Given the choice of camping or staying in a hotel for a week, I will choose the hotel. This isn't necessarily a dislike of camping, but let’s face it, a hotel is far more comfortable.
For me, the fantasy of camping is a lot better than actually camping - being out in nature with perfect conditions, discovering new routes, seeing and smelling the landscapes you uncover, just like what you see in pictures. The reality, however, entails organising and relying on camping equipment, being far from modern conveniences, and unfamiliar surroundings.
But what happens when there isn’t an option for a ready-made bed at the end of a long day on the bike? Perhaps there is an aspect of fear - a fear of being uncomfortable? I am not sure if it is even a fear. There is a little hesitation of my upcoming bikepacking adventure, but also an excitement as it feels like I am about to unlock something new that is only made possible by facing that fear.
I am quietly anticipating discovering unbounded adventure on the other side of this first bikepacking trip. Being self-sufficient on a bike (with sleeping gear, shelter, and food options), over several days, means that I can travel much further without the need to return home, or be at a certain destination by the end of the day. This opens up a plethora of new routes. Oh, the places that I could ride and what I could see! The only real time limit would be the sunlight, and even that isn’t really an obstacle.
During the pandemic years, I dreamt of cycling escapes - I looked at photos, read articles, and searched YouTube for adventure riding. All things offroad (routes, gravel, races), long-distance goals, or just discovering the road less travelled. By the look of the growth in popularity of gravel and adventure riding, others did the same. A set of bags with only what you need to survive, a loose plan of where to go, and totally free - how simple, how thrilling! Perhaps even romantic.
It is one thing to look through pictures, read articles and watch videos on adventure cycling and wonder about it. The allure is wonderful, and then, there comes a time to do it.
I have done a fair bit of long-distance, multi-day road riding, but this has been within reach of a city or with valuable car support. It has always meant sleeping in a prepared bed (usually a hotel, but the occasional tent too) with plenty of food and drink at the end of the day. And then there is the vital coffee in the morning to get you going again. All essential items required for multiple days on the bike. This all seems like luxury travel compared with what my upcoming bikepacking adventure presents.
When I set off from East Cape in New Zealand, with 1,000kms and 8 days to cover until Taranaki in the West, there won’t be many bedding choices but the one I am carrying or cabins we find along the way. There will be few clothing options but the ones I wash and re-wash. There will be options for water, but will need to find them. And there will be very little, if any, phone reception - a good thing.
It’s time to open the door to adventure and discomfort. I am looking forward to what I find on the other side and where bikepacking will take me - I feel like I am on the cusp of discovering the great unknown, and it’s an unknown that I think that I am going to like!