Update for February 2019
Well, this has been the longest spell of silence, no blog in half a year!!! I feel ashamed, sorry about that.
The last months of 2018 I was very busy but only few important things happened. Here are the highlights:
Mom's roof was finished... Yay!!!
I installed her tankless water heater and after a month dealing with the manufacturer's technical support it's finally running and providing endless hot water!
Back in Hawai'i
And once again... I arrived to Honolulu.
But this time was different. Because I agreed to take care of an elderly person that became dear to me.
This is my friend Frank.
I cared for him for a week and later helped his family for several weeks fixing broken stuff and doing upgrades around the home.
Like this sun screen to cover the west wall of the house from the inclement Hawaiian sun which cooled down the indoor temperature of the house by 4, 5 and even 6 degrees.
Or like the front yard pictured here. The left showing there was gravel and dirt in disarray, and the right is an aerial view showing a neatly arranged gravel perimeter separated from the dirt in the center by a black PVC structure.
I cooked most weekdays and it was a rewarding experience to see how my dishes were received by the family. Almost all of them were Mexican staples like salsa de molcajete and caldo de res plus many more done by me for the very first time like the boiled eggs over toasted bread covered with a garlic and onion Alfredo-like sauce, topped with parsley.
One day I even dared to prepare two Peruvian classics, Lomo Saltado with Aji Verde which I love and turned out to be a success.
Then, as usual, my stay in Hawai'i came to an end.
With a very sad heart I purchased my ticket to Auckland, New Zealand and... left.
Yes, I left behind new friends, amazing places, delicious food encounters, memorable experiences but above all, I left behind the American soil that sheltered, blessed and nourished me and my family for the last 24 years of my life.
I left behind my family, many friends, loved ones, my way of life, my comfort zone and the place I used to call home.
I left all that to embrace the unknown.
For the next several years I'll be going places I have never been before, some of them with a different language, all of them with different customs, traditions, even religions.
To begin with the list of places I have never been before, I arrived to New Zealand. The second country I ride my bike on as part of the World Tour and the 14th country I visit in my life. I landed in Auckland, around midnight after one hour delay in the tarmac of the Honolulu airport and a 9 hour flight.
If you follow me in Instagram by now you have seen the awkward way we passengers were welcomed to NZ by the crew of Hawaiian Airlines.
Passport check and customs was a breeze, big thank you to Steve of Immigration NZ at the airport.
Next was the long process of biosecurity check points, yes, there are more than one. They want to know anything you carry with you of organic origin, I mean, they go beyond food.
Their interest is even in the mud stuck on your hiking shoes, organic material attached to your sporting goods like bikes, canoes and fishing poles, and most importantly, your camping gear. They take your tent away from you, give you a paper with a number and let you know where you can pick it up some 30 minutes to an hour later.
It is inspected piece by piece and if you are sloppy and your tent is not clean they will clean it for you and charge you for the service. By the time you get it back everything is just a ball of stinky fabric after being fumigated. Most likely you are going to pack it right there, in front of all the people of the arriving area, on the floor, as I and many people did that night.
Good thing I didn't book any accommodations for that night because it would have been a waste of money. I'm glad somebody in the Facebook cycling groups shared a link to a site dedicated to help travelers, where they have a section devoted to airports and I was able to read the info about where to sleep in the Auckland airport.
Most of the benches were already occupied by other travelers but I found a corner away from everybody, laid down my sleeping pad on the cold floor, secured all my stuff around me and I was done.
I think I fell asleep around 2 AM, unfortunately the AKL airport is a very busy one so travelers began to arrive around 4 AM.
Between the noise of multitudes passing me by and the loudspeakers directing them I opened my eyes around 4:30 AM, to my surprise I saw the activity in full swing. I assessed the situation and decided to give sleep another try.
The next morning I woke up around 7 AM and met a young couple of fellow bike tourers from the UK, Becky and Rupert (left upper corner of picture below). We all arrived in the same flight with plans to cycle New Zealand. So after having breakfast I joined them in the task of assembling our bikes.
Not an easy task I can assure you, I don't know what time they started to do it but it took me about 3 or 4 hours to get everything out of this carefully packed box.
And put it all together so by the time I reached the street it looked like this.
Once out there I looked for the closest chapel of the LDS church of which I'm a member to go and see if I could meet someone from that congregation in hope of getting hosted.
It was Saturday evening when I arrived and parked Pegaso in the back lawn of the building.
I waited, and waited, but nobody came so when it was dark I took my tent out and pitched it right there. I had my first wonderful night on New Zealand soil. The proper way, stealth camping.
The next day I met lots of people of Polynesian origin, particularly from the islands of Tonga and Samoa. One man asked me to be his guest and I spent the first week at his home with his daughter and granddaughter. They taught me the 101 about Samoan culture and I shared Mexican culture with them, it is always a win-win situation.
The weather hasn't been the best, it's been raining on and off in average 4.5 days of the week. Like in Hawai'i, the weather here is unpredictable, no matter what your smartphone is forecasting.
I found a bit difficult to get used to ride on the left lane. Every day I went out and got a little better, but sometimes when making a right turn the instincts of a lifetime kicked in and push me to the right lane. Lucky me no car coming on the opposite way so far.
I got stuck in Auckland.
My main source of power, my trusted solar panel, was not charging the power bank. I noticed the failure the day before Thanksgiving, a holiday in America, then the weekend, and because NZ is one day ahead than the US I waited another day, by the time they were back in the office a full week had already passed by.
After several emails back and forth with the supplier, the problem was found, an adapter linking the panel with the battery was broken (top piece).
Unfortunately I wasted more days searching for a solution locally which turned out to be unsuccessful. I ended up ordering the parts from the manufacturer in New York.
All I could do was wait. I couldn’t venture going south without a reliable power supply.
By the time I was ready to move forward 3 weeks of my stay in NZ were gone. For the first time I considered applying for an extension of my visitor visa. The main problem with that, is the high cost, not cheap, a whooping $211 NZD.
In the meantime
I used the idle time to do some needed upgrades to my gear and solved a long standing problem.
Normally, when I'm hosted, I unload my gear in a safe place. Then I take only my photo and video backpack with me to explore my surroundings. But this bag is too heavy now (40 lbs) and my rear rack is very narrow therefore it couldn't stay in place and invariably fell to the sides of the rack. For some time I knew I needed to design something to prevent it from falling.
I came up with the idea of 2 aluminum bars, one at each end of the rack. I purchased the materials, found an awesome place with tools and machinery open for the public called The Workshop for Blokes in Mangere, Auckland, NZ.
The men in there received me with a friendly smile and after explaining my problem and my solution, without hesitation we all began to work.
A couple of hours later the project was finished and I was more than pleased with the result.
Now I can carry anything on my rear rack knowing it will stay put.
This is the end result.
Now I can carry not just my photo/video backpack but also big grocery boxes with ease.
The replacement part for the solar panel arrived and I was finally able to move on. I left Auckland the first week of December.
You can ride the local train with your bike so in order to avoid the heavy traffic of the big city of Auckland I took it to the southernmost station.
Here is Pegaso perfectly confortable on our way out of AKL.
In Papakura I had one of the most popular kiwi eats, fish and chips. I ordered 2 pieces of fish and 5 mussels, they wrap everything on butcher paper and they have sauces for sale. They are not free as in the states nor cheap. I purchased aioli, tartar sauce and tomato sauce.
Their tomato sauce is different, with a spice I cannot define but tastes like clove. It is very hard to find ketchup and hot sauces in New Zealand.
With a full tank I began pedaling southbound.