April 25th each year is ANZAC day – a day of remembrance by Australians and New Zealanders for all of our servicemen and women who have fallen in conflict or peacekeeping. It’s a national holiday at home too .
I’d been chatting with fellow ex-pat Kiwi Mike Stead for a couple of months about meeting up for a ride together but in the early part of the year each time we talked about dates, it either snowed or the weather took a particularly foul turn.
We rescheduled again to April 25th to meet in person and do a 100km or so ride around Hampshire/Wiltshire where Mike and his family live. The ANZAC day coincidence, was a nice bonus and one that turned out even better on the day as you’ll see.
Mike has family connections to the New Zealand military and in fact served in the NZ Army for some years. My brother in law is a career officer in the NZ Army and my dad had a cousin killed somewhere near Monte Casino in World War II, so we both have a military connection of some kind.
I’d not ridden in Mike’s part of the world before so was genuinely looking forward to a good ride exploring some new roads, climbs and views.
I rode my Stoemper (http://girodilento.com/stoemper-taylor-build-and-first-look/) and brought along my Kinesis (http://girodilento.com/kinesis-tk3-review/) for Mike to try as he’d expressed interest in it from my review.
We set off from Mike’s house and almost immediately found ourselves riding along quiet lanes rolling up and over spurs of land between some local valleys. The countryside around Mike’s home in Hampshire is absolutely beautiful, very peaceful and featured a lot of very expensive looking houses (as it’s a relatively easy commute to London).
We were quickly clocking up the metres climbing and by the time we’d got to 20km we’d already climbed 400m. At my house, that’s a hard ride ratio and although the climbing was a touch less aggressive than some of my local hills, I was surprised at how lumpy the ride was. I asked Mike if it was going to stay on this track to be 2,000m of climbing in 100km. Fortunately he said no, the worst of the climbing was in the first half.
Mike had very impressive knowledge about the local area and told me about lots of local sites and things of interest, in other words, he’s an excellent chatty riding companion! 🙂 I must confess I know far less about the roads I normally ride on, but I’ll have to work on that…. Maybe 😉
We stopped at a very pretty pub for lunch and sat outside in the sunshine. Something that would have been unimaginable even a month ago. After Lasagne, I was ready to go again but have to confess the legs took a few miles to get properly going again.
Our first ANZAC related stop was at the sign for New Zealand farm but that was well and truly topped when we rode up a gravel road to look across at the Bulford Kiwi, built by 4,000 Kiwi soldiers around the end of World War I (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulford_Kiwi and http://talltales.me/2012/07/15/the-bulford-chalk-kiwi/). At this point we obviously had to eat some ANZAC biscuits, made by one of Mike’s local Aussie friends Pam – thanks Pam!
Thanks to the Kiwi Connection there is also a Kiwi angle at the current Army base, with a Kiwi and Picton Barracks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picton,_New_Zealand).
As we looped around we went from headwind to tailwind and back to headwinds but it was never too bad. The weather was also more sunny than cloudy and apart from a few busy roads with fast traffic the route was mostly calm and quiet.
The climbing kept ticking up, which was great as I’d realised that I might get to 4,000m for the week and kept willing for a bit more.
It was a fantastic day out. My thanks to Mike and his family for their hospitality and much kudos to Mike for building a route that showed off plenty of the great scenery around where he lives but also for finding some fantastic Kiwiana too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwiana).
I’m already looking forward to the return event and have a few ideas for routes in mind and Mike has put in an early request to ride the Stoemper – of which he’s most welcome to.
For more information about ANZAC day – Wikipedia is worth a first look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day
If you’d like to try making ANZAC biscuits, the best recipe I’ve found is by Aussie chef Bill Granger and can be found with lots of other great food in this book: Sydney Food: Commemorative Edition
If you fancy a good war film (though very sad) and/or want to see Mel Gibson in one of his earliest film roles, Gallipoli is worth a watch: Gallipoli – Collectors Edition (1982) [DVD] 
Thanks for reading!