Most cycle tourists take a year to five years to complete a trip.
Haines and Cutler have since taken three further trips in the incredible scenery of South America, and Haines compared it to cycling down the New Zealand West Coast thirty or fourty years ago. “The villagers receive you so well,” she said. “It’s like going back to countries where you can freedom camp anywhere and there’s not much traffic.”
For them, adventure cycling is total freedom. “The only thing that’s planned is where we fly into and where we fly out of. Everything else is just a line on a map,” she said.
Heroes of packing light, they carry around 8kg with them in soft luggage which hangs off the bike - much more sophisticated than the heavy panniers when they first started out - and travel anywhere between 30-100km a day, depending on the altitude. And at 57 (Haines) and 63 (Cutler), “young people look at us and our small set-ups and where we are, and they go, ‘woah’,” said Haines. “You don’t have to be young, and you can do it with a lot less gear.”
They still have many trips left on the bucket list. High on Haines’ is the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico - although, in current circumstances, it’s sadly not looking likely for this summer.
Haines and Cutler were fortunate not to have any trips disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak this year; friends of theirs who had been cycling in South America for four or five years only made it home to New Zealand “by the skin of their teeth” before the coronavirus lockdown.
In this brief interlude to their adventures, though, Haines’ website, alberttown.co.nz, hosts a stunning back catalogue of their tales from the saddle.
Read Edition 980 of the Wānaka Sun here.