By Sammy Carter
When Australian Annie Ford came to New Zealand to visit family, she would have never expected what the journey would be like to “ride instead of fly”.
The 32-year-old biker, surfer and marine biologist decided when she came to New Zealand from Australia to visit family in the south, she would ride her bike there.
Starting in mid September, Ford has ridden from the top of New Zealand and has made her way to Christchurch.
Her idea “grew into this epic mission”, with 2100 kilometres ridden so far.
Ford wanted to take action against climate change but didn’t know the best way to do that.
“I had an upcoming trip to New Zealand to see family and rather than flying from Auckland to Queenstown I thought ‘well why don’t I just unpack my bike at the airport and ride south’.
“I thought I’d really miss my surfboard and surfing so I figured why don’t I just bring it too.”
Her friends told her that she may as well do the whole country while she was it, and make a movement out of the trip to raise funds.
“I’ve never done anything like this, I’ve never bikepacked before.”
Ford has saved 180kgs of carbon emissions by not flying and raised $2500 of her $10,000 goal.
The fundraised money would go towards oceans and conservation projects of Surfrider Tasmania, and Forestry Watch which protect high conservation forests.
However, her trip hasn’t been without its flat tires, tight corners and long detours.
Riding back onto State Highway 1, Ford had a big scare riding on a narrow bridge.
She waited for a break in traffic but it didn’t last long when a truck came towards her and a car coming from behind tried to pass.
“I tried to make myself really small and the car tried to squeeze past me and they clipped the handle bar so I had a big swerve.
“I pulled over and broke down, I couldn’t breathe properly because it made me think you don’t know when your number’s up.”
Despite Ford doing her trip solo, she is almost never alone.
In Christchurch alone, around 50 locals offered Ford help, a shower, a backyard, or a tour of the city.
“Complete strangers are family to me now. They have molded this trip despite me wanting to do it alone.”
At the end of each day Ford was ready to recharge in her tent, with rides getting up to 157 kilometres. “When I sleep, I sleep hard. I slept for 19 hours the other day.”
But Ford’s life hasn’t always been this out of the box. She used to be a workaholic – worked weekends, climbed the career ladder, invested in property, owned a house and “pretty things”.
“It was very much a selfish existence that I was leading and was creating this empire for me alone. So now I’ve deconstructed that and I could not be happier.”
In 2020 she sold her house and a lot of her things to reinvest the money into renewable energy.
Her “itchy feet” couldn’t hold her down to one place for very long and she has been adventuring ever since, staying in sharehouses, her car and tent.
With legs big enough to break her pants – many times – Ford aims to finish riding New Zealand in mid December. “Hills are just disappearing cause my legs have just gotten that bulky.”
This weekend she is challenging herself to “keep riding until I literally can’t ride anymore”.
“I’ll leave at midnight and ride all day and see how far I can get, whether that’s 24 hours or 48 hours I have no idea.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz