Cycling 5000km across New Zealand – Interview with an Adventurous Couple
We recently published a post about Adventuring as a couple and why it’s such a great thing to do. We caught up with Adventurous couple Daniel Mulley and Frances Taylor to hear all about their 5000km Cylce trip across New Zealand and how their adventures have impacted them. We think they’re pretty awesome!
Frances is purple and Daniel is Blue to make it a bit easier to tell who’s saying what! enjoy!
Hi Guys! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
My name is Frances Taylor. I’m 29, from Cumbria in the UK. I’m currently in New Zealand with my boyfriend on a Working Holiday Visa. So far, we’ve ridden our bicycles 5000km on North and South Island but at the moment, we’re off the bikes to earn some money, and keep out of the tent while it’s winter. Since I’ve been in New Zealand, I’ve worked on a vineyard, in a backpacker’s, and now I work in a pub. My job in the UK before we came away was in a supermarket.
I’m Daniel Mulley, but everyone just calls me Mulley. I’m the boyfriend, also 29 and from Norwich UK. Currently living in Central Otago and I’ve ended up with the strangest holiday job of managing a polystyrene factory. At home I worked in IT.
What’s your idea of an adventure?
My adventure of choice, at the moment, is cycling. It’s quick enough to cover a decent distance, but slow enough to appreciate the outdoors I came to the other side of the world to see. Also, I hate driving. Before coming to New Zealand, I ran road and trail marathons, and an ultramarathon. Since being in one place for a few months, I’ve started triathlon training too. I’ve started joking about doing an Ironman so I think that might be on the cards at some point! I did a little bit of kayaking last summer too, I’d love to do more of that. And once the weather picks up I’ve got some hikes in mind.
Unlike Frankie, I don’t enjoy running, I did a half marathon and then a full one a few years back but mainly to prove to myself that I have the willpower to do something I don’t enjoy. I love travelling, mainly due to my love of food, it’s the best opportunity to find new dishes! The cycling has been a fantastic way to explore the country, we get to stop at many more places when other people just drive on.
That sounds amazing!
My first solo cycle trip was to my mum’s house. I did an early shift at work, then took my bike on the train from York to Darlington, and rode 57 miles up the Yorkshire Dales. It was my longest bike ride at the time and my secret back-up plan was to call my mum to pick me up in her car if it was too difficult. Honestly, I was more worried about my work colleagues seeing my bum in my lycra shorts! I got lost, I got off and pushed some of the hills. It took me a few hours longer than I thought it would, and my lights ran out of battery two minutes away from the front door. But I was hooked. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from looking at a map, deciding how to get from point A to point B, and then doing it under my own steam. It was a huge confidence boost.
You mentioned cycling across New Zealand?
I’m going to have to talk about our cycle trip around New Zealand. It’s by far the biggest thing we’ve done. We planned 6 months to cycle around both islands, starting in Auckland, we headed up to Cape Reinga and then proceeded to zig-zag around the north island on the way down. We reached Wellington and took a ferry over to the south island where we did a loop down the west coast, down to Bluff, along the south coast up to Dunedin and then headed in-land to Cromwell. We ended up covering over 5000km and I lost 15kg, what a fantastic weight loss program!
What awesome adventures! Has travelling and adventuring together had an impact on your relationship?
I think doing the trip together has been great for our relationship. We’d lived together before setting off, so we knew each other pretty well. On and off the road, we are still the same people, for better and worse. We still wander around the supermarket repeating ‘what do you want to have for tea?’ ‘I don’t know, what do you want to have for tea?’ to each other until he says ‘food!’ and I get annoyed and decide we’re going to have pasta again.
Pasta was good for a lot of meals for the carbs but I’m a massive foodie so like some variety, it’s just difficult to find variety when you have to carry it all on the bike and on a budget!
Eye roll emoji.
We ended up splitting the work quite traditionally. It wasn’t intentional, but that’s just where our strengths lay. Mulley carried more of our stuff like the tent and most of the food because he is twice as strong as me. I did the route planning, found campsites, did the shopping list, and the organising and admin before and during our trip.
You’d travelled before though, this was my first time doing anything like this.
I feel like that excuse has worn through now; I’d been on one cycling trip before and that was to Ireland with my mum where we’d booked our hostels weeks in advance. I do partly agree with that though, I’ve backpacked solo a bit so I have a fair bit of faith in myself that maybe can only come with experience. Which we both have now!
I knew I could do it, but it was kind of nice to prove to him I could do it because he’d never seen me be that capable before. Even though we both had access to the maps, I had that extra confidence to say ‘this is what I think we should do.’
I agree, we do both have the experience now and I feel far more confident in planning and organising trips. I think it was a bit unfair of me, but I learnt a lot and it has helped me grow as a person, I really appreciate it.
Going on this adventure together must have affected our relationship, but maybe it’s hard to say while we’re kind of still on it. Maybe we won’t know until we get back home. Everything still feels pretty much the same to me. Mostly, I think it’s awesome that we’ve got some shared stories. We’re in some of each other’s best memories. Because I’ve done anti-social shifts at work the past two plus years, being able to spend so much time together felt really special. It’s really nice to share the best thing you’ve ever done with someone who means a lot to you.
I think if we can live in a cramped tent and in each other’s pockets for six months, I’m pretty sure we can handle anything.
Extreme eye roll emoji, as if the worst thing we’ll ever have to do is spend some time together.
I still felt like I got some alone time anyway as I got lost in my own head pretty much the entire time I was on the bike and felt like I was on my own for hours.
That is partly because you kept cycling off and leaving me behind.
I knew you would wait for me eventually. I was carrying the cereal bars.
Do you find leading an adventurous life challenging at times?
I don’t think anyone feels like they have enough time or money! I have priorities, and make compromises, and try and keep short-term goals in mind along with long-term goals. I’m very lucky that I can be selfish with my time and money; I don’t have children and my family are all in good health so quitting my job to go cycling for six months was possible for me in a way it isn’t for everyone. Living abroad for a year or 18 months is an option for me because we’re massively privileged being from the UK; it makes the NZ visa situation a breeze, for example. But at the same time, it is a choice. We had lots of friends say they were jealous, that they wished they could do what we were doing, but we were all in similar positions.
My main challenge lately has been getting back to a ‘fairly normal life’. After having the best six months cycling, spending all day together, seeing and doing amazing things, anything else was bound to be an anti-climax and I definitely got the post-adventure blues. Stopping was much harder for me than starting.
I think it’s pretty hard for us at the moment to go on many adventures whilst we are working. We are always working at different times so when we are together, it’s only for a few hours in the morning or evenings. That will change when we move on from here though!
Definitely. We just have to make the most of those few hours, which I think most people can probably relate to. Also I need to not work in a pub so we can at least have weekends!
Do you have any more plans for big adventures? Nothing makes the hard times feel better than knowing there is something exciting coming!
I’ve got a lot of ideas for the future. Every time I read about a new place, or route, or get a library book out, something else gets added to my list. I’m so gullible that everything seems like a good idea. (Except ice climbing, I’m not sold on Everest yet.) I’ve got more cycling I’d like to do in New Zealand while I’m here, and then we’ll be heading back home to the UK in April for a couple of months. The lure of the Bob Graham Round is strong! I’d like to cycle tour in Australia too, which is where we plan to head to next. I got really into the Indian Pacific Wheel Race earlier this year, and if it runs in 2019 I’d love to be there. Then maybe we’ll cycle home! Once I start joking about ideas, that’s when I know I’m getting serious about them.
I’m determined to go to Australia and then on through Asia. Asia is my dream destination, and I mean all of it. If I can cycle through every country on the continent then I would be a very happy man. I’m also seriously considering cycling back to the UK, I think that would be an epic achievement.
What advice would you give to someone dreaming of big adventures?
I think you have to do what you feel is right. Follow your gut. I started small and built up my confidence first, and then just went for it.
I think money is one of the main barriers for people. It took me a long time to save up enough money for New Zealand. I saw Alastair Humphreys talk a few years ago, where he said he’d cycled around the word on £7000. I was really upset at the time because it seemed like such a huge amount of money. We didn’t save that much for NZ, but I started by using his ‘save £20 a week’ tip, put it in a separate bank account, and it started to add up. To motivate myself to take on overtime shifts, I would work out how many nights in a campsite I’d earn that day. I still do that now.
People often assume we’re being financially supported by our parents (even though we’re nearly 30?!), but we saved up for this ourselves by having boring, normal jobs. I mention this because when I was younger, I thought I’d never be able to do something like this mostly because of financial reasons. Of course I didn’t show off on instagram about working 50 hours a week in the same way I showed off about riding my bike around a beautiful foreign country, but one begot the other. I feel awkward talking about money, but I don’t want anyone else feeling like travel or adventure can’t be for them because they don’t have a flash career or a big salary. Maybe it won’t come as easily, or as quickly, or as comfortably, but it’s not impossible.
If you want to do it, then do it. It’s no use talking yourself out of whatever you want to do because you’ll just grow old and regret not going for it. I would always listen to friends, family and co-workers that would sit and tell interesting stories about something that had happened in their lives and thought to myself “I don’t have any stories like that”. I hopped on my bike and made some stories of my own. Interesting things rarely happen unless you are willing to seek them out.
I’d recommend ignoring much of the advice you might get though, especially the unsolicited advice. Before I set out on my NZ trip, people told me that it would be too hard for me, and that I would be too slow, that I was irresponsible to leave a steady job and have gaps on my CV. I was told I didn’t have the right bike, the proper kit, enough experience… I listened, and I worried and I did wonder if they were right, but I’m so glad I trusted myself, because I’ve done it my way and that’s really satisfying to know.
We Love a good Inspirational quote, Which phrase keeps you moving during the hard times?
Secretly I’m quite fond of inspirational quotes; the cheesier the better! When me and my friend Becky ran the ultramarathon together, we wrote a bunch down to read to each other when we got tired. My favorite one was ‘the time will pass anyway’. And my mum always says, ‘there’s more than one way to live a life’. She also says ‘you have to make your own fun’, and ‘you’ve just got to make the most of it’, which have probably had a bigger impact on me than I care to admit. And my mum’s friend Carl said, just before we came away, ‘no one can take your experiences away from you’ which I repeat to myself when I’m worrying about the future!
I hate inspirational quotes.
You more than anyone else I know would benefit from internalising an inspirational quote or two.
(I didn’t write any of the last answer but that is exactly what I would have written so I’m leaving it in)