Every gram counts

Happiness has 4 stages. To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory’ ( Gretchen Rubin).

‘Mum, do you really need two pairs of shorts for a month of cycling?’ asks Alice, my minimalist daughter whose 10kg backpack saw her around the world one year. I’m not sure if you, like me, are used to carrying items ‘just in case’, or are you one of those admirable people like my friend Jenny who backpacks the spanish Camino trail for 6 weeks each year with only 6kg?  When I confess that it took considerable persuasion a few years back  from Rachel, another of my adventurous daughters, that blue nail varnish was not essential in my backpack for summitting Mt Kilimanjaro, you may understand that the concept of squeezing the luggage for a month of cycling into two small cycle panniers is of great concern. Far greater pre-departure than the thought of the journey itself.

What you can’t see from the picture below is that even my most pared-down selection of bike tools still weighs in at a heavy 2.5kg.  I queried Tim, owner of the wonderful Hunters Cycles in Kerikeri, over the need for a hefty pedal wrench, but he insisted I’d thank him for it. Time will tell, Tim!  Still, there has been one upside on the toolkit so far – for mechanically-minded Harry, aged two and three quarters, it was Granny’s bag of bike tools that was the most exciting part of my pre-departure visit. He insisted on inspecting them over and over again. I’m thrilled someone finds them so exciting.

The medical supply pack seems bulky too. I’ve heeded recommendations from Sarah our local nurse practitioner and fellow cycle tourer, added malaria tablets and antibiotics for an unhealed oyster cut (legacy from sisterly rescuing after a kayak trip capsize by my brother Bill 10 days ago), and with strong warnings from friends about treating grazes, it all weighs in at a further 1.5kg.  As you gather, my kitchen scales are a useful encouragement towards minimalism, given my lack of fitness and the hilly Laos countryside, but its still hard to imagine what the journey will entail so I was hopeful when my good friend Sue asked me to drop by as she had two useful suggestions. However, on being informed that ‘The first advice is, dont do it’ and then, ‘If you must still go to Laos, travel around by bus – the helmet will ruin your hair’, I decided I’d better stop asking.  I’ve tried the internet and learnt that the  best map is only available in Vientiane, so with the Lonely Planet guide to Laos on my new Kindle, useful cycling blogs bookmarked on my laptop, I’m off with my most minimal luggage ever, weighing in at just 12.5kg.  Not too bad when you consider it includes a two and a half kg bike lock.  And yes, both pairs of cycling pants made it in. So did the blue nail varnish.


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